Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What to Read: The Goldfinch / The Vacationers

With summer winding down, people either ramp up the activities, or savour whatever leisure time they have left. The weather seems to have an early, damp chill in the air telling us: SUMMER IS ENDING! GRAB YOUR BLANKIE! REUNITE WITH YOUR LONG LOST COUCH!

Below are two books for that last summer long weekend.

1.     2.

1. The Goldfinch - The first thought I had while starting The Goldfinch is that I never want to read anything again unless it's written by Donna Tartt. Her prose is like reading a photograph, with every square inch, colour, smell, and movement described. The premise? The story follows 13 year old Theo who survives an accident in a museum. (That is the most I'll say). I haven't finished it, but I'm taking my time (it's also 700 pages). The novel won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and word has it, the movie version is on its way.

2. The Vacationers - Since the sun is leaving, try The Vacationers. I started reading this book on vacation (fitting) and finished it in under a week. At the time, I read a lot of press about the author, Emma Straub, and was seduced by the cover of this book. The story follows The Posts, an American family trying to create some togetherness on a family trip to Mallorca, Spain. Each member has a story, a secret, and something they need to resolve. I started to empathize and care for each of the characters, always returning back to the book to see how far they've come.

image credit 1. wikipedia / image credit 2. amazon

Monday, August 18, 2014

Weekly Mantra - Here We Grow

Thessaloniki, Greece

I have 32, 883 words of a young adult novel that I've been writing.

According to Writer's Digest, the average young adult novel is between 55,000 and 69,999 words, which means that I am halfway to completion.

Will I finish it? I'm not sure. Do I want to finish it? Of course! Sometimes I look for inspiration in photos or words to remind me that all projects (personal or professional) take time.

Above is a photo I took in Thessaloniki of my favourite sculpture in the city. It's called Umbrellas, and the beauty of it made my eyes tell my brain to stop thinking for a moment. I wonder about the sculptor, Giorgos Zogolopoulos. I wonder how daunting this project must've felt at first, and how many people told him it wouldn't make sense.

Lastly, below is a quote from author and entrepreneur, Seth Godin that I also found inspiring and relevant. Enjoy!

"Great projects start out feeling like buildings. There are architects, materials, staff, rigid timelines, permits, engineers, a structure.

It works or it doesn't.

Build something that doesn't fall down. On time.

But in fact, great projects, like great careers and relationships that last, are gardens. They are tended, they shift, they grow. They endure over time, gaining a personality and reflecting their environment. When something dies or fades away, we prune, replant and grow again.

Perfection and polish aren't nearly as important as good light, good drainage and a passionate gardener.

By all means, build. But don't finish. Don't walk away.

Here we grow." - via sethgodin.typepad.com 

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Greece Travel Diaries: Mykonos

I couldn't help but think about that Fleet Foxes song, Mykonos (which was sadly missing from my music playlist) during our four-hour boat ride to the island, from Athens.

Mykonos, the dry island as they call it, didn't have the lush landscapes that I was used to during my time in Northern Greece. It did, however, fulfill the exact fantasy that I had about Greece from watching films. Blue and white homes sprinkled everywhere; candy-coloured lacquered shutters; cobblestone hills and streets; evil eyes in store windows; and tourists, tons and tons of tourists.

Mykonos is where people go to have a good time. Maria and I would spend the day at the beach, head back to our hotel, change for dinner, and then after dinner head back to nap, before heading out again after midnight.

As I get older, I seem to be less inclined to stay out crazy late, or find the most raging party on vacation. Instead, I prefer night strolls, one cocktail, and chatting about plans for the next day. In Mykonos, sleep is for the weak, and let's just say, I tried my best to stay strong.

One of my favourite sights were the Mykonos windmills that overlook the sea, and at sunset draw crowds of people to take photos and sit by the ledges.

Below are a few photos I took! Enjoy.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Weekly Mantra - Try something different

Sometimes I create change through making small decisions.

Things like buying a new couch pillow; choosing a book genre that I never read, or getting a hair cut. I've mentioned before without getting into too many details, that my routine looks nothing like it did a month ago. These days, I don't have anything in my life quite set. My schedule is made on a weekly basis, and I even work nights. While this change has been significant, I still find myself seeking other ways to alter my surroundings.

I got in touch with Elena, the amazing graphic designer who helped with my blog's redesign last year. I asked if she could send me some of the other logos she made, before I originally picked the final one. She sent me the jpeg, and I immediately changed it. (*Look above! I hope you like it)

Sometimes making a quick change, without focusing on the previous attachment, makes me feel like I'm moving forward in a way. While this blog isn't famous, or read by thousands, it is still a piece of me, and if I'm changing, then this space must also evolve.

For anyone else who's starting over, or contemplating finding a new routine, this week's mantra is for you! x

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Greece Diaries - Athens

I love big cities.

Throw me in the middle of New York, Toronto, Paris, Chicago and I tend to thrive.

But Athens, please don't bring me to Athens in July.

There was something about Athens that just didn't jive with me. Maybe it was the 45 degree weather, the lack of shade, anywhere, or the fact that I decided to visit the Acropolis of Athens on one of the hottest days I've ever experienced.

I nearly melted after climbing up alone (Maria chose to stay behind as she's visited before). I wasn't used to the influx of tourists, a crowd that was denser than the heat that followed me around like a Charlie Brown cloud.

But I kept going. I didn't come all the way to Athens not to see one of the most historical monuments of Greek history. On my way down, I got really lost. I couldn't find Maria. I somehow ended up on the other side of where I entered. I bought a litre of water, and downed it in five gulps. I started to panic.

When I finally found Maria, she was relaxing under a tree, texting. I begged her for shade and food, in that order. We found a cute Italian restaurant called School, hidden amongst the crowded streets. We ordered the largest margherita pizza I've ever seen, and I ate enough slices to almost revive me back to a chipper state.


Below are some photos I took while in Athens! Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Greece Diaries - Halkidiki & Metsovo

The next two stops on my Greek adventure were Metsovo and Halkidiki.

Metsovo is a medieval town on the mountains of Northern Greece. We stopped there for lunch on our way back from Lefkada, and spent a couple of hours taking photos, and eating saganaki. 

What is saganaki? Saganaki is a square block of fried cheese that is typically served as an appetizer to your heart. Metsovo also felt like I fell into the storybook of Hansel and Gretel. 

Once we arrived back to Thessaloniki, it was time to repack my mini luggage because we were heading to the beach again. This time, we were going to Halkidiki, which is where everyone in Thessaloniki goes on the weekends, or mid-week to "summer." Think of it as The Hamptons. 

Halkidiki or Chalkidiki as they also call it, is located in Northern Greece on the Aegean Sea. It looks like a three-fingered hand, and those fingers, or legs as they call them are where the beaches and summer resorts are. It's about a 30 minute, to a one hour drive depending on which prong you pick. Maria's family has a beach house there, but we stayed at the beach house of her friend Annie. 

Halkidiki was one of the words that took me three days to learn how to pronounce, but once I got it, I got it. We spent the new few days dancing at beach bars, and lying around under straw hut umbrellas with Maria's friends who all welcomed me like I was one of the group. 

In Halkidiki, I tried Maria's mother's spanakopita. After two weeks of being in Greece, it still remained the best thing I ever tasted. Her secret is in the handmade phyllo pastry. 

Below are some photos I took! Enjoy!

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Greece Diaries - Lefkada

Porto Katsiki Beach, Lefkada
When planning my trip to Greece, I'll admit that I didn't do much.

Maria had it all mapped out, and my only request was that she take me to the ocean. I didn't care where we went. If anything, I wanted her to take me to where she usually goes. Before this trip, I've never heard of Lefkada. When friends or family visited Greece, they told me to check out Mykonos, Santorini, or Ios.

I learned that Lekfada is part of the Ionian Sea (most of the other islands are part of the Aegean Sea) and that it is one of the only Greek islands that can be accessed by car.

Driving to Lefkada was one of the most amazing experiences I've had on vacation. We drove on roads that spun off cliffs of lush forests where you could never tell where the sky or sea started. While there, we visited three beaches:

When I first got to Kathisma, I thought I hit the centre of an alternative paradise. The water was as clear as a man-made backyard pool, the temperature like a warm bath. Maria and Kostas barely fluttered an eyelid, assuring me that the next two beaches we'd visit would blow my mind.

I said I didn't believe them.

Cue Day Two. We arrived at Porto Katsiki. A beach that was carved out of speckled white and orange cliffs, the colour of a Tabby cat. The water here was clearer, and I spent the day dripping in salt water, climbing on rocks, and floating on my back, unable to process where exactly I was in the world.

I then told them, nothing could be better.

Day Three: the final escape to Egremni, a beach that could only be accessed by walking down 347 steps.

We left early in the morning, and as we arrived the sun was just starting to illuminate the endless stretch of sand and ocean. As my feet sunk into the rocky ground, the shore would spit up white, foamy bubbles like the mix of saliva and toothpaste in a sink.

Kostas found us a grotto to rest our stuff under, our own personal cave where we could hide from the sun when it got too strong (and the sun is no joke in Greece). The only caveat of Egremni beach is when you have to use the bathroom, you have to climb back up the 347 steps. I caved and made the trip up in the afternoon, a feat that I definitely don't recommend. Kostas and Maria, more seasoned beach professionals waited until we left to climb back up.

All I can recall from that day is the blue. The bluntness of the shade. The way I flung off my sunglasses to examine the colours. The deep ombre of the ocean, starting with an electric indigo, and ending in cyan. 

I've never seen blue like that, except maybe in the irises of my grandparents' eyes. That's all I remember. That's the most I'll ever be able to describe.

Below are some photos! Enjoy.