31 October 2008


Croatia does not celebrate Halloween....so I just wanted to say "Happy Halloween" to myself and to everybody!

More food files to come.....

21 October 2008

Italian tippy-tap shoes

I have been on the lookout for a pair of black and white ladies oxfords since my tap dancing days of yore. Imagine my delight when I discovered that: a) oxfords are back in style, and b) black and white oxfords are in style! How righteous is that?!!

So I got myself these puppies. They are Italian. And quite shiny. And they make me wanna dance! The shop girl told me that the tippy-tap dancers wear these. Tippy-tap. How cute is that term. So I have tippy-tap shoes, minus the taps. Although, I could imagine myself tap dancing my way down to the coffee shop for some nice espresso. Now that sounds like a great idea!

20 October 2008

No chestnuts :-(

I have been dreaming about chestnut season all summer long. And this past weekend was to be the highlight of my autumn because it was supposed to be the weekend of the giant chestnut festival in Lovran, which is near the beautiful seaside town of Opatija. Imagine my surprise when we drove all the way to Lovran only to find that there were NO CHESTNUTS! I don't mean that they were all eaten, or that we were too late to have any. NO. The story all up and down the coast is that it was too dry this summer and resulted in the chestnuts failing to grow.

So I don't have any wonderful pictures of giant yellow chestnuts roasting over hot coals. Or pictures of chestnut puree balanced beautifully on a spoon with a puff of whipped cream on top. Nope. Nope. Nope. I only have hope that Mother Nature will apply a bit of her green thumb to the chestnut harvest next year.

14 October 2008

Nanowrimo 2008

I just signed up for my third National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo). In the month of November, the goal is to write 50,000 words of a novel. Sounds a bit crazy, but it has lots of merit because it gets you to put pen to paper. If anyone else is interested in giving it a try (free) just go to:


13 October 2008

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Hmmm. Kinda forgot it was thanksgiving. Therefore forgot to purchase turkey. So I went to the market rather late in the day and most of the butchers were closing up. So I manged to get 4 chicken legs. With thighs! And some roasting potatoes. And as I type, the chicken and potatoes are roasting in the oven with lots of olive oil, sea salt, thyme and rosemary. In about 45 minutes, we'll be having our own little Canadian Thanksgiving in Zagreb. Then afterwards we'll hunt down one of the street vendors cooking up some local chestnuts.


09 October 2008

Butter cream buildings

The old part of Zagreb, filled with historical buildings and cobblestone roads, is going through a transformation even as we speak. All of the buildings are being restored. The results are sometimes just breathtaking.

So for example, a building like the top one, will be painstakingly restored to its original glory to something like the building below it. Note that I'm saying 'restored.' It can take a year to carefully bring the facades, the masonry work, the bits and bobs back to their original form.

The following building is almost finished. I walk by this building site everyday on my way to the market and I've watched the guys doing all sort of things by hand...like smoothing and forming the texture on the outside of the building. Even mixing the cement by hand! They've gotten to the point where they're choosing the paint colour. If you look closely, you'll see they've painted several stripes of yellow on one of the blocks. I really like the yellow on the furthest to the right. I've seen it in the sun, the shade, on a grey day, and in the rain, and it always looks buttery. Usually when they go with a yellow, they'll use white for accents. The result is what I call 'butter cream buildings' because the buildings look like they've been iced with creamy dreamy butter cream frosting! As soon as this building is unveiled, I'll post a picture.

I LOVE the butter cream buildings. But they also have lots of other great colours. Here are just a few more colours:

So, in a couple of years, all of the old town will look like this. In the meantime, I'd say it is about 60% of the buildings are done. Another 30% are in the process of getting done. Wow.

08 October 2008

My daily stairs

I do lots of walking. I mean lots and lots of walking. On purpose. And much of that walking is done going up stairs in various parts of town. Here are just some of the stairs I go up and down every single day at least once. Most days I do these two, three and sometimes four times.

These are the ones going up to the house:

And these also go up to the house:

Followed by these: (and I'm not making this up. I want you to imagine me carrying bags of potatoes, apples, onions, etc. from the market UP all these stairs!)

These next ones are special stairs that go up to the upper part of the old town. I couldn't fit all the stairs in the picture. This is about HALF of them!

And these last two shots are very special to me. I have named them the "Krumpir" stairs. Krumpir is the Croatian word for potato. If I ever eat french fried potatoes, I make myself climb these stairs. It usually takes care of keeping the old blood sugar in check ;-)

Whew! I have one more set of stairs that I do pretty much every day. They are called the Salata stairs and there are 146 of them. My picture didn't turn out. So I'll post them on another day.

Stairs: good for the body. Good for the soul!

06 October 2008

Don't name your spiders...

I know. I know. You want to name them. The spiders. Well, not all of them. But the big giant dark brown one with long legs and eyes that dangle off of those antennae thingies...and the same one who has been coming to sit on the outside of your bedroom window every night to get a bit of heat off the glass. Yep, that's the one you'll first be horrified about. Then you'll be less horrified. Then, like me, you'll start looking for him each evening (because he disappears every morning). And it'll feel natural to think of him as a sort of pet and give him a name. A human name, like Harold. That's what I called my horrifying spider. And it made him a little less horrifying. I never let him into the house, but I accepted him staring through the window each night.

Except Harold has been missing these last few nights. And it has been cold at night. And I'm feeling guilty for not letting him come inside to warm up a bit. Poor Harold. I hope he's actually off to Ibiza for the winter. On one of those all-inclusive trips. He'd like that. Especially if he hooks up with some of those monstrously huge spiders they grow in tropical places. Yep. If Harold is indeed in Ibiza, then he's going to be okay. I'll look for him to return next spring.

Go Harold!

Buckwheat is beautiful...

I came across an interesting tidbit of information when I was surfing the net while looking for polenta recipes. I discovered that polenta was not originally made from corn. No. Up until about 150 years ago, it was made from Buckwheat. Apparently buckwheat is way more nutritious than corn, easier to grow, and easier to digest. But it won't grow in a high nitrogen soil. Corn and wheat grow insanely well with high nitrogen fertilizers. So when farmers figured they could grow more corn or wheat per acre with fertilizers, they quickly put buckwheat on the back burner. There's quite a bit of history attached to the whole transition from buckwheat to corn...but if you're interested in that, you can just do a search on the net for more info.

I was amazed to learn that it was buckwheat porridge, or polenta, that fed the ancient Roman soldiers, and millions more people over the last few thousand years. How cool is that!

Until recently, I really didn't know what buckwheat was. I can't eat any kind of wheat, so I guess the word 'wheat' in the name is what turned me off. But I learned recently that buckwheat isn't a wheat at all (so why the heck don't they change the name???) It is actually considered a fruit! Well, it is the seed from the buckwheat plant and the plant is related to the rhubarb plant.

Anyways...buckwheat is nutritious, simple and fast to make and it tastes terrific!

Here's what it looks like when you buy it dried and whole. They call these groats. You can get them raw or roasted. Roasting them intensifies the flavour. I like mine unroasted. Notice how they are like little tiny pyramids. I included a pen here just to show the relative size.

And here they are, just 10 minutes later, all cooked and soft and ready to be eaten.

You cook them just like rice. I usually rinse the groats and drain off the water. Then I boil water in my tea kettle. Then I add about the same amount of water to the buckwheat in a pot. Put the pot on the stove and let it boil for about 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat. Add a pinch of salt. Put on a tight fitting lid. And leave it there for 10-15 minutes. Then just fluff with a fork. It comes out all soft and delicious. Ready to be used like rice. Or...instead of cooking in water, you can cook it in hot milk. When it is done, add brown sugar and a bit of butter plus some cinnamon, raisins and a handful of nuts, and you've got a quick, nutritious and delicious hot breakfast cereal.

Yum. Yum. Yum.

05 October 2008

The Simpsons in German

So I was watching some TV...a rare thing for me for many reasons. There isn't much in English here, and lots of American shows are dubbed in either Croatian, German or Hungarian. I came across an episode of The Simpsons and it was hilarious what types of voices they chose for the characters. Marge sounds like a man. And Homer sounds just like Yoda! Which kind of makes him sound intelligent....and it makes for one bizarre viewing experience.

02 October 2008

Crochet time

I forgot to add these pictures to my last entry about our trip to Hvar. Since the chilly weather would be soon upon us (this was happening in late September), I took my latest knitting/crochet project along with me. I was the only one on the ferry with a crochet hook. But many women walked by and looked at me with that "now-why-didn't-I -bring-MY-knitting-project-with-me?" look on their faces. The ferry is quite big, holding about 100 or more cars, and probably about 300 people. It has a big indoor deck with a cafe bar and food, and also an upper deck that is open to the elements.

Here I am on the ferry with my beloved zig-zag afghan:

And here's a shot of my afghan, as I was sitting by the pool. The day temperature was about 24C, but by late afternoon, when I took this picture, it was getting a little chilly at about 17C. People were coming out of the pool shivering and looking at my wooly afghan with longing in their eyes.

Hvar pictures

Hvar. In case you are wondering....yup....it IS that pretty.

Here are a few pictures from our trip to the island of Hvar, a beautiful and rugged ancient island covered with olive trees, grape vines, stony houses, and crystal clear lagoons. For hundreds of years, people have traveled to Hvar for the health benefits of the lavendar-perfumed air and the crystal clear waters. You can see clear down to the bottom of the sea. While standing on the rocky shore, I caught sight of an octopus nestled down in the rocks. He was trying very hard to look like a rock, but when I started talking, and threw some pebbles in the water, he sort of started changing colours...first white, then grey, then white and grey, then he went back to being stone coloured. How COOL is that???

Now, one of the things that makes Hvar so incredibly incredible is that it is a 3 hour drive from Zagreb to Split, then a 1.5 hour ferry ride from Split to Hvar. That's it. Really accesible. Stunning how close it is.

The water is so clear that the boats look like they are floating in the air!

Portrait of the artist...fuzzy hair and all...

View from our hotel room at sunset

Ahhhh, that's it for now.