All that really matters…

We are currently living in such unprecedented times right now that I wasn’t sure whether to write this next post. As I reflect on all that has been happening with this deadly pandemic in just a few short weeks… sitting outside on my balcony I feel almost cocooned. There is no sound outside except for the waves rolling onto the shores of Almyrida Bay, the odd seagull squawking, the odd sheep bleating. Everywhere is deserted of people, cars and bikes.

The Greek government closed down everything weeks ago and have acted responsibly from the outset. The population of Crete is so small in comparison to it’s size, so I am feeling extremely fortunate to be living on this beautiful island during these exceptionally uncertain times. What matters is that – thanks to modern technology we can at least maintain virtual contact with all our loved ones – no matter where in the world they might be. But isn’t it at times like these, that we should all question our priorities? Family has always been top of mine, but I also believe that if you don’t have good health – you have nothing!

Ralph, Neve & Arthur - 3 of my most precious jewels.

Ralph, Neve & Arthur – 3 of my most precious jewels.

In such a short time everything has come to a standstill and the only thing that remains important to the human race right now is our health. Without it, life as we have come to know it, may cease to exist. Is this our “wake-up” call, a time for us to review the way we live our lives and the things we put importance on?

So I can only write about how the Coronavirus has impacted on my own life. I was so looking forward to seeing Zoe, Rich and baby Arthur, Emma, Ash, Ralph and Neve this summer and now they may not be able to visit me on Crete.  For the first time I have no idea when I will be with my family again.  This matters more to me than any loss of income from my art business.  All my precious jewels live in the UK and so of course I have been following the English news, to see how this worldwide crisis is affecting them.  Also, 3 weeks ago I realized that Almyrida may not get many tourists – if any this summer. Nobody knows where all this is leading. Still… I’d like to stay positive without being too unrealistic. For the last 3 weeks I have not worked as much on my Seashell Mosaic Collages, freeing up time to do other things instead. In true ‘Michaela fashion’ – this means getting the very most out of every single day!

Nautilus Shell in Seashell Mosaic on Sand - 30 x 40cms - available to purchase from my online Etsy shop.

Nautilus Shell in Seashell Mosaic on Sand – 30 x 40cms – available to purchase from my online Etsy shop.

I’ve still been keeping fit with work-outs, weights and power walks, but the gym I go to shut 2 weeks ago, so I couldn’t do my crossfit classes anymore. However and luckily for me – this didn’t matter because Charlie returned from New Zealand middle of February and we resumed our bike rides and work-outs. After training with Charlie for over a month I am happy to say that I can see and feel subtle but positive changes as I get stronger and fitter. I am improving on the bike all the time, gradually getting used to cycling up the hills and slopes, with Charlie introducing short sprints in between. The regular bike rides and working with the weights has done wonders for my muscles! Despite all the lockdown restrictions, thank God we are still allowed to look after our personal fitness, especially now when it matters more than ever.

Standing by Imbros gorge on the way to Frangokastello.

Standing by Imbros gorge on the way to Frangokastello.

I’ve had some wonderful beachcombing days out – also with Charlie and right up until the lockdown. We’ve visited Falasarna, Frangokastello and Bali as well as other places along the way. The Cretan weather has been so mild this winter, with plenty of warm sunny days which are perfect for beachcombing. In fact it was so hot in Falasarna that we stripped to shorts and t-shirts and were still too warm!

With Charlie, overlooking Imbros Gorge, on the way to Frangokastello.

With Charlie, overlooking Imbros Gorge, on the way to Frangokastello.

At Frangokastello the seashells were just not there when we went. Sure we picked up a few, but I am extremely selective as to what shells I use in my seashell mosaics and it is always pot luck as to what is left on the beach to collect. The oceans deposit their treasures on the sandy shores and then take them away again the next day. We explored quite a bit of the coastline there before deciding to visit Chora Sfakia, which is situated further along the south coast of Crete. We walked along the seafront of the deserted town and managed to get a takeaway latte, served through a hatch at the only place we could find open.

At the deserted seaside town of Chora Sfakia on the south coast of Crete

At the deserted seaside town of Chora Sfakia, on the south coast of Crete

Just before we were locked down we squeezed in a visit to Bali. We explored all 4 beaches without results. The seashells I normally collect from Bali were conspicuous by their absence, but again – it didn’t matter because it just meant we had more time to explore other places. With Charlie driving and navigating – he soon found access to new areas of coastline I hadn’t been to before. Each beach or cove so different and unique and all wonderful places to have a picnic lunch!

Near Bali, at one of the coves Charlie managed to find access to!

Near Bali, at one of the coves Charlie managed to find access to!

I absolutely adore these days out, am always in awe of the breathtaking scenery we travel through and always grateful for these opportunities to experience  the awesome nature the beautiful Island of Crete has to offer. I wonder when we’ll be able to go out exploring again?

Yet as I sit in the warm sunshine on my balcony, writing up this post… I am still counting my blessings.

Lovely Cretan Winter Sun & Working Outside on my Balcony

During these last five or six weeks I have thrown myself back into my Art and creating Seashell Mosaic designs in readiness for the coming summer beach selling season. Designs such as Seagulls, Girls on Swings, “Always Believe…” sand quote and Pink Flamingos were in great demand, yet I could not produce enough last summer, after selling out of the ones I created over the winter months. So I am hoping I will be better prepared this year.

Painting with Seagulls in Seashell Mosaic - 25 x 30cms

Painting with Seagulls in Seashell Mosaic – 25 x 30cms

The weather has improved greatly in the last few weeks, with much less rain and more sunshine. But the wind has returned with a vengeance! However, twice this week I was lucky enough when the wind dropped, the sun was shining in blue skies and I was able to work on my balcony. It was warm and wonderful to be working outside again. Although I have also had odd days in January when conditions were good enough. With the amazing backdrop of the awesome snow-covered mountains, the sea and countless olive groves – who wouldn’t envy me my studio?

Painting with Girls on Swings in Seashell Mosaic - 18 x 24cms

Painting with Girls on Swings in Seashell Mosaic – 18 x 24cms

I have carried on with the power walks and settled into two crossfit classes a week. Though I have been finding it difficult to tear myself away from my work in order to make the crossfit classes at 4.45pm. Normally I would have carried on until 7pm. But hey – I was determined to bring more balance into my life and working out regularly is all part of that. Besides – the buzz I feel afterwards (and everyone who works out will tell you the same) – would make me a small fortune if I could bottle and sell it!

On the social front, I recently went to a party night at my local taverna, Vangeli’s. There was good food, music and a whole load of people I hadn’t had the chance to catch up with for ages! Needless to say – that was a long and a late night! There have been a few music quizzes I went to at Captain Jack’s, enjoying fish and chip suppers afterwards and I’ve also been to a Carl Axon gig at Simon’s in Kalyves.

The grand hallway of this enormous house!

The grand hallway of this enormous house!

A couple of weeks ago I finally got around to visiting where Lisa has been living for the last couple of months. What an amazing place! I can only describe it as an English manor house remotely situated at the foot of the mountains, with breathtaking views all around. The outside is still a modern build, but the inside is traditionally ‘old English’. It is a charming place to live in and Lisa is so lucky that the owner asked her if she’d like to move in to take care of the dogs and cats there, and generally look after this otherwise neglected and unlived-in mansion. The owner does not live there as he spends the majority of his life living on his large old schooner. You could see his boat from my balcony during most of the summer last year, when it was docked in Almyrida bay. We spent a lovely afternoon there and Lisa has drawn me a map for next time, as she had to meet me at the national road in Kalyves – otherwise I never would have found the place and I get lost easily – no sense of direction!

It’s looking like this may be quite a long term base and home for Lisa and so I will be going there lots more. The other good news about this lovely English manor home on Crete, is that my friend Debbie will be moving in there with Lisa when she returns after her treatment from the UK in April. I can’t wait to see her and am so pleased that she is well again.

The far beach in Stavros

The far beach in Stavros

A couple of weeks ago, Lisa and I spent a day in Stavros, beachcombing. Again – weather conditions were great, with lots of warm sunshine and no wind. There are two main beaches there and I have mentioned Stavros in previous posts. The last time I was there was in March 2018 when ‘The Beach of Zorbas’, as they call it, was in much better condition. This time it was a bit storm scruffy, but still beautiful. My goodness! You should see Almyrida‘s beaches right now! I’ll try to remember to bring my mobile and take a photo, next time I go for a power walk.  I’m really bad at remebering to take photos, because I always get so distracted!

Relaxing on the pretty little beach near Stavros

Relaxing on the pretty little beach near Stavros

Despite the debris from the storms we had in January – both beaches were still awesome to explore. We took a picnic as we always do (because most of the tavernas are closed at this time of year) and collected lots of pretty seashells. On the way back we pass another popular beach bay and so decided to stop there and take a look. We quickly noticed that there were very few shells on this beach but we decided to spend a relaxing hour there anyway… just enjoying the beautiful scenery, peace and sounds of the sea and the seagulls. It is a really pretty place and I really should find out the name of the beach… but you could say that we felt so lucky, as we always do – to have so many beautiful beaches on our doorsteps – to visit whenever we want!

The Year 2020 is Sure to be a Good One!

I came back home to Crete for New Year, after having had a wonderful Christmas in the UK with all my family. I returned on the 28th December to dreadful weather, having missed all the best of it whilst I was in the UK. The thunderstorms in Plaka were so severe that most of us didn’t have internet for days and power cuts were frequent. My car battery had died and it appears that there are some electric issues too, which I am still trying to sort out. I am thankful for my good friends Atremis and Rob, who both went out of their way to help me.. right up until New Year’s Eve! Continue reading

August is Still the Busiest Time of my Year

Even though I wrote in my last post that I was having a more relaxing summer.. August has ended up being surprisingly busy for me!  I say this because – like all the other businesses in Almyrida this summer – customers have been few and far between.  August has always been my busiest month for sales and I am pleased to say that this year was no exception!  In the current circumstances, I count myself extremely fortunate to have sold 54 Artworks in August, including a couple of sales on my Etsy shop – Continue reading

Enjoying More Free Time This Summer.

The summer months from May through to September are normally so busy and hectic for me!  Looking back over the last ten years – I really have spent long and crazy hours producing and selling my unique Seashell Mosaic Paintings and Collages.  It has been all about supply and demand!  My Art Business has totally consumed my time and energies but don’t get me wrong because I have loved every moment of it! Continue reading

Celebrating 10 Wonderful Years on Crete!

Yes, I cannot believe that I have lived on this wonderful Island of Crete for ten years! Those ten years have seen me living out my dreams because I have always wanted to live like this… by the sea and so close to nature and all her awesome glory. The lifestyle I’ve enjoyed has been so perfect for me and is everything I could have hoped for and more! How far removed it is from the life I led in the UK because here I have lived a simple, busy but contented, peaceful and happy life from the moment I stepped onto Cretan soil. Continue reading