don't worry, bee happy

one of the last things i expected to do when i came to greece was this.....

......get dressed in a beekeeper's suit!

this adorable couple of english expats, john phipps - a beekeeper - and his wife, val, invited deb and me down to their place 

a glorious little cottage overlooking a garden filled with sage and lavender and the aegean in the distance

val served us fresh welsh cakes hot off the griddle

we were in search of these......

the phipps' friend socrates lit the smoker by burning a piece of burlap

while deb suited up, too, and tried to figure out how to operate her camera underneath the shroud

socrates starts to smoke the hive

which makes the bees swarm, allowing an opportunity for john to show us the comb (bare hands and all!)

more mesmerized than wary, i watch as john lifts out one of the trays

with deb filming the whole process

john and socrates pointed out the queen and i tried to capture her in this shot (she's in there somewhere, i promise!)

john inserted a piece of white paper at the bottom of the hive to check for the varroa mite, a parasitic insect which can wreak havoc in a bee colony (still can't believe these guys are doing this bare-handed!)

i took the opportunity to take a shadowy self portrait in my strange mufti

even though he was wearing pants, john was stung through his clothing - you can see the tiny black stinger still in his leg

john inspects the white paper for the varroa mite while deb and val look on

and to think that all this effort leads to a sweet conclusion....

not surprisingly, the entrance to the phipps' cottage is a bee light, imported from their native england

thanks val, john and socrates for letting us experience the fascinating world of beekeeping and allowing us a glimpse into the secret lives of bees
(hey, i couldn't resist!!)

Greek Welsh Cakes

Recipe courtesy of Val Phipps
Stoupa, Greece


225 g. self-raising flour
110 g. butter
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice
zest of 1/4 lemon
110 g. sugar (fine and soft brown mixed)
110 g. currants/sultanas
1 beaten egg


Rub fat into flour. 
Add sugar, fruit, mixed spice, salt and lemon zest.
Mix in beaten egg. 
Roll out 1/4 inch thick.
Cut into rounds.
Bake on medium heated griddle (or frying pan) until just cooked - slightly soft in the middle. 
Dust with fine sugar.

(Should you batch-cook, make double quantity, allow to cool and freeze. Once thawed, warm, wrapped in foil in oven.


  1. Ah. Amanda goes to Greece. Gets buzzed. Checks on a bee colony. Gets honey.

    OOOPS; wrong order.

    Delightful adventure. But I'll let you do it and tell me the story. (You tell such excellent stories, with good pictures, too.)

    P.S.: I really love Welsh Cakes; thanks for the news recipe!

  2. My, what fun adventures you're having.

  3. Wow, Amanda! So interesting that I posted about bees and you are actually in the midst of them! Wonderful photos and story to boot... safe travels, mon amie!


  4. oh wow - bees are among my favourite things. Bare Hands!!!! sheeesh. heavenly herbs and honey in gorgeous greece - those folks are sussed - no question! and welsh cakes - i had forgotten about them..they are delicious!! thanks for the recipe.
    wonderful wonderful again again. thanks Amanda x

  5. oh yes and Socrates - great name!

  6. OOOOOOOH BARE ARMS eeeeeek. I can watch bare hands, but the arms and the loose shirt sent stinging shivers down my spine. Some friends have just come back from Greece and brought a little tin of honey for me. It was very very herby delicious

  7. I love the pictures but the bare hands make me shiver. But what a lovely life it looks like, raising bees and making honey in Greece.

    question - where is the fat in the recipe? i might be missing something....but thanks.

  8. Bees are mysterious aren't them ? I love buying different honeys when I go abroad. Hungary, France and Italy. BTW... Check this out:

  9. Amanda, please ask Janet about that mail I sent her about the verroa mite. I have lost it somehow, but maybe she still has it. Val, did you see, there is a Val, too!
    Beautiful, interesting post! Everyone should be a bee-keeper.

  10. Fascinating. I cannot imagine being so close to so many bees.

  11. Glad you got the recipe from Val for the Welsh Cakes. Wish I had some now!

    Rainy in Roma and chilly too...., the Greek flora and fauna seem so long ago. Che bello momentos.

  12. What glorious adventures you take us on..thank you..thank you!!The photo with the lavender made me stop and daydream for a while.So lovely.
    Not sure if I could muster up the courage to attempt it bare handed..yikes!!
    Warmest Regards,Cat

  13. Gosh Amanda, your making me fall in love with Greece too. How incredible are your photos, they tell the story so well. Beekeeping is so fasinating, it's really an art isn't it? You and your sister are so lucky to have had these experiances. And your appreciation for them is so beautiful.

    Was the honey delicious?? and thank you for the recipe!

  14. What an amazing and so interesting post Amanda! You look a brave enough photographer in your special protected costume:):)

  15. What's amazing about Greece is that there are bee keepers just about everywhere- there's nothing like local honey. You're lucky to have been invited to experience the process of collecting honey and thank you for sharing with all of us! :)
    Have a great week Amanda.

  16. Thank you, Amanda, for your comment on my blog. I returned to yours and found all these lovely photos of gathering honey. Delightful! Near our home is a large honey mecca in Nikiti, Halkidiki. Question about the Welsh cakes--your list of ingredients didn't say how much fat and would it be butter, lard, oil...? I'd love to try the recipe!

  17. r-bear - haha -- gets buzzed indeed! ;-)

    before you make the recipe pls make sure to add the butter, which wasn't on the original posting!!

    rosaria - this trip has been most memorable, and i am grateful♡

    genie - am buzzing now over to your site to see the bee post!!

    val - isn't it wonderful to know someone named socrates?!! and yes - the recipe - i've posted the butter part now so be sure not to forget that key ingredient!

  18. janet - i couldn't believe my eyes, either, to see those guys handle the bees bare-handed --- but they are experts and used to stings when they happen! (me, i don't think i'd ever get used to that!)

    thanks for visiting, and so nice to see you over in these parts!

    p.s. in her comment, geli asks for info that she sent you about the verroa mite?

    mim - correct you are -- you and iosifina noticed this missing key ingredient -- i've corrected the recipe so let me know how it turns out!

    anita - am buzzing over now to check out your website!

    geli - so you and val have corresponded about the verroa mite? so many things are affecting the bee colonies now, this is one more thing they have to contend with.....and yes - wouldn't it be lovely for us all to have access to fresh honey like this?!

  19. loree - it wasn't as scary as i would have thought!

    sistah - just got lovely emails from both val and john - will forward-- thinking of you and gianni in the eternal city!

    oh tess/willow!! if i had a lovely name like yours i'd reveal it too.......but willow is equally lovely -- so hard to choose..

    and yes, a field of lavender is a thing to behold ;-)

    cat - if it weren't for the bees, i'd have fallen asleep in that lavender field!

  20. lori - i didn't get a chance to taste the honey from these particular hives, but certainly helped myself to my share while in greece --- mostly drizzled on greek yogurt with plain biscuits crumbled on top!

    phivos - because the whole experience was so fascinating, i sort of lost my fear of being stung!

    cheryl - i'm so happy to know you take advantage of these local foods you have around you in greece - there is so much beautiful produce that it makes my head spin!

    happy week ahead to you too!!

    iosifina - thanks to you and mim's sharp eyes, i got the missing ingredient from val and have posted it now --

    thanks for visiting and hope to see you again soon!

    p.s. will look up that honey mecca in nikiti!

  21. Hi. beautiful pictures! i really liked.. honey, delicious :)

  22. One of natures amazing little wonders. Their garden must be alive with the sound of buzzing amongst all that glorious lavender*!*

  23. Wow! What an experience. I especially loved that close up photo of the bee on the flower. It looks like every single view from Greece is stunning.

  24. A post very pleasant, very nice photos and a wonderful atmosphere ! :))
    I congratulate you dear amanda !


  25. How did you find this couple who kindly invited you into their home. That's what I love about travel: people have time to spend with you. I hope you didn't get stung.

  26. I am sure the honey was worth all this job!

  27. dejemonos - thanks so much!

    annie - it most certainly was good to hear the sound of bees especially after the recent colony collapse~

    julie - that close up of the bee is one of my favorite shots!

    plusieurs mercis, red cat!

  28. many thanks yoli♡

    sonia - luckily i didn't get stung - the bee-costume did its job well!

    that's one of the things i love about travel as well - people are open to meeting you and sharing their lives - this couple was friends of the family we stayed with (who do organic olive production) and they made the introduction!

    ola - the end product is definitely worth it, especially when the bees have access to all that lavender!


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