Archive for the ‘Cyprus’ Category

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The Study Makeover

November 18, 2012

Do you ever have one of those ideas for a plan, an improvement, a project? Something that seems like such a good idea, a way to better use space and resources and make the most of what you have? And you plan, and design, and cost and then get overwhelmed by the sheer size of the project and then start anyway?

Oh yes, we’re re-fitting the study.

Oh dear god, what have we done?

In short we’re a house of proper books. None of these kindles or ebook readers for us. Oh no, we love real books and my goodness don’t we have a lot of them? In fact, between you and I, since we moved to Cyprus in 2006 we haven’t actually managed to unpack them all. It’s not so much the number, it’s just that we’ve got more than the bookcases will hold.

And what a broad range … from Harry Potter to Understanding Islam to How to Commit the Perfect Murder and Not Get Caught. Over the years we’ve sold some and given away lots and release dozens into the wild via Bookcrossing. But we still have boxes and boxes and boxes sulking in the corner of one of the bedrooms.

On the plus side our little stone cottage does have a lovely study downstairs. And so came about The Plan.

If we fitted custom bookcases to an entire wall, all the way up to the high ceilings, then we might finally make some progress on releasing some from their boxes. Months ago we designed and sourced the shelving. We worked on those little niggles (why is the space available one centimeter less than the shelving we need?) and picked paints. And then life got in the way and the whole project was put on hold. This week we decided that enough was enough and it was time to start.

And so Sunday was spent moving three existing bookcases from the study into their temporary places in the dining room. There will be chaos until this is done, no question. Of course the bookcases couldn’t be moved whilst they were full of books so we had an afternoon of unloading, dusting, transferring to the dining table, moving the empty bookcases and then reloading them in their new spots.

The rest of the study still needs to be emptied and then the joy of minor plastering can happen followed by the mindless boredom of painting the ceiling and three of the four walls a neutral colour.

But the fourth wall? It’s going to be orange. Energetic Orange. And it looks a bit like this …

Isn’t that lovely and subtle? No, it isn’t. There’s a plan, honest. But in the meantime things have been looking a bit like this …

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Wish us well, it’s going to be an interesting few weeks.

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Catching up … again

November 2, 2012

Every time we plan on taking a minor break from the blog we caution ourselves not to let it become an extended intermission.  And yet it did.  Again.  Must try harder next time.

Anyway, we’re back again after another long hot summer.  Now, in the first week of November, we’re wondering just when autumn might turn up as right now things are unseasonably warm.  Nights are drawing in and the early mornings are cool but by mid-morning it’s hot enough to be sitting outside with a cup of coffee in just shorts and t-shirts.

The bougainvillea continues to put on a show, the pomegranates are ripening to perfection and the first of the mandarins are just starting to turn from their invisible green to their showy winter orange colour.

Returning to the summer, and our extended absence, it is safe to say that things haven’t gone quite to plan of late.

I could talk about learning experiences and the importance of chewing one’s food or I could just find a handy photo.

That, a piece of lamb bone, was embedded in Ian’s throat for a couple of weeks.

Unhelpfully it was several inches below his Adam’s apple meaning surgery was needed.  Apparently the oesophagus has three concentric layers and the razor-sharp bone had punctured two of the three.  One more and things would have been terminal.

It is said that there isn’t enough time to make all the mistakes in the world yourself so you should learn from others.  So, chew your kleftico well people, the consequences can be serious if you don’t.

As if that weren’t drama enough the surgeons spotted another problem on the pre-op scans.  “Did you know?”  They asked.  “No, no we did not.  When shall we schedule the next round of surgery?”  A more serious procedure from which he is still recovering.

In more cheerful news we snuck in a week in glorious Italy recently.  Booked before the medical dramas, and technically inadvisable, we spent wonderful days pottering around the fantastic city of Bologna followed by some time in Venice staying at the superb Bauer Palladio.   With a lucky piece of accidental timing we managed to be in Venice during the brief dry spell between two major floods.

Much of this, as well as worrying wildfires, naughty kittens and other random ramblings, can be found on our Twitter feed here.

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Green apricot salad

June 9, 2012

A day or two I stumbled across a recipe for using unripe peaches. You know the sort: they look ripe and promising but in reality they are never, ever, going to ripen and nothing you can do is going to change that. The recipe was from Food52’s Genius category and you can find it here.

Here we sometimes get a problem with nectarines in August so I was intrigued. But, it’s a little still too soon for the main nectarine crop (we’re still in cherry and strawberry season) so I filed the recipe until later in the year …

… only for a neighbour to drop by this morning with a bag of apricots in his hand.

About half of the fruit were underripe so were prime candidates for testing.

And the result?

Absolutely fantastic.

From crunchy flavourless apricots to juicy, glistening fruit in less than
ten minutes.

While the apricots were doing their thing I knocked up a leaf salad with some cold chicken and shavings of parmesan and then added the apricots and their dressing. Sadly we were too busy eating it to have the sense to take photos but you can see the gorgeousness of the fruit in this photo from the original recipe.

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No, you can’t come in

June 8, 2012

The kittens, now about a year old but still small, like the window sills. They know that they aren’t allowed in the house, even when there are tempting smells. But when the windows are open it’s  possible to sneak around the curtain and peek in to see what is going on.

Tippy, the boy, does this more than Squeak, his sister, but this time he got spotted.

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Pomegranates

June 2, 2012

Just how do they do it?  How is it possible for a fruit tree to thrive on neglect and to oscillate between ugly-as-hell and drop-dead-gorgeous?

It’s the time of the year when we fall in love with the pomegranates all over again.  Lush greenery, abundant growth and masses and masses of the most beautiful and showy scarlet blossom.  And all of this from trees which get no care or attention, no watering or feeding, no pruning.

Blossom

Scarlet blossom

The empty house next door has a mature tree, perhaps 20 feet tall, and we have a similar one just next to our back door.  Their tree gets no attention as they only visit the house once or twice a year; ours gets some fairly inept pruning once a year and that’s it.  In return each produces hundreds of massive pomegranates each year.

Next door’s pomegranate tree

Between you and I, I prefer them right now when they are full of blossom.  The colour, that sharp pop of orangey-red, is a reminder that summer is really on its way.  And as the flowers are pollinated and the fruit sets the blossom falls away from the tree and makes the most gorgeous red confetti on the ground.

A sprinkling of blossom

And all this from a tree that, in winter, looks like it should be chopped down to put it out of its misery.  It’s hard to imagine a tree that looks more desolate and unloved than a pomegranate in January.  But right now … it is just gorgeous.

Taken January 2010

Plenty of fruit to come

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Snow photos

March 1, 2012

It snowed yesterday.  That’s a fairly unusual event here; it’s the second time we’ve seen snow in the last five years.  We tweeted during the day, you know we tweet, right?  Find us here if you fancy.

In between trying to keep warm (13° C or 55° F inside during the day) we raced around the garden trying to get decent photos.  We didn’t have much success; light falling snow isn’t easy to capture on camera.  But by the end of the afternoon just a little snow had settled.

Snowy chair

The Fluffs, the 9 months old kittens who adopted us last summer, were absolutely baffled.  Born in the height of summer they have found it hard to adjust to rain; snow was just too confusing.

Confused cats

The garden plants seem to be unscathed but they all had a sprinkling of snow during the day.

The lavender

The lilies should be flowering around now.  Only time will tell what impact this year’s cold has had.

Arum lilies

The sweet peas were making good progress; here they need planting in the depths of winter so they can flower in the spring.

Chilled sweet peas

Across the road the banks of wild fennel and other high growth looked pretty and entirely different to usual.

Banks of wild fennel

A dusting of snow

Today the skies are clear and bright, although the temperatures are still low, so that’s probably the last of the snow.  Tourists will be arriving soon and expecting it to be much warmer.

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Firewood

February 26, 2012

Things rarely happen quickly in Cyprus.  Things need to be considered, discussed over coffee with friends, debated, get tied up in bureaucracy and then be dunked back in coffee again.  Usually.

Then occasionally that whole process gets thrown out and instead speed is of the essence. It doesn’t happen often, just often enough to catch us out, which it did yesterday.

Next to our little cottage is an abandoned single story house.  Beyond that is a field containing fruit trees, including the lovely fruit cocktail tree that produces both oranges and lemons.  In that same field, close to the abandoned house, is an old and tall tree.  When we first bought this house the tall tree was half dead; the side nearest to us was clearly dead, the side away from us was still growing.  Over the last two years whatever disease it has took hold and the entire tree died.

The dead tree, as seen from upstairs

During this winter, which has been longer and colder and wetter and windier than most, we’ve looked at the tree a little more often.  As strong winds have raced up and down the valley the tree has been creaking a little more and frankly we’ve been concerned.  Our best estimate was that the tree was about 100 feet tall but it was nothing more than a guess.  From time to time we’d sit outside with a cup of coffee and look at the tree, and the distance to the house and speculate: if the winds were very bad and the tree came down, which way would it fall?  And, if it came our way would it reach the house?  Would the lovely new roof of two summers ago break the tree or would the tree break the new roof?

A few weeks ago we had a run of poor weather and gale-force winds through the night.  3am is a stinky time to be trying to calculate the likelihood of a tree crashing through your roof, it makes for a poor night’s rest.

A day or two after the weather calmed down we wandered round to the field to take another look at the tree and bumped into the mukhtar.  ‘Are you concerned about the tree?‘ he asked.  When said we were and he nodded and said he would see what could be done.  Which takes us back to the start: in Cyprus things rarely happen quickly so we assumed that it would take months for anything to happen.

Which is why we were surprised when a cherry picker turned up yesterday morning followed by a truck full of men with chainsaws.  Don’t be deceived by the sky below: yes, it is beautiful and blue but the day was fresh with a cold wind blowing.

A handy cherry-picker

It took most of the morning (and much discussion, debating, coffee and cigarettes) but the tree came down.  Taking the top off was particularly fraught but it fell away from the houses and hurt nothing other than an inconveniently placed prickly pear.  The front door of the abandoned house didn’t fare so well: one of the wheels of the cherry-picker needed to be where the door stood so it was knocked down and then nailed back into place later.

In the midst of the tree

Which one next?

Almost done

After a leisurely lunch the chainsaw boys reappeared and it became clear why this job had been done so promptly.  This long cold and wet winter has meant that all of us in the mountain villages have had to burn significantly more firewood than normal.  There’s still no sign of the weather improving, in fact it’s due to take a turn for the worse next week with more strong winds and temperatures colder than the north of England.

Fueled by copious amounts of coffee the chainsaw boys got to work breaking down the tree into usable lengths.  Truck after truck pulled up outside to be loaded with as much wood as they could carry.

Firewood

The fires will be burning well in this part of the hills tonight and we can sleep easy once more.