Travel to Kiev, and pray for the Ukrainians

As we follow the terrible news on TV and pray for the Ukrainians, I pulled my picture album and reminisced about my business trip to Ukraine in April 1997.

Located on the Dnieper River. Kiev (or Kyiv) is the capital and largest city in Ukraine with a population of three million inhabitants. It dates back to 560 AD and enjoys an authentic Eastern European culture.

Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti) is on the historical boulevard Khreschatyky. It is the focal point of the Independence Day celebrations every August to celebrate Ukraine’s breakaway from the former Soviet Republic but it is also remembered for the Orange Revolution of 1994.
The Dnieper  is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in the Valdai Hills near Smolensk, Russia, before flowing through Belarus and Ukraine to the Black Sea.

As the program manager for a contract in Ukraine, I flew to Kiev with three people from our lab in Ohio, and met with our Belarusian driver, Sergei, who had driven from Minsk, Belarus, with two chemists we previously trained on analytical equipment.

We spent our first evening in Kiev, strolling through the main avenues, discovering the city, and admiring the beauty of the colorful cathedrals with golden domes, churches, statues and monuments.

Marinskyi Palace that serves as the official ceremonial residence of the President. The palace lies on the right bank of the Dnieper River in Kyiv.

Some of you may remember the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. Two explosions resulted in radioactive dust spread around the area, mainly to Belarus which is at 20 km north of Chernobyl and to Kiev at about 130km south of Chernobyl.

In 1997, my company was contracted by the DOD to equip and deliver a mobile laboratory to a military base in Uman, in Central Ukraine, about five hours away from Kiev. The two GC/MS—gas chromatogram/mass spectrometer—and other smaller instruments we installed would allow the detection and analysis of toxic substances in hazardous waste samples.

After a week of work installing and testing the equipment, I left the staff to continue the training and returned to Kiev to fly back to Munich, and then to New York. For my bad luck it was May 1st or Labor Day in Ukraine and Europe. Little did I know that the big avenues were blocked for a military parade with the President heading it. Sergei and I had to use the backroads. I had the chance to visit St. Sophia Cathedral and a fabulous monastery, but I almost missed my plane.

Kyevo-Pecherska Lavra, is a monastery’s cluster of gold-domed Orthodox churches built on top of a labyrinth of ancient caves. 
Closer view of the green dome church in the monastery.
Motherland Monument on the Dnieper River. We could see it from far away.
Saint Sophia Cathedral is a unique monument of
architecture and monumental art of the early 11th century having the biggest preserved collection of mosaics and frescoes of that period.

Kiev is such a beautiful city. The pastry is delicious and the amber jewelry out of this world. I bought amber necklaces, brooches, bracelets.

Pray for the Ukrainians’ safety and for peace.

HEAL MY HEART is set in Belarus. In a far away country, a baby girl, four little boys, and a handsome doctor may teach Dr. Jillian the true meaning of Christmas.

AMAZON

Car Troubles

I’ve never been able to handle car problems. They make me seethe, curse and cry, and call for help. Whenever I took my car for repair, my husband would reassure me with, “It’s not a big thing. They’ll probably charge you $150 to $ 200.” The mechanic would find four or five defective parts to be changed for a total of $500 to $800. If I protested, I was treated to a patronizing lecture from a well-muscled hunk with tattoos and dirty nails, who ended his speech with, “If you don’t want to fix it, it’s up to you, but I wouldn’t want my mom on the road in a car so messed up.” Sure enough, I would panic and beg him to fix it. At home my hubby would throw his arms in the air. “What? $800 for this? How do you manage to let them cheat you like that?” Do I need to add that my self-confidence about car repair had often hit rock bottom?

When my daughter graduated from college she dragged me to a How to Handle Car Problems three-hour seminar with hands-on experience.

We learned how to interpret the warning lights on the dashboard, change a flat tire and replace a battery. We understood that weird odors indicate an issue under the hood — a coolant leak or mold in the vents. Strange vibrations such as a shaking steering wheel could be caused by unbalanced tires, warped brake rotors and damaged or worn suspension system parts. By the end of the long training, I felt so knowledgeable and confident. Our instructor concluded by saying, “Listen ladies, despite all I taught you today, the best thing for you to do if you run into car problem is to immediately call AAA, Geico, or any other insurance, a mechanic and your husband.”

I was driving from Columbus, OH. to Cincinnati when my car burped and shook. I pressed the brake pedal, waited a few seconds, and slowly raised my foot, steering to the side of the road. The car rolled a few yards along the emergency lane, and then shuddered, thumped, and hiccupped. A light on the dashboard indicated tire problems. I cringed and pushed down on the brakes, knowing I had a flat tire. For two minutes I debated on changing the tire myself. I remembered the theory well, but I also remembered our instructor’s conclusion. To be on the safe side, I called AAA, the insurance and my husband.

How do you handle car problems?

In LOVE IN THE ER the hero and heroine meet during a tropical storm as she’s stuck in her car with a flat tire. “The path to happy ever after is not a smooth one. Both have a lot of problems to solve. This is a good story, my favorite by this author. Lots of drama takes them to different places.”

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My grandchildren’s favorite meal

My children and the extended family children and grandchildren started eating cannelloni at a very young age, and grew up calling it their favorite meal. I usually prepare it in advance, freeze it, and do the final cooking just before serving. It’s always a winner at family reunion and big holidays.

Cannelloni  Recipe

  • Prepare the mix:
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1 ¾ cups of 2% milk
  3. Tsp of butter 1 cup of flour

Mix together in a blender or mixer. 

 

 

  • Prepare the pancakes (or crèpes)
  1. Use an electric skillet or any other type but adjust the stove temperature to 400o  
  2. Melt ½ a Tsp of butter in the skillet at 400
  3. Measure ¼ cup of the mix and pour over the melted butter 
  4. Spread evenly in the skillet 
  5. Remove when cooked and slid in a plate 
  6. Repeat until the whole mix is made into pancakes
  7. You usually get 10 big pancakes with one dose of mix.
  8. I like to cut all the pancakes in half.
  • Prepare the filling
  1. 1 lb of ground beef 
  2. 1 small onion 
  3. 1 tsp all spice 
  4. Salt and pepper 
  5. 1 cup Ragu tomato sauce

Darken and cook the ground beef, onion and spices, until well cooked. Add the sauce and simmer till the meat is done. Set aside.

  • Rolling the cannelloni
  1. Use a clean plate. Arrange one half pancake on it.
  2. Transfer a Tsp of ground meat over the pancake and roll it over to form a cannelloni.

Repeat with the rest of the pancakes. With this dose of mix you can prepare about 20 small cannellonis or 10 big ones.

 

  • Cooking

    The tomato sauce and sprinkled parmesan cheese still needed to be added when this picture was taken.

  1. Spray the the pan with Pam Brush the bottom with tomato sauce.
  2. Arrange the cannellonis in a 9×13 pan in two rows.
  3. Pour enough tomato sauce to cover each cannelloni
  4. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese.
  5. Bake at 300o for 20 minutes.

Bon appétit.

Here is Bosty, my grandchildren’s dog waiting for Grandma to have him taste whatever she’s cooking that smells so good.  

I use some of my recipes in my romance novels, whenever I have a grandmother of Italian or Greek background.

 


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The best ice cream

At a time when everyone is going on a diet, I am almost embarrassed to admit I love ice-cream. I don’t particularly like cakes or dessert, but give me an ice cream and you’ll see a happy person.

The best ice cream I ever tasted left an indelible memory in my mind. We were in Rome, in front of the Fountain of Trevis—you know the famous fountain where you throw a coin to come back one day. I was hot and thirsty. When I saw the window of a Gelateria displaying scrumptious ice creams, I bought a gelato, as they call the ice cream in Italy. Oh my God, delicious, incredibly delicious. It had strawberries, chocolate, vanilla and whipped cream, stuffed with dried fruit. I asked for the name of that heavenly ice cream. They called it cassata Siciliana or cassata Napolitana, depending on whether the vendor was from Southern Italy or from Northern Italy.

Two days later, our cruise ship stopped in Sorrento. One of the waiters recommended a gelateria on the main piazza. “If you like ice cream, you can taste their cassata Siciliana,”  he said, bringing his bunched fingers to his lips and sending a kiss. “The best ice cream in the world.”

I didn’t need more convincing and led my husband straight to the gelato store.We each ordered a cone of cassata. My husband chocked at the price, $15 per cone.

But the store owner explained in broken English that his store was the Pope’s favorite gelateria. Apparently the Pope stopped here once to have a cone of cassata. Later, the owner built a St. Peter Basilica, made of cassata and presented it to the Pope. Of course, the picture was all over Italy’s newspapers and the owner showed us a copy on the wall with the pope receiving his pious ice cream. “So you capito perque cassata expensive?” the man added.

Si, capito, I understand why this cassata is so expensive.” Not that it reconciled my husband with the offensive price.

On the ship, the maître d’ gave me a recipe. The problem is that ice cream is loaded with calories and I am doing a terrible effort to watch what I eat and stay away from ‘dangerous’ food. I modified the recipe and used non-fat ice cream, or even better, frozen yogurt.

Cassata Recipe:

1-A pint of chocolate frozen yogurt containing dark chocolate chips.

2-A pint of strawberry frozen yogurt with frozen bits of strawberries.

3- A pint of mango ice cream with frozen bits of mangoes.

4- A box of non-fat whipped cream.

5- A pack of cut dried fruits, pineapple, papaya, raisin, coconut.

***The boxes of ice cream or frozen yogurt should be allowed to soften out of the refrigerator for half an hour before using.***

1-In an easy-to-open mold, spread the softened chocolate frozen yogurt evenly. Put in the freezer for two hours to harden.

2-Now spread the softened strawberry frozen yogurt evenly on top of the chocolate layer. Put in the freezer for two hours to let it harden.

3-Empty the bag of dry fruits in the box of whipped cream and mix well, then spread on the hardened ice cream in the mold. Leave in the freezer overnight.

4-Spread the softened mango ice cream evenly on top of the frozen whipped cream in the mold. Put in the freezer for two hours to let it harden.

**You can use mint chocolate instead of chocolate frozen yogurt, and pistachio ice cream instead of mango.

Take the mold out of the freezer half an hour before serving. Hold over a warm stove to loosen your ice cream from the bottom and be able to overturn the mold on a plate. Enjoy. Delicious and low calorie.

Shh…it’s a SECRET BABY…
Some parents would do anything for the sake of the kids they love.

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