Archive for the ‘Home’ Category

h1

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 …

20121118-211502.jpg

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

Advertisements
h1

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.

20120602-194621.jpg

h1

A Christmas ramble

December 27, 2011

While these days are so short we try and get out and about before the early winter light fades. The weather is likely to be cold and wet in January and February so it makes sense to capitalise on the clear and bright days when they appear.

Yesterday we wandered around our little village for a while enjoying the sunshine, chatting to tourists and taking a photo or two. Whilst it was glorious at middday, by 3pm the sun was starting to drop behind the hill and it wasn’t long before discussions about lighting the fire started.

On our wandering we stopped by the village spring; the spring water is always beautifully clear, if very cold, but we’d never noticed before that the tap is in the shape of a dragon’s head.

Nearby somebody had placed a whole run of pots of poinsettias which looked pretty against the local limestone wall.

Back home we grabbed a photo of one of our Christmas wreaths, suspended from the huge lintel above the front door.

h1

Back again

May 23, 2011

We only meant to be away for a week, or two, honest!  But time slipped away, and the longer things went on the harder it was to get going again.

For a while now we’ve been talking about re-starting things but hadn’t got just the right post to kick off with.  And then Rita from the Netherlands emailed.  From time to time people leave comments or drop an email, perhaps to ask a question or just to say hello.  In Rita’s case she wanted to let us know that she loved the blog and had read it from start to finish but was now concerned.  We hadn’t posted in so long, had something happened?

So, having emailed her to let her know that we are still alive, if somewhat lazy, we are now officially back.

Summer has finally arrived, having been long-delayed and much-anticipated.  The garden continues to grow like crazy, although everything took a battering during a horrendous hail storm a week ago.  The clementine tree escaped unharmed and we appear not to have lost a single of the 10,000 or so fruit that are developing.  Yes, this is the same tree that produced 3 ripe fruit this year.  We may have to rename it and call it fickle from now on.

In the village life continues as normal.  Unexpectedly kafenio wars have broken out with a rival coffee shop setting up for business 100 feet from the long-established shop.  Tension runs high amongst the villagers (in a slow, mellow and laid-back sort of way obviously) as they wait to see if any sort of retaliation follows.

Meanwhile our battle against encroaching wildlife continues.  Last year’s pomegranate rats have yet to make an appearance but in the meantime we are engaged in the epic battle of Man vs Swallow.  Our old friends the swallows returned in early March from their winter in Africa and decided that the empty properties to the left and the right and behind us weren’t suitable for building nests in.  Where they really wanted to be was in the house.  With us.  Frequently.  So as the days and nights warm up we continue to try to find ways to convince them that their place is outside and ours is inside.  It may be a long battle.

Now that we’re back up and running there should be more soon.  Until then, a series of photos from before and after that hailstorm.

Winter-flowering jasmine

Beautiful arum lilies

After the storm #1

After the storm #2

After the storm #3

h1

Photo: Dragonfly

September 9, 2010

We had a tiny visitor to the garden recently, a bright red dragonfly.  He (she?) was kind enough to stay still long enough for Ian to get a photo or two.

h1

The garden, mid-August

August 30, 2010

This post may be late but the photos were taken around the middle of the month.

This August, our fourth on the island, has been a record breaker.  The intense high summer heat has been higher than usual and more troubling has lasted much longer than it normally does.  Cypriot tradition states that the weather starts to ease after the big holiday on August 15, the Assumption of the Virgin.  This year that simply hasn’t happened.  Now, in the last days of August, the temperatures are as high as they were as the start of the month.  The forecast suggests that by the middle of next week we might see a drop of one or two degrees.

Meanwhile the Government continues to issue severe weather warnings and the Fire and Forestry departments battle to deal with local wildfires, many of them believed to have been started deliberately.  The blog is still receiving a fair number of visitors who are searching for information about Cyprus heatwaves.

The garden has gone into a strange summer hibernation; apart from the citrus and the bougainvillea nothing is growing.  Regular watering is preventing things dying but the plants seem to have slipped into a stasis mode.  Once the temperatures drops they should start showing signs of life once more but for now they are in a deep sleep, and not looking particularly photogenic as a result.

The citrus trees are taking things in their stride though; tiny green fruit are slowly growing and swelling.  The new season lemons are some way off being ripe and for now the only yellow lemons in the supermarkets are imported.  It is the time of the lemon drought in Cyprus.  Happily we’ve still got supplies of both frozen juice and sliced lemons to see us through.

New season green lemons

The mandarin tree is still giving some cause for concern.  Last year we had hundreds of fruit, this year we feared that we had none.  Blossom was very sparse and no blossom means no fruit.  We’ve now spotted a few clusters of tiny mandarins, and they look to be progressing well, but it is a very poor crop compared to last year.  It looks like we might get 30 or 40 mandarins as opposed to the thousand or so we had last year.  Clearly we missed a vital part of the annual maintenance but what?

Tiny mandarins

Our old friend, the yucca plant, produced another set of offsets before the temperature got too high.  We missed the chance to remove them when they were very small so a hacksaw may be needed to separate them from the main tree now.  They are incredibly resilient; remove them from the tree and put them straight into a pot and they will start to grow.  They will even cope with being put straight into the ground with no other care.  They will grow in the poorest soil with no additional feeding and only minimal watering.  In Aradippou a friend gifted us half a dozen offsets; within two years they’d grown to over four feet tall and were producing offsets of their own.  To be honest, anyone with a yucca here is always looking for someone with a new garden who needs fast growing plants.

More yucca offsets

And finally while the bougainvillea continues to grow it is also starting to drop its coloured bracts.  And a plant as large as ours has an awful lot of them.  This carpet below would fill five or six dustbins … if only the heat would ease so that we had the energy to shovel them up.

Bougainvillea carpet

h1

The garden, mid-July

July 21, 2010

The builders have gone, the garden still looks mildly chaotic, summer is here with a vengeance and the yuccas are in flower.  Such is life here at Aradippou Tales.

Who knew that yuccas produced beautiful creamy-white flowers each year?  Well, perhaps lots of people did but we certainly didn’t until we moved here.  Perhaps they only flower under certain conditions?  We were out and about a week or so ago and spotted a yucca in flower: it was only when we got home and investigated that we discovered ours was too.  In our defence the tree is twenty feet tall and the only way to see the top is to climb up the outside stairs.

At some point later this year the yucca will need some care and maintenance, the removal of old leaves if nothing else.  It is not an easy job: twenty feet of tree, razor sharp leaves and a fair amount of catching up due to the previous owner’s belief that pruning or cutting back a plant breaks its spirit.

In the meantime we’re enjoying the sight of the gorgeous flowers.

Yuccas, from below

Yuccas in flower

Elsewhere one of our mystery plants appears to be suffering in the heat.  This plant grows and grows and grows during the spring putting on nearly five feet of growth in as many weeks.  Come the summer heat it begins to collapse back on itself but  at the same time produces a dozen or more flower stalks.

MadAlex said it was a lily of some sort; we are not so sure.  It may be a white agapanthus but we’re really not sure.  For one thing it is significantly bigger than they normally grow, that could just be the Cyprus effect though.

Mystery plant

Flower stalks

Elsewhere the fig tree growing behind the house is covered in fruit.  So far they are only small but once more there are hundreds of them.  Also in a growth spurt is the garden bougainvillea: it is absolutely covered in coloured bracts.

Fresh figs

Obligatory bougainvillea photo

And finally this month a tiny piece of thievery.  When the empty plot next to us was cleared a half pithari was uncovered.  Pithari are common sights here in Cyprus; we have already have two in the garden, one containing the bougainvillea and the other our recently planted lavender.  But there’s always room for another, they make such fantastic planters even when they are broken or in two parts.

This newly revealed pithari remained in the cleared plot for week after week with Mands lusting after it.  Because the entire village is built on a slope houses are often set at different levels.  Despite being the next plot over the ground is actually 10 feet below us so getting the pot out would mean climbing down the drop and lifting the heavy pot out or carrying it on a 10 minute trek through the village.

Perhaps not the best plan when, technically, the pot wasn’t ours.  So the pithari remained where it was.

After the builders were finished onsite the scaffolders came back to take down the scaffolding.  After plying them with mugs of strong tea and freshly baked lemon cake Mands cheekily asked them if they’d be able to help with a tiny job.  Pointing out the pithari she explained that it didn’t actually belong to us but that no one else, including the owner, seemed to want it.  The scaffolding boys caught on very quickly: it’d be a shame for it to go to waste they said.   Perhaps if they re-homed it into our secret garden we could make use of it?

Half an hour later they’d man-handled it up from the lower plot and positioned it against a couple of walls.  It’s now sitting there waiting while we decide what to plant it with … and while we see if the rightful owner comes to reclaim it.

The acquired pithari