Monday, April 1, 2019

Ex Pat Life ~ A Mix of Madness and Mundane

'Life is either a daring adventure
or nothing at all.'
     -- Helen Keller

Okay, so I know I've been telling you that being an ex pat in Greece is one grand adventure. And in many ways living in the midst of Kalamata olive country in the southern Peloponnese is an adventure. It is most certainly a doorway to other travel adventures as well.

Yet, (I suspect many of our ex pat friends here would agree) in many ways day-to-day life could be more aptly described as being a mix of madness and mundane.

That seems a fitting way to begin a report on what's been happening at our home called, The Stone House on the Hill. While I often post updates on Facebook or Instagram, many of you who follow the blog, have asked, "What is happening at the house?' So looking back over the last six months, here's what we've been doing when not having grand adventures.

A Red Hot Welcome

Every other home on our street -- all four of them -- had some form of entry gate. Two black,one blue, one green. Except us.

Entry stairs at The Stone House on the Hill - before
We decided that such a gate at the top of the stairway leading from the road and our parking area to the house, would set off the entry.  Once decided, it took awhile to find a local 'metal man' who could build us one. Once we found him, his work load was such that he didn't get started on the project until January. (If I've not mentioned before, construction is booming in our area.)

I'd collected photos of the ornate types of gates we had in mind. He brought a catalog of more ideas. We agreed on a design, or so we thought.

What I thought we were getting and what we got

Somehow 'the ornate' part of the gate got left behind and we got a very mundane entry gate.
 . .that I will admit drove me a bit into a fit of madness (both anger and crazed) but then -- as with many things here -- it was time to put the madness aside and meet the challenge!

Finished gate with newly planted jasmine vine: Welcome!

The gate's builder said he'd left it plain because it would have detracted from the view. That does make sense. So we've framed the view with bright red and white paint and someday a jasmine vine will loop over its arbor.  I've come to love my little red gate.

On to the garden

I perhaps am smitten with my red gate because I had envisioned (at the same time we were talking about the ornate gate) having a small arbor built over our vegetable garden so that we can this year shade the plants from the cruel Mediterranean summer sun.

Arbor on Hydra Island

Last fall while exploring Hydra island with visiting houseguests of ours I'd spotted this charming tiny red arbor, pictured above. That was just what we needed.  Again, I showed the photo to the metal man who nodded his understanding. He took measurements.

All was good; o la kala, as we say here.

Our 'arbor'

I wasn't home when the construction began on this but arrived as the workmen were putting the finishing touches on 'the structure' that now dominates our side yard.  The Scout, being the taller of us, was tasked with painting it (we'd thought we were getting the small version so had told the builder we would paint it ourselves).

On the bright side, we don't worry about earthquakes any longer as this baby will hold the house up for sure.  We hope the bougainvillea will soon cover a good deal of it and a grape vine has been planted at the opposite end. . . I'll keep you posted on this one.

Yes, mundane tasks sometimes feel like sheer madness.

Do It Yourself  Madness

Not all the madness was caused by others. Sometimes we did it to ourselves by tackling a mundane task ourselves.  There was the stairway painting, for instance:

Our paint job of four years ago had faded and we were inspired by the bright white stairway in a hotel we'd stayed at last summer.  'Couldn't be that bad,' we told ourselves. 'A bit of sanding, a coat or two of paint.'  Let's just say it took several days to get the sanding and the painting to look like that we'd seen in the hotel. In the end we were pleased, but it did take a bit more talent than we'd expected it to require.

Once we had the stairs done, it was time to tackle the doors.  Stone houses built the time ours was, now 14 years ago, were decked out in pine. . .doors, windows, cupboards and cabinets.  While stone is easy to come by here, wood isn't.  The interior reminded us of the design of cabins built amidst, and from, pine forests in the Pacific Northwest.

The doors looked old. They looked dated.

And anyone can do a chalk paint wash, right?

We finally finished all six interior doors and their frames, but this is one of those projects that had us painting for days. . .it sounded so mundane but it became sheer madness.

Our most recent project was a joint effort - we helped do heavy lifting but turned the painting over to a professional.  We'd lived with the odd little closet/drawer/storage unit in the master bedroom -- another in natural pine -- for as long as we could stand it.  The top section was so high we never used it, so moved it to our storage room where it now stores the olive harvest equipment.

And as my father, a housepainter by profession, used to say, what a difference a coat of paint can make!  This project was sheer joy and it was madness that we didn't do it sooner!

Closet - before and after

So that ends our behind-the-scenes look at what's been happening at The Stone House on the Hill.  We've got painting projects coming up this spring but managed to squeeze in a bit of travel the last few weeks, including a luxurious long weekend in Athens. If you are planning a trip to Greece anytime soon, it would be a shame not to include Athens in your itinerary! I'll tell you a few reasons why next week.

Safe travels to you and yours and thanks always for the time you spend with us. Use the comments or send us an email to let us know what you've been up to ~

Linking with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. We are really liking the pops of color that you have incorporated into your landscape. It really adds an element of fun that so many would overlook. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jeff and Crystal! Appreciate the visit and the comment!

  2. Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to your Athens post; we'll visit there on a cruise this fall.

    1. I've got lots of ideas for you! See you again next week!

  3. You've been busy! I love the white stairs and it looks like you did a fantastic job with it. I can't tell you how many times l have envisioned painting the closets in our flat.. I only wish it belonged to us. I love the brightness of the gate too. You guys are having fun :-).

    1. We have friends who rent a place here and had such a deadbeat landlord that they have taken it upon themselves to fix up their place with new paint and fixtures and it looks 100% better - they deduct their cost from the rent payments. And yes, it is fun! Thanks for stopping by -

  4. What a difference a little paint can make indeed! Great projects and the house is looking great. I love your choice of red for the gate, it is so bold. Be careful they don't brand you a communist or an Olympiakos fan! ;)

    1. Just read a great book, Island of Secrets, by Patricia Harris about Crete during the war and she had written that tavernas identified their political leanings by the colors of the chairs and tables outside their place. I guess from our mix of colors no one could figure out who we supported. :-) Thanks for the visit, Mary.

  5. I love your red gate and your new blue structure...ya'll have been really busy. Will you be having lots of family come stay with you throughout the summer? They will fall in love with your stone house

    1. Afraid our remaining family is rather few and far between, BJ. And we doubt if we'll ever see any of them in Greece but hope our friends will be regular visitors!! Thanks for the visit ~

  6. You know what? You seem to have taken all the lemons thrown at you and made lemonade. I think anyone wanting to 'ex pat' should read your article. And love your gate and the view.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Lori. Sometimes it takes a lot of sugar but making lemonade from the lemons you get, can be a lot of fun!!

  7. Love your red gate. Wonder why you didn't make the one over your garden red, too? Also love that you keep yourselves busy, make your surroundings pretty, and up the value of your money all at the same time!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Carol. Afraid it would have looked like a fire station with the size of the arbor we had constructed. But a touch at the gate did spark the place up!

  8. I love how you took the gate that didn't match your expectations and made something even better from it! Good on you! White steps, though: won't they constantly get dirty?

  9. I remember well how long home projects can take, especially when juggling a full-time job and all the other tasks that daily life requires. Love seeing what you're doing in your "spare" time and, wow, that red gate is an eye-popper and will definitely set your house apart from your neighbors. So cheerful! Anita


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