Ha! You thought you’d got away with no more Greek holiday snaps. Unfortunately it remains my intention to bore you all into submission. After all, what else is a blog good for?
I mentioned that we liked to stay in little unassuming hotels while in Greece, but we decided to break that rule for the first few days by booking into the Melenos Lindos, high in the acropolis of the ancient town of Lindos in Rhodes. This hotel gets so many fabulous mentions, that it seemed churlish not to try it out.
Images from hotel website
Unfortunately they contacted us a few days before we left and said that there had been a double booking and they had no space for us. They pulled out all the stops to secure alternative accommodation (which, thanks to its enormous swimming pool and spacious grounds was actually much more suitable for the Minx) and offered us a free dinner on their beautiful outdoor dining terrace.
Architect Anastasia Papaioanou and Australian artist-designer Donald Green worked together to recreate a traditional multi-levelled, multi-terraced Lindian mansion, decorated in a timeless way using traditional local crafts and antiques.
Here are some of my photos from our dinner, supplemented by the couple above from the hotel’s website, as I didn’t have my wide-angled lens with me.
Enjoy the spectacularly pretty.
Funnily enough, given that I was brought up by, and learned to cook from, an Italian woman and cook in a very Italian way myself, I have found myself being a bit of an unofficial ambassador for British food here in Seattle, where it’s as much maligned as it is everywhere else on the planet.
I tend to make classic British dishes for potlucks and gatherings (people are so surprised that British food can actually taste good) and really want the Minx to grow up understanding her culinary heritage in the land of mac ‘n’ cheese and pumpkin pie.
New Zealander Joel Penkman moved to the UK and started painting beautifully detailed portraits of classic British foodstuffs which make me want to weep with nostalgia.
Every British kid grew up on these biscuits.
No trip to the seaside was complete without a stick of rock to take home.
No kid’s birthday party was complete without Fondant Fancies, though my mum had enough of a fear of food colouring that we never had them at home.
Custard tarts. Always hated those.
And pork pie. One of the top five things I miss most about the UK here in Seattle. I think I would cry if I had this picture on my kitchen wall.
The day before the party the Husband and I set to work assembling all the various cakes I’d been making and freezing over the previous week.
The top tier was a classic Victoria sponge filled with chocolate buttercream. The rainbow cake filled with vanilla buttercream formed the middle tier and the bottom tier was yet another Macrina Bakery ‘Mom’s Chocolate Cake’, which I’ve been using for birthday cakes ever since the Minx was two, as it is very moist and forgiving, and much beloved by the grown up kids in attendance.
Stupidly I’d made my cakes in 9”, 8” and 7” sizes which didn’t really make for enough of a tiered effect and also left nowhere for my fairy cake toppers to sit. Fortunately I’d made a big batch of cupcakes ready for a cupcake decorating activity at the party so we used a few to create plinths for the fairies to sit on.
Here is the whole edifice covered in its crumb coat. (Please ignore hideous green kitchen countertops).
And here is the finished article, covered with easy moulded flowers and chocolate bunnies, made using candy melts; vines and leaves iced on in green buttercream and a set of five Disney Fairy cake toppers. The Husband has asked me to point out that he is the person who actually wields the icing bag (under my direction) and he certainly did a fabulous job.
I was however nervous for the final piece de resistance. Would the central rainbow cake be sufficiently lurid and rainbow-like?
It seems I needn’t have worried.
And the kids ADORED it.
I am indebted to my father-in-law for the last two photos. Note the careful styling in this bottom pic, it took me ages to get the mustard bottle just so.
Actually it’s a different time of year this time round, as we couldn’t actually get our backsides in gear to organise a winter birthday party for her, so this year we’re celebrating her half birthday. And she gets a summer party and her grandad gets to spend it with her, so it’s all good.
But I digress. This year a Tinkerbell cake has been requested and I thought I’d go along the lines of the Nemo cake I made a couple of years back – three tiers, green icing and then an assortment of fairies and flowers rather than fish and shells.
I wanted to add an additional surprise though and make the middle tier a ‘rainbow’ cake, as has been demonstrated all over the internet. Yes, it’s going to be ridiculously tasteless and OTT, but if you can’t get outrageous for a six year old’s birthday cake then when can you.
So I set to work. A friend of mine in the UK, who has made a beautiful version, had success using a classic Victoria sponge recipe so that’s what I used. I doubled it (8oz butter/sugar/flour + 4 eggs), weighed the mixture, divided it equally by six (the indigo layer seems to get missed out of these cakes) and worked out I had about 150g per cake to play with.
And then I set to work with my paste food colourings, as you can see above. I ended up with some thin but still springy sponge cakes as a I wanted, so that I’ll end up with a not too steep middle tier. Here’s hoping that the more subdued colours of the outside of the cakes end up looking suitably garish when we cut into it.
More cake madness to follow.
Since I’ve been sharing my researches into our family tree with her, and since I’ve discovered that we’re both descended from Spitalfields silk weavers, I thought it would be appropriate to knit something in 100% silk laceweight yarn.
A nice, relaxing, lightweight project to take with me on holiday, I thought. Boy was I wrong. This yarn is the slipperiest, shiniest, tangliest yarn known to woman and this project was the slipperiest, tangliest, tricksiest project I’ve ever done. I even added to my woes by doing things called ‘nupps’ which involve creating 7 stitches in on at the front of the work and then purling through all seven at the back. Yeah right.
And now I have to make one for myself. My aunt really doesn’t deserve me.
If you’re a complete masochist the pattern is here and you can buy similar silk lace yarn here, though the colourway I used, Beach Glass, is no longer available. Here’s the link to my Ravelry page, do stop by and be my friend.
When I’m asked what I miss most about the UK, I often say ‘Greece’. Having Greece on our doorstep when we lived in London made it so much easier to cope with the rain and the greyness. Here in the US a lot of people look at me as if I’m crazy. When Americans visit ‘Yurrup’ they seem mostly to visit the big three – the UK (and Ireland), France and Italy. Greece is hardly on their radar.
Which is a shame as it’s a beguiling, magical place of blue skies, crystal clear seas, old stones and bouncing sunlight and beneath the touristy veneer, the mopeds and the (few) nightclubs, there are glimpses of a landscape and a way of life that hasn’t changed much since Homer was a boy. Every port is full of fishing boats, you’ll be given eggs straight from the chicken for breakfast, tomatoes fresh off the vine for lunch and if you’re not quick a super cute stray cat will swipe your freshly killed and grilled octopus at dinner. No need to revive local, seasonal eating here. In Greece it never went away.
The relaxed vibe suits me to a T. Apart from a few super cool bars on a few super cool islands no one cares if you’re wearing this year’s sunglasses or carrying this year’s It bag. Being a slob, with tousled sun-dried hair and salt-encrusted skin is accepted, nay even encouraged, and days are spent drifting aimlessly from beach, to sea, to taverna, to bed, with the occasional walk or boat trip thrown in.
The Greek ferry system is gigantic and complex, with the hundreds of inhabited islands served by a myriad of small ferry operators. The Husband and I have been island-hopping several times before, not planning too far ahead and putting ourselves at the mercy of the ferry schedules and love how the spontaneity seems to enhance the romance and sense of adventure.
So we were super keen to share this way of travelling with the Minx, who knows much more about the inner workings of luxury boutique hotels than should be healthy for a girl of six, and who is becoming much more portable as she grows older. So we booked flights from the UK to Rhodes, the biggest island in the Dodecanese.
We don’t normally hit the big and more touristy Greek islands, but we loved Rhodes, even though there are bits like Faliraki that need to be avoided. It has glorious beaches, astonishing views, delectable food and, as the erstwhile headquarters of the Knights of St John, a pretty kickass medieval walled city and some excellent castles.
We stayed here three days and wished it could be more (but then I always feel that when I’m leaving a Greek island). After a mix up in hotel bookings (of which more anon) we’d ended up at a big resort-y hotel with an enormous swimming pool which the Minx was very unhappy to leave. But we had adventuring to do.
*Taps microphone nervously*
Hello? Is anyone there? Well, that was a longer blogging hiatus than I bargained for. But I hope to resume normal service from here on out.
Here are some of the thrilling things which have been happening over the last six or so weeks.
- I completed my certificate in Advanced Interactive Marketing. Now to work out what to do with it.
- We went on holiday for three weeks to the UK and then to the Greek Islands. It was idyllic. I of course have thousands of photos to bore you with in due course (haha! you thought you could come here without SUFFERING?)
- I have been doing the (unbelievably crackpot) Dukan diet and have lost 18lbs in 8 weeks. Ecstatic doesn’t even begin to describe it. Sadly there is much further to go.
- Probably as a result of the above I went down with the worst cold I’ve ever had IN. MY. LIFE which laid me low for two weeks. I was hoping to be back blogging a bit sooner, but this is the first time I’ve been able to type without snot dribbling all over the keyboard (possibly TMI?)
- As a result of the above I lost my sense of smell for about five days. This is one of the scariest things that has ever happened to me. I haven’t realised before how very in love I am with my sense of smell and how much I take it for granted.
- We have painted our bedroom. It looks lovely.
- We have created and planted up some raised beds. Vegetables are growing!
- I have been knitting
- Seattle’s long-delayed summer started about four days ago, only six weeks into the interminable school vacation.
- I have been making a whole metric shit-ton of jam. Jam is BANNED on the Dukan diet.
- I have missed you
I will of course be blogging some of this excitement over the next few days and weeks – together with the usual insightful and witty badinage on design and lifestyle issues of the day (yeah right – Ed) if you can force your way here through the dustbunnies and tumbleweed.