Life is short…gotta be happy!

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In the last while I have been griping and complaining a little bit despite the fact that things are pretty good. We just came back from a few weeks holiday in France, followed by a great return to work business trip, a weekend getaway in Quebec City, and a lot of time hanging with friends and family who we haven’t seen in a few months-and who we will not see again for some time. Despite all this good stuff, my husband and I have had a few tense moments and complaints.

Then, the other night I went out with a few friends for a catch up. Sadly, things are not going so well in their lives right now. It made me realize that we have to stop sweating the small stuff and enjoy life. I have had this realization before but it is always good to have a reminder!

My goal is to take care of myself and my family and live my best life possible. I want the next while to be full of fun but I also want to plant some seeds for the future. Here are some things I need to do in the short term to make this possible:

  1. Before we move abroad for my job, use our medical benefits to see the dentist.
  2. Book some relaxation massages.
  3. Pay off my new tax bill with my first paycheque.
  4. Open an education savings account for my baby.
  5. Buy some comforting essentials for our move.
  6. Host one last get together/bon voyage party.
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Home sweet home…

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We are home! After a few weeks in France-which I will post about another time-we took a long trans-Atlantic flight home. The baby was sick two days before we flew, my husband felt ill on the plane, and I the day after we landed. Some kind of awful flu. It has been a few days and we are all on the mend and trying to adjust to Pacific Standard Time!

Coming home has been great. Our friends and family were eager to see us and that sense of peace just filled me. There really is no place like home. A day after we landed, however, I had to get back to reality and start preparing all sorts of things for the next stage in my life-returning to work after sick and maternity leave. Am a bit amazed that summer is over!

An afternoon in Khakheti…

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View from our terrace.

Recently we took a little roadtrip to spend some time in Georgia’s sunny wine region. Without any hesitation, we decided to stay in Sighnaghi…because it is just too cute. The rooftops are all red (much like Santa Barbara in California) and the small city is nicknamed the “City of Lovers” in Georgia. I definitely recommend that visitors stay here when visiting the region. It is the most picturesque of the local towns and famous for being a walled city. Just outside town is a nice monastery to visit as well. Although we did not visit it this time, I recall some well kept and impressive gardens.

There are a few hotels that one quickly comes across upon entering the town but we decided to stay in a nice guesthouse…because I wanted to spend the evening on a terrace drinking some nice Georgian wine while enjoying a view of the Alazani Valley. We found the perfect place by asking some women at a small market. It was the same price as the hotel and had a/c, wifi, a private washroom, and the perfect terrace I desired. It was a beautiful warm night that I will never forget.

 

Shumi Winery

However, this post is about an afternoon in Khakheti and not a night in Sighnaghi! The afternoon in question is actually the next day. We decided to visit the estate of Prince Alexander Chavchavadze-Tsinandali Estate. Basically there is a museum, hotel, and an opportunity to enjoy some wine. This was the location where Georgian modern wine making began they say. The same wine is still being produced today.

It was nice to visit and I would recommend it to those who like a bit of history. You will have to do a Google search to learn about the actual history as they do not do the best job of explaining things at the site itself without a tour. However, I enjoyed seeing the old mansion and the way some of Georgia’s elite used to live back in the day. There is a tour that may be informative but the English one was not to happen for an hour and I did not want to wait for it. Perhaps it is jam packed with information though. There are nice gardens as well to check out.

The same afternoon, we also went to visit Shumi Winery-which is just next door. We arrived and walked through small vineyard that had over 350 varieties of grapes from Georgia and around the world. Later, our tour guide told us they are used in the lab to experiment with for making new blends. Although usually you take a tour first, we headed right to the wine tasting area and wine shop.

The grounds are very quaint and there were visitors from Germany, China, Russia, and Georgia while we were present. Apparently wine tourism is on the up and up. I am not surprised at all! I asked who the vineyard owners are and was pleased to hear both owners are Georgian. We tasted three wines and all were delicious. It was a super hot day so the misters they had set up around the wine tasting area were very welcome. After the tasting, a tour guide took us through the grounds.

 

One of the tasting areas

First he took us to an area that showed some of the tools used in making wine in the past (ie a large trough in which grapes were stomped upon by foot!). We also learned about chacha and vodka making. Tourists can sign up for master classes and have more hands on and in depth experiences. Sounds very interesting! Next, we went into a small museum that illustrated how ancient the art of wine-making in Georgia is. Finally, we went to the cellars where we saw the two ways in which wine is made in Georgia.

 

One is the European and modern way-oak barrels and steel vats into which grapes, yeast, etc is added. This is the way most modern wine around the world is made. Every vineyard I have been to anywhere does it this way.

Traditional wine making methods still in use. Each holds 2,000 litres!

The second way, the traditional Georgian way, is how wine is still made by many in the country. In this method, large clay pots are buried underground and filled with grapes (stems, leaves, and all) and natural yeast etc is added. It is said that this is the most unique manner in which to make wine in the world. Very cool, unique, and unchanged for centuries! I have had a lot of wine in Georgian homes made in this manner and it is much better than what you can buy from the local store in a bottle so something sure is right about it! However, most of Georgia’s professional good stuff is shipped out of the country for foreign markets!

It was a great to visit this Georgian vineyard and learn more about wine making. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and could answer every question we had. We did not have time to visit more vineyards but I will definitely make it a point to do so in the future.

We wrapped up our Khakheti afternoon by then stopping in a nearby local town to buy some delicious freshly made shoti’s puri (bread), local cheese, and fresh fruit that is abundant in the area at this time of year. Our quick picnic in a sunny park fortified us for our drive to Gori where I finally got to see the infamous Stalin museum…but that is for another post! All in all, it was a perfect Khakheti afternoon.

Our time in Georgia is coming to an end…

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Our last few days in Georgia are here! It seems like just yesterday we arrived in Tbilisi. However, it has been about a month and a half. In this time it seems we experienced so much. Of course, the country is not new to us as I used to live here and my husband is Georgian but a lot has changed in 7 years so there was quite a bit to explore. My husband came for a visit last year so he was more interested in spending time with his family and friends rather than getting reacquainted with different places.

Our baby also got to meet the Georgian half of his extended family (not that he will remember-but they will!) and we all had some time to bond. It has been a great trip but I will admit that I am ready to go. There can be quite a bit of informal gender segregation here and, as I do not have a posse of female friends, I have ended up alone on quite a few nights while my husband went to hang out with his buddies (their wives were also home but have others to spend time with). Thankfully, I had good old Netflix to keep me entertained while baby slept. I caught up on Better Call Saul, watched Queen of the South, and watched Dark Tourist. I know we may not be here again for awhile so wanted my husband to go have fun though he offered to stay at home with me often.

I have been here long enough to have explored the region plus visit Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Gori, Beshumi, Keda, and Khakheti. Now the focus is on wrapping up lose ends here (ie getting this apartment rented out, dealing with our bank, and doing some last minute shopping). It is also time to think about what comes next. In our case, it is my turn for a bit of a dream vacation so we are headed to France for a few weeks! After that, we return home and deal with real life. However, in our suitcases we will have a few bottles of tkemali and ajika that my husband’s mom made to add a little Georgian flavour into our meals for the next while!

(He)Art of Batumi…

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Anyone who comes to Batumi will notice two things. 1). There are many fountains. 2). There is a lot of public art…much of it involving hearts or love. My favourite is a series that is located at different points along the boulevard that involve human figures and a bright red heart. Each is in a different position. Not sure how many there are in total but here are the ones I found so far:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most famous piece of art (and where I was proposed to a long time ago!) is the Statue of Love (Ali and Nino) which is a giant piece that depicts a male and female form. The forms rotate slowly and at one point flow through each other. In the evening they are illuminated in different colours. It was moved to near the big Ferris Wheel since the original location. The piece is based on the short novel by Kurban Said about the love story between a Georgian Christian woman named Nino and a Muslim Azerbaijani boy named Ali. I read the English translation and it all romance, war, and tragedy! Let me know if you find it during your visit to Batumi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statue as it came together as one piece.

Visiting monasteries in Georgia…

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Mtskheta from above.

One thing I just cannot get enough of in Georgia is visiting beautiful ancient monasteries and churches. I know many tourists can fly directly into Batumi these days and spend a week at the Black Sea and be dazzled by all the weird and wonderful things Batumi has to offer. However, it is definitely worth taking a trip to see some of these ancient sites.

The tourists visiting Georgia generally (not the Batumi-only crowd) will probably see quite a few churches and monasteries as they are a major attraction (though never crowded it seems) and there are many to chose from. I have seen dozens. This time, however, I made a special point to visit Gelati and Mtskheta.

Inside Gelati is just magical.

A sign from the Holy Trinity Monastery near Batumi explaining the rules!

Mtskheta is near Tbilisi and is the location of an early city. I will not get into a history lesson as Wikipedia can do all that for anyone interested. However, it is a great place to visit. It has a village-like feel and a nice atmosphere-a bit festive with the path to the main complex lined with vendors. The monastery is nice with a grand fresco that is impressive.

Gelati is near Kutaisi and is my favourite. It is situated up on a hill and feels more remote-probably because there is no town surrounding it! The inside of the main church is beautiful and David the Builder (amongst others) is buried on site. It has a more serious and deep feel. I felt a definite strong vibe here. I would definitely recommend making a visit.

I hope the next time I am in Georgia, I will be able to make more visits to such places. They are usually always built on a grand hill and have an impressive view. However, for those of you who are planning to visit soon, there are rules! Women must have their heads covered and wear long skirts and men must not be wearing shorts. No one should be wearing tank tops! Of course, there is no entry during private events as well.

Hope everyone gets a chance to visit one of these beautiful places (and get a glimpse of the monks and nuns as all are still active churches).

The path to the monastery worn down smooth by centuries of visitors.

Returning to work after mat leave…

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Lately I have been corresponding with my employer about my return to work plans. Quite soon after the baby was born I was anxious to get back to work…but now that 9.5 months have passed, I kind of wish I could just take more time off…like another 5 years! Ha ha ha. Just kidding…but maybe another 2-3 months. In my country I could have taken 12 months off but will be back to work after 10.5 instead. My husband is going to use the last 1.5 months of paid leave for himself.

I am a bit worried about myself working again, I must admit. What will it be like knowing I have a munchkin at home who I have never been away from for more than a few hours since he was born? Will I be competent and interested in work? It seems so long since I have worked as I had to take 2 months sick leave as well before my mat leave started. Although I did go a bit crazy with boredom during mat leave (hence this move to eastern Europe!), I am kind of used to being a lady of leisure now (although I will say there is not much personal time with a baby to look after full time). I guess I am up for some more life transitions in the next few months. Hope it all goes smoothly!