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Lindsay’s Fall Update

Hi strangers!

This fall has been pretty crazy for me. I spent another three weeks in Armenia, which was great, but I came home to find that my grandmother was suddenly very sick. I made it to MN in time to have a last great day with her before she passed. We were all able to be together and laugh at her jokes as she tried to entertain us right until the end, dancing in her hospital bed and feigning horror that Grandpa fed us White Castle for dinner. Not much cooking went on that week. I did my best to eat well, but sometimes you just have to eat a slider or two (or three).

Shortly after I got home, I left for a very strange business trip to Hawaii and Azerbaijan, which kept me out of the kitchen and making some more questionable food choices. My great-aunt Carol requested more travel photos, so here they are – poor quality and unrelated to our usual blog topics. That’s kind of how I have been feeling lately – a little unbalanced and out of focus. Here’s to better eating tomorrow!

Armenia
Since this was my third (and likely last) trip to Armenia, I tried to see the last few “big” things I had missed on my previous visits. I did a day trip to Noravank and Tatev Monasteries and Karahunj, Armenia’s Stone Henge. It was a really (REALLY) long day, because Tatev is close to the Iranian border, but I met some nice people and saw some interesting things. The trip to Tatev included a long (LONG) aerial cable car ride, which just about did me in. I’m not a fan of surrendering control to something/one I don’t know (i.e. most ship captains and pilots), but I survived.

The next weekend, some of my Armenian friends graciously offered to take me to two religious sites close to Yerevan – Geghard Monastery and Garni Temple.

Along the way, we stopped to buy fruit and walnuts (po pok in Armenian) from someone’s backyard. Can’t get more local than that! The red berries are incredibly tart and tannic, but good nonetheless.

After the tour, we went to a small restaurant for lunch. We sat in a private outdoor room and ate whatever the kitchen had, since there wasn’t a menu. Luckily, they had Georgian khinkali, huge steamed or fried dumplings with ground meat and broth inside, which have become one of my favorite “Armenian” dishes.

When I didn’t have friendly Armenians to help me order, I often stuck to the restaurants close to the hotel that have English menus. This one just tickled me a bit, because of the nerdy humor and the sterotyped American food. Yerevan actually has a suprisingly good restaurant scene, so I could avoide the mozarella sticks and chicken wings in favor of fresher and more sophisticated fare. Occasionally, I would eat at the hotel’s outdoor cafe, because it has a great view of the nightly “dancing fountain” – a Las Vegas-style light and music show. If you listen very carefully, you can hear the Star Wars theme over the chatter.

On my last day, two coworkers took me to a rug workshop to buy a (huge and unwieldy, but awesome) souvenir. All the rugs sold by this company are handmade in Armenia of Armenian wool. Look at how fast that woman knots!

The dyes are natural and many use local ingredients. I got a short tour and then bought a big rug. I wouldn’t recommend doing this without locals, though. They were really helpful in the negotiating process. (The second photo is of the safety posters displayed in the workshop. I love pictoral posters like that … no need to understand the text!)

Hawaii

Next up was a trip to Honolulu. I didn’t have much time for sightseeing, but I did eat some amazing food and walk past the beach once or twice.

Azerbaijan

From Hawaii, I flew directly to Azerbaijan. I had expected to go via Asia, but that route didn’t seem to exist, so I spent about 35 hours traveling through Newark and Istanbul. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, thanks to a good book, knitting project, and sleeping pills.

Once there, my hosts organized a trip to Qobustan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its amazing petroglyphs.

The first photo above is a female hunter, depicted traditionally with voluptuous thighs and, um, well, that bump up top isn’t a head. Only the male hunters were drawn with heads.

After that, all the daylight hours were spent working. I got out twice for dinner, but didn’t get to know Baku as much as I would have liked. Near our hotel was a HUGE flag. Since Baku is a very windy city, it was almost always blowing straight out.

Now, thankfully, I’m home for a bit. We leave tomorrow to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Minnesota, but that will be very relaxing. Erik and I are signed up to make a green vegetable and bread. I think we’ll make a raisin-pecan bread from Flour and a Brussels sprouts salad that Alton Brown posted to Facebook. Yep, AB and I are friends on Facebook. Jealous? What are your Thanksgiving cooking plans?

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