Saturday, November 12, 2016

Vegan Recipe Videos!

Hello dear blog-babies! Just wanted to link here to Clearly Veg's awesome new YouTube page filled with delicious, easy & vegan video recipes!

Some of the videos include Cauliflower Buffalo Bites (pictured above), Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie in a Jar, Spicy Coconut Pasta, and Vegan Carrot Hot Dogs!

Make sure to check it out and subscribe to the page to get all the latest recipe videos! 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Chicory Root as a Coffee Substitute

I swear to the heavens above every other day there is some new study about how coffee is either really good for you or the cause of all the problems in your life.

While I side with a much less dramatic version of the latter option, this post is more focused on an option for those who either want to stop drinking coffee for whatever reason, or just want to decrease their overall consumption. Or for those who want to enjoy a cup in the late evening without staying up all night thinking about past mistakes or scenes from horror movies that feature ghosts and/or aliens.

While I used to never drink coffee regularly, due to my time in Armenia and surprisingly Germany, I became a lot more accustomed to a morning Armenian/Middle Eastern/Turkish/Greek style coffee (no one can get offended!) and really like adding some cardamom pods in there (Syrian style?). While I never get any of the notorious caffeine-withdrawal headaches when I don't drink it, coffee still usually makes me more hyper (in a negative way), makes my heart beat faster, leaves me super dehydrated, and I become a non-stop peeing machine. 1/84 times I become slightly more focused and productive though, just like in the commercials.
"You gonna die"
I do, however, like the taste of coffee. And since I know many people who feel they are addicted to it, or want to enjoy it late in the evening without becoming an owl, I am going to highlight chicory root as a substitute.

A friend had mentioned chicory root to me a while back, and it always stayed in my head. It is caffeine-free, helps with digestion (stimulating flow of bile), supports healthy intestinal flora via inulin, and is anti-bacterial. Apparently it grows like a weed and is found in Armenia, too!

In terms of taste, smell and even appearance, it is one of the best coffee substitutes I have ever tried and you can modify it easily to make it stronger/weaker/sweeter/more bitter. You can prepare it like a tea or add it to your coffee machine. I've found it at a health food store and in a Russian market a friend recommended for Georgian spices. Here are the types I found:
The first one is similar to instant powdered coffee and has some cowberry and blueberry in there, making it more mild than the second one. You can legit make this one as a tea with no steeping necessary (1 heaping tbsp to one mug, stir, and voila!). The second is from the health food store and requires a little steeping if made tea-style. Both, however, are a-okay for coffee machines.
When I use the coffee machine, I add one spoon for each cup of water (powdered: heaping, non-powdered: a little less) and add cinnamon and cardamom. It is absolutely perfect and although I have had some fails when I go too wild with experimenting, when made right it tastes exactly like coffee. Only my dad did not get fooled but it was because I added too much cinnamon that time and he knew something was up. I will trick him.
You can enjoy it plain like this (look at that colour!) or add what you usually add to coffee. In my case, it is Silk's coconut milk, which I am a little obsessed with (I wish this was a paid advertisement). Soon I will just use oat or almond milk! Not today, though:
So good. And whether you crave coffee for its taste, out of habit, or for the kind of addiction that makes you buy weird coffee-themed mugs, chicory root is the best substitute I have ever come across. Just experiment a little and find your perfect recipe!

Note: When buying chicory root, make sure to check out the ingredients! It is sometimes added to coffee to enhance the flavour, which of course means it is not caffeine-free!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Toronto's Garlic Festival!

Being downtown for a month means that I can finally be less sketchy in attending all of the events that are always happening in Toronto.

With a German by my side, it also means I have to be everywhere on time--if not earlier. Against my true nature, I rebel whenever possible. For the Toronto Garlic Festival that took place on Sunday September 18 from 9 to 5, I convinced Bjorn we should go later on in the day cause no one really wants to smell like garlic at 9am. We arrived around 3 after a long walk, but before entering decided to cool off in the shade and of course play backgammon:
The Little Prince!
We went in shortly after and were impressed right away by the cute stamps, and it took me about four photos to get this one because I am an artist:
It was just $5 to enter for the day, and the crowd was quite impressive, all surrounding the various booths inside and outside:
We were promised garlic shots, garlic popsicles, garlic beer, garlic fudge, and a lot of other garlic-based foods and drinks. We prioritized:
Shortly after, we were offered our complimentary garlic shot. I assumed it would be shots of juiced garlic but boy was I wrong. A full garlic clove was crushed directly on our wrists and we were instructed to eat cilantro and then suck on a lemon sliver, like a tequila shot. We both did it and grew stronger immediately:
After realizing that we missed all the workshops, we went inside to see some of the different booths to try some samples. Bjorn tried black garlic and I tried garlic fudge and we were both really impressed and lived vicariously through each others' experiences. We ventured back outside and I saw the booth selling vegan garlic pospsicles with grapefruit and gamay wine. Absolutely delicious and I even tasted a hint of the garlic in it!
He doesn't look impressed but he was!
After that we just walked around more, checking out the different areas but had to leave shortly after to meet a friend, who we felt bad for since we had both just taken raw garlic shots. The festival was fun and the stuff we tried was delicious and next year I would actually come earlier to make it to some of the workshops!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

My Article 'Bring Home Flavours From Your Travels' on FBC!

I am so happy to have contributed to Food Bloggers of Canada! Check out my piece that offers some tips on how you can re-create dishes from your travels at home right here!

North America's First Vegan Butcher Shop Set for Expansion!

I was finally able to visit YamChops, Canada's only vegan butcher shop, and learned about some very exciting news! Check out my review & the upcoming plans for expansion right here!

Monday, June 6, 2016

'Armenia's Horse Whisperers' Published in The Armenian Weekly!

I am so happy to have visited and learned more about the incredible Centaur Hippotherapy Center in Armenia. Check out my article about the center and about the two incredible women who run it, right here!
Photo by Hasmik Hovhannisian

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Spotlight: Toronto's Apiecalypse Now!

Being back in Canada means it's time to check out some of the new vegan restaurants and shops that have opened up. On a recent trip downtown with the always awesome Shaghig, we decided to get dessert. She took me to a gluten-free bakery she discovered recently, and said it was one of the few places where their gluten-free chocolate muffins or cupcakes were not super dense, and told me their vegan items were also great.
I went for a vegan chocolate chip cookie since I had been craving them for a long time, and while most of their items are vegan, some contain eggs, but everything is labeled clearly. 
The last one.
The staff was also super friendly and sweet and hyper and there was cucumber water so that's always a plus. The cookie looked simple but was delicious and exactly what I was craving. Shaghig enjoyed her pretty cupcake too!
Pretty photo so it is by Shaghig of course.
But I digress. I found myself hungry and knowing there was the potential of having vegan pizza got into my head and made me even hungrier. While I didn't know Apiecalypse Now! had moved from their Bloor/Bathurst location to Christie, it was still a short walk away so all was good. But they should probably put a sign on their old storefront so the man in the shop above doesn't get too annoyed with confused people asking where the vegan pizza is at.

The new location is right beside a conventional pizza chain, which I mentioned to Shaghig like three times, thinking it was super interesting (it wasn't).
Raccoons for life.
The aroma inside was incredible and made me very happy with my decision. At first glance I saw colourful and super detailed vegan doughnuts, but reminded myself I just had a massive cookie and was here for pizza.
There were a bunch of different pizza options (including a mac 'n cheese one) and I chose the simple pepperoni pizza, and for $3-something dollars, it was heated and given to me. Before even biting into it, I saw that they had nutritional yeast, hot pepper, and vegan Parmesan for toppings, and was quite generous with all three of them, with Shaghig telling me I should just keep a jar of za'atar with me at all times since that is what I always secretly want. No regrets!
I then ate it. It was very creamy, the sauce was great, and the dough could stand on its own feet. I then went to the park with Shaghig, realized I was still hungry and came back for a second, almost feeling embarrassed. While I could have been interesting and tried a different type, I was in boring-mode of "I'll take no risks thank you" and got the same type. I really appreciated how creamy the cheese was and the fact that the bread was made with with spices and those seeds I can never label, but the pepperoni, by the second slice, was my least favourite part cause of its super strong flavour, like the company who made it was all 'WE WILL TRICK THE NON-VEGANS MUAHAHHA'. But it was still very good and clearly made me go for a second slice and do my excited uneven-eye food smile!
I would definitely go back to try some different pizzas, and maybe even indulge in a vegan doughnut. Maple sugar, I am looking at you. And to rocky road. Ok, I will eat them all.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Live Out There: My First Time Trail Running

My blog post for Live Out There, titled 'My First Time Trail Running: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly', has just been published!

You can check it out right here!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Spotlight: Homemade & Healthy in Yerevan

Keeping up with my new wannabe 'Spotlight' feature, this time I am focusing on Homemade and Healthy, an awesome initiative from Anush from the incredible Khachatryan family!

Being BFF with Gohar, aka superwoman, comes with many benefits (tee hee), including always having access to what her equally awesome twin sister Anush was cooking or baking. Everything I have ever tried from her has been absolutely delicious, and her brownies are still talked about by all those who have had the pleasure to try them (and devour them).

Not only are Anush's products healthy, delicious, and at very fair prices, she is always open to taking special requests (vegan, raw, gluten-free, allergies, etc.) and experimenting, which is why my new favourite thing is her toasted peanut butter with cinnamon and coconut oil.

I regularly buy her almond and peanut butters and granola, and a recent trip to her house left me sampling her delicious real ginger candies, and even some delicious liquors! That was a good day.

You can check out her Facebook page here to see some of her products and prices, and know that she also takes requests as well. Plus both Anush and Gohar are vegetarians, so you can make fun of meat and laugh together.
Toasted peanut butter & nut/seed-packed granola!

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Making of Basoots Dolma (Պասուց Դոլմա)!

This is a dramatic title, yes. But it deserves it. I've been pretty obsessed with Lenten (Basoots) dolma/Պասուց դոլմա since I first discovered it in Armenia. While I have eaten every dolma and sarma the region of my people offers--which does include the wonderfully vegan yalanchi sarma, I never knew about the equally delicious and healthier option (complete protein!) of basoots dolma (often written as basooc) until I came to Armenia. Since in Western Armenian we say Bahk/Պահք for Lent, it didn't click in that this was meant to be a dish for Lent, and it was therefore vegan. It is essentially pickled cabbage stuffed with beans, lentils, chickpeas, grains and spices, and is absolutely delicious--especially if the cabbage is cooked well.
While it is available in many restaurants and even supermarkets, I had the goal of making it myself. The closest I had ever gotten was going over to my friend Arpine's house to watch her mom make it and add in some commentary and annoying questions. This year was the year I would actually make it I decided, with a little (a lot of) help from Arpine, Arpine's awesome mom, Gohar, and Björn. While the cabbage should be pickled in advance, I pretended Arpine's busy schedule was the reason I didn't pickle my own cabbage, and instead bought an impressively large pickled cabbage from the one and only Gumi Shuga. This was 1/2 shortcuts I took.
Sweetest bean lady ever with the best selection of locally grown stuff!
We bought the beans and grains necessary, and made the decision to cook them until they were almost fully cooked, to make the end process easier/shorter. In proper grandma style, you should of course pickle your own cabbage and cook the dish for hours until every bean is soft and perfect, but if you feel "you don't got time for that", try our lazy version. Shortcut 2/2. So, here it is!

Ingredients for the Lazy Person's Guide to Basooc Dolma:
-1 cup chickpeas
-1 cup red kidney beans
-1 cup green lentils
-1 cup bulgur (smallest one)
-Pickled cabbage, from the nice lady at Gumi
-4-5 small/regular onions, chopped up real nice
-2 TBSP salchaa! (Tomato paste) + 1-2 TBSP for boiling
-Fresh or dried dill (depending on season)
-Fresh or dried basil (samezies)
-Bunch of fresh parsley
-Red pepper
-Black pepper

That's it! So in our version we bought all the beans and legumes necessary, and soaked them overnight, and cooked them in the morning until they were significantly softened but not fully cooked. We rinsed off the bulgur and mixed it in with the beans, which would soften them too, although bulgur does cook fast so we only did this so we wouldn't have to carry too many separate things. We took the cabbage and bean/legume/grain mix over to Arpine's house, and began.
First, Arpine's mom soaked some of the cabbage we bought so some of the salt could be washed away and so it would soften. We then removed the thick stems from each one since they have no place in basooc dolma. There will be a use for them, however! (Spoiler alert: to line the bottom of your pot so your precious dolmas don't burn)
Then, we had to chop the onions to cook them in the oil and add them to the mix. Gohar handled this and did a great job. She was also the only reason there are photos, since I used her phone. Here she is chopping away:
Next, you put these onions into a pan and cook them with oil. While they are cooking, you can do other things to get the recipe moving.
It was time to chop the parsley, and surprise surprise, Gohar volunteered because everyone had complimented her onion-skills. I think she was showing off but whatever.
Spice and mixing time! Arpine's mom led us through this, and added generous sprinkles of dried dill, purple basil, black pepper, red pepper and salt. I have a photo of all the colours for you:
Next it was time to add the salcha. While you can get small jars of salcha in Armenia with normal lids, there are also the larger ones that you need a special opener for and after a few times of accidentally buying the non-easy ones, I had to learn how to open them my own way. That way was a knife. Here is Arpine's mom trying to open it, but what you won't see is that I stepped in and impressed everyone with my strategy that only led to small amounts flying over the kitchen:
Step aside, Arpine's amazing mom.
After this, you can add the salcha and onions to the mix, and mix it all together with the spices so it is ready.
It will smell and look so tasty but you must be strong and only sample it for the noble reasons of making sure it has enough of everything!
Unfortunately, Gohar came, saw, sampled, conquered, and then peace'd the hell out. So any photos of us rolling this mixture and the hilarious shenanigans of Arpine trying to play The Little Prince for us so we wouldn't get bored are not documented.

To sum it up: Arpine tried to play the movie we all wanted to watch and we were all ready to say "it's not as good as the book!" but then the volume was creepily low and none of us could hear anything over the action of dolma-rolling. We decided to just talk to each other instead which I excelled at. Arpine's mom was the best at rolling and her tip was to put just enough mixture in the center, roll it up while sealing one end, and then sealing the second one so they wouldn't come apart. She warned us a few times that a few of ours were okay for now, but that they wouldn't survive the boil. Truer words have never been spoken.

After all this, you essentially lay some excess cabbage leaves down (the ripped ones, for example) or the stems you didn't use to line the bottom of a pot (they are the real heroes):
Next up, gently add all of the baby dolmas to the pot, and as Arpine's mom said, make sure it is a tight fit so they cook well and we avoid too many coming undone!
Then we prepared the liquid these babies would boil in! Mix about 1-2 TBSP more salcha with about two cups of warm or hot water:
Pour this mixture over the dolmas in the pot, and then add more water to make sure they are covered:
Arpine's mom said to put something heavy on top so it all stays together. We put something I just don't remember what - a plate? Then you boil it on medium/low heat with a lid on and let it cook and soften. We cooked it for about one hour, and while it was delicious and the bottom and middle ones were perfect, there were a few on top that could have stayed longer, so maybe try 1.5 hours. The result? Ohhhh man:
Delicious, hearty, filling, and I even became "basooc'd out" by the second day. But I loved it and will aim to make it again, this time pickling the cabbage too and being a full-on nene!

Photos by Gohar!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Guest Post: Eating Vegan While Traveling Russia

Hello dear blog-babies! This week, I am featuring a guest post from Jess Signet over at Tripelio, on eating vegan in the land of Russia. I often make jokes about Russian "salads" in Armenia being lathered in mayonnaise and featuring cubes of some mystery meat, so I was very interested in this topic, and when I make my way over to Russia, will definitely use it as a guide! So without further adieu, check out this awesome guest post:


Eating Vegan While Traveling Russia

I would like to thanks Lena for publishing this article. Her site is a great place to get some amazing health and travel tips, for vegans and non-vegans alike! After reading this article I recommended you check out this post on red lentil soup—a great vegan recipe to have in your back pocket!

For vegans, traveling can be quite a daunting concept. Many countries are far from vegan friendly, and due to language barriers, trying to get a realistic idea about just what is in the food your eating can be a near-impossible task. The last thing we want to happen is to be stuck somewhere with only chips to eat or have to compromise our diet choices because we can’t be sure what’s vegan-friendly.

Russia is a country that’s well known for its meat heavy dishes and lashings of sour cream, so in short, it appears to be a vegan’s worst nightmare. However, with just a little bit of forward planning, it becomes apparent that, like most places, eating vegan is possible if you do the research. Here’s how to enjoy your trip to Russia while staying true to your vegan lifestyle.

Visiting the Main Monuments
Russia is a place of fascinating history and vibrant culture, and therefore, there are plenty of iconic landmarks to visit. The Kremlin and the Red Square in Moscow are a vivid and stunning nod back to the era of the Soviet Union, as well as being places of astounding architecture in their own right. For art lovers, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersberg holds a remarkable art collection on the equally impressive ex-site of the old Winter Palace, which is also just a short ten-minute walk away from St. Isaac’s Cathedral. However, it goes without saying that when visiting these places you’re going to need to stop for something to eat. Luckily, there are more vegan options that you’d realize around these well-known sites.

…and Their Local Vegan Restaurants

First, The Happy Cow is a great website that shows vegetarian and vegan eateries in every country in the world. The site claims that there are 39 restaurants and health food shops in Moscow and a whopping 54 in St. Petersburg, so there’s definitely no shortage of places to try. However, it’s important to remember that if you plan to access this website when you’re overseas, it’s a good idea to use a VPN to protect your personal data from being stolen while you’re connected to insecure public WiFi networks.

Alongside vegan-specific spots, many Russian restaurants offer veggie accompaniments, such as stuffed peppers and salads, which can be made vegan friendly. For example, Stolovava 57—located right next to the Red Square and the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral—allows guests to choose salads or buckwheat-based dishes and then pick their own dressing separately. Similarly, there are many hearty winter soup dishes that are made from vegetables and potatoes and are completely vegan-friendly.

Veganism in the Sticks

Although there is a wide array of vegan options in the more metropolitan cities, things do seem to get a little bit harder as you travel out into the countryside. However, if you look hard enough, there are veggie-loving individuals all over this great country that offer places to stay and vegan options for their guests. For example, Uncle Pasha’s Dacha—a horse ranch based near Starista in the countryside between Moscow and St. Petersburg—where Uncle Pasha himself offers a fully-vegetarian menu, which can easily be made vegan with a few alterations. Other than this, smaller towns may have their own weekly agricultural food markets, so you can get your hands on some fresh fruit and vegetables, which brings us on to our next point!
Home Cooking

When traveling with specific diet requirements, home cooking can be your best friend. There may be places where there are no vegan options—either because it’s not considered or because, very often, restaurants can run out of specialty items—so it’s always good to have a fallback option handy. Many hostels and guesthouses are fitted with kitchens that are available for guest use, so having a few back-up recipes on hand that use simple, everyday ingredients that you can pick up from the local store or market means that you’ll never have to go hungry. Whether you try to stay authentic to the local cuisine and rustle up some Russian inspired Squash Cavier (Kabachkovaya Ikra) or a hearty Russian soup such as Saurkraut Shchi, or go more generic with a good old ratatouille or vegetable broth, having these recipes in your back pocket can be a godsend for any traveling vegan.

Veggies For The Road

The final thing to consider when traveling Russia is the sheer size of the place. Because of this it’s highly likely that you’ll be spending a large about of your time in transit. Whether you chose to embark on one of the countries epic train rides, such as the world famous Trans-Siberian Express, or you are just traveling between separate stop-off destinations, you’re sure to encounter a time where you need to eat while on-the-move. Fortunately, with a bit of forward planning, you can easily pick up a few vegan snacks and pack up some meals so you don’t have to go hungry. Many supermarkets in the main cities do stock vegan products—such as soy pudding and even kale burgers—and similarly, some of the vegan cafes offer takes-out options of vegan tarts and other treats. Plus, there are always generic snacks such as crisps, nuts and dried fruit that can help you along the way. In short, as long as you pre-prepare and don’t expect to be able to grab a vegan meal on the train, then you’ll never find yourself short of food while traveling.

Being vegan in Russia is surprisingly less of a daunting task than you might first perceive it. Sure, you’re going to have to get used to the trays and trays of meat and the quizzical looks when you ask about vegan options in mainstream restaurants, but if you look hard enough, you’ll find there’s plenty of delicious vegan options within the local cuisine and many recipes you can cook yourself.

If you’re a vegan who’s experienced eating in Russia and you have any more tips to add to this list, then be sure to comment below.

About the Author: Jess Signet is an avid traveler and enjoys writing about her adventures. Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble she lives in makes her want to travel even further. Traveling is her drug, and she’s addicted. (Please, no intervention!)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Getting Adopted in Garni/Geghart!

With Björn's mom in town, we all decided to go to Garni and Geghart on a Saturday in October. I have been there a few times, but not for a while so I was happy to revisit the area. Last time I was there, it was with Allegra and Rita, where we found a great place to hike, but my horribly worn out shoes fell apart on one of the hills and this happened:
That morning as Björn and I were heading over, I saw that my neighbour, who had a jealousy-inducing quince tree, was getting some help in picking the quinces off the tree--with some interesting homemade tools. I really craved one so I had a mischievous plan to ask if they were apples, and after correcting me, he told me I must try how delicious the Armenian sergefil is. I felt a little guilty but it was delicious and a perfect breakfast and we are friends now.
Bjorn is a hand model in Germany
We got to the bus stop on Mashtots, to catch a bus to Gai Station in Massiv, which is where the buses to get to Garni leave from. As we were waiting, a man with a falcon on his arm walked right passed us to get to a mashtooka, where the poor bus driver just stared in disbelief. 

After advice from the all-knowing Gohar, I decided to ask the bus driver not for Gai Station, since it was the formal name, but rather for the Massiv shuga station, since she assured me that was how it was known. It worked right away and the bus driver told us he would let us know when we got there, with two other passengers also helping us out.

About 10 to 15 minutes later we reached the area and were happy to see the bus station was just really a non-hectic parking lot with lots of Garni-bound buses and mashootkas parked. We found the one that was leaving the soonest and claimed our seats, with me of course noticing how much Björn and his mom, as they spoke German to each other, were stared at. Compared to them, I was invisible.
Before the bus began moving, an older and very elegant looking couple boarded, with the husband sitting on one seat and the wife sitting beside me, jokingly asking if I had been reserving it specifically for her. The wife began talking to me non-stop, asking me every question imaginable, and then focused her attention on Björn and his mother, who were sitting directly in front of us. She asked what Björn's mom's relation to Björn was, because "she was much too young to be his mother", and then asked me to ask her if her hair colour was natural (it is).

After inquiring about our plans in Garni and Geghart, she told me that her and her husband simply went out to the nearby shop for some light shopping, and after seeing what a sunny and beautiful day it was, the husband said "let's go to Garni!" and she agreed.

During this trip, a reoccurring joke that never stopped being funny was that whenever something absurd would happen, the wife would look at me and say "I just wanted to go to the shop!"

After this particular discussion, the husband proclaimed they were adopting us and they would make sure we would see both Garni and Geghart their way. The bus went to Garni and they both convinced the driver to take us to Geghart, telling him they would rather pay him extra than pay for a taxi. The driver agreed. When we arrived, the man payed for all of us, and told us not to argue, as they were "adopting us". As we arrived, the husband saw some friends right away.
As soon as we began walking, the husband bought many soujoukhs and gatta and kept giving us all pieces of both saying "Ger! Ger!" (Eat! Eat!). He really did not take no for an answer, so I learned to eat a piece of soujoukh extremely slowly so I could always say I still had some left. (Muahaha)
There is even kiwi-based soujoukh nowadays!
We walked around with our jolly couple laying down some facts, and with the husband singing when we were inside the monastery with a very nice and pronounced voice.
Of course I have a habit of making fun of these types of signs, but this particular one  just set the bar up for me. Please note the emphasis on the very excited dog:
We then saw the spring where the water would come in through the walls of the monastery, and we all filled our bottles with what is considered to be holy water. It did taste very refreshing. The wife noted that people threw coins in there too, and asked, "what place does such an unholy thing like money have in there?"
We went outside to appreciate the view, and the couple said we could go to the area where people tended to camp. On the stairs there was a wedding shoot taking place so we all had to awkwardly wait for it to end, which it didn't, so we opted to clumsily walk around it, hoping we weren't as disruptive as we felt.

Once we got to the other side, where the river began, we could see where people would put their "wishes" on trees, and create mini rock statues. It was here that the husband yelled "PARI LOUYS!" (good morning!), saying it was for the mountains, and told us that every time we saw mountains so beautiful, we had to acknowledge them. Björn let out an impressive one, and the mountains seemed pleased with us.
Apparently there are no buses that go between Garni and Geghart (can that be true?), and I do remember last time we hiked to get to them both, so the couple ordered a taxi to take us. It was only during this time that I finally felt a little overwhelmed: we were all a bit squished in the car, with the wife telling me stories in one ear, and the husband forcing everyone (including the driver) to eat on the other side. I hate the middle spots in cars. After poor Björn and his mom tried to refuse any more food, with the husband trying to force them to take/eat more, the wife finally told him "they only eat when they are hungry, they are not like us". It was cute and worked temporarily.

We got to Garni and we stopped by the stands first, where the husband went wild again and bought something from every vendor, asking questions and getting to know them as well. We were too soujoukhed-out to even think about eating more. He bought two kinds of wine, one called majjar, and another regular, saying the former was made differently, and was lighter. We sat on the bench where we all enjoyed some wine, and Björn toasted to them, which they appreciated.
The last time I went to Garni was for the Vahakni holiday, which all happened outside, so I guess I forgot going inside requires tickets now. The husband payed for all of us, and this time we tried to be more stern and refuse, but he said it was done and that we were his adopted guests, and that they shouldn't be charging at all.
We went inside and we all kind of did our own thing, and I took some photos I was actually impressed with afterwards of the gorge. We agreed next time we would focus mostly on hiking through that beautiful area.
The husband then called us all over, and said he knew the best spot to really witness an incredible view. He took us to a fenced area, and we all squeezed through, and left our bags on the side. He told us it was technically owned as a "backyard" now, but that he believed the view should not be limited and therefore wasted. We went to the edge, where he and his wife reminded us to be very cautious (falling here=death) and the husband began to sing.
He then asked me to sing and I told him I had a very...unappealing singing voice. The wife said she believed me but he said he didn't. Conclusion: I didn't have to sing. A few minutes later, we could see people beyond the gate looking over, either envying out bad-assery, or wondering how we got there. The owner came out soon after with a very serious face, and we all headed back, with the couple stopping to explain why we were there. The owner seemed to end up being okay about it.

The husband then become annoyed that a nearby spring was not working, and was convinced it was just due to a switch in the sewer, and made it his life's mission to get it to work.
Soon, as we all predicted, he requested the help of "the blonde guy" (aka Björn). I couldn't resist getting a photo:
The plan did not work and we felt it was a good time as any to start heading out. We then saw this adorable chubster dog who clearly was fed way too many sweets lying around, and pet him while the vendors confirmed he was fed well:
We all walked together for a bit to the closest mashootka stop, with the wife telling me all the original names of famous Armenian poets. While waiting at the stop, the husband tried to offer us more sweets and wine, but we could not handle any more, and I think he couldn't either, because he didn't attempt to push.

They invited us to have khash with them the following day, but we let them know we were 2/3 vegetarian and he said he was one too, but that he always made an exception for khash, making us all laugh.

The bus eventually arrived--packed, but Björn, his mother and I boarded it, and realized the couple did not, as they wanted to wait for a more comfortable ride. As a result we had a very quick and rushed parting, with me shouting out my number to them.

We all regretted not being able to properly thank them and treat them to dinner in Yerevan. Instead, we have this nice group photo as a reminder of the adoptive couple who went to a shop on a sunny day, and who, luckily for us, dropped everything to go somewhere to appreciate a beautiful day:
They might call!