The gods, history, art, food and agriculture of the Isle of Naxos, Greece

There are a lot of pages and references  dedicated to the Greek donkey as of late. A sturdy animal used often for the purpose of agriculture by farmers or by villagers without cars to carry heavy weight in incredibly hot temperatures. This is what they were built for as they are similar to the desert camel.  So, please people, unless the donkey owners are untrained or ruthless “meanies” most of these animals are beloved in Greece. I should know, we owned several in our family in years past.

Greece is considered the “hottest” country in Europe with summer temperatures  exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). The last “hydration” post is most important to review as one can even get sunburnt if they don’t wear a hat often — it happened to me! Health literacy indeed should include the “donkey” holistic model described on this site if we are to look at the bigger picture.

Greece has over 6,000 islands but only 227 are inhabited. So this post will be one of several where I will be sharing some extraordinary experiences with the hope that you will visit there too!

4783E0CD-5D4B-4609-9D92-23BDA16D81FALast year, during this summer period,  we were privileged to stay at the “Princess of Naxos” on the isle of Naxos main town, and interview the owner and island hotel association rep. who was very proud about his island and more recent tourism developments. It’s an island for “all tastes” for families, couples, or individual adventurers. We had the chance to walk and drive around various parts of the island enjoying the pristine blue waters of the sea (Agios Prokopios, Agia Anna, Agios Georgios were personal favorites) visiting museums with remnants from ancient, medieval, to modern times. An island of antithesis yet complementary sites, smells, sounds and tastes. Also a geological marvel with stones and minerals, including Naxos marble, would make anyone want to “dig” for more!

The marble Sphinx is proof of the Hellenistic and Egyptian relationships while the marble “portal” door welcomes visitors to the island. 8110DEED-9A7E-41EE-AC52-469304D7F4F1.jpegAs if a sleeping pharaoh, the gigantic statue of Apollo is carved on the mountain side for worshipers and the majestic pillars of the temples of Artemis and Demeter (female goddesses of fertility and earth’s bounty), or the site of Dionysus (merriment and “wine god”) remind one of how important fertile land and the bounty of food is for human survival.  The gods of pagan times likely affected the mentality of Christianity as various saints are important to Orthodox Christians. We remain with elements of various personality types and the cosmos: earth, air, fire, and water — ancient philosophy, astrology, and later psychologist Carl Jung aspired personality experts Myers & Briggs to better understand ourselves and others.

One can take a side trip to neighboring islands of Paros or Mykonos, and the small (uninhabited) isle of Delos dedicated to the sun god Apollo with a fabulous “terrace of the lions” built around 600 B.C. with infamous Naxos marble showcasing the strength of dominance of the island as biggest sea trades happened here of all the Cyclade islands, the name of the island “group”—  see fellow blogger’s site here.

 

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Following Artemis’ path, I became a “huntress” of sorts to try and understand the island “identity” and driving towards semi-mountainous Filoti (Φιλώτι), we stopped right before at at a local pottery maker whose family art goes back three generations. We still admire his work today in our home and they deliver goods almost anywhere globally. The impressive “wine glass of equality” was fascinating as all drinkers could only have equal amounts — if you went over the ‘line’ wine would be lost pouring to the floor (one would not be happy).

A small shop owner told us stories of agriculture and dedications to the ancient gods as people aspired to live off the land and how Naxos became the main trading isle of the region. Some of the popular trades of the island continue to be their cheeses like my favorite graviera (γραβιέρα), Naxos potatoes (something similar to the U.S. Idaho potato), or their famous citron (κίτρο) green colored liqueur.

His shop was full with handwoven baskets, and anything from mountain oregano to sheep’s bells or khoudounia (there is a site on their origins in Greece here) in smaller animals the smaller bell is called a “trokani” (τροκάνι). Noteworthy is the fact that there are similar herbs and medicinal plants shared among other islands and mainland Greece (Alan Touwaide’s research work is highlighted in a past post on ancient and medicinal plants). This shop is a cultural treasure that will hopefully make it through the ongoing financial crisis of the country.

 

Find out more about this “must visit” Greek island via the website Naxos.gr — from museums to gastronomy, or simply a relaxing seaside vacation, that will leave everyone wanting to return.

Hydrate your body and soul this summer

Happy 4th of July to all U.S. friends and happy summer to everyone else. People ask me what can I do to feel better? How can I stop negativity? How can I look younger?

Firstly everything is “reversible” as long as you take control to “hydrate” your body, the mind, and soul. Would you ever NOT water a plant if you wanted it to flourish? Or not care for your child? Or not listen to your friend’s pain and offer advice? Pain can feel like stones heavy on the heart. But what if they were “hot stones” which are good with healing! Could you collect some at the beach and “throw” your heavy worry to the sea? Whatever it is, WATER heals….

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What about water? — for every coffee you consume and any alcoholic drink you must drink at least 1-2 glasses of water (mind the cup). We should be drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily and in the summer increase to 10-12! I won’t go into other summer safety precautions since I’ve written about this before (see here) but I will go on with “the power.”

We all have the power to change our thoughts and share with others how to become better people but are they ready? Some are “stuck” in thinking everyone is “against” them, they are “not good enough,” you don’t “love them enough” (often this is their own “stuff” from personal insecurities, childhood, borderline behaviors that you cannot do much about as they need spiritual or professional guides). This summer read Ms. Byrne’s book it will open your mind and help heal the soul. In general prayer, meditation, and healthy “mind food” do!

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“The Power” by Rhonda Byrne

As for your skin — besides sunscreen, adding more raw vegetables and fruit 🍉 like seasonal summer squash, grapes, or watermelon do the trick! But some of us have sensitive digestive systems so vitamins are just what the doctor ordered.

My favorite summer skin beauty regimen the last two years is Truvivity is so ask me or others about it and try it today if you want to build your collagen and keep inner hydration healthy against sun damage and normal aging process a bit longer delayed! Beauty is skin deep but if you have a healthy attitude around you will be surrounded by many friends and loving persons to be even more attractive to others. Remember to be beautiful inside and out keep “hydrated” mind, body and soul!

 

Strawberry Moon, Shortcake, and June

According to Native American tradition June was the perfect ripening time to pick strawberries by the full moonlight … since it’s also cooler in the evenings and less critters like bees, my guess is? The article by USA Today published last June 2018 suggests that the warm color of the moon as it is closer to the earth and the related folklore give the related “strawberry moon” reference.

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Full moon overlooks the cityscape

Buying my 1 kg. (about 2 lbs.) in-season June strawberries I was thinking about what desert to make  — despite the fact strawberries have one of the highest ratings of pesticide residue,  about 10 mins steeped in cold water with a tablespoon of lemon juice and a “pinch” of salt helps reduce this ‘bad for your health’ stuff according to experts —  In thinking along the healthier eating lines, we should try to reduce calories due to high sugar in most strawberry deserts. But how?  Then it comes to me…. as a kid I recall those “special occasions” with my aunt Dorothy who introduced me to so many “American” traditions including antique stores, the 4th of July Independence Day parade in the historic Marblehead, MA. complete with fireworks, barbecues, and yes, strawberry shortcake!

In the 1980s there was a greeting card that evolved into many cartoon characters who lived in “Strawberry Land” including friends Lemon Meringue and Blueberry Muffin (by the way I love those deserts too!). Apparently, this became popular again with a newer North American (Canadian – American) ownership and animated series in about 2010!  This desert is still an all-time classic. Growing into adulthood with all the pains and  needing to cut down on extra calories one can understand why it’s best to keep thoughts only on the cartoon’s “Berry Adventures” 😎🍓

So, I substituted the whipped cream with strained Greek yogurt and guess what? It is simply fabulous with that extra protein needed and less sugar calories. Yummy! Well,  I still like those strawberry daiquiris with my leftover strawberry sauce …maybe I’ll drink to that?! Cheers, and happy summer.

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Paper, “weight” I’m voting like a hamster

 

F9EEE044-8662-40C0-9C23-69342E8AE0CCHamsters are mainly nocturnal creatures that like to burrow in small places and live for cutting up paper and storing it as a way of creating a sleep cushion. This is Astroid our Syrian hamster…and his little rocket shaped home akin to Barbara Eden’s “I dream of Jeannie” bottle home. Our hamster gets plenty of exercise on his wheel and we even put him into a “hamster ball” for about 10 minutes twice a week for extra exercise ….after all animals naturally do what is best for them! But what about us? We often “spin our wheels” and get nowhere fast ….especially in the name of ‘progress.’

I had thought of it before I had to vote this year for the EU elections how ridiculously burdensome and outright confusing it is to vote in Greece. I better understand why the government can really be “hazardous” for our health — check out my ‘when systems don’t work’ post.  Speaking of ‘civic literacy’ as I pondered over the 42 different parties to choose from I realized

1) I didn’t know half of the parties running for office,  never mind unidentifiable logos and rebellious terminology such as “adarsia” (ανταρσία) was more often an option.

2) so much paper wasted —those poor landfills — and nothing is done electronically (yet),

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3) there was so much dirty tagging around the public school  grounds (the place I voted at) and even this silly “penis” series  …given it was a high school and students that age explore newfound  sexuality I guess we should not focus on the vandalism or call it “penis envy” (lol) ! EDC469DC-CDC0-4997-AD02-5A7890ACF5C7.jpegDo the municipalities and the school principals not understand about recycling? About teaching kids to “care” about their school grounds as well as each other ? Do I need to say more?! Why all the paper “weight”? Yet we “wait” too long to start building health literacy in our younger people?

I really liked the cover of the Quarterly magazine put out by the University of Athens ‘New Health’ (Νέα Υγεία) 84E66815-FEE4-4F0A-BE3B-0ACF042A1471so let’s turn a new page and focus on prevention like primary basic things to help kids build confidence and take better care of their bodies, and maybe rethink our waste for elections all for the good of health literacy shall we? Else we simply remain ‘in the dark.’

Appreciative “May” benefit your outlook and health

Today was one of those days….. bombarded by everyone and trying to settle on finances and budgets, schedules, as typical of working women who are trying to balance their life. And yes if you are in your midlife or older chances are you are that “squeezed” sandwich generation where you have the task of home, younger family and elder family care. It’s no coincidence then that this group often experiences burnout and what is called “caretaker syndrome”.

According to statistics,  women have it worse as they are tasked with more housework (if not all of it) caring for their aging parent or in-law, all the while their teenager is flipping out or their little one is whining about something. It turns out that women’s natural ability to multitask makes it easier for everything  to get done …so remind me why women are paid less?

And did I mention married men have better overall health than married women ? Likely because spouses usually nag their husbands about going to the doctor. So be appreciative of your wives! And if you’re divorced try to hang out with more female friends, they might benefit your health if they’re health literate themselves!

As I was scrambling to get my facts straight about changing risk behaviors, making lists and filling in my calendars (yes both paper and electronic!) the look on my face likely made the cafe barista want to lend a hand or a heart ❤️ as you see from the cappuccino outcome.  I’m very appreciative!

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It got me thinking that many important holidays and days of remembrance happen in May. Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, European Cancer prevention week,  Clean Air Month to name a few. In thinking of the outdoors I was also appreciative (despite my seasonal allergies) to walk in green fields and soak up some sunlight this past week. It’s amazing how nature truly calms us and is truly a “soul healer”. Dr. Scott Peck, you’d be proud as I often take “The Road Less Travelled”.

2A55A92F-2801-4A9C-BCDA-96F295A95A35Five simple things you can do this month to make you more appreciative of others and  your community at large:

1) Smile, and Say  “thank you” more often and give thanks for what you have (the glass is half full remember??). Regardless of their age, little and big people love this!

2) Reuse, Reduce, Recycle ♻️ daily. Keep things simple and “prune your stuff often” as experts like Kondo recommend. Life can be complicated, make it simpler.

3) Take a walk (20-30 minutes daily or at least 3 Xs a week) for heart health and better cognitive function.  While you’re at it, plant a tree 🌳 , and remember to always stop and smell the roses, or the violets. Exercising and doing more self-care are a ‘must’ for long-term benefits.

4) Read a new book (or listen via audio), write a letter to a beloved friend — no matter how far they are…even “snail” mail is great on occasion it’s a pleasant surprise!

5) Be creative whether in art, food, or in writing.  Write five things you enjoyed or accomplished each week — don’t focus on what you didn’t finish — this adds to your  self-esteem and your outlook of positivity. We all tend to be harsh on ourselves or others but remember one needs a hand (or a branch/vine) if they are to get un-stuck in the quicksand!

Flying lanterns & Safe Returns

Lanterns made of biodegradable material, big and small, yellow colored with more bold red and blue checkered patterns, floated to the sky by the dozens, accompanied by fireworks, on the Saturday of the Resurrection. Traditions such as these, as well as a simple lighting of candles are customary to Orthodox Christians celebrating Easter week in several towns and villages in Greece and other parts of Eastern Europe.

I was in awe of the spectacle in the town of Leonidio former municipality of southern Arcadia, Eastern Peloponnesus. A small town with a traditional “Tsakonika” language dialect, and modern traditions including rock climbing, Leonidio will also have a summer feast of the eggplant  (aubergine) in the summer “Melitzazz” festival with jazz music 🎼

Yes, there are many pagan traditions that have made it across to religious Christian traditions as a fellow blogger rightfully addresses (Aratta) and the above are a welcomed change adding value to our trip while helping the local economy.

However, some practices are more difficult to fathom at close range including fireworks and other “poppers” including shooting guns for “fun”. This includes a random bullet on Easter Sunday landing in an 8-year-old’s head who is now fighting for her life in the town of Thiva, and a cameraman who lost his life at 58 from a misfired firework in the town of Kalamata. Many towns every year have fireworks to bring in tourism but at what costs? And we as viewers need to keep our healthy distance to prevent injury.

Health literacy people, to prevent injury by safe practices! The US Consumer Product Safety Commission puts out some good guidelines  to be safe around fireworks (CPSC) particularly for young children who may be “curious” or sensation-seeking teens and adults who tinker with danger.

May Wreaths

On May 1st we make wreaths from the earth’s bounty!

Take a moment this May 1st to pick your flowers and dance around the May pole (May energy) or rethink labor “rights” traditionally celebrated as “Labour Day” by many countries, neither North America nor Australia (hmm!) , on the side of safety first and occupational health.