Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are

Δείξε μου τους φίλους σου να σου πω ποιος είσαι ~ Greek saying

If we go by this saying, then I must be an amazing person! Haha! Seriously though, I feel blessed and very lucky to have such wonderful friends. I really believe I have the best friends anyone could ever ask for. At times I am not sure I deserve them, but I am thankful none-the-less.

In life, health is obviously the most important thing to have and in my opinion, good friends come a close second. Family is also very important, but I think friends are more important in some cases. You see, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. I got quite lucky with my immediate family! Phew! However, others are not so lucky.

Some members of my family are also my friends; others have nothing but DNA in common with me. Some friends are closer than some family members and just because we don’t share the same blood doesn’t mean we are not family. They say ‘blood is thicker than water’. Sure. My take on that is that we already have all the blood we need in our bodies but we need water to live!

I think having good friends is paramount to being happy. I mean, what is the point of anything if you don’t have friends to share it with? Whether that is a good meal, or a stunning sunset, a trip to another county or whatever makes you happy – half the joy is sharing it with someone you love!

Friends come in all shapes and sizes! They can also come from very different backgrounds, religions, countries and cultures. If you have similar beliefs (I am not talking about religion now) and values, then you don’t even need to have similar likes and/or dislikes in order to have a friendship. You do, however, need to be on the same page when it comes to the friendship itself. I, for example, believe that two of the most important ingredients needed for true friendship are trust and honesty. I also believe that a good friend should be reliable (i.e. someone you can count on) and someone who can make you laugh and generally cheer you up. A friend should bring out the best in you. I hope I am describing myself now, too!

Image

I have friends all over the world and even though I may not see or speak to some of them as often as I would like to, when we do get together it’s as if we were never apart.

A true friendship is not affected by distance or time…and can sometimes be strengthened by an abundance of wine!

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Animals – they make the world right

Looking for a home. Who will be the lucky one to adopt this adorable lap cat?

Looking for a home. Who will be the lucky one to adopt this adorable lap cat? – ADOPTED! 🙂

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”

                                                                             – Mark Twain

The day before yesterday, as I arrived at the gym, a cat came up to me at the entrance and naturally, as I always do, I stopped to “talk” to it. I noticed it was limping and it seemed as if one of its back legs was broken. He (yes, “it” now becomes “he”) was so friendly and adorable that I couldn’t just leave him there. It was as if he was asking for help. I wasn’t prepared for a cat “rescue” so wasn’t sure how to take him to the vet. People walked in and out of the gym and mostly ignored us – apart from a couple of smiles here and there.

To cut a long story short, I picked him up, put him in the car and he curled up into a ball and sat quietly all the way to the vet. The vet checked him out, said that his leg wasn’t broken but had an infection (it was very swollen) and gave him an antibiotic shot and a painkiller. He also kept him overnight to neuter him. I went to pick him up yesterday afternoon and the vet told me he had taken photos of him because he wants to adopt him but he has to convince his wife! He fell in love with this cat because he is just so good-natured!

He is now in our bathroom and is waiting patiently for his leg to heal and for someone to give him a nice warm home with lots of love and cuddles. Every time I go in, he comes right up to me and tries to jump up to sit on my lap…even when I am standing! He is really adorable and will give someone so much love! Hopefully we will find him a good home soon. Our “cattery” is full up, which is why we cannot keep him. Believe me, we want to!

So, today being World Stray Animals Day I thought it appropriate to write a fresh story of yet another stray animal that has been rescued. This is just another day in Greece, unfortunately. There are just so many stray animals that we (individuals and societies) cannot keep up. It seems to be getting worse every day. The “crisis” hasn’t helped either, since we are now finding more abandoned animals than ever before. We can’t help them all, but we can at least try to help the ones we can, in any way we can – whether that is by giving them water and food, neutering them, vaccinating them, attending to injuries and/or ideally finding good homes for them if we cannot adopt them ourselves.

I really don’t understand how people go and buy animals when there are just so many beautiful souls out there, desperate to give love and affection. All they ask for in return is a home with love, food and water. I really believe that a home without a pet is just a house. Rescued animals just bring the best possible energy to any home. They are forever grateful (they really are) and I can’t even begin to describe the warmth they bring into our lives. They are also the best anti-stress remedy ever. Think about it. A dog running to greet you with a wagging tail every single time you come home – as if he hasn’t seen you for years and has missed you so much! A purring cat curling up on your lap after a long day’s work. What a feeling! I consider myself blessed to have grown up surrounded by animals. I cannot imagine life without them. Kitty, Mog, Bozo, Flake (all in animal heaven now) and Marmalady, Boy, Demon and Piccolino have brightened up our lives. They have all been totally different in character yet they share(d) the same appreciation and love towards their “saviours”.

Adopt a stray animal. You will not regret it. The universe will thank you for it one way or another.

If you don’t have many strays where you live, there are plenty in Greece and I am pretty sure they wouldn’t mind travelling to reach…home!

If you would like to adopt a stray dog or cat visit www.spazgreece.gr or contact me directly.

To marry or to merry?

divajo

Last week I went out with some friends whom I hadn’t seen for a while. They are not friends from school and are all around five years or so older than me. They are all attractive, tall women with nice bodies who dress well, so naturally they get a lot of male attention.

We had a great night out and a good laugh. At some point I realised that I was the outsider there since I was the only one who wasn’t divorced with three or four kids! I was out with a bunch of self-proclaimed MILFs!

What is interesting is that they seem to mainly attract younger guys. I guess this works out well for all involved since the MILFs may not be interested in something serious or long-term since they have already been there and done that…and have the children to show for it. The younger “men” probably like the idea of not being pushed into anything too serious since there are children involved as well as one failed marriage already – so no pressure. Seems like a win-win situation to me!

Then there are the likes of me. Single, never-been-married 20-somethings…or even 30-somethings! What are we doing wrong? Or rather, what are we doing right? Many of my friends are very happy being single and have chosen to be where they are today. Others are not so happy and I can tell are quite desperate to get married and settle down. The sad thing is, they probably will do exactly that: settle. Why? What is the point of getting married just because society tells you it is the right thing to do? If you meet your soul mate and want to make what you have official, then yes, by all means, marry the person. If you have children with this person chances are that they will be happy children.

On the other hand, if you just want to have a child and have not found your soul mate, then why not just be selfish and have one on your own, rather than marry someone just for the sake of “fitting in”? If you marry someone just so that you can start a family, chances are that you will all be unhappy (including the children) and will end up getting divorced anyway. So why go through all that?

Of course, there are also people who get married for the right reasons and somewhere down the line things go sour. That’s different. However, these days I don’t think the majority belongs to this group of people.  Also, there is a small percentage that gets married for the right reasons and also stays married! Yay! They are the ones who give hope to the fairy-tale fans.

I just hope that those who belong to the fairy-tale fan club will either find their prince charming (or princess) soon, or else I hope they snap out of it because time is ticking and it seems such a waste to be waiting for something that may never come. I may sound cynical, but I see that those who are enjoying what they have or don’t have right now are the ones who are truly happy and are living life to the fullest…

There is art in a fart

Marma-fart

I love farts! I always have done. They amuse me. I mean, think about it, they embarrass people to no end. <– See what I did there? If they are loud farts, then they definitely embarrass the farter. If they are silent, smelly farts, they don’t only embarrass the farter, they also embarrass the people around the farter since they don’t know who actually farted and even though they know they didn’t fart themselves, they also know that the others may think it was them. All you need is three people or more…and a silent fart! Ha!

We all fart. Apparently we fart around 15 times a day on average! If you have eaten beans however, this number goes up considerably. If you have eaten cauliflower, stay away from others! If you have eaten whole, cooked, pickled onions, stay away from yourself too!

Even our pets fart. Our cats sometimes fart, but the smelliest farts were those of our dog, Bozo. Bozo the Magnificent, as he was known, was the best dog in the world. He was also a stinky farter! Seems like boiled chicken is also a culprit. The funny thing is that he too used to get embarrassed when he farted! The expression on his face was priceless. It was very amusing. Of course, if you have a pet and there is a fart lingering around the room, you know who will always get the blame!

I had a lot of fun with my farts when I was young. My friends will vouch for that! They, on the other hand, probably didn’t have as much fun with them as I did! I still have fun with farts. Not my own so much, but my students’. When they let off a loud one, we all crack up! Pun intended. I have taught most of them to run out of the room (or as far away from me as possible) when they feel they are about to let rip! Yes, I teach them well! You know you can actually catch your farts, right?

There are also many different kinds of farts. Some are loud and proud, others are silent but violent. Some can get “dangerous”. Some are musical. Some are trumpet-like, others are military-like…but, perhaps I should leave the rest to your imagination.

Now, some boring, old farts may not find this post funny. Others may tell me to stop fart-arsing around. So, in true Nikki fashion, I will just blow them off (yes, I did it again) with this joke from my childhood:

– What is the sharpest thing in the world?

– A fart, because it goes straight through your pants without making a hole in them!

Make the world smile with you

SMILE

Smiles are simply the best thing anyone can wear! Whether you are wearing the latest Prada fashion or torn, old, second-hand clothes, it is your smile that will make all the difference. Nothing can beat a genuine smile – one where the eyes smile with the mouth. A real smile that comes from within.

I have met people who are physically beautiful in that they have the perfect features and make heads turn, yet they are not truly beautiful. They are cold because they don’t smile. They have nothing that warms their features, nothing that “brings them to life”. They manage to make heads turn away just as fast! I have seen flat paintings with more emotion and life than some of these people!

I have also met old ladies in villages with no teeth who smile and their whole face lights up! So, a smile doesn’t even have to have perfect teeth and lips, it just has to be real. Ok, perfect teeth and lips would make it more attractive, but they are not necessary in order to show kindness and warmth.

Perfect teeth (with matching lips, eyes and soul), however, do make the perfect smile! I can’t understand how some people still have awful teeth! Crooked, stained, dirty teeth are so vile and off-putting that they can make the most attractive people look absolutely repugnant! Oral hygiene is not that difficult to achieve, nor is it expensive! I think it is a cultural thing. I may be generalising now, but throughout my travels I have noticed that the Americans have, by far, the best teeth. They look after them. They are clean, white and straight. The Greeks (my generation) are also pretty good with their teeth. But the worst teeth I have seen were neither in Cuba, nor in Zimbabwe…they were in the UK! Yes, the United Kingdom! That is why I think it is a cultural thing because it clearly has nothing to do with the economic state of the country or how well educated their society is. I mean, I know of people in their twenties who have never flossed their teeth! Honestly! How? Why? Can someone please explain this to me?

Anyway, going back to smiling, I think if we all smiled more, we would in turn make more people smile! Why do we have to wait for the other person to smile first? Most people will smile back if you smile at them. Smiles can break the coldest of situations and the hardest of people. They cost nothing and instantly make you more attractive. They also make you feel good.

So, how about we all try something? We can even call it “research”! Let’s spend one day smiling at everyone our eyes meet – whether we know them or not, or whether we engage in conversation with them or not. Just smile. Let’s see what happens. How many of them will smile back? How many will think we are crazy? How many will think we are on drugs? How many will think about that smile later in the day? How many of those people’s days will we have brightened up just with that one simple smile? We can’t know for sure, but we can get a good idea from their reactions! So, go on, I dare you! SMILE and let me know what happens. 🙂

Kathari Deftera (Ash/Clean Monday)

1am - I just opened the fridge to find this! Tarama, octopus and beans with lovely love notes on them all! Thanks mom!

1am – I just opened the fridge to find this! Tarama, octopus and beans with lovely “love” notes on them all! Thanks mom! Greek “hospitality” at its best! Ha!

Kathari Deftera (Ash/Clean Monday) is already upon us. It is the start of Lent for the Greek Christian Orthodox religion and also marks the end of Apokries (the carnival festivities). It is usually a lovely day, spent with family and friends, which always reminds me that summer is just around the corner!

Even though this is supposed to be the start of our 40-day fast before Easter (where we “cleanse” our body and mind and aren’t supposed to eat anything that comes from an animal, or anything with blood), it seems more like a feast than a fast! It’s still all about the food, people! It is usually the deeply religious who fast properly for the whole 40-day period. Some people choose not to eat meat. Others find this to be a good opportunity to cut out something like chocolates or alcohol or fizzy drinks from their diet. It’s a good excuse to lose some weight before the summer, too! I have done the “no meat” thing a couple of times and found it quite easy to do since I don’t eat that much meat anyway.

One year, when I was a student in London, I decided to do the “real thing” – not because I am deeply religious, but because I wanted to see if I could do it and if I could lose some weight in the process. So, off I went to the supermarket and stocked up on bread, beans, pasta, rice, veggies etc. Great start! I eat everything, so I didn’t think it would be too difficult for me.

I love dairy products, so this was something I really missed very soon into the “fast” but being in London meant I could find alternatives to everything – almond milk instead of cow’s milk, for example. I found flavoured almond or rice milk. I didn’t even like it much, but because I was “allowed” to have it, it was quite exciting. It was not only “exciting” but it was also full of sugar! The other “brilliant” thing I did when eating cereal was substitute milk with fruit juice! Can you imagine the amount of sugar I was consuming? I generally have a very healthy appetite and when I was in London I ate. I ate A LOT. So during this “fast” I suddenly changed my diet quite drastically and because the salads and vegetables weren’t filling, I would eat a lot of bread and refined carbohydrates as well.

The end result? I managed to get through 40 days without eating cheese, eggs, fish or meat – and without drinking milk! I also managed to put ON weight! I’m pretty sure I am the only person who managed to put on weight while “fasting”!

Anyway, back to Kathari Deftera. Traditionally, it is a day of seafood and kite flying! People go out to the countryside, the seaside and the mountains and have picnics and fly kites. Some say the kite flying represents getting rid of whatever troubled people during the winter. Others write down their wishes on little pieces of paper and tie them to the ribbon on the kites’ tails. I am not quite sure how this tradition started but apparently it started in Athens. I remember going across the road to the beach and TRYING to fly our kite. For some reason, it usually got torn or got tangled with other kites! I don’t think my dad ever really got the hang of it! It was fun none-the-less!

Food-wise, it is a great day! From octopus, squid, prawns and shellfish in general (unlike fish, they don’t have blood) to fresh vegetables, salads, legumes and olives. However, THE most important dish of the day is, in my opinion without doubt, the tarama (with the lagana). Tarama or taramosalata is a creamy, thick spread or dip made of fish roe. It is delicious (my mom’s especially!) and I certainly associate Kathari Deftera with it! Lagana is the flat bread that is made specifically and only on this day. All this is accompanied by wine, ouzo or raki (also known as tsipouro and tsikoudia), which is a clear, strong spirit made of distilled grape skins. The dessert of the day is usually semolina or sesame-based halva.

If my memory serves me correctly (it usually doesn’t!) on this day, most years, the weather seems to be perfect for kite flying! It is usually windy enough to get lift-off and is clear, sunny and crisp!

I am a sucker for tradition. Not ALL traditions, of course, but the nice, fun ones that actually make sense to me!

So, Kali Sarakosti (have a good 40-day Lent until Easter) and Kala Koulouma (have a good feast today)!

Everything happens for a reason

I really believe this. We just need to figure out what that reason is.  It may not be instantly obvious, but in time it becomes clearer.

So, I have just started a blog. Why? I have no idea! What is the topic? No idea, again! I have several interests so I think I will be covering a range of topics from travel to animals – via health and fitness, food, music, Greeks, South Africans…life in general!

A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is clearly not at the happiest of places at the moment. It got me thinking. Why? She is a clever, educated, kind, warm, beautiful girl. She has everything going for her. She has been dealt a few bad hands but she has a wonderful family and good friends who have been there for her and will always be there for her. She has a great support system, which not everyone has. So, that alone is a huge safety net. She feels that she is in a rut – work, relationships, money – yet she seems too scared to make a change.

What makes us so scared? Isn’t the whole point in life to be happy? Aren’t we all better people when we are happy? So, why are so many people unhappy? I really believe that we create our own happiness. We choose what to do with our lives. We choose whom to spend them with. We choose what work we do. And if we don’t, we should! If we have chosen our work then that means we love doing it. My simplistic logic tells me that if you love doing something, you will do it better than something you hate doing.

Surely life is this. This. Exactly this. Every single minute. Why spend it doing something that doesn’t make you happy? As long as what you need to do to make you happy doesn’t harm others, then why not just do it? And don’t bring money into this. Money has very little to do with happiness. I mean, what is the point in working like a dog to save money so that you can spend it when you retire? What’s the point in going on that dream holiday when you can hardly see the spots on the leopard you just spotted in Africa (see what I did there?) because of your cataract, or you can’t walk up all those steps in Santorini because you just don’t have the stamina, or you can’t risk walking on the glacier in Iceland because of your knee replacement, or you can’t try raw liver in Lebanon because of your sensitive stomach?? Ok, the raw liver was something I could have done without, but my point is: WHY WAIT? Do what you can, now. See what you can, now. Experience what you can, now. Live. Now. Be happy!