Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Autumn Hike

As you can tell, I am getting caught up on photos. Back in the fall, Matt and I took our annual hike. Not that we have anything against hiking but I never quite think about it until the leaves start to change. Bulgarian fall-time mountain hikes were gorgeous (see below) so I figured we would give the Macedonian Mt. Vodno a shot.

Bulgarian Hike:

We started our day by driving halfway up the mountain to the gondola.  We rode the (fairly fancy) gondola up to the top to the huge cross.  You can then go up to the top of the 20 something story cross, but we opted against that.  Instead, we walked around the top of the mountain taking in all of the different views.
 On the Gondoloa!
 Making our way to the top.
 The HUGE cross.
Taking in the views.
Playing along with the photo shoot.

We then began our trek down.  We decided to walk down the mountain to get a little exercise (plus we were kinda scared of the gondola..ha!) We originally started following the crowds down a paved path.
 Then we decided to veer off the path, of course we chose the trail with the least amount of people.
 This turned out to essentially be STRAIGHT DOWN HILL!  Our legs were literally burning/shaking.  At one point I wondered if we would make it to the bottom before nightfall. 
On one of our brief breaks.  After this, there we no more photos.  Only concentration.  We FINALLY made it to the car park about an hour later.  We had sore legs for days.  
So that's our hiking extravaganza until next year!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I know this might seem a little late to some but today is actually Orthodox Christmas day. And it is snowing! Well just a little bit, really, but a white Christmas is a white Christmas, right?

The festivities actually begin several days prior to Christmas Day and we were lucky enough to witness much of it.

2 days before communities/neighborhoods gather and have these huge bonfires filled with music, singing and warm rakia (Macedonian brandy) our neighborhood event happens to be almost a cross the street from our house.  We opted not to go because we have been MAJORLY jet lagged and, quite frankly, just not in the mood.  It was fun to see the neighborhood a buzz though, hear the music, and listen to the fireworks. Since we will likely be here for the holidays next year we agreed we would venture out and participate.  Below is a pretty terrible pic that I tried to capture of the festivities.

Then early the following morning young kids come around ringing doorbells signing and looking for treats (much like our Halloween.) Luckily we were jet lagged because our bell rang at about 6:30 am! By the time we were downstairs the kids were next door at the neighbors singing ( luckily, since I had no treats to give! Ha) it was fun to listen to the kids running around.

Then on Christmas Eve families gather for a meat less meal.  There is a traditional 40 day fast with no meat that is then broken on Christmas Day. 

I look forward to learning more, and even actually experiencing, orthodox Christmas next year.

For now, I am going to enjoy my LAST day of vacation at home and attempting to stay awake all day so that I can get more than 3 hrs of sleep tonight before work tomorrow...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy New Year!

Although I may be a little late, today is the official start to my new year! We arrivd back fom a month in the states yesterday. A now it is back to reality for sure! We arrived back to a smoggy, pollution laden Skopje and to a cat-less house. Talk about depressing! As you know, our (my) 18 year old cat passed away a couple days after we arrived in the states. She was here in Macedonia  with our housekeeper who really took great care of her up until the end. The house is definitely eerie without her.  I got the cat when I was 14 years old so she definitely lived a long, well traveled life! Now it will be interesting to see how long we remain pet-less ;)

Ugh, the picture above is from nye but the iPad is driving ,e nuts and not all ping me to put this in the appropriate spot...

May you rest in peace, sweet girl!

Besides that major downer and getting sick for a week we had a gret trip home. We saw many ( not all) of our friends and family.  Highlights of our trip include:

- I was able to take an awesome trip with my BFF to NYC. I'd always wanted to go around Christmastime! It was awesome to have some one on one QT time! We haven't done that in years!


- besides being sick, we had a great week with my parents down in Williamsburg.  My mom and I shopped till we dropped and Matt rested and caught up on TV.
- after Williamsburg we were all rested up and headed to Matt's parents in Staunton, Va.  We had an exciting time there playing little elves helping his parents prepare for Christmas and I had some precious time with my nieces and nephews! Which included a girls only shoe shopping trip and build a bear trip (our Christmas present to the nieces.) In a change from our norm, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning with Matt's parents
- We made it to my parents for a super yummy Christmas dinner filled with lots of yummy wine
- we closed out our stateside visit in Northern Va with friends which included a quick New Years eve jaunt to New Jersey to see Matt's favorite band

Now we are back in Skopje just in time for Orthodox Christmas, which is Monday.  Lucky us, we have a 3 day weekend before getting back to the grind on Tuesday!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Updates...with Photos!

As you can probably tell, times are a changin' for the Armstrongs over here in Macedonia!  I am usually the type of person to grin and bear whatever comes my way (albiet with complaining to my nearest and dearest.)  This is our life, a life of constant change.  But this time...this time, for some reason, I am having a HARD time with our life changes.  I've decided that I'll just embrace it.  Not sure if that is a good or bad thing, but it is what it is.  I just can't seem to find my groove here in Macedonia.  One of my dear friends that I met in Bulgaria VERY early on (who is still living there) keeps reminding me of our weird/wild first months in Bulgaria.  They were STRANGE and WEIRD for sure!  But I still appreciate those times, they were all part of the process.  With this move, I was not prepared AT ALL!  We had no time and I truely believe that is why it's so hard this time around. 

There are many great things about this country.  The people are SO nice and welcoming!  For instance, check out all of this produce that was given to by neighbors and co-workers.

 We also have been gifted home made Ajvar from our neighbor.  This time of year Macedonian's start preparing for the winter and jarring all of the lovely fresh produce.  Ajvar is a mix of roasted red peppers and eggplant.  I think it's delish on a piece of bread!
Other great things include a REAL town square and an old town (as I've mentioned before.)  There are a TON of crazy statues, which as a non-Macedonian, I sort of think are interesting.  It sounds like a lot of locals just find them a bit tacky...again, personally, I think they are interesting.

 Matt with Mother Theresa.  Mother Theresa, who was ethnic Albanian, was born in Skopje.

 What is assumed to be a statue of Alexander the Great (formally called "the man on the horse) which would probably upset the Greeks since Macedonia and Greece have a "name issue" with the name Macedonia.  There is also a region of Northern Greece called Macedonia.
                                                              The Arc 'd Skopje:)
                                      Matt standing in Mother Theresa's child hood home.
 The main plostad (or square) with the big Skopsko sign (in Cyrillic, of course.)  Skopsko is the Macedonian Nat'l Beer.
 A couple of weeks ago on a BEAUTIFUL day, we went to check out the opening day of a wine festival in the city center.  I thought it would be a GREAT way to try different Macedonian wines. Turns out you buy a whole glass of wine, at each booth, and the glass is filled to the brim.  I didn't like my chosen glass so we ended up leaving the festival for a walk around town and dumped my wine in the grass.  Bummer.
 Another new statue.  A man and a woman embracing, not sure who it is?
 Sitting on a bench, enjoy the day and people watching.
 We strolled down to the river.
 Look at these neat statues!!!
 Matt allowing me to play photographer in the afternoon light!
 My favorite statue, of Filip the I or II (not sure) waving his fist in the direction of Greece...(not my favorite because of what it stands for, just like the big burly man and his fist.  Must stay politically correct here, people...:))
                                                               The Vardar River.
                                                          Another interesting statue.

The old train station turned museum.  I think it is fascinating that the clock on the building stopped at the exact time that the Great Earthquake of 1963 that essentially leveled the city. 

So there you have it.  I still must post about our fabulous trip to Ireland with friends from D.C., next week maybe.

For now, I hope everyone has a great weekend!!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Making a home...

So our shipment  of things arrived from Bulgaria yesterday and Matt and I took the day off from work to receive the items and get organized.  Our total shipment weighed one half of what we are actually allotted and all I could think is 'how in the world do we have SO much stuff?!?!'. This is what it looked like just after the movers left.

Above is Matt.  I asked him why he smiled for the photo because what we had to do was NOT fun.  He said he was happy to have our stuff.  So sweet.  Ha.  I was NOT smiling.  It's so hard to make a house a home! And I am so freaking anal about being perfectly organized. I want to put things away correctly.  Anyway, this is what the house looks like tonight after one full day and one evening of unpacking. 

Andlike I said, this is after SO MUCh work.  But we are making progress which is a good thing since we have our first visitor this weekend.  Yikes!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Now don't get too excited about the title of this post people...I just couldn't come up with anything more creative!!  So yesterday we were on our way home from work and this little sedan drove by (at a normal speed) and a CHILD was standing up with his head out of the sunroof!!  Of course, I couldn't get my phone out quick enough to snap a pic!  This is something that drives me NUTS overseas.  I guess there are no child safety laws, and if there are, they are certainly not enforced.  Even in Bulgaria we would see a car zooming down the road and there would be a kid walking around the back see...playing..no seat belt of course.  I might have to look into it more while I am here and figure out why kids are not required to sit in safety seats.  Can you parents imagine??

In another news, Matt's car was booted yesterday...this makes me chuckle.  Sounds like it was resolved pretty quickly and the fine was not too terribly steep...I still laugh. 

Speaking of money, the money here is crazy to me.  It's something like 42 of their denomination = 1 dollar.  So lunch costs 400 denars.  the grocery bill is 4000 denars...I can't even process it properly. 

We are making movement in receiving our things from Sofia...I'm HOPING it will arrive SOON SOON SOON!  I think that will make us feel really settled.  The other thing that I really need to work on is a housekeeper.  The laundry doesn't magically disappear anymore...the pile just grows and grows...To me, a housekeeper is THE perk to living overseas!  Hopefully we will find someone good here who does not insist on stealing from us like our first housekeeper in Bulgaria...

I am SO SO happy that tomorrow is Friday!!  We actually have something social and perhaps FUN to do tomorrow night.  Matt suggested I bring my mug ;) 

Everyone have  a great weekend and hopefully I'll be able to start sharing some photos really really soon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Murs Mug!

So since we have arrived in Macedonia I have been "testing" out different Macedonia wines.  BTW, so far, do not compare to Bulgarian wines.  They are more expensive and not as good.  But that is besides the point.  We have no wine glasses!  So I drink my wine out of a coffee mug!  So classy!!  For those of you that know Matt, you know that he calls alcoholic beverages "Murs"  as in "let's go get some Murs tonight!"  or, "are you all Mursed?"  you get the point.  So last week when he wasn't working, he would come home and I would be having my evening cup 'o wine and he would say "you got your murs mug all filled up??"  Now I think I need a special cup/glass just for this.  But until we have proper stemware...this is what I am working with: