Friday, September 27, 2013

I give up...fall really IS here

By Michael

Our apple harvest (Photograph from our "fall '13" folder)

When I save photographs on our computer, I put them in folders according to the season in which the photos were taken. Since we moved into our house I have been putting photos in the "Summer '13" folder. I have been dreading the transition into "Fall '13." When we first moved in I had hoped to have done a lot more with our house than we have done so far. For one thing, the windows and doors need to be changed before it gets much colder out. They are very old and do not offer a bit of insulation. A couple of our window frames are even rotten and need to go regardless of the outside temperature.

Well, I give up. It really is the fall season. Unfortunately, it has been cold here in Lviv since August 21st. I know because that was the day Yulia and I fed the bees for the first time. It was chilly, cloudy and rainy all day that day, and the weather has been pretty much the same ever since. It has been really inconvenient in many ways. For one, our laundry has been piling up. There were two cold, windy (but sunny) days this past week, so I took advantage of the relative nice weather to wash and line dry everything that needed to be washed.

But I don't want to be too glum. The coming of fall means it's time to collect apples. Any apples that fall from the trees won't store well, so we slice them up and dry them.

The apples that we pick from the trees can be stored. Yulia has been wrapping each one in paper. They store better that way. If one apple starts to rot, it will not spread to the others.

We have also been harvesting hawthorn and elderberry. They grow wild in the fields behind our house. When we go to dig potatoes at Yulia's grandparents' village next week, we will harvest some rose hips and hops which grow wild by the Dnister River.

We have another bit of good news--our new bed has arrived! Several weeks ago Yulia ordered an all wood bed for us. It is all natural. The wood is treated with an oil of some sort. The smell makes me hungry...although Yulia says that pretty much everything makes me hungry! I think she has a point! :)

This bed is much better than our previous "bed"--bee hive stands and boards.

The remnants of our old "bed"
Although we ordered a mattress and bed at the same time, they arrived several weeks apart from each other. So when our mattress arrived several weeks ago, we had to improvise. But the wait makes us appreciate this new bed even more. When we were putting it together we could see the fine craftsmanship that was put into it.

Our beautiful (and hunger inducing) new bed
 To anyone that subjects themselves to live a life of non-stop comfort: make yourself uncomfortable every once in a while. Comfort is meaningless unless you understand what discomfort is.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Why art trumps politics

By Michael

When I taught undergraduate English composition, I would often joke with my students that if they preferred to, they could submit "essays" that took on a form other than the typical Times New Roman, 12 point font, double spaced academic essay. They could, for example, submit a documentary video or perform an interpretive dance.  I would bring this up so that we could talk about the benefits and drawbacks of writing over other means of expressing oneself. 
Additionally, in an earlier post I said that I prefer the written form over painting or interpretive dance to express my thoughts. Well, the members of DakhaBrakha, a Ukrainian avant garde band, just happen to be especially good at expressing themselves through interpretive dance, among other artistic media. They play a very original sort of contemporary folk music, which they call "ethno chaos." I am sharing my thoughts about this band because it shares a philosophy very similar to the one Yulia and I are trying to express in this blog. 
Their music video, "Vesna" (Spring), probably does as good a job as any expressing DakhaBrakha and its relationship to mainstream Ukrainian culture. The video opens with an image of dead leaves and the forest floor. The band is then shown walking through the forest. It is as if they have just emerged from the soil itself. The music develops slowly. An accordion plays a repeating rhythm while the band members are slowly unveiled--a vintage boot; then a tall, furry hat. The music and images are at once pagan and primordial. There is an aura of mystery--who are these people? The band emerges from the woods into downtown Kyiv. The women of the band wear white dresses with big red beaded necklaces and black furry hats. The man wears a vintage suit. The gold leaf embroidery on his shoulders suggests a naval officer's uniform. The clothes are at once Ukrainian, but not. Vintage, but contemporary. Pedestrians and bus riders stare at them. The band sets up in a park and begins to sing and play festooned instruments. The city's residents seem to hear the music. A police officer writing a traffic ticket becomes distracted. An older couple on a walk stop in their tracks. The music seems to force them to dance, yet the eventual smiles on their faces make me think that their dancing becomes voluntary. Once the whole city is dancing the band disappears from the park, though the music keeps playing. The band is back in the forest.
What an excellent metaphor. Artists really do have the power to sway an entire society. Ukrainian culture is especially strong. Despite centuries of repression and governance by foreign powers, Ukrainians have managed to maintain a unique identity. Their culture and language have lasted even though they have not been able to govern themselves politically over the years.

DakhaBrakha is smart to embrace tradition in their music and art and incorporate new elements as well. As Marko Halanevych, lead singer of DakhaBrakha, states, "We have to rethink and modernize our folk culture. In fact, as a post-modernist band DakhaBrakha is trying to give new life to our grandmas’ songs." Yulia and I agree. Our context today is not the same as it was in the nineteenth century, for example. It therefore does not make sense to sing the same old nineteenth century folk songs, though it is important to know them. We are proud to build on former traditions to create a new identity and way of life.
This will take time, but it is possible. As Halanevych states later in the same interview quoted above: "We have so many insecurities, no faith in ourselves and are willing to listen to anything that comes from Moscow or America just because it’s foreign. This is a broader social problem, not limited to music alone. Unfortunately, we lived as slaves for a very long time, so can’t immediately be free. Currently, at best, we are at the level of freed slaves. It takes generations and the right focus of development to change this." Halanevych is right. This is a major social trend in Ukraine. These "insecurities" and lack of "faith in ourselves" are most obviously manifested in politics. The Ukrainian state is made to feel that it must choose between the European Union and Russia. Either Europe will save Ukraine or Russia will. There is hardly any talk that Ukrainians may be able to solve their own problems. 
It doesn't help that domestic leaders like Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko are made into political prisoners. The potential power they may have had has been quashed to a certain extent. But they continue to inspire. The recently released Lutsenko wrote an excellent piece that I read in the Kyiv Post. In it he writes, "Change is only possible by rebooting the entire system, by setting new aims for people, the society and the state. People have to undergo an internal cleansing." The focus of his article is the criminal justice system, but he touches on something very important that I want to flesh out. Political reforms themselves aren't enough to change the problems Ukrainians have to deal with. Our politicians have failed. The whole society needs a change. As he puts it, the whole system needs a reboot.
This is beyond the purview of politics.
To make the changes that are necessary other elements of society must get involved in creating that change. Artists do a very good job of this. That is why Yulia and I are so interested in the arts. They get to the root of many things. They influence collective culture, individual psychology, and even interact with politics. The band, Mandry, can be quite patriotic at times. Their song and music video, "Ne spy moya ridna zemlya," has obvious political overtones. It encourages Ukrainians to become involved in making change both for themselves and their deceased ancestors. The video shows images of both the Orange Revolution of 2004 alongside those from the Artificial Famine of the 1930s in which millions of Ukrainians were purposefully starved to death by the Soviet government.

But art doesn't have to be political to create change. Simply raising people's consciousness is enough to influence all spheres of life. And a high level of consciousness is universal--it exists regardless of temporal or spatial context. Politics are also ephemeral. The Orange Revolution images from the "Ne spy moya ridna zemlya" video are outdated. They are already 9 years old. However, the themes expressed in the lyrics themselves are more universal. 
This is why Yulia and I spend so much time discussing the arts on our blog and spend so little on politics. We certainly have political beliefs, but we think that the problems we see all around us require change on a much deeper level. Art contains that gravitas.

If anyone is interested in DakhaBrakha's interpretive dances, here is one of them.

Also, here is my favorite DakhaBrakha video and song. It is called "Карпатський реп" ("Carpathian Rap").

Monday, September 16, 2013



We realize that this is a bit out of order, but we still need to talk about our friend Rick’s first day in Lviv. We had an especially good time on Rick's first day here, so it is only appropriate that we write about it.
I love meeting people at airports and train stations. The excitement of seeing someone you have not seen in a while, especially a dear friend or a family member, can be overwhelming at times. And that is how Michael and I felt—excited to see Rick and show him new things that we discovered in Lviv since his last visit. After meeting him at the train station, we hopped on a bus and headed back home. A few stories later, we decided it was time to go out and explore the city. The center was our destination, of course.
None of us had any breakfast, so our first stop was a famous café: Вероніка. It prides itself in making quality pastries, chocolate and baked goods. However, Michael and I like to visit Вероніка for their healthy salads and herbal teas, which can be found on their special ‘Detox’ menu (where no oil, sugar, or salt is used in the dishes). Their extensive menu also features such famous Ukrainian dishes as poppy seed dumplings and beet borsht. We all ended up getting a salad, which we were very pleased with. Our salads were made with vibrant veggies, perfectly creamy avocados and fresh herbs. Yummy!  Our drinks were no less impressive: Rick ordered a freshly squeezed veggie juice, which was excellent; Michael went for his favorite—Mate tea served in the traditional way (in a hollowed out gourd with a straw); I decided to try a sea buckthorn tea, and I am glad that I did because it was full of flavor and vitality. There was another dish that Michael and I decided to share—wild rice with herbs, raisins, pistachios and pine nuts. "Wow" is the only appropriate word to describe it. We both love bloomed (that is soaked) wild rice, and this was a brilliant combination of flavors.
Thank you, Вероніка, for your tasty and nourishing vegan choices! As someone famous once said—‘I’ll be back!’ ;)
With our tummies full and happy, our trio ventured out to the vegetarian store. However, something distracted us on the way there….and it was worth stopping for. A brand new natural store "Дім Здоров"я"   was looking right at us asking us to come inside. I was squealing with joy to discover all the goodies inside of this shop: organic/natural food items, personal care products, health gadgets, linen pillows and more. I was especially pleased to come across quality cold-pressed coconut oil, which is very difficult to come by in Ukrainian stores; now I have my spot! Michael was excited to get some sugar-free chocolate made with stevia. Needless to say, there was a lot of excitement, especially from my side. Little did we know that only a few steps down the street another, no less stimulating, shop would meet us. And it did! Наш Формат  (Nash Format--Our Format) is the name. This is a place that cares about Ukrainian culture and carries some pretty awesome things. There were plenty of different styles of Ukrainian music, film and books to choose from. We went home with two DVDs about Ukrainian history--'SilverLands. The Chronicles of Carpatho-Ukraine 1919-1939' and 'Golden September. Chronicles of Galichina 1939-1941'
Also, there was a selection of t-shirts from НЮКРЕЙН! I ended up purchasing this one.
This is another place where it is appropriate to say—‘I’ll be back!’
One of the many cool t-shirts at Nash Format: T.Shevchenko--Ukrainian bard and hero

Roman Shukhevych  is looking down from that poster--you should know

Our next destination was a planned one. We wanted to take Rick to the tiniest and the only vegetarian store in Lviv.  It does not have a name; it is simply a store on Lysenka, since it is located on the street of the same name. Most of the time, our main reason for visiting the store is to purchase Himalayan pink salt and good quality spices—turmeric and cinnamon are our favorites. Sometime last year the store was remodeled. Nothing too major happened through the process, although the tiny space of the vegetarian store is more customer-friendly, it seems. Also, we have noticed that they started carrying a greater variety of products. Nevertheless, one of the best (and also worst) things about the shop is that you never know what you may find there. So, it was a surprise for the three of us to come across a single container of peanut butter in their cooler. Rick was feeling a bit nostalgic and decided to take the lonely PB container home. He has not feasted on any peanut butter in over 4 years, since it is not a commonly found product on the Ukrainian grocery shelves. The PB was made in Ukraine and contained no hydrogenated oils, or any oils at all; the butter was appropriately named Mr. Bob :) Sadly, they were out of the Himalayan salt; but we were able to purchase some dried figs (probably the best in the city) and green lentils. The vegetarian store in Lviv is definitely a fun place to visit and we do it pretty often. In fact, it was in there that we saw a poster inviting everybody to a Ukrainian permaculture course last summer.The owner of the store also has a blog here.

Of course our adventures did not end at the vegetarian store, because there were still two more places awaiting us. Our next stop was one of the most stylish clothing stores in Lviv. Yes, I know, those are pretty big shoes to fill, but they do it pretty well. This very special place is called Sister’s Dress Gallery. All of the clothing is hand made in Ukraine (no sweatshops, child labor and other inhuman activities involved) by young Ukrainian designers. The clothing is unique, yet wearable and is always of high quality. Here you can check out their great assortment of clothing and accessories. While we were there, we noticed pictures of women leaders from all over the world lined up on their wall. When we asked the store clerk about the photographs, she responded that these were pictures of inspirational female leaders who have great style. Nice....!  Whenever we visit Sister's we always hear different languages being spoken there. They are very welcoming to tourists and guests of the city. Their staff is always friendly and happy to talk to you;  and they have no problem chatting in English. In fact, one of their friendly people introduced me to Postcrossing. Sister's has a total of three stores in Ukraine—Lviv, Kyiv and Odessa. You can see some pictures and read (in Ukrainian) about their store in Kyiv at this link.

Rick and me at Sister's discussing our good finds while Michael plays photographer
Some interesting decor at Sister's

Our ultimate destination in the center of Lviv was "Правда,б"  (Pravda, B) ---a self described, ‘native-mind store gallery.' This store is simply one of the most creative, progressive and outspoken places in Lviv and beyond. It is like nothing we have seen anywhere else, and we are very proud to have them here in Lviv. When we stepped inside of Pravda, B, we found ourselves in a fairytale world, where anything is possible. It is full of magical creatures and good honest people. Pravda, B strives to bring honesty to people via their art (from new, young and radical Ukrainian and foreign artists), clothing (like Moksha--humane and natural clothing), jewelry (post-apocalyptic pieces) and more. Here are a few snapshots of their amazing space (too bad we did not take that many photos, especially of their clothing, shoes and accessories):


A sign outside of the entrance to Pravda, B leading you in the right direction


A fearsome cat guards Pravda, B. She inspected our bags upon arrival

These were some of my fav paintings there

Modern folk theme

Going back home on the bus with my jacket from Pravda, B nicely wrapped in paper

One of our favorite things about Pravda B is that the staff is ALWAYS extra friendly, but not in the fake kind of way. And they strive to be socially and environmentally responsible. For example, our purchase was wrapped in simple brown paper, because they do not use plastic in the store. The store clerk also shared some recent news with us—Los Angeles banned the use of plastic bags. She was very excited and hopeful about it—perhaps it will happen in Lviv one day! Pravda, B also has a shop in Kyiv, which you can read about and see more pictures of here  

Well, dear readers, I leave you with this last picture from Lviv:

I hope that this bike takes Lviv (and the rest of the world!) into a brighter future —slowly, but surely. Let us all plant good seeds today, so that there are flowers sprouting everywhere tomorrow, including on our bikes :)
Lviv--my dear hometown--I love you!!
  Til next time...

Sunday, September 15, 2013


One of the (many) reasons Yulia and I appreciate locally sourced things is because they make traveling more interesting. We just love going to a new place and finding something new. When we are in the States we like to try locally made kombuchas. Our favorite is NessAlla kombucha from Madison, Wisconsin. It is the most "real" tasting store bought kombucha we have come across. We also learned about the existence of another tasty fermented beverage called jun when we were traveling through Mount Shasta, California in February. It is made by Wylie's Honey Sodas of Phoenix, Oregon. Their turmeric ale blew our socks off. We now add turmeric to our own homemade kombucha.
This morning I dug out my Pendleton wool shirt from the cardboard box that Yulia and I shipped from the States before we left for Ukraine in June. I also donned my linen hat that I got from the Hat People.
Yulia (looking put together, as always) with her boyfriend, Shrek (wearing a Hat People hat)
Pendleton is based in Portland, Oregon, and the Hat People make their hats in Talent, Oregon. I got the Pendleton shirt at Three Penny Mercantile in Ashland, Oregon. The clerk at Three Penny Mercantile described the workers of the store as "Pendleton nerds." I guess they try and stock as many Pendleton products as they can. Three Penny Mercantile is a used/vintage clothing store, by the way. They really do have a great taste in clothes.
I initially thought about the rarity of owning and wearing two American made pieces of clothing at once. I can't say I do that all that often. Then I realized that they are not only American made, but Oregon made. I've got to hand it to Oregon. They do local stuff well--whether it is clothing, food, or whatever. Seeing locally produced things while in Oregon this past spring was a breath of fresh air. I could go on about the economic and environmental benefits of localism, but I have to admit that locally made things simply make life more interesting. And there is nothing wrong with that.

With all the hyperlinks to businesses I have inserted in this post, it may seem that I am being paid to push product. I assure you, I am receiving no monetary compensation for the name dropping. BUT what I am here to push is for all of our readers to keep checking in to our blog because Yulia will be posting a piece about one of our excursions in Lviv. She will be talking about some of our favorite places in the city, like visiting Sisters clothing store and ПРАВДА,Б (PRAVDA,B) art store. Sisters is a clothing store that sells Ukrainian designed and made products (I guess we don't need to go to Oregon to find locally made clothes). Pravda,b is probably the most funky and interesting art store I've ever seen. Yulia got a most creative, yet tasteful, jacket there. We also saw a steam punk suitcase on sale there replete with valves and dials. I don't know how they think this stuff up, but I like it!
This is what a steam punk suitcase looks like

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Lviv is in the air

By Michael

Lviv love must be in the air!
The Kyiv Post, an English language Ukrainian newspaper, did an article about the !Fest Emotional Holding company that I mentioned in an earlier post. Don't you just love when you learn about something new, and it seems that everyone else is learning about it at the same time? I feel like people share a common or collective consciousness wherein, when one person learns something new, the information is telepathically transmitted  to others. It could also be coincidence, but that is much less interesting. I prefer to look for wonder and fascination in the world.
From the Kyiv Post article I learned that the !Fest company has a local pig farm which they use to create their own brand of local, organic meat. Perhaps they would be interested in teaming up with a group of local homesteaders who grow rare heirloom fruits and vegetables using permaculture methods (wink, wink). An interesting concept restaurant would be one that prepared food using Ukrainian heirlooms and landraces. A landrace is similar to a wild species. It is an agricultural food that has been developed naturally rather than being modified by human selection. Ukraine has a number of ancient varieties of wheat, for example, which are considered landraces. I think it would be wonderful to have a loaf of sourdough bread at a restaurant made with ancient Ukrainian grains.
Yulia and I believe permaculture and small organic farms are the future of food production. We are discouraged to see Ukraine following America in its shift to large scale industrial farming. Yulia and I see the industrial agricultural system already cracking in the US, and we do not want the same fate for Ukraine. Weeds and insects are developing resistance to herbicides and pesticides. Top soil is vanishing. There is a dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi River. People are getting sick from eating the seeming diversity of food created by a very small number of ingredients. Wheat, soy and corn are used to create a dizzying variety of processed foods--from soda, to ketchup, to cookies.
We are also bemused by Ukrainian villagers who grow most of their own food. They grow very little variety and are reliant on a foundation of meat and potatoes for their diet.
Many people think this is a traditional Ukrainian diet, but that is nonsense. First of all, potatoes come from the Andes mountains of South America. The Incas (who, of course, lived there) did eat a diet composed largely of potatoes, but they ate a large number of potato varieties. Many of these varieties were local landraces. They came is all sorts of colors and sizes. They did not simply eat the oversized white potatoes that everyone plants around here. When French and Russian royalty attempted to introduce potatoes to their respective countries, people were skeptical about eating the potato. The royalty had to make their case, and, eventually, convinced their subjects to eat them. In fact, people were so well convinced to eat potatoes, that certain cultures have become reliant on them. This has the potential to be disastrous. Just look at the Irish potato famine.
Many people also think pork is a traditional Ukrainian food. This is true to an extent. The tradition does not go too far back in history though. Pork became popular when Ukraine was a conquered territory of the Ottoman Turks and other Muslim peoples. When conquering an area inhabited by Ukrainians, they would often take all the food from the locals except for their swine. Muslims, after all, do not eat pork. The Ukrainians were thus left to resort to a diet of pork to survive. So it is a tradition, but a tradition of a conquered people.
Yulia and I prefer to look to the traditions that reflect a healthy and prosperous Ukrainian people. While we are discouraged by the white potato based diet, we are encouraged by the many wild foods we see people gathering and selling at the bazaar. In the summer, it is common to see суниця (wild strawberries) being sold. Just last week I saw someone with mugwort and other herbs. Ukrainians have also not lost their tradition of harvesting wild mushrooms. This is absolutely wonderful. Traditionally, Ukrainians ate these foods. They pressed their own oils. Flax and hemp, for example, were not only eaten, but used to make fabrics.
Traditional foods are traditional because they are suited to local conditions. Landraces can grow wild without human intervention. This means they are the most resilient foods for farmers to grow. It only makes sense that this is the future of food in Ukraine. We think the shift to these methods needs to start now before chemical resistant weeds and insects develop and before fossil fuel scarcity really becomes an issue.
That is what Yulia and I are focused on changing. We hope to be part of a cultural shift. Like I've said before, we feel a certain kinship with the !Fest people. They are doing great things and are creating positive changes in Lviv and Ukraine. While they focus on business, Yulia and I are focused on our domestic lifestyle. We want to use art, creativity, food, and tradition to change the way we live at home and encourage others to take part in what we think is a good thing.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


We saw an unusual sight while in downtown Lviv yesterday. There was what seemed to be a hummingbird flying around a flower arrangement. We had never seen a hummingbird in Ukraine before and were amazed it was here. We looked up hummingbirds on the internet when we got home and learned that hummingbirds only live in the Americas. We examined our video and photographs more closely and noted that the creature had two antennas. We had definitely never seen a bird with antennas before, that's for sure. After further research we learned that we had seen a hummingmoth. It lives in warmer climates year round, but comes to Ukraine in the summer. What a remarkable animal!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Our love for Lviv

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we had a friend, Rick, come visit us from Odessa. Before we saw him off at the train station yesterday, we spent two days exploring downtown Lviv. The three of us were pleasantly surprised by what we saw. We saw a city that is changing for the better. It is changing in ways that we want it to change.
It makes us feel positive about the present and hopeful about the future. We decided to take Rick downtown and visit a random coffee shop. Lviv is famous for quality coffee going back hundreds of years. We stumbled upon a new coffee shop and roaster on Ploshcha Rynok (Market Square). It is called Lviv Coffee Mine. The last time Yulia and I were there, actually, there was a souvenir shop at that location. We entered, and walked past a giant coffee roasting machine and gift shop. We found some alluring underground tunnels. I guess they have a running joke that they mine the coffee there. We took some pictures while we were down there.

  We stumbled around some more and emerged in a beautiful courtyard.

The cafe area was covered by a steel and glass vaulted ceiling through which you could see the sky. The center of the courtyard had a stage for a band. Different bands play music there frequently. The night we were there an alternative jazz band played. Many different genres of music can be heard there.
Doors seemed to be the decorative theme for the courtyard, as you may be able to see behind the stage in the above photograph. They also had different doors painted and hung up to serve as decoration:

We sat down here and ordered some coffee (a rarity for Yulia and me) and some food.

 This cafe also did something that I haven't seen before at restaurants. They brought out blankets after it got dark out. Here's Yulia staying warm with hers:
In all, we were pleased with what we saw at the Lviv Coffee Mine. The waiters were friendly and young mostly. They looked a lot like what we would refer to as hipsters in the US, so I guess that would make them hipsters. I know it's popular to poke fun at these kinds of people, but I don't want to. I really respect them and what they are doing. These are young, creative, energetic people that have created something wonderful in a city we already love very much. In America I take these people and places for granted. In Ukraine I don't.
We also noticed a new feature outside on Ploshcha Rynok--a virtual library. We've never seen anything like it anywhere before. I guess you need a QR download to use it. I would go into greater detail about how it works, but we don't have smartphones, so we don't know about that kind of stuff. But what a nifty idea! And it's encouraging to see that it is sponsored by Lviv City Hall. It's good to know that the local government is being so progressive.
The big purple book says, "Classics." The first book is Herman Melville's Moby Dick.
The day after we went to the coffee shop, we went to a restaurant called, Дім Легенд (Legend's House). It's another creative place. The restaurant is several stories tall with a spiral staircase going to each floor. Each room seemed to have its own theme. The theme in our room was nautical. There was a TV screen with a live video of Lviv's main river, the Poltva. It is an underground river, so the image was in night vision. There was some kind of floating thing kind of dancing around at the bottom of the screen. We couldn't figure out what it was. Our best guesses are an eye stalk from a snail or a periscope. The bathroom at Legend's House was also quite playful. There was a TV monitor above the toilet. When you entered the bathroom two guys would open a "door" on the TV screen and pretend to talk about you and your business in the restroom. It was quite funny. I would add some pictures from this restaurant, but they had a no photographing policy.
We later found out the Lviv Coffee Mine and Legend's House are part of a group of local businesses in Lviv called Холдинг емоцій !Fest. They are a group of creative and unique businesses that are together trying to create a positive image of Lviv in particular and Ukraine in general. Here is a picture of another one of their restaurants, Львівська майстерня Шоколаду (Lviv Handmade Chocolate):

Their first initiative was Криївка (in English, The Bunker). It is a restaurant with a military theme. The restaurant itself has no sign on the street outside. You have to just know its location. To get in you have to say a password. It is supposed to be like a Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) bunker. The restaurant is located underground. I went there last year with my uncle. We had a really good time. 

The !Fest company has a mission statement that Yulia and I completely agree with. If I could translate it..."To create a unique space for positive emotions and impressions; to make ourselves, our city, and our country better." In fact, word for word that would also serve as a perfect mission statement for our blog. Yulia and I feel that we have found a group of very similar people to ourselves with different approaches to achieve the same thing. Right on.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Summer kitchen update

Saturday, August 31, 2013
By Michael
            I just wanted to update our blog with some pictures from the summer kitchen. Today we got the place ready for our friend Rick, who will be visiting us soon. Yulia and I are going to the city tomorrow, and we will be picking Rick up at the train station. We will bring him back here. He will be our first guest to spend the night. I sure hope we did a good job renovating the space. Since the last post about the summer kitchen, we covered the metal plates on the pichka with bricks and clay. When we fired the oven we noticed that smoke was coming through the slits in the plates. It’s an old pichka, so they don’t fit like they used to I guess. We also did not like the floor. It was too beat up and dirty to make for a comfortable living space, so we covered it with some carpet that we (luckily) had lying around. It softened up the space quite a bit. It sure feels cozy in there now!

Yulia hung some herbs off the unused gas pipe and put some nasturtiums she grew from seed on the table. She added firewood to the pichka, as well.

The evening light makes for a cool atmosphere in this picture. Pan Oleh was a sculptor. He sculpted that head on the table. It’s a copy of a Roman sculpture. We don’t know who he is, but we call him Nestor.