what a year 2019 was

Inside a small cafe near Ermou Street in Athens.

December 23, 2018 I came back to live in Greece. A year ago at this time I was right where I am now. In Athens. A year ago next week I went to Paros to begin my new life there.

2019 was a big year. So was 2018 of course since that was the year I decided to move back to Greece and had to sell everything I owned… but I’ve been thinking about how much my life has changed in one year.

Same cafe, gorgeous decorations.

So much has happened in a year. Most people tell me I’ve achieved tons though I always expect more of myself and I tend to focus on what I haven’t achieved. Still, I figure I should be grateful for everything I have done in that time.

I found work. More than one job in fact. I’ve become known as a good groomer by word of mouth. I bought my own piece of Paros to call home. I’ve made great friends and I’ve spent time with family. I got a poodle to warm my heart. I joined the animal welfare organisations on Paros and have helped animals in need. I’ve been adopted by a cat. I’ve done some of my own work and made things to sell. I bought a car. I’m learning to live in Greece. I’ve set up an art class to start this coming year.

Little Kook is a work of art. Three shops, owned by the same person, an entire street decorated for each season.

Sure, there’s still a ton of things to do. To work out, to decide upon, to set up. A workshop/studio for one thing… sigh. I miss that most of all. Having a dedicated space I can go out to to work on making anything I feel like.

But the possibilities for life here are endless… with all the choices and decisions I’m feeling overwhelmed and (to coin a friend’s expression) I’ve been ‘lost sheeping’ a lot. Which means I stand in the middle of a room thinking ‘what do I do now?’

However, all in all, its been good to come back to Greece. Mom is so happy to have me near by, or living at home as I am now while I’m in Athens. She’s always cooking my favourite meals. Its nice to have my mother near and I like to see her happy.

A local cafe bar called Button. Of course.

I miss Paros and can’t wait to get back to my home and friends, but to be honest, I’m also enjoying my time in Athens. When the weather isn’t too bad I go into the city center and wander around. Its amazing down there.

Elize, a cafe full of flowers.

One of the things the greeks do best is the cafes… We have great cafes in Australia sure, but here they are inspired! They do the ‘themed’ cafes so well. And they are always packed despite charging 7e or more for a slice of cake. Unbelievable. I went out yesterday and ate a meal in Psiri for 20e for two people, then a cafe for a small cappucino and cake for 2 people and paid 23.30e. Highway robbery. And yet, the places are always full.

Pink and red cakes.
Even pink cappucino.

Life in Greece is contradictory. So many homeless. Crime. Yet people enjoy their lives and somehow can afford to go out as well. Beats me how they do it, but they do.

Anyway, I’ll leave it at that today. I had planned on writing more and sharing more, but I can’t concentrate with all thats happening in Australia right now. My heart is aching for all the animals lost and all the people who lost everything they own…

z

Work

I’m back. I did promise to tell you about my new job. Well, till a week ago and hopefully again starting in March.

I have been painting on porcelain clay items for Yria Ceramics on Paros.

I love the job. Its very fine work as most items are small and require working with brushes I have successfully avoided working with for many years. In fact I was working with brushes with about 3 hairs on them for the insects, especially the butterflies.

It takes a bit of getting used to – working on unfired clay – as the water is absorbed really fast, but I’m getting it. I love learning new things and this is interesting and fun too.

I work on my own in a tiny little studio where I can listen to music or audio books as I work and Lainee comes along to keep me company.

What more can a person ask for?

I’m hoping to buy some clay of my own to make a few things for myself. Little sculptures and ornaments and whatever I feel like. I am so enjoying the clay.

Its Christmas Eve now and I’m in the grooming shop with Grumpy on my lap, Lainee on a chair next to me and Pacquaio on a rug next to me. Gato the kitten is in his bed. Its quiet now but someone wanted to bring his dog in after 4pm so I wait… Maybe he will come, maybe he wont. You never know with people. They want you to do something for them when they want you to, but never think to call if they don’t plan to come. Don’t consider that they might be putting you out…

Ok, give him the benefit of the doubt. I had one no-show yesterday, maybe this guy will turn up…

The weather is still not what I’d call winter, but we’ve had some rain which only manages to make things annoying when you want to walk dogs.

Tomorrow is Christmas and a day to spend with family. Hope everyone has a great Christmas!

z

athens… again

All roads lead to Athens it seems.

I love being on Paros but there’s always some reason to come back to Athens. This time its Christmas and mom, but its also dogsitting and looking after a grooming salon. ie, doing any dogs who happen to need grooming while the owner is away. I mean, I’m here anyway…

The dogs I’m dog sitting are Grumpy, a tiny 17 year old yorkie who is deaf and blind, and Pacquiao, an american staffie. And a kitten called Gato. They are all gorgeous of course.

I managed to go see a rockabilly band on Saturday night and have a few dances. That was fun. There’s tons happening in that scene here – not so much the REAL rockabilly scene maybe, but the swing dance scene. Seems its become extremely popular and there are tons of people dancing in various degrees of success and rhythm. I plan/hope to get to quite a few more.

And I’ve organised to get to a big dog show in mid January. That should be super fun too…. I’ve missed the smell of hairspray!

Other than that, you know… the usual. I’m binge watching Vikings cause it must be done. And so far I’ve successfully avoided doing any craft or artwork. I will get to it though. I brought my art supplies cause I have a poodle portrait commission, and some fabrics and sewing supplies for an etsy project I have in mind.

More later!

z

dedication to my grandparents

Its been a long time since I shared a creative project (yeah, Christmas crafts don’t count).

This is something I’d been planning to do for ages. I started it in Australia and brought the bits with me to Greece to finish it.

Basically its a memory box type of photo display dedicated to mom’s parents.

My grandmother was a seamstress and my grandfather was a fisherman. Since I already had tons of vintage sewing bits and pieces, it was easier to work with the seamstress theme.

I printed some old photos, going back to 1932 for the first one where my grandparents only had 3 of their 7 children, then a photo of my grandmother with 5 children. I didn’t have a photo with all 7 children…

On the left, my grandmother is the one on the right and grandfather is the one sitting at her feet with 3 children (my mother is the baby in his arms). On the right my grandmother is surrounded by her 3 daughters (mom on the right) with one son on the left and one in her lap.

My favourite photo of my grandparents is the one below where they are mending fishing nets together. Thats how I first remember them.

I lined the back of the box with a vintage sewing pattern and added various bits and pieces from my mother’s old sewing box.

The only thing missing is the vintage little pair of sewing scissors I have… I know they’re are here somewhere but they’re obviously packed in a craft box. When I find them I will add them to the box.

This is the first frame for my gallery wall.

z

christmas decorations and work

Phew. Its been busy around here. Makes me think I must have been REALLY wicked in a previous life.

Firstly, I thank my lucky stars that I’m the kind of person who is never without a job. In fact, I look forward to downtime between jobs and end up with another job before I manage to start a single one of my own projects.

After the hectic summer job in a travel agency and car rental office, I finished up end of October, had a week in Athens to visit mom, went back to Paros to start creating… and got another job. More on that in another post…

I also decided to help PAWS (Paros Animal Welfare Society) raise money for their new shelter by making stuff to sell for the Christmas markets. Firstly my friend Barbara and I ran a craft workshop (total disaster…) and then I just stuck to making things at home in the peace and quiet of my own living room/kitchen/office/craft room/sewing room while binge watching Netflix.

These are some of the things I made… gift tags, DIY air dry clay decorations, pocket warmers, among other stuff. It was work, craft, work, craft. Then it was market, market, market.

Lainee helping at the market.

I also fostered the cutest little jack russell for 3 weeks, and dog sat a cute little dachsund for one week. It never rains it pours.

The cute Toby.
Sleeping dogs in a mess of crafting supplies.
Indy who made himself at home.

But its finally over!

My new job is over for the season and I don’t go back till March too, so time for Zefi… but no….

Now I’m on my way to Athens again to look after a pit bull, a tiny blind yorkie, a cat and a grooming salon.

Boy was I wicked in that past life!

Since I haven’t posted in so long, prepare for a barrage of posts.

z

athens again

I’ve been in Athens for 5 days. I’ve had a headache for 4.5 days…

Ok, not quite so bad, but it did take a couple of days to acclimatize to the noise and traffic here. Not that we don’t have those captivating attractions on Paros… but at least you can step away from that easier on an island.

I had such plans for my time here. I did manage to tick stuff off the list but I also spent more than my fair share of time watching a new series on Netflix and being a sloth. I’ve been watching Mindhunters and enjoying it. So much stuff to watch, so little time.

I’ve also driven more in Athens on this trip than I have in years. And I’ve managed to pay tolls twice on every trip I made. Me and Google Maps obviously don’t speak the same language. When she says ‘ in 100 metres lean right (or left)’ I end up exiting the toll road and have to get back on. Sheesh. Sort of defeats the purpose of being on the toll road to start with.

I brought the car over to get some work done on it and cause I needed to bring things from Paros to keep in the Athens house. I have a store room on Paros but its too damp for me to risk my paintings etc. So a full car came to Athens and a full car will return to Paros cause I have things to collect from here and things people give me…

I am a well known collector of things which could be useful.

Not that I have the room to collect things to do stuff with at the moment in my tiny house, but I figure I can give away stuff I don’t want.

I went into the center of Athens once on this trip so far to buy crafting supplies for a project I’ll share later. My cousin and I happened to go into Athens on the day of a demonstration and walked down to Syntagma Square to find it empty and barricaded by police.

I do love Athens without traffic…

It was also the day the weather changed from summer to winter. We were totally unprepared for the storm and got soaked. But despite that, a visit into the center of Athens is always fun. There are so many great shops, so many wonderful cafes, so much to explore.

We found the best button shop in the world. How cool is this tiny place filled from top to bottom with any button you might ever need? This shop has been here since the 50s and I bet they still have stock from then too!

I think I need a bulletin board at home to pin all the business cards from the shops I discovered so I know how to find them again or to be able to order stuff from them. Great sources for all kinds of things. So much fun!

Meanwhile, I’ve caught up with friends and relatives and generally have had a nice time relaxing in the family home and enjoying mom’s cooking.

I met a greek australian guy who owns a grooming shop locally and will dog sit for him over Xmas and look after his dogs. He let me wash and groom Lainee there which was nice as I haven’t yet set up a space to use dryers and stuff at home on Paros. She’s all fluffed up now and looks wonderful. Fat but wonderful…

Thats all the news on Athens for now but despite my quietness there are tons of things going on I’ll share when I can.

Stay tuned.

z

learning to live in greece

Every time you get your head up someone tries to get you down? Maybe you are a part of a Wack-a-Mole game!

That’s exactly how life feels now.

Seriously. You have no idea how complicated everything has to be here. I spend my time thinking about how I’ll make a living/survive and I’ll get an idea and get all excited about the potential and sure enough, something/someone will come along and wack me back under my rock.

Its really depressing.

I’ll give you an example. The town council advertised for a fine art teacher. Its a part time job, on contract for 9 months, they have funding for up to xxx amount of hours and would run classes depending on how many people joined up for them.

The perfect job for me I thought. I had the qualifications… so I applied. Its apparently based on a point system: a degree in Fine Art is worth 15 points. Every year in a related job is worth 1 point. Etc. I figured I had a shot…

I spent time re-writing my resume, translating it into greek, got together what they asked for: a letter of application, a photocopy of my ID card and the declarations they wanted (that I had never been fired from a council position in the past and that I wasn’t precluded from a job with the council under some code, paragraph, subsection etc. I figured I was probably ok, not having worked in Greece in a public servant capacity ever, and took them to the town council building in person.

The woman who took my envelope looked at it and said “where are your supporting documents?”.

I’m like “what supporting documents? I brought what you asked for asked for to apply for the job”.

She said, “where is your degree and your high school diploma and …(whatever)?”

I said, “this is my application. I’d be bringing that stuff (including a folio of work) to the interview…”

“Oh, there is no interview. Its a point system. Whoever has the most points gets the job.”

HUH?

You mean some creepy guy with slimy hands and dog breath, no personality and a total lack of ability to relate to people and actually teach them anything might have more points so he gets the job over someone who may have a few less points but can teach and create enthusiasm in a class or make it fun misses out?

Yep. I can see the sense in that.

Needless to say I didn’t apply for that job. Mainly cause she said take this and come back with your supporting documents or you’ll lose points. So off I went to look for my documents and after searching for over an hour I gave up. Not finding them meant I wouldn’t have enough points, but not leaving my application meant zero points anyway!

Stuff it.

And what about the post office debacle? Seems one of the postmen quit or left or ran off to join the circus or something, so mail (in parts of the island) hasn’t been delivered for almost 2 months. Okay… my house and my first delivery address of choice wasn’t in the affected areas but work is. But never once did I hear anything about mail not being delivered so I could make it a habit of going past the PO once a week to check on mail.

Let me explain Paros to you…

This is a greek island. So, not only is it in GREECE, its an island so things are doubly backward.

Up till the last few years there were no names on any streets or roads on this island. Then names began appearing cause apparently the local postman, who knew everyone, was retiring and no new postman stood a chance of learning how to deliver mail.

There are still plenty of streets with no name and buildings with no number. I have no address at my home. When I wanted a phone line put into my place I had to give them a neighbouring phone number so they could figure out where I was.

When I tell people where I live I say “You know the road that turns right to XXX Hotel? Well, you go past that but just after it there’s a road that heads up a hill on the opposite side…. thats where I live. There are a ton of building up there, but the first building is at a right angle to the road, then another is parallel to the road. That’s my building, my place is the xth unit with number x on the door.”

Putting that on an envelope imposes a challenge…

So instead I opted to have stuff delivered to my a hotel my uncles co-own, but since I was living in my grandmother’s old house and the postman knew me, he would just deliver stuff to my door. Then when I began working I asked him to bring mail to my work cause its very close to the post office. He passed that info on to his replacement but we won’t mention the parcels that got left on the doorstep of the old, unoccupied, house…

So, about a week ago two things happened simultaneously. A friend asked if I’d gotten my replacement credit card in the mail, which she’d sent ages ago. No… I hadn’t.

And I checked on the status of an ebay purchase which had never arrived. I’d given it extra time just in case. Turns out it arrived, sat in the PO for 2 weeks and got sent back to China!

When I went in to the PO to yell at people that this was unforgivable, that NO ONE notified me that my mail was in the PO, that if I hadn’t overheard my boss telling someone mail wasn’t being delivered, I wouldn’t have had any idea!!! You know what the guy behind the counter said? He said he’d seen my parcel sitting there for ages and wondered why I never went to pick it up!

(insert swear word of your choice here)!!!

There’s more… but I won’t bore you with it. Well, at least not in this post. I’m sure I’ll be sharing more in later posts…

z

an interactive reading lamp

While sorting out my blog I found I have a ton of old draft posts I never finished to post. I’ve decided to finish and share them now and then, at least the project related ones, even if they’re from projects I made while living in Tasmania. Projects are projects after all, no matter where you make them!

These photos are from a lamp I began early last year, planning to enter it in the Art From Trash exhibition. Needless to say I never finished it and never entered it cause moving to Greece kinda got in the way. I did sell it to a lady who appreciates wacky things though.

The idea of this lamp, the “Reading Lamp”, is that its made up of broken reading glasses in place of crystals. And the best thing about it is that you can keep adding to it. NeverĀ  waste another broken pair of reading glasses again!

My original plan for the lamp had been to paint the base a bright colour instead of the brass as it was when I found it, but to leave the pretty glass decorative bits in the middle. But as I said, it was an unfinished project when I sold it. The new owners get the pleasure of collecting old glasses and adding to the lamp shade. In a way that seems better though, makes it more personal.
And this post leads right into another floor lamp remake which is current… stay tuned.
z

sometimes its good to be a girl

This is my new 120 year old couch. Its a traditional island couch, everyone on Paros had one in their home in the old days.

Mighty uncomfortable… but people didn’t lounge around back then. They sat up all prim and proper.

They make new couches in this old style now, a bit lower, with a deep seat and softer cushions… not the horse hair or straw or rocks they seemed to fill the old ones with. And not the rigid foam that was used to update the old couches a couple of decades ago…

So, this old couch belonged to one of my mom’s aunts, given to her as a wedding present, inherited by her daughter, no longer wanted… its now mine.

Of course I have nowhere to put it… my place has one living kitchen dining office studio room which already has a corner proper lounging couch in it. The only place I could put it is out the back in my tiny courtyard or out front on my patio… It will make a great little relaxing spot. Once I kill the termites who’ve been calling it their home and dinner for the last long while.

I removed and threw away the severely feasted on slats and have painted termite poison on the rest. I wrapped it in cling wrap and will soon be repeating the process prior to chalk painting it white.

For the rest of this summer I’ll just use the hard foam cushions it came with, but hopefully next year I can get some nice soft ones made.

I really wanted it out the front so I could read or entertain but everyone insists it will be stolen. I’m like “really? Who will steal a couch?” Maybe I’m naive.

Meanwhile, my two handy male neighbours helped with the sails. I asked if I could borrow an extension ladder and it came with two very capable guys. Sometimes its good to be a girl.

I finally have both sails up. Not exactly as planned, but they’re up and that’s what’s important.

I originally wanted the small triangle sail at the back to provide privacy and shade to the bedroom and the large rectangle one at the front to provide protection for furniture placed under the resin – sorry, I mean pine – tree.

When the uncle entourage tried to put the big one out the front a couple of weeks ago it didn’t work. So now I have the bigger one out the back and the small one out the front.

Its windy today. We’ll see if its still up when I get home from work…

Having the front sail up finally means I’ve been able to move my outdoor table and chairs to the patio so I can enjoy the space, and its freed up a bit of room at the back so I can work on the couch. And enjoy a nap outside once its finished.

I think I need fairy lights now…

Yep.

I definitely need fairy lights.

z

the next installment

First up, a work in progress photo of the Ikea bookcase. Love the Ivar system. So easy and adaptable.

This is where I had planned to put the bookcase. Notice the powerpoint I had added on the wall where I thought I needed it… See the light fittings. Now look at how things are now:

Ok, maybe its not that easy to see. Basically I first bought a 32in TV thinking I didn’t need anything bigger… I got it home and from the couch it was like “where is the TV?”… so I had to swape it for a larger one. 50in. Much better.

Of course that lead to a lot of changes. The TV needed to be opposite the couch, so I had to move the whole bookcase down. Not to mention the bigger TV wouldn’t fit in the bookcase as it was. I needed to cut the bookcase to adapt it to fit a larger TV. I did that by cutting the front upright in the middle section. I have a bracket I plan to put there for added support for the shelves above. I’ll do that when I start painting the bookcase as I dont really want to be moving the TV twice.

I had planned on adding a narrow section to the end near the door, now I added it to the end by the wall. That meant I had to move the power point as it was now in the way. That was one of those 5 minute jobs that took 2 weeks cause I kept forgetting to buy the right drill bit with the right screws and plastic sleevey things. THEN it took 5 minutes to do.

The bookcase is all secured to the wall at the to so there’s no moving it now.

I ordered my narrow section and realised I forgot to get the little black feet… and didn’t order enough shelves… so now I wait to get those bits to finish the bookcase.

You can see I’ve got one section set up as my laptop station. I’m still not sure if I’ll extend that with a fold down section for a keyboard… We’ll see.

Meanwhile its just a general storage area till I get myself sorted. But there are pockets of pretty. Like this one with the little cactuses I bought a couple of weeks ago. Real ones!

The little stool is something I picked up at an antique store. They are something every greek house on the island had in various sizes – my grandfather made 3 of them for his grandkids. This was a dark green which I painted white. Of course. Its so Paros.

And this is me, right? Brushes and tools, the industrial light fitting, an antique photo frame…

The little table Barbara gave me (thanks again) is my sewing table while it waits for its makeover. It will always be my sewing table, but it will be painted and mended where Petey (her dog) snacked on it.

Another Zefi touch is the covered shoe (and other) boxes. I mean I couldn’t just have ugly boxes holding stuff on my shelves. I used brown paper bags from shops to cover those 3 and an old table cloth to temporarily cover the large one. The bigger shoe box holds the power cables cause who wants to see those?

Outside the front things happened for a while… My uncle and his buddies came over to install a sail for me. A nice big rectangle one. To keep the resin off the pine tree off any furniture I put out the front. They also did a few things out the back for me. The triangle sail to stop the hot afternoon sun from coming into my bedroom and provide some privacy, a washing line (no one seems to have those here… like, what? there is only so much you can fit onto a clothes airer!) And they put up a bamboo screen to the yard next door which does get occupied at times.

Well, in theory the front sail was a great idea. Till the wind grabbed it and ripped the post out of the wall.

Back to square one on that…. Now I’m thinking I’ll put the small triangle sail out the front and see how that goes and move the big rectangle one to the back where its protected from the wind. And next year, before things get busy, I’ll organise to build a pergola for the front. A real one. Built from timber. The wind shouldn’t take that one!

Meanwhile the coffee table is a craft station. I still haven’t recovered the dark brown cushions, I want to cheer the place up a bit. I did make the round cushion cover removable using fabric scraps I had on hand so it can be washed.

And Lainee keeps me company no matter what I’m doing. She’s settled in really well. Still very shy around people but loves other dogs and gets so excited when she sees one.

She’s begun to wag her tail for me, not often, and play short bursts of happy poodle. But the moment I try to join the game she stops… Its so sad. I don’t know why she’s like that. She doesn’t seem to get playing. She’s glued to me like a siamese twin, yet if I call her she will cower at my feet. And if anyone approaches her she just looks really worried.

Still… she’s improving all the time and I’m so glad to have her. She is the sweetest dog in the world and she’s helped to heal my aching heart from losing Montana and Romeo. And not being there when Montana died. She was such a special girl and I adored her. And Romeo was my boy from the day he took his first breath. Leaving them was one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life. But they both found amazing homes with people who adore them. Its all I could want for them. It was just unfortunate that Montana only had a few months to enjoy the love of her new family.

Enough of that. It will make me cry.

I’m off to work now. No rest for the wicked. I hope that come off season I can get into a better routine and start making things again. Then I’ll have more stuff to share.

z