Tuesday, September 29, 2009

photos from India

I am back in SF. I do not think I will be posting any notes related to my India stay for sometime, so instead I am linking two albums with selected photos from my trip.

Meeting Anil's family did not go too well, to say euphemistically. And it seems that Anil does not know how to handle the situation and is seriously considering breaking up. I feel terrible about that as I love him as much as it is possible and, right now, I do not know how to live without him. I know that it sounds very melodramatic, but this is how I feel. And the only reason why I am not completely falling apart is because I still think there is a hope and that maybe miraculously things will come back to normal. But if they don't, I have no idea what to do and how to go through it.

First week:

Second week:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

half way around the world

In a few hours I will board a plane heading in direction of India. 30 hours later I will be there... It will be the 27th country that I visited and my first real trip in Asia. (I've been to Azerbaijan before, but I was 10 then, so I do not remember much.)

I am very excited about this trip. I know that I will love India, its rich culture and wonderful colorfulness. I probably will have problem dealing with poor and sick people begging on the streets, but I will try to get over it as soon as possible. Everybody tries to scare me a bit that I will attract a lot of attention due to my blond hair, but I am not worried about that. I have traveled before in Africa for two months, so I am used to looking different than others and attracting attention. If anything, being different helps. People immediately recognize you as a tourist and try to help you as much as they can. They want you to have a good trip and fell in love with their country, city, village, culture. Men of course would not mind if you would fall in love with them too :) During my trip in Africa I was asked thousands of times if I am married and if I would like to get married :) I guess for man there to have a white, moreover blond, woman would mean going up a prestige ladder a lot. I have already decided that if Indian men will show similar interest in me, I will claim that I am engaged or married.

One big unknown of my trip is how meeting of my future parents in law will go. Needless to say, it is very important to me that they like me and that we get along, but those things are always difficult to predict. Especially if two very different cultures meet. So keep your fingers crossed that it goes well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Greek yoghurt dessert with dates and honey

I specialize in quick and easy recipes that I like to believe are tasty too :)

Here is a Greek-style dessert that takes 2 minutes to make:

Ingredients (per serving):
    100ml Greek style yoghurt
    3 dates, cut into slices
    1 tsp cranberries (I prefer orange-flavored ones over regular ones)
    1 tbsp honey

Parmigiana di Zucchine

One of my favorite dishes is parmigiana di zucchine. I often prepare it when I have guests over for dinner as it seems to please everybody's taste. Every single guest that I have ever served this dish really liked it. Moreover, most of my friends like it so much, that they asked me for the recipe so that they could cook it for themselves.

    4-5 zucchini
    10 oz mozzarella (sliced or grated)
    3 tbsp olive oil
    20 oz tomato sauce (I used to make my own tomato sauce, but I became lazy and now I buy ready one. I just usually add more freshly chopped oregano and basil to it.)
    3 eggs
    1/2 cup flour
    salt, pepper, oregano, basil
    4 tbsp grated Parmesan

Preparation time: 1h (40 min of work, 20 min in the oven)
Servings: 6-8
Calories: 2010 (total), 350 (assuming 6 portions)
Protein: 96g/16g
Fiber: 35g/6g

Cooking instructions:
  1. Peel the zucchini and slice it along the longer edge into around 4mm thick pieces.
  2. Toss the zucchini in the scrambled egg (with pepper and salt) and then in flour.
  3. Put 1 tbsp of olive oil in the large frying pan, heat it up and add zucchini. Fry it for 2-3 minutes on each side. After it is done (when the fork goes easily into it), place the zucchini onto a parchment paper to drain the excess of olive oil. Continue with frying the other slices of zucchini until all of them are ready.
  4. Pre-warm the oven to 350F.
  5. In a large baking dish layer: zucchini, tomato sauce, mozzarella, zucchini, tomato sauce, mozzarella, zucchini, Parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake parmigina at 350° for 20 minutes, or until thoroughly heated and bubbly. Let stand for 8 to 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

This is how parmigiana looks before it is baked:

Salad with mango and avocado

Here is a recipe for a mango salad that I really like. It takes just a few minutes to make, but is very tasty. If you use the amounts of ingredients written below, it will be enough to feed 5-6 people.


1.5 head of lettuce, chopped
1 mango, chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, cut into eights
1 cucumber, chopped
1 large medium-ripe avocado, chopped
juice of 2 lemons
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
5 tbsp sunflower seeds (roasted or not, whatever you prefer)
salt, pepper

I like to make this salad just before I eat it and I do not mix it till the last moment before eating:

Salad with avocado and olives

Here is a recipe for one of the salads that is a regular guest on my table. It is very simple, quick and easy to make, but also very tasty at the same time. In my house it lasts usually 2 days (with 2 people eating it).

    1 head of lettuce, chopped
    1 red bell pepper, chopped
    4 cherry tomatoes, chopped
    1 medium-ripe avocado, chopped
    15 Greek olives, sliced
    1 tbsp olive oil
    salt, pepper
Mix all ingredients in a big bowl, cool for 30 minutes, serve:

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kauai - Alakai Swamp

Alakai Swamp is the highest located swamp in the world. Thanks to that, it has very specific ecosystem, full of plants and animals that are not present anywhere else in the world.

The swamp is located on a plateau near Mount Waiʻaleʻale, one of the wettest spots on Earth. It can be reached by the 3.5-mile (5.6 km) Alakaʻi Swamp Trail, which is often shrouded in mist. The trail connecting Waimea Canyon road with Alakaʻi Swamp Trail is called the Pihea Trail and it starts at the Puʻu o Kila lookout. The first mile of this trail runs along the ridge offering great views of Kalalau Valley:

As you can see mist and fog were our constant companions:

The forest through which we were hiking was very beautiful and it had also certain spooky quality about itself:

In parts, it was so wet and muddy that a boardwalk was placed there to facilitate hiking:

But there were also many places where there was no boardwalk and, moreover, there were obstacles that demanded some skills to cross:

Even though it was sometimes challenging to hike there, it was definitely worth the effort as the nature was simply stunning there:

My shoes are a testimony to how muddy this place was:

After the hike we stopped at Koke'e Lodge for a coffee and delicious chocolate-coconut cake. I wish I had asked for the recipe!

Kauai - Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon located in Western Kauai is often compared to Grand Canyon in Arizona. I have to admit that if I hadn't seen Grand Canyon before, I would definitely think that Waimea Canyon is the seventh world's wonder.

The canyon is pretty large: 10 miles (16km) long, 1 mile (1.6km) wide and 3'000 feet (900m) deep. It was formed both by the erosion and also by a catastrophic collapse of the volcano that created Kauaʻi. It is definitely beautiful and worth visiting. There are numerous lookouts into the canyon from the Waimea Canyon Road and there are also many hiking opportunities both within the canyon, as well as along its edges.

We decided to go for a hike leading to Waipo'o Falls. It was a nice short hike (~3.5 miles) offering spectacular views of the canyon. If you do not have a 4WD you need to park your car next to 14-mile marker on the highway and walk extra 0.5 mile on a dirt road. Soon the dirt road will meet the Canyon Trail, which runs parallel to the canyon rim. Views are tremendous from there (as you can see from the photos below). Waipo'o Falls, on the other hand, were truly disappointing. We definitely saw many way more spectacular waterfalls during our trip.

There are many viewpoints along Waimea Canyon Road that offer spectacular views of the canyon:

The path leading to the Canyon Trail:

We took short side trip to Cliff Viewpoint, from where there were outstanding views to the canyon:

My father pretends that he is deadly tired and can not walk anymore:

For some part, the Canyon Trail runs very close to the rim of the canyon:

Waipo'o Falls, not so impressive, ha?

Again, my father being silly and pretending that I am terrorizing him:

Kauai - Sleeping Giant

My parents were exhausted after hiking on the Na Pali Coast and they demanded one day of relaxing on the beach. As I prefer active resting, I decided to go for a hike by myself. It was an interesting experience for me as I always go hiking with other people. In principle, there is nothing wrong with hiking alone, but if you are in remote and desolate place and twist your ankle, you have a serious problem.

I chose to hike to the top of Sleeping Giant, from where there are great views to the large part of the island. To the north, one can see the Na Pali Coast. To the east, Kapa'a and the Wailua River Valley. To the west, there are 180-degree views of Wailua and the Makaleha Mountains.

The Sleeping Giant trail is 3.5 miles (5.6km) long, during which it climbs 1200ft (400m). It takes around 1.5-2h to cover all this distance, unless you stop often to take pictures or simply enjoy the views :)

Initially the trail goes through the beautiful green forest full of ironwood, guava and swamp mahogany trees:

Views to the east (btw, on this photo you can see several localized rain patches over ocean):

Views to the south:

Mountains in the west:

Views to the north (the Na Pali Coast is hidden under clouds):

After the rain moved to the west, the outline of the Na Pali Coast became more visible:

Wailua River and our hotel to the north of it:

At the top of Sleeping Giant:

Kauai - Opaekaa Falls & Wailua River Valley

On Kauai we stayed at Aloha Beach Resort, located on the east coast of the island on historic Wailua Bay. Both my parents and I liked it a lot and, therefore, I would highly recommend it. My parents were very happy with it mostly because we had our own cabana with a big terrace that reminded them of their own garden.

Here is my father in front of our cabana:

The whole resort was picture-perfect. It had several swimming pools, hot tubs and gardens full of flowers:

Also, just next to our hotel was located the Wailua Complex of Heiau (National Historic Landmark). It contains remains of heiau (places of worship), pu‘uhonua (places of refuge), and birthstones:

The hotel was also located just next to the beautiful beach that was offering great snorkeling options:

In general, there were many beautiful beaches on Kauai, especially along the northern coast on Kuhio Hwy. We went to explore several of them:

To the north of our hotel was sacred Wailua River. We followed the river inlands to get those beautiful views:

Opaekaa Falls, also located in Wailua River Valley:

A few miles north of our hotel was Coconut Market - a place with many nice shops and pretty gardens. Here is my father and I resting there and watching other people:

Kauai - Spouting Horn

The very last place that we visited on Kauai was Spouting Horn Park. It is a home to a natural wonder that produces 50 feet high bursts of water through a small opening in the lava shelf, at the same time making a loud groaning sound:

It is kind of cool, especially that the spray of water has a pretty big range and all tourist watching it get completely wet :)

Kauai - Na Pali Coast

Kauai is the greenest of all Hawaiian islands and also the one that offers some of the best hiking. Na Pali Coast is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world: rugged and unspoiled (if you forget about all the tourists, of course). People come here from all over the world to hike on the Kalalau trail. My parents and I also went on that hike. In fact, that was the first hike on Kauai that we did.

We hiked from Ke'e Beach to Hanakapi'ai Beach. It took us around 4h (round trip), way more than I thought it would. We were so slow because it was raining a lot during our hike, making the whole trail extremely slippery. My father complained about it constantly and threatened that we would have to carry him after he twisted his ankle.

Despite the rain and the mud it was a spectacular hike. Na Pali Coast is truly beautiful. It is very green and there are great views to the perfectly turquoise ocean. It is pity that we did not have time to hike there for a longer time.

On the trail:


Perfect turquoise ocean:

Tropical rain forest:

Before reaching the end of our hike at Hanakapi'ai Beach we had to cross this little stream:

Hanakapi'ai Beach: