Saturday, December 20, 2008

Finally, Italy pictures

Roman cappuccinos ... delicious even at the train depot.
Our first stop after I arrived in Rome (Jeremy had come in the previous evening).

Cool arty shot of nighttime Colosseum.

Jeremy resting in front of the Pantheon.

On the bus in Rome.

We saw more than a dozen churches during our nine days in Italy, but the Church of Santa Maria in Trastavere, Rome, was our favorite, hands down.

We spent an hour inside it, craning our necks at the gorgeous mosaics.

Before the walking wore me out ...

Everyone drives these in Rome, but I don't think Jeremy could fit.

Random Bulgarian Orthodox church in the middle of Rome.

Cool ceilings in the Vatican.

In front of St. Peter's.

Hanging out on the Spanish steps one evening.

The next day we were off to Venice, where this was the view from our B&B.

The Grand Canal.

The Church of San Marco, on the eponymous plaza.

Which flooded the next day ...

Why Venice reminded me so much of Juneau ...

No cars on the archipelago, but the mail has to get there somehow!

While getting lost in Venice, we found this Armenian church! Jeremy was relieved to actually be able to read a sign and understand it.

It was on "Armenian Street," and we just happened to find it at the same time as these Armenians from Kiev.

Munching a prosciutto sandwich while getting lost in Venice = bliss.

Arriving at the terminal in Florence.

Our hostel was literally steps from the Duomo in the center of Florence. We climbed up the bell-tower to get this view of the dome and the city. While up there, we met a musician from NYC who was playing in the band for Liza Minelli's European concert tour.

Awesome Florentine car.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

My first project comes to fruition

I recently attended the planting ceremony of the Gulab Kheil Winter Dormant Fruit Tree project. This was my first project that I personally helped do from concept to funding to finish. It's small, but it's a start. 20 families from one village participated in a 2 day training with an additional two day training for hands on practice and tree planting (we were there for the first day of tree planting). Each participant received 35 tree stocks (1 meter tall) of improved fruit tree stock of their choice from apple, almond or apricot. In addition, each participant received a wheelbarrow, shovel, pruning shears, nylon rope (for tree spacing), an axe and manure for fertilizer. They will also receive replacement trees in the spring if some of their trees fail to make it through the winter.

The villagers were extremely excited about this project from day one and there are already several other individuals who wish to sign up for additional trainings. For me, the two important factors of this project was that the village initiated the idea for this project and it has the potential to be sustainable in that the villagers will be able to garner an income from these trees from day one: 1) selling root stock initially and 2) then selling fruit in the future.

Below are several pictures from the day.

This is the valley where the project was taking place. Notice the terracing where the trees will be going.

The trees, labeled and categorized for each individual farmer

Signing or thumbprinting for the trees

The trees aren't light, let me tell you

Photo Op. Yes, cheesy, but it's my good side

Handing out more equipment

Another cheesy photo op, but I wanted to help. Me and my big mouth, later they had me dig a tree hole and plant the first tree. I'll come back later and carve my name in it.

Planting my tree!!

And even without running water or 24 hour power, you have to have your satellite.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Eating our way through Italy

During our trip to Italy, Masha and I were all about the food. Finding the next meal was always more important - er - as important as getting to the museums. What can I say, we have priorities.
We started each morning with cappuccinos. No, I don't read Italian.

On the flight from Amsterdam to Rome, my seatmate noticed me looking in the guide book for a nice restaurant. Being Roman himself, he had a few recommendations. Though he didn't have any addresses, we looked on a map and he directed me to restaurants. His directions sounded something like: "Walk down the street. You'll see a church on your right, a pink moped on the corner and the restaurant is over two blocks next to the stone building." Got it. Piece of cake.

But the food at Zi Gaetana was worth the wait. Masha got a buffalo prosciutto and mozzarella plate and I got fruit/vegetable tempura. Don't knock until you have tried apple tempura. Awesome.

As it turned out, we ate a lot of prosciutto. Like from this cart, in front of the Vatican.

And on the train to Venice.

And at this restaurant in Rome.

And from this deli counter in Florence.

And of course, we had to eat pasta, including this tasty bucatini all'amatriciana (pasta with pork cheek, onion and tomato). Yum!

In Venice, for our anniversary dinner, we went to this little inn on a random canal. Masha wanted to try the quintessential Venitian dish: cuttlefish cooked in a sauce made of its own ink. It was pretty tasty, but Masha couldn't eat more than a few bites, as its appearance completely grossed her out. And this is a woman who has eaten guinea pig.

On our last night in Venice, we popped into this restaurant. It was 6:30 and they weren't serving dinner yet (Italian dinner is generally after 8). But they accommodated the bumbling Americans. No written menu, so we just guessed at what she was saying. We heard her say "calamari," and figured we were home-free. The dish arrived covered in cinnamon - but it was actually fantastic. Lesson learned: just order because everything is good in Italy.

And there was gelato.

And weird-looking blue desserts from Sicily whose names we cannot recall.

And tiramisu:

And in Venice, our new favorite, panna cotta:

The End.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I had today off for Veteran's Day, so I decided it was time to bake another cake. Johnny has been requesting cheesecake, so I tried my very first one. I overcooked it a bit, but the inside is very creamy. Mmmm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ciao, and Happy Anniversary to us!

We are in Venice, where we celebrated our first wedding anniversary yesterday. Here are a few pics from last year for now. Stay tuned for lots of photos from our Italy trip in a week or two. We are having a blast.