Tuesday, May 30, 2017

April Is the Coolest Month—for Nico

Here we are turning over the calendar page from May to June, but I belatedly have to report on grandson Nico’s adventures in April, which included his second birthday, as well as Easter and several egg hunts.
His birthday was on Sunday, April 2 in Manhattan.  The day before, Yiayia Joanie and Amalia made the cake, because the theme of the party was bunnies.  Amalia put on the letters  and eggs and helped with the shredded coconut dyed green.

And before the party both kids helped decorate the apartment, included sticking gel Easter bunnies on the windows. 

There was an egg hunt, egg decorating crafts, a photo booth,  bunny-shaped goodie bags and of course Happy Birthday sung to Nico by everyone. Amalia helped blow out the candles.
Four days later, on April 6, in honor of Greek Independence Day, Amalia recited a patriotic poem with her fellow Greek school classmates.  Nico did his best to get up to the front of the stage to share the spotlight, (but his Papi held him back.)

April 9 was Palm Sunday at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Manhattan. Amalia put on an Easter bonnet and carried a palm during the service

The next weekend, after Nico’s family drove to Papou Nick and Yiayia Joanie’s house for Easter, both Nico and Amalia came down with a 2-day flu bug and started throwing up. They recuperated by watching their favorite movie “Moana” on DVD about a million times.  They both know the words to all the songs and will perform them any time they can find an audience. Nico and his cousin Stone like to watch TV while sitting together in the Elmo chair.  

 By Saturday they all were well enough to attack the piñata at a small family birthday party for Nico and to visit some cows at a nearby farm.  Nico also had a good time feeding the fish in Yiayia’s fish pond as well as the Canadian geese, which he calls “ducks” in the lake across the street.

April 16 was Easter for Greek Orthodox and all other Christian faiths this year.  Nico and Amalia found that the Easter bunny had filled their baskets with goodies and left dozens of eggs to hunt inside the house.  Amalia was the lucky one who found the golden egg.

All went to St. Spyridon Cathedral in Worcester in the morning for the Agape service and then there was another egg hunt outside the church with hundreds of eggs.  Back home, Nico made a puzzle while the lamb finished cooking. The table was set with red eggs for  the egg-cracking war that starts the Easter meal.  Place cards were Easter cookies from Yummy Mummy Bakery with each person’s name on them.

Then it was back to New York and playing in Central Park where Nico’s favorite activity is chasing squirrels.  Once a week he goes there for the Brooklyn Forest School’s Manhattan group, where he makes mud soup, sings, goes on nature walks and eats homemade bread with butter (after washing his hands, of course.).  He usually comes back in line for more bread until it’s all gone.

Recently, on the way to the Forest School, Nico got to meet two horses.  They were introduced by their riders—two police ladies with guns. Nico even got to touch them.

On a weekend, Nico’s mommy took both kids to the New York Children’s Museum, where they got to sit on a camel and also to pretend that they were the President in the Oval Office.  Amalia’s thinking she might run for president some day, if she doesn’t become a surgeon or an artist.

One day when Amalia was out of school, they went on a bear hunt. Amalia wore her helmet for safety (and brought along her skates.) They found three bears next to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and climbed on.

All in all, Nico thinks that the month of April was awesome because it included his birthday and Easter, but he can’t wait to find out what adventures await him in June. 


Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Princess Writes About “Eleni”, Milos Island and Life Coming Full Circle

Nick and I met HRH Princess Tatiana of Greece last summer at an event in Las Vegas where everyone was given her book “A Taste of Greece,” which is published in four languages and available in 72 countries, with all profits from the book going to charitable causes.  Born in Caracas, Venezuela, (née Tatiana Blatnik), the tall, glamorous blonde studied in Switzerland, got her BA from Georgetown, and in 2010 married HRH Prince Nikolaos, son of Greece’s former King Constantine, on the island of Spetses, Greece.  She is an entrepreneur and philanthropist, heading organizations that support women leaders around the world, provide food for impoverished children and teenage mothers, and aid to unaccompanied refugee children in Greece.

Just yesterday I saw a blog post on her official website www.tatianablatnik.com--a beautifully written essay about her introduction to Greece long ago through reading my husband’s book “Eleni” about his mother’s life and her death to save her children, and then, 14 years later, meeting our daughter, Eleni, her grandmother’s namesake.  I’m going to quote some of the princess’s essay here, but you can read it all and learn more about Tatiana and her good works by clicking on https://tatianablatnik.com/reflecting-on-milos/ 

Reflecting on Milos, Greece and life coming full circle

In 2003, when Nikolaos and I took our first trip to Greece together, he gave me a book called ELENI by Nick Gage. As we sat on the plane from London to Athens, I began reading it and found that I couldn’t put the book down! Through its pages, I not only learned so much about Greece’s recent history, but moreover I became emotionally involved with its main character, Eleni Gatzoyiannis, and my eyes filled with tears as I read her harrowing, true story…

Last year, this brave woman’s namesake, Eleni Gage, Nicholas’ daughter, asked if she could interview me for a piece she was writing for CondeNast Traveller on the enchanting Greek island of Milos. Naturally, I was more than happy to speak with her; Milos holds a special place in my heart because it is where Nikolaos and I went for our honeymoon. During this meeting with Eleni, she gave me a small thoughtful gift — a lovely, little St. Nicholas icon which I have since carried in my hand luggage whenever I travel.

Fast forward a year and there I was the other day, pulling my hand luggage behind me as Nikolaos and I walked through the airport — yet  again! — when I passed the newsstand and noticed the new issue of CondeNast Traveller, featuring Eleni’s cover story on Milos. Suddenly it hit me: life comes full circle and everything in it is interconnected.

“Isn’t it amazing?” I couldn’t help but remark to Nikolaos. For who would have imagined that 14 years after Nikolaos’ and my first trip to Greece, during which time I’d read Eleni Gatzoyiannis' story, I would be here today, a resident of the country she fought so hard for, having been interviewed by her granddaughter and carrying within my luggage the icon that she’d given me.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Greek Island of Milos Has Been Discovered

Last summer on our family vacation to Greece,  daughter Eleni introduced us to the stunningly beautiful island of Milos, which she was researching for an article for Conde Nast Traveler.  Now it's out in the magazine's May issue: "Milos is the Untouched Greek Island You've Been Looking For", revealing all the little-known treasures of this island--incredible beaches (many only accessible from the water), wonderful restaurants, incredible views, new and picturesque villas and resorts.    

Her article inspired me to post some of the photos I took while we were there last summer.

In the photo above, Eleni, Emilio and grandkids Nicolas and Amalia are in the water at Sarakiniko Beach which, because of the white sandstone stone carved into a lunar landscape, looks like some otherworldly planet.

One of the places we stayed was a glass-sided villa at Skinopi Lodge, newly built by Nausika Georgiadou,who took us on a boat tour of the beaches which can only be reached by water.  Here is one of them,  where Eleni and family managed to swim through the cave in the distance and back to the boat.

I became photo crazy on one of our last nights on Milos when we went to the village of Klima, famous for its sunsets and the colorful wooden houses along the seaside called syrmata.

I took this photo because it has everything I love about Greece.  I've done note cards celebrating Greek windows and doors and Greek chairs  and it's all here, including the iconic Greek table.  Only thing missing, in my opinion, is a cat, but we found plenty of those down by the waterfront.

On the way down to the seashore, Amalia checked out the sound of the waves in this seashell.

The colorful syrmata, unique to Milos, are dwellings built by fishermen right on top of the garage for the fisherman's boat.

Now the syrmata are eagerly rented or bought by tourists, like these folks who are enjoying the view along with some hungry cats hoping for fish.

As the sign says, you have to be careful walking along the seaside by the syrmata.

Eleni, Emilio and Nico are about to take a stroll.  Note the octopus drying nearby.

These geese were checking things out.

And this cat was checking out the geese.

We saw this sign for the Panorama Restaurant....

So we joined Papou Nick and Amalia and a curious cat...

And watched the sun set over the island of Milos.