Monday, March 24, 2014

Italy and then Back in Kyiv...

We have been back in Kyiv now for over 2 weeks.  Yes, the situation here remains very tense but for now we have settled back into our normal lives.  Gio is back in school and Maria continues to embrace solid foods with glee.  Here are some shots, mostly of Maria eating (will she hate me when she is older for all of these??)....
Still in Italy here.  Bananas are a particular favorite.

Maria's hair defies logic. 
Green beans and pasta cooked in olive oil
Maria slathered in said olive oil!

The morning of her 7-month birthday.  Gio is less enthusiastic about the milestone.



The weather in Italy was perfect.  Gio and I introduced Maria to her first swing. 


This is what big brothers are for!
Time to go back to Kyiv...the drive to the airport was a sleepy one.

Hairstylin' by Mama!
Plastic avocado, anyone?



Here is a video of Gio entertaining Maria with a party blower....



Salt and Pepper taking a much-deserved rest (Gio keeps them very busy when he gets home from school!)
Pepper LOVES it when I serve salmon for dinner!
Sushi!




A morning snuggle
Sometimes Gio passes out after a long day at school.  Maria gets impatient for her beloved brother to wake up and play!
After many years of wondering I finally discovered what a bidet is for....cat napping!
Maria began teething this month.  Gumming on cold strawberries and cucumbers seems to be helping a bit...
Clearly has inherited her papa's love for strawberries....


...and her mama's hair styling talents! 
A new day....a new fruit.  Raspberries!!



Yum!!
Maria is not the only one getting bigger in our family.  Look at giant Gio!
These pants, size 8, barely fit him!
Some Monday morning shots....



That's it for now.  We leave in a few weeks for Spring Break in Italy.  We will be there April 19-May 3.  We hope you are enjoying the beginning of Spring wherever you happen to be.

Hugs, Clara

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Yanukovych's Shack

When Yanukovych fled Ukraine on Friday he left behind his palatial estate.  Quickly the protestors took possession and opened it to the public to show "what corruption built."  After seeing media coverage of the house and grounds Paolo and I could not resist any longer and drove out to see it for ourselves.  The compound is about 15 km outside of Kyiv at the end of a road filled with American-style suburban houses.
In typical Ukrainian fashion there were many entrepreneurs already set up at the entrance.  Bicycles for rent (the property is HUGE)... 
...and at least 20 coffee trucks. 
Once we passed the guards (men in police uniform alongside protestors in army fatigues) who did perfunctory pat downs on the men entering, we entered a place like nothing we had ever seen in Ukraine.  Orderly....
impeccably manicured....
with careful attention to every detail.
Here is Paolo in front of the main house.  This looks really nice from a distance (think Swiss chalet on steroids) but once you get close all I could see was tackiness and a virtual mess of conflicting styles.  For instance, the bottom two floors (the gray you see in this photo) are made of stone and marble including corinthian columns. How does ANYONE think that corinthian columns go with anything??
Right next to the house is this display of Roman ruins.  I do hope they are fake.  With this crook, one cannot be sure.  Love the horse head.  Fitting for such a mafia overlord.

It is like Gio was given a huge box of building materials and told to construct his own mansion.   
Once we checked out the main house we decided to tour around the property.  It is remarkable how enormous this place is and how perfectly everything was maintained.  We happen to know the man in charge of the landscaping here as he is one of our dog friends in the park.  We had no idea how large a project he had here. I wonder if he ever got paid this month?
To get an idea of the scale, I was standing on the bridge you just saw looking up at the house....
And now I have turned 180 degrees and am looking down at the river.
Funny road signs considering no one was driving around here other than Yanukovych and his cronies.  
Part of the zoo- many exotic birds.  I do worry who is caring for them now.  

Once down on the river we had to see the infamous "Galleon."  Yes, he named his ship "Galleon".  Sort of like naming your new baby "Boy" or your brand new summer home "House".


The scene down on the waterfront: man-made ponds, bridges, party houses, outdoor ovens, etc...

The property on the right is still his- for as far as the eye can see. 
None of the properties were open but here at the ship I could see into one window.
 A tacky explosions of ornate, gilded stuff.  
Even a bottle of Yanukovych vodka (see his face on the middle bottle).
This house on the property was filled with protestor-types walking back and forth.  Perhaps where the journalists are scouring through papers?
I was very curious to go into this greenhouse apparently filled with flowers and banana trees, but it was closed up tight. 
Artificial turf tennis.
Ukrainian women NEVER miss an opportunity to pose, even at the home of an evil dictator who had stolen billions of their tax dollars to build this place. 
Finally time to leave.  An interesting visit but sickening to see how much this man had taken from the Ukrainian people.  
Outside the main gates were garages apparently filled with cars.  We were not allowed inside. 
The main gate. 
As a contrast, here is one of Yanukovych's closest neighbors.  A Lada and a burned out building.  
Once home we laughed at the cat house we had recently bought for Salt and Pepper- sort of the cat version of Yanukovych's palace of corruption!
At least Pepper seems to like his new home!
For now we are staying put, but there are days when I think we should follow the advice of this sign (thank you, Kirsten, for this one!).....