Friday, April 30, 2010

Playing with Picasa

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Foodie love

Two posts in one day...I am on a roll! This one is dedicated to my foodie love...

I bought this adorable apron in Japan this year over Christmas/New Year's. How shufu (house-wife) do I look in this??

A fun discovery of late was how easy it is to make my own caesar salad from scratch. All you need are these ingredients...

Bake your own garlic-y croutons with some evoo.

And voila!

Can't figure out for the life of me why I did not do this sooner.

Also, inspired by being in the Balkans, I made my own version of shopska salad.

We had been desperately missing our rice cooker that was used every single day in DC.

I was forced to resort to cooking rice on the stove-top (shudder!) and it would turn into this gloopy mess. Enter the Montenegrin rice cooker aka steamer.

You place water in the bottom unit and put the steaming containers on top of the base. Inside one of the containers, you place a small plastic dish wherein you put your rice and water. Turn that baby on for 30 minutes and you will have almost perfectly cooked rice. (Insert sigh of relief here).

Yesterday I bought these strawberries at a kiosk for less than 2 euros.

Tastes like summer!

Travelings and other musings

My last post was on April 6? time flies in the Balkans!

Well, we are still here in Podgorica! The weather has finally made a turn for the better, I believe. There was one week in there where it rained...and rained...and rained some more. I am told that is what the winter was like this past year. Lovely. A monsoon for 5 months straight. Can't wait. But summer is on its way now; it has been in the 70s this week, even approaching 80. However, we have a long way to go to reach the 40-45 degree Celsius point of mid-summer (which is 104-113 degrees Fahrenheit for us Americans). Again, can't wait!

Am I complaining too much? I don't mean to be! Life is moving along here for us albeit at a slower pace. We have met some wonderful people here which makes life more enjoyable. A few weeks ago I was able to tag along on my first official IWC trip. What is IWC, you ask. Well, that would stand for the International Womens Club...a ragtag group of international ladies who gather together for support and entertainment purposes. Maybe "ragtag" is not the right descriptive word here as one of the members along on the trip is the wife of the Croatian Ambassador. Which one of these is not like the others? That's! But I still had a good time and they are all lovlies.

The trip was to Ostrog which is a Serbian Orthodox monastery built into the side of a cliff and the most famous site for pilgrimage in Montenegro (or even perhaps the region). It was founded in the 17th century by Saint Vasilije of Ostrog and his body is kept within the monastery. And I mean, really. His body is lying there and people come to kiss his hands. Just a wee bit creepy to me...I see dead people. But to each his own and the locals speak of this place with great reverence (unlike yours truly!); there is a great amount of myth surrounding this monastery as there are many stories of people being healed after praying near his body.

We met in the morning in the parking lot of Delta City and hopped on to a rented bus; there were about 14 of us total. It was about a 45 minute drive from Podgorica and allowed for some gorgeous views of the Bjelopavlići Valley.

Soon we were winding up the mountain side and reached our destination. This tour was extremely well planned as we were able to meet the high priest who spoke to us about the history of the monastery and shared some lovely snacks with us.

After meeting with the priest, we piled back onto the bus to reach the actual monastery. Part of the pilgrimage to Ostrog is to hike up the mountain to reach the monastery which would take about 45 minutes to an hour. We took the bus. Sigh. Once we reached the top, we were able to go into the monastery and see Saint Vasilije's body and kiss him if we wished. I passed on that opportunity. Sadly for you, my dear readers, we were not able to take pictures inside. Just picture if you will, a tiny cave-like room with a priest sitting next to a man who has been dead for 339 years.

All in all, it was a lovely day...beautiful weather and I had another fantastic opportunity to see more of Montenegro as well as meet some more international residents of this fine country.

Moving on to just this past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to Skadar Lake which is located near the border of Albania and is the largest lake in the Balkan Peninsula. It is surrounded by a vast natural park filled with various types of flora and fauna. A friend and I took a taxi from Podgorica; it took about 30 minutes and cost us about 17 euros. We were to meet up with a larger group but arrived before the others, so we took the time to wander around the small village of Virpazar. It was quite the picturesque little place!

We met up with the group for drinks at a small restaurant and then a wine tasting at a tourist information center. Afterward, we hiked up a small hill where there was an old castle and a great panoramic view.

You are able to take boat rides around the lake for about 40 euros; we tried to convince the others to take advantage of our large group since it would only cost about 5 euros per person but no go. I really would love to go back and take my boat ride. Well, when y'all come visit we can do this.........the boats will be waiting.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Keeping a New Year's resolution??

Over New Year's in Japan, I may have made the declaration to some of my friends that my New Year's resolution for 2010 is to run a 5K. At the time I was (and still am!) inspired by my friend who was training for the Tokyo Marathon. And she accomplished her goal this spring...go Nancy!! So, I am trying to hold true to that resolution...however, I doubt that they have organized 5Ks here in Montenegro but I figure that will not stop me from still trying to get into better shape. My motto used to be, "I only run if something is chasing a bear." Being from Wisco that is not too big of a stretch! Plus, this motto may have come in handy later on as you will see so I will not abandon it completely.

In my internet perusing I came across this...

I think that this has my name written all over it! And if I blog about it here, I am hoping that it will keep me inspired/disciplined. We'll see how this theory goes...

At least I have my cool gear to keep me pumped!

I usually pride myself in my mad map-reading skills and sense of direction. The area around our apartment has thrown me a little though.

I plan my route and am jogging on a very nice sidewalk or crossing a bridge spanning the beautiful Moraca River when all of a sudden my lovely trail disappears and I am heading into crazy Montenegrin traffic. Or I look at the map and see a road, but once I get there in person, it does not exist. Hmm.

And then on another outing I ran into one of these amongst the modern apartment construction going on nearby...

Ok, so it wasn't this exact creature as I did not have my camera with me, but I sure felt that this is the way it reacted when it saw me and started heading in my direction! Thankfully, I realized that it was chained in place so I could just mosey on along. I have learned from some of our international friends who have lived here longer than us that these are the moments where you can just laugh and sigh, "Ah, Montenegro....!!"

Friday, April 2, 2010

Weekend roadtrip

The weather last Sunday was gorgeous...and what is the best way to take advantage of such an occasion? Roadtrip!! One of Kaz's colleagues has a car here so she invited us along with another colleague/friend on a trip to the coast.

There are 2 routes to get to the coast...the old, scenic "road" and the new, modernized highway. We decided it would be best to take the old route there and the new route back. The old route narrows to about a one-lane road that winds its way around the mountains; there are steep drop-offs on the sides with no railings whatsoever (most of the time).

It takes a tough cookie to maneuver this route and thankfully Maria is a champ! Before going around a sharp bend with her view obstructed, she would honk the horn so it would not be a surprise to meet someone else coming in the other direction head-on. When you meet up with another car, you need to pull to the side of the road to let the other person pass since it's only one lane!

The death-defying 2-hour journey pays off with stunning views...

Our first stop was Kotor which is designated a “World Natural and Historical Heritage Site" by UNESCO.

We wandered the quaint streets and stopped at a small bakery to snack on burek sir which is phyllo pastry stuffed with cheese (you can also find it with meat or potato).

And we made a new friend...

Next on our list was Budva. We found a small cafe right next to the water and enjoyed some drinks. The view was not too shabby...

We took the new route home and it was much easier on our nerves! And then we were home by 7:00 p.m. Gotta love this aspect of Montenegro...roadtrip in one direction for 2 hours and you are on the coast, go in the other direction for 1 hour and you are in the mountains! Podgorica is not the most happening town so it is nice to get away and clear your head...a roadtrip like this will refresh your body and mind!!