Travelling

An adventure with a good ending

I have not been writing lately, as I was in Athens, visiting my family and friends there and solving bureaucratic matters. Yesterday was the day to return back to Switzerland.

The flight was scheduled at 8:30 in the morning. My sister and my dad brought me to the airport and on our way there we saw a beautiful sunrise. Thanks to my family, time in the airport passed fast and before long I was sitting in the plane.

I like flying in spring! The weather can be nice and the views amazing! I already posted the beautiful photos of my way from Zurich to Athens in my post A beautiful flight. Unfortunately, in this flight I was sitting a bit closer to the wing, so photos were not so easy.

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Part of Pindos, the mountain range running vertically along mainland Greece.

We flew towards the north from the western side of Greece, over the mountains of Pindos and the town of Ioannina. I saw Tirana, the capital of Albania, and then the coast of Croatia. It was nice the plane had screens showing the route we were following, so I could identify a few places more!

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The Alps

Soon enough we flew over the Alps again! This time from the south to the north.

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Is it the Salzach or the Inn? I rather think the first one.

In the last part of the flight we flew somewhere over the borders of Austria and Germany, so I saw a really nice river (not sure if it was the Salzach or the Inn) and the Bodensee (called Lake Constance in English)!

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Lake Constance or Bodensee in German.

Around 10.15 we landed in Zurich. Leaving one home and arriving in another! The rest is a routine for me: exit the plane, get my luggage, take the train and arrive home. Well, not this time! I arrived at the belt and waited for my luggage until everybody left and I was left alone…  My suitcase was not there!

After filing the report, I managed to take the train, almost an hour later than expected. I arrived home empty-handed and a bit sad. During the last 10 years of my life, I have been flying several times per year. It is the first time that my suitcase was lost.

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Walenstadt, my current hometown and the Churfirsten mountain range in the back

Early today I got a phone call from the lost and found service of the airport, that my suitcase is found! They delivered it around noon and this adventure ended well!

Travelling

A beautiful flight

If I reflect about it, I think the time I have spent in airports or airplanes or travelling towards an airport would amount to at least a month. It is usually time spent tediously and rather lost from other more interesting activities. How about sitting behind a baby crying during all the flight, or in front of a child that finds it fun to kick the back of your seat? And the people that put their seats back, bringing the seat in your face, thanks to the tight space of the rows? All of these have happened to me!

Yesterday I was flying from Zurich to Athens. The trip included more than an hour in the train to reach the airport, then about 2 hours till the flight (I was a bit too early in the airport; next time I won’t), then about 2.5 hours flight and in the end one whole hour until the luggage came out! My mood followed the plane itself: it was deteriorating while waiting for the flight, improved once the plane took off and deteriorated again while waiting for the luggage.

Nevertheless, I focus on the positive! There was a baby crying but it was far away! There was a child but it was in front of me! I had a window seat and the weather was beautiful, so I had brilliant views!

Look at the lake of Zurich!

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And then the Alps started.

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I always find them amazing, but when covered in snow they are magnificent!

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The views closer to Greece were not so clear, as there seemed to be dust in the air. But closer to landing, it cleared up and I managed to see the Isthmus of Corinth. It is a narrow land bridge that connects Peloponnese with the mainland. In 1893 a big canal was created, so as to save the ship the time to go around the Peloponnese. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to make a photo of it myself, but the photo of the NASA Observatory is really what I saw!

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Photo credit: NASA Observatory

Travelling

Aaron and Simba!

Today was a special day! We welcomed Aaron and Simba, the two alpacas that are the new addition to the animals of my parents-in-law!

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Aaron on the left and Simba on the right

My parents-in-law live at the edges of the town we are currently living too! They have a nice house at the side of the mountains and they have a big area around it where for the last few years they keep sheep. A few weeks ago they decided to add two alpacas to their collection and after a bit of searching and a few visits, they chose two quite young male ones, one light brown and one dark.

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The two alpacas in the trail they arrived

As the two alpacas did not have names, it was in our hands to choose. And all four of us have been busy for a few days looking for names. First we looked through Mayan and Incan names (after all alpacas originate from South America), but they were too complicated to pronounce and too difficult for us to remember, so we abandoned that idea. In the end, my parents-in-law decided to name the black one Aaron, which means “warrior lion” if it comes from ancient Egyptian or “mountain of strength” if it comes from Hebrew, and the brown one Simba, which means “lion” in Swahili.

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In their stall, starting to get less afraid of us!

And today was the day we welcomed them to their new home! They look so cute and so furry!

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Simba looking at the sheeps

We are not sure how the sheep will interact with the alpacas, so for a few days the newcomers will have to stay in the stall. But the theory says that alpacas adopt the sheep and they look after them, as they can see better than the sheep for dangers around, thanks to their height. Let’s see how Aaron and Simba do with Kasper, Hugo, Jessy and the rest of the sheep!

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The sheep keeping their distance while we were transferring the alpacas to the stall

A small update about Aaron and Simba: on their second day they obtained a small confinement pen to exercise, eat fresh grass and enjoy the beautiful view to the lake! They seem to like it a lot!

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Books

Books I read in March

Continuing the posts I create as a mashup of the books I read per month, it is time to write about March. I started really well in 2018, reading at least 5 books a month for January and February. Well in March I slowed down and I finished only two:

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It is the first book of the “John Dee Papers” series. As far as I could find there are only two books in this series and they were published in 2010 and 2012 respectively, so I expect that there won’t be a third one coming.

The story takes place in 1560 in England, when young Elizabeth Tudor has been queen for only a year. She would reign for another 43 years (until 1603), but Elizabeth was not a strong monarch either and the experiences gained during the reign of Mary I, who was Catholic and prosecuted Protestants, were awful. This is the atmosphere built in the beginning of the book. John Dee was at the time of the story 32 years old and already a renowned scientists (mathematician, alchemist, astronomer and astrologer). Elizabeth used him as an adviser, but his studies were seen with suspicion from catholic neighbours and in general his fame was better outside England than inside his home country. Elizabeth engaged him in a quest to recover the bones of Arthur of Avalon from the famous mystical town of Glastonbury. The legacy of Arthur was important to Elizabeth, so as to reinforce her claim of the throne. In this quest, John Dee was accompanied by Robert Dudley, the queen’s childhood friend, one of the most powerful men in the country and the most important of Elizabeth’s suitors.

The book adapts to the way of life and talk of the period, with John Dee being the narrator of the story, and it succeeds in building nicely a dark atmosphere for the period. But this is done in a very slow pace. This is exactly one of the reasons that made me read the book slowly, too. It took me quite some time to read the first 100 pages and even more to emerge in the story and start living it, the element that makes me want to read further. I found the narration a bit confusing and, although it might be true, John Dee was a hero living a bit in the clouds, a fact that was adding in the confusion. After the point that the group reaches Glastonbury, the story becomes much more interesting. It evolves in a historic mystery and our John Dee is the hero of the day, saving his beloved queen and the first love of his life!

I feel that I have to mention separately a character of the book: Eleonora. She is the local doctor of Glastonbury, the daughter of a doctor and a lady that understood herbs and their value, and who ends burnt as a witch. Eleonora seems to be a strong woman, who likes studying and goes against the rules of the period for women. She is such a nicer character and so much more amiable than any of the other characters in this book!

Earlier this year I read the first book of the No1 Ladies’ Detective Series and I loved it! So I continued with the second book of this series I had in my library already, although it is the fourth book of the series. In this one Mma Ramotswe has moved her agency behind the garage of Rra Matekoni, as a result of their engagement.

In the beginning, the book summarises things that have happened in the previous books, but are important so as to understand the background: who is Mma Ramotswe and what has happened to her and the main characters of the series from the time the detective agency opened and the time when this book is taking place. As a result, it is not difficult to follow the story, even if this is the first book of the series you get in your hands.

I found this book less funny than the first one, but still with a wit and an intelligence that makes me want to read more! Mma Ramotswe goes through problems with motherhood and has to handle a delicate case with her friend and colleague Mma Makutsi.

I enjoyed these books so much, because they are down-to-earth. They don’t try to impress with conspiracy theories or terror, but the cases are simple, every day matters. I like the feeling they give me of living in a village with dirt streets and open and kind people. It reminds me a bit of the small village my mom was from on the Peloponnese, and where I spent my first summers (although the streets are not from dirt there).

After reading these two books, I decided to buy some more of the No1 Ladies’ Detective Series books, but not to look for the second of the John Dee Papers!

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Bullet journal

The utensils I use in my bullet journal

It has been a busy week and my bullet journal is a vital tool for keeping my life organised. In the almost three years I have been using it, I have gone through several utensils and today I am going to write about my experience. I should note that for me bullet journalling is a tool, so I keep it functional and as a result the budget I have for it I keep to a minimum.

The first “ingredient” for a bullet journal is a notebook. When I started in August 2016, I followed the idea of the creator and just grabbed the first empty notebook I had available. It was an Oxford Notebook A5 spiraled and with squares. It was easy to carry around and have it on my desk next to the rest of the things I was working on. I used it for the rest of the year, experimenting with outlines and uses. I was influenced by the rest of the examples of bullet journals I was seeing in the internet and I even tried to have colours and beautify it. Slowly slowly I was discovering the collections that were useful for me and of course I was adding them behind the rest of the things I was writing in my journal.

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My first bullet journal

As the beginning of 2017 was coming close and as the bullet journal was becoming more and more important for me, I decided to look for another notebook and with my taste and way of life I decided that a ringed one would be more fitting for me. It would allow me to create pages and move them around to the place I want! In the local bookstore I found a Filofax Clipbook A5 in beautiful colours that was on offer, so I got it. And ever since I adore it!

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My Filofax clipbook

The clipbook I bought came with a variety of pages: blank, lined, squared, monthly, weekly and a yearly overview. I admit that I rarely used the lined or the weekly ones. I used the yearly overview for my future log and the monthly ones as my monthly overview. I like squared pages, so it was no problem for me there! The notebook can easily fold in the middle and it has traveled with me around the world but still looks like new! I still have the original outside and I just replace the pages every year.

I know that most people that use bullet journals prefer brands such as Leuchtturmor Moleskine, but I find them both pricey and I prefer the flexibility of a ringed notebook. I have noted that people tend to prefer dotted pages, which is the only drawback of Filofax, as they don’t offer dotted pages as refills. But the ringed notebook can be filled with any page you want, as long as it has the correct holes. I did invest in a Filofax A5 hole punch and I am now creating my own blank pages.

The second “ingredient” is the pens. There is no need to have anything in particular, but we all have our favourite pens no? At my work we were using STABILO CULTdynamic pens and I liked them so much, that I bought them myself. They are gel rollerball pens that write smoothly and with deep colour. In my first journal I used only these ones in black and blue, so as to separate the notes that referred to my personal and professional life.

For a bit of colour in my journal I am using the fineliners of STABILO point 88. I have always had a couple of these pens around and my husband had a whole case of them, which I made my own!

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Lately, I tried the Pigma Micron fineliners. I got them in a set of several thicknesses and I admit that I like them a lot! I use thicknesses such as 02 – 04 for text, less than 02 when I want to make lines for frames and higher than 04 to fill in out the different shapes.

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The only slight disadvantage of the Stabilo Point 88 pens is that if I go a second time over the lines I have created, then the ink goes through the paper and I can see it from the back of the page. In bullet journal jargon, this is called ghosting (when you see it only faintly) or bleeding (when it comes through). With the Pigma Micron 02 to 05 I notice less ghosting than with the Stabilo, but Pigma Micron 08 and Pigma Micron Brush had the most intense ghosting.

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The back of the page. You can notice a bit of ghosting from the three pens I have noted.

Besides a notebook and pens, I use a small wooden ruler I have, my favorite blue 0.7mm mechanical pencil and from time to time a bit of washi tape. Last month I allowed myself the luxury of buying a series of stensils for general use.

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I don’t think I spend more than 20 euros per year for my bullet journal. I buy my squared refills directly from Filofax (3 euros for 50 pages without sending costs) and make my own blank pages from normal A4 cut in half. And I replace my pens when they are over, but except from the black one that I use for most of my writing, I do not replace the rest too often.

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Travelling

Easter customs in Greece

This year I had two Easter Sundays in a row! How is this possible? Well a week ago it was Easter Sunday for my husband and his family and yesterday it was Easter for my friends and my family. I am a Greek Orthodox and he is a Catholic.

This period makes me remember my Easters at home, with my mom doing all the preparations and my sister and me theoretically helping her. Easter in Greece is full of traditions, much more than Christmas I think.

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Photo credit: Maria Kallergi

During the holy week, we make easter cookies and a type of sweet bread that is called Tsoureki and of course we dye eggs. The most common colour for the eggs is red, but it is not the only! I remember my sister and me insisting to my mom that she gets the three basic colours (red, blue and yellow) and then we were collecting all the pots she had, so as to be able to combine these colours to create the rest too! Red and blue make purple, red and yellow make orange and blue and yellow make green! And in the next mixing we were ending up with brown eggs, something like dying white eggs to the colour of the brown ones after having made the kitchen a mess! My sister and I had definitely a lot of fun, but I am not sure my mom shared our enthusiasm…

I don’t remember my mother making tsoureki and for sure I have never made it myself. You can find a nice recipe here, from a young Greek chef called Akis Petretzikis that I like a lot! But we were always making easter cookies! My mom was making the common shapes and I was trying to make butterflies, flowers and small humans, which we were calling lazarakia (small Lazarus). Akis’ recipe for easter cookies is here.

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Another important custom of our Easter is our Easter candle that we call Lampada. It is a thick and tall candle in happy colours. Men usually hold a plain white one, but it is more common to have some decoration, especially for children. In the photo above you can see the pink lampada of my sister with the small bicycle! As a child you are getting your lampada from your godparents. During the holy week I was always getting a package with a lampada and some chocolate and a present from my godmother! Once my godmother stopped providing me with one, my dad was always bringing us our lampades: a red one always for my mom and two other colours from which my sister and I could choose.

This special candle we are lighting only in the evening of Saturday that we go to the church for the Resurrection of Christ. This mass takes place really late and about ten minutes before midnight the lights of the church turn off and the priest comes out with the holy light (tradition says that this flame is lit miraculously in the grave of Christ in Jerusalem). It is so nice to start seeing the light spreading from the front to the back and it goes really fast! Then we all move outside the church and at exactly midnight they chant that Christ is resurrected and the bells are ringing loudly and everybody is kissing and wishing “Χριστός Ανέστη” (Christ is resurrected). At about 00.15 the church is empty, although the mass itself continues for a while…

Photo credit: Maria Kallergi

And then it is Easter Sunday! This day is a family feast! A lot of food, mainly lamb and some other mezedes, such as kokoretsi (if you don’t know what it is please check Akis’ recipe to find out), and cracking the eggs with each other! Oh I miss Easter at home!

EggsPhoto credit: Maria Kallergi

P.S. I would like to thank my sister and my friend Maria for providing me all the pictures for this post! Και τουχρόνου κορίτσια!

Crochet

Fingerless gloves

Hopefully winter is over, but even in spring the weather can be cold, at least in Switzerland or the Netherlands I have been spending my last several springs. I have been looking for some nice thin gloves that I could use when I am crocheting outdoors or when I do not want to wear mittens or winter gloves. During last Christmas my husband and I had a thorough look in the Christmas Market of Zurich. We did see several nice pairs, but most of them had too long parts in the arms and I didn’t think I would enjoy that.

In the end, I decided to make fingerless gloves myself at exactly the size and the length I wanted. Looking in the internet, I found a really nice pattern for free from Crejjtion. So my problem was solved!

The original pattern suggests using a 3.0 mm hook and the finished gloves would be 21cm long and with a diameter of 18cm.

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For the first pair I made, I started with a 3.0mm hook and a Baby Supremo Super Merinos yarn of 100% pure wool in red colour, which I had received as a present in one of the yarns exchanges I am participating from time to time. I followed the written pattern and started with 50 stitches, but after a couple of lines, I decided that neither the pattern was nicely visible, nor the fit comfortable, so I used a 3.5 mm hook instead. Another choice would be to increase the starting stitches. The increase should be by 10 stitches, otherwise the pattern would not correspond to nice shells. The best fit can be achieved by changing both the stitches and the size of the hook.

In order to make my pair of gloves shorter than the pattern suggests, I just had to decrease the rows before the thumb. Instead of 21 rows before the thumb, as the pattern suggests, I did only 13. In case you change the number of rows as me, you have to pay attention that the total is an odd number. The shells look nice only when a pair of rows is done (one that the shells are created – such as rows 3 and 5 – and one where the difference in length is equalised – such as rows 2 and 4).

For the rest of the glove I followed the instructions of the pattern.

I liked my gloves a lot! They are soft and comfortable, as well as elegant. A couple of weeks ago it was the birthday of a friend of mine here in Switzerland and trying to think of something to give her. How about a pair of fingerless gloves?

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I made the second pair following my modifications for the first one and used a nice yarn from LANG Yarns Mille Colori Socks & Lace Luxe in shades of blue. It is a rather thin yarn of 73% wool, 25% nylon and 2% polyester, with grades of blue colour spun with a fashionable metallic thread, a characteristic that makes it look really nice. Don’t you agree?

The project did not take me long to complete. I could make a glove per day without a lot of haste.  Do try it if you want a pair of nice fingerless gloves!

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Books

International children’s book day

Today is the International Children’s book day. It is celebrated on the 2nd April, on (or around) Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday. The idea of the day is to inspire the love of reading and to call attention to children’s books. What a nice idea!

I think everybody has held at least one book in his hands. I can’t be sure at what age I touched my first book. Probably far too young and I am not sure those books had a good life. Several years ago I found in my parents’ house a travelling guide of Chios, the island we come from, that was full of irregular lines with pen and I asked my dad about it. He answered that it is a book I had put my hands on when I was young…

Trying to think of books that I read as a child, there are a few that I can mention. Naturally I grew up with Aesop’s Fables. My parents have recorded my trials to start talking and in one of these recordings I am trying to narrate the story of the fox and the crow: the crow has found a nice piece of cheese and the fox that is hungry tries to get it from him. The fox manages by flattering the crow about his nice voice and as he tries to sing, he drops the cheese.

Another book I am sure I read early enough was Τα ψηλά βουνά by Zacharias Papandoniou. The title means “The high mountains” and it is a classic greek children’s book. I am not sure it is translated in English.

I started learning and talking English really early in my life. I am not sure anymore which was the first English book I read but I remember one vividly: Now You Can Read About Things That Go. It was presenting all means of transportation, from bikes to spaceships, by starting from their early editions and finishing by what the authors considered as future editions. It is there I first read about Laika, the dog that flew to space, and then the humans that followed. I still remember how impressed I was when I read about Valentina Tereshkova, the first female to go to space in 1963. Yes girls can do it too!

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I still enjoy reading children’s books. In 2016 I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll in the Penguin Classics edition (I do like Penguin Classics!). An amazing book, which probably I should have read quite much younger, but maybe now I could appreciate the writing of Lewis Carroll more profoundly. It made me feel like a child again and to try to think out of the box. We all know the Alice in Wonderland part, but I enjoyed the part of Through the looking-glass much more. It is definitely based on no-sense elements, but not at all stupid. Alice is challenged with things she doesn’t understand but that may make some sense if you follow a more unconventional way of thinking. I loved the example of the flowers talking: “Are these the only ones? No. Why the rest do not talk? Because they are on soft soil, so they are asleep, while these ones are on hard ground, so awake”.

Which children’s book has made a deep impression on you? I would love to hear your answers.

Ποιο παιδικό βιβλίο σας έχει εντυπωσιάσει ή σημαδέψει; Ποιο θα προτείνατε;

Welches Kinderbuch hat euch am besten gefallen? Ich würde mich über eure Antwort freuen.

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