The Twelfth Day of June

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I have always been insanely jealous of my sisters hair.  Well maybe not insanely because I can go for several days at a time without even thinking about it.  Okay, insanely is probably pretty accurate.

Today is her birthday. She was born on Thursday the 12th.  When I was old enough to realize the significance of my own Friday the 13th birthday I decided to never forgive her for arriving a day early.  Although it may have been a relief for our mother.  I don’t know, I never asked her.

Anyway, back to the hair.  Hers was blonde.  It was curly.  It framed her cherubic little face in perfectly natural ringlets and waves.  My own poker straight dark hair showed every chop of the scissors, flat and boyish and boring in comparison.

Not much has changed in sixty years.  Except that I inherited our dads family trait of going grey early.  I like to think it’s silvery and I wish for it to some day be as white as my aunts and uncles.  Whatever, grey is grey.   With no hair coloring help whatsoever, Mom kept the color in her hair for a lot longer.  And my sister (with a little help) is doing that too. Now she has lots of blonde streaks and highlights in her waves and curls.

W asked me one time why I didn’t let my hair grow longer like my sisters.  I fought off the urge to grab him by the neck and choke him while yelling that he should grow back his bald spot and then we’d talk.  Because, you know, that would have been childish.  Instead I patiently explained that our hair is completely different and that mine would not look the same.  At all.  So shut up about the hair.

Yes, insanely is looking more accurate by the minute.

On our holiday my sister let her hair dry naturally and then gave it a quick brush and it looked perfect.  For the rest of the day.  I blew mine dry because if I don’t all the cowlicks show.  I put gel in it because if I don’t it’s about as thick as the wispy hair on a two-year old.  Normally I would use my brush curling iron to add some body but I was afraid I’d blow up or burn out our adapter and not be able to charge our more important things like camera batteries and I-Pads.  So I spritzed it all over with hair spray and called it done.  It looked good for approximately ten minutes every day, and then reverted back to exactly how it looked upon emerging from the shower.

I love my sister to death.  I want her hair.  I will die with this one fervent wish never granted.  I hope she has a happy birthday.  I hope she appreciates her beautiful hair.  It’s way past time for me to get over this and let it go.  I don’t think I ever will.

How insane is that.

My Big Fat Greek Holiday (Mykonos)

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Kalimera – good morning!

The length of this slide show reminds me of my dad.  Back in the olden days when W would start setting up his projector to show everyone pictures of our life in the Arctic, my dad, in anticipation of being bored to death, always fell asleep before the first picture made it on to the screen.  I’m hoping you won’t do that, because these are not pictures of snow.

We spent four days on the island of Mykonos and it’s hard to condense all that glorious scenery and sunshine into one blog post.  This is the Greece we anticipated with hot windy weather, stone steps and walkways, marble floors, blue and white everywhere.  The plan for the 14th of May was to be in the hotel lobby in Athens at 5:30 a.m. to collect a boxed breakfast and depart for the ferry at six.  Except for a bunch of bleary eyed tourists showing up on time, none of that happened.  Thanasis wandered in at 6:30 surprised that no one at the hotel had passed the message on to us the night before about high winds and changing to a later ferry.  We did not get our boxed breakfast.  What the hell could possibly be good about a boxed breakfast at five in the morning anyway?  However, one lady took particular exception to this, extremely miffed that breakfast in a box was now out of the question.  We ran into her and her husband several times over the course of our holiday, and referred to her forever after as the breakfast lady.

We were bussed to a different, speedier ferry, whipped across the sea to Mykonos, bussed to the Kamari Hotel and given a complimentary late breakfast there.  Our little rooms and balconies were delightful, the staff was wonderful.  Birds and cats and gorgeous trees, great restaurants, cooing doves (those got to be not so delightful after a while as they absolutely never shut up….)

We spent a relaxing pool day, walked down to the beach to the Tasos Taverna for more wonderful Greek food, and signed up for a Jeep tour of the island the next day.

We thought because it was called a Jeep tour that we would all be riding around in Jeeps.  We thought we would have guides driving the Jeeps with three passengers in each one.  It was another day for things not going exactly as planned.  Too many people, not enough Jeeps, and only two guides.  So Andy got to drive an actual Jeep with his mom and cousins as passengers.  A lovely couple from Calcutta on their honeymoon got to share a car with my sister and me.  Just what every newlywed couple wishes for – two strangers who speak a different language tagging along in the backseat on a day long tour.  They were disappointed of course that the car was not a jeep, he was used to driving on the other side of the road, the roads were narrow, rocky, twisting, steep and rough.  I know how to drive a standard, so trust me when I tell you he wasn’t an expert at changing gears or staying far enough behind the car in front so that you don’t have to brake on a hill and stall and roll back to get going again.

I think I got whiplash.  I had a stiff neck for two days after that.  But they were such sweet people and we did make a lot of stops so it wasn’t a day of complete unending terror.  Sometimes the roads were bordered by rock walls, but often they weren’t.  Sometimes we had to stop for oncoming traffic.  Sometimes we risked having our side mirrors lopped off.  There were wonderful views, amazing beaches, horses, cows, goats.  Rocks.  Lots and lots of rocks.  Stop signs in Mykonos are just a suggestion. No one takes them seriously.

On the 16th we rented a car and went to see Little Venice.  It’s a long row of shops along the waterfront.  I have no pictures of it because, come on,  SHOPPING!   Who has time for a camera when there are euros to be spent.  We also went to Ornos Beach.  On one of these days I drank an entire bottle of red wine all by myself.  My notes aren’t all that clear.  On the 17th Andy rented a scooter and went touring all over the island on his own.  Ann did some laundry.  Jo relaxed on a lounge chair and read.  The girls got lots of sun by the pool.  I watched a pair of doves build a nest under a pool umbrella.  So really, who had the most exciting last day in Mykonos??  Hard to decide, I know.

Mykonos is absolutely beautiful.  The people are friendly and helpful and incredibly nice.  Although a few of them could use some driver ed.  We’re off to Paros in the morning.  It’s pronounced PAW – Rose, and does not rhyme with Paris.  Duh.

Efcharisto – thank you.  Kalinikta – goodnight.

My Big Fat Greek Holiday (Athens)

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And we’re back!  Well, we were back two days ago, but serious jet lag and disorganization has prevented me from making this announcement in a timely fashion.  There is a nine-hour time difference between Alberta and Athens.  We flew into the future and then back into the past.  That can really mess with your equilibrium.

My holiday started on the 10th of May with a packed four-hour fight to Toronto (on which there were many screaming babies). (I remember those days of travelling with small children and don’t miss them much).   It was 1 degree C. in Edmonton when I left, and 19 in Toronto when I arrived there.  I kept a travel journal and actually wrote this shit down.  With a lot of other extraneous information about my luggage and boarding pass and some big scary dude sitting in my assigned seat in error, and taking a shuttle bus to the hotel and waiting for family to arrive.  Also there was a lady in the elevator with me at one point who would have shared her life story with me if the ride had been longer.  She was off to somewhere to pick up more beer.  I never saw her again.

Yes, it’s going to be that kind of travel log, so feel free to bail at any time if you were expecting intelligent discourse and historical information about points of interest.   I also take photos through bus windows while wearing polarized sunglasses.  With surprising results.  Remember that not all surprises are good ones.

Our party of six (including me, my sister Ann, her two daughters A and K, my sister-in-law J and her son Andy) were at the airport on Sunday at noon, baggage checked and all of us through security for our 3:40 departure.  I have no idea why it’s necessary to be there so early.  But there are lots of wonderful internet café type lounges at the Toronto airport so we consumed many beers and much wine before boarding our transatlantic flight and soaring off into Monday morning.  One o’clock in the morning our time suddenly turned into eight a.m. in Athens, and one night of sleep vanished into thin air.

While we waited for our rooms to be ready our Transat guide Thanasis booked all of us for a city tour by bus and a hike up a steep hill to see the Acropolis/Parthenon.  This seemed like a great idea at the time, and turned out to be very educational.  It taught me that I’m too old for all-nighters when the next day involves hill climbing via great long flights of winding stone steps in the hot sunshine.  My neice A referred to these sites as the Apocalypse and the Pentagon.  I wish she had kept a journal.  I think it would have been way more interesting than mine.

At this historic ruin Andy and Ann both bought table cloths that neither of them really needed from a lady highly skilled in the art of selling things to tourists who are suffering from sleep deprivation.  People like her were everywhere with booklets and postcards and souvenirs.  Sometimes it was very hard to say no.

Back at the hotel we had a late (early) supper, depending on your time zone, and I enjoyed my first of many Greek Salads.  If you don’t like tomatoes and cucumbers, you should not visit Greece.  They are in just about everything.  My salad also had black olives and capers and a slice of feta cheese the size of my face.  It was delicious. So was the wine.

And then we slept.

On the 13th we walked to a subway station and figured out how to get to Plaka and the Athens Flea Market.  What an amazing place.  It was so amazing that I didn’t take any pictures of it except for this fruit stand.  And I didn’t remember until halfway through the day (after glancing at my watch) that it was my birthday.  There were walking streets filled with shops and stalls selling clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, books, bags, leather, hats, scarves, shoes…an endless list.Greece 2014 026
We had my birthday lunch at a place called the Bush Bar where our waiter helped us decipher the menu.  We sat outside on a quiet little side street across from two men smoking and playing an intense game of backgammon in front of their store which sold wooden chairs.  It was a slow chair day I guess.

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Here’s a travel tip.  Take a chef like Andy along with you to a new country.  He was super enthusiastic about trying every dish specific to Greece and was often able to identify mysterious ingredients in whatever we ordered.  I don’t remember having one bad dining experience even when the menus had very little English on them and we pronounced everything wrong.

Later we went up to the roof top bar of the hotel to take some photos, and then walked a few blocks to the Big Bad Wolf Souvlaki Bar to eat AGAIN because, you know, some time had passed….  We did not go hungry.  The night life in Athens is busy and noisy, although we were assured it is one of the safest cities to wander around in after dark.  There were people and smart cars and motorcycles everywhere, families with little kids, buses, taxis, everything open for business, nobody in a hurry to go home to sleep.

Although maybe we should have been, with a bus to our first ferry to catch at 5:00 a.m.

 

In Real Time

Kamari Hotel, Mykonos, Greece

Kamari Hotel, Mykonos, Greece

This is one of the views from where I’m sitting right now on our last day of four in Mykonos.  What an incredible place.  I’m going to try to bring some of this sunshine home with me.  They seem to have plenty to go around.  It’s our first truly lazing around doing nothing day, so I’ll get back at it.

The Last Minute

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Easter weekend is winding down and so am I.

I’m happy to report that things improved greatly since I posted that Good Friday picture from the freezing depths of wintry hell.  Yesterday and today were both warm enough to sit outside in the afternoon sun.  We still have the remains of our snow mountain in the backyard because W likes to blow all the driveway snow into the same place and it gets hard packed and icy and stubborn about disappearing.

My annual battle with Turbo Tax has been fought and won at last, taking up the better part of Saturday.  What a strange expression.  As if answering all those questions was the best part of my day.   Every year I vow to get that job out of the way early and every year I don’t.  Although I guess you could call this sort of early since we were given an extension to the 5th of May, and look at me, all done almost two weeks ahead of the deadline.

Our Easter Sunday dinner this year was beautiful in its simplicity.  I made my famous roasted chicken breasts covered in BBQ sauce and crispy bacon strips and melted cheese with roasted potatoes and carrots on the side.  We really need to think up a shorter name for that.  But the best part was my daughters quinoa salad.

Its kind of amazing how I’ve lived this long and heard so much about quinoa and until yesterday had never actually eaten it.  So I’m certainly no expert when it comes to quinoa recipes, but I think hers is an excellent one.  Cooked and cooled quinoa mixed with red, yellow and green peppers, tomato, cucumber, cilantro, feta cheese, red onion if you have it (we didn’t) and tossed in an olive oil and vinegar dressing.   Season to taste.  I believe some epicure spices made their way into the vinaigrette.  Add anything else your little wine drenched brain comes up with.  I think I’ve named everything that was in this particular batch.  It was delicious.

Today I picked up my Euros from the bank, wandered around in a drug store for a bit and then went to Staples for printer ink and paper.  And suddenly the day is gone.  Why don’t days at work go winging by like this one?

Anyway, if that was Easter, we’ve had it.  I love my daughter, and her daughter, and all daughters everywhere.  Sons too, even when they’re far away with their own sons and daughters.  I could have just said family for all that,  but my head is still in tax mode spewing out endless details that may or may not be relevant in the grand scheme of things.

If you celebrate Easter, I hope it was awesome.  If you don’t, I hope you had a delightfully springlike weekend wherever you are.

Now I’m going to curl up on my couch with a good book and use up the last minutes of my Monday putting off all the things that I’ve decided I can leave until some other distant future productive last minute.   Because really, life is full of them.