Making Zacuska and the importance of preserving traditions


I grew up in Romania in communist times. Back then, autumn was associated with making preserves, pickles of all sorts, making spreads for winter-time. The whole activity would start in August and end in October or early November. I remember our "enclosed balcony" having rows of shelves full of colourful jars of various colours and shapes. The staircase of the block of flats I lived in was full of yummy smells ... everybody was cooking...... this was our normality. I doubt much of this is happening nowadays as buying ready-made products is something imported from the West and many Romanians, like those in the West, have adopted the practice -but I might be wrong. I am sure that in the countryside the traditions are preserved but not that much in the towns. But my short post is not about the past, but about the now.

I started to make Zakuska only a few years ago ... out of curiosity, out of a longing for the taste that was so familiar to me - and I missed that taste a lot. 

There are lots of recipes for Zakuska that one can follow - some families even had their secret recipes passed down to them from generation to generation. I have followed quite a few recipes over the years simply out of curiosity but this year's is, I think,  my favourite. It is nicely written on a special recipe card and I am sure I will make it many times. Today I've made it for the third time this season. Why? Because I like it, because I like to cook it and gift it to my friends .....and because I like to make small batches. 

So, here we go ..this is what you need


1 kg onions

4 kg aubergines (grilled and peeled) approximately 2 kg of aubergine pulp 

1 kg red bell peppers 

2-3 garlic cloves

1  big grated carrot

150 ml sunflower oil

1 small cup of water 

This is a making process that you can start in one day and finish the next one - so do not hurry.

First of all you need to grill the whole peppers until the colour of the skin is black. Once grilled put them in a plastic bag and let them cool down. Once they are cool it will be easy to peel them.. Click on the link to have a clearer picture.

Next it is the turn of the aubergines. If you are lucky and you have an ethnic food shop in your area you might be lucky to find aubergines that are already roasted in a nice jar. If you don't, it's time to follow the same process as the bell peppers ... you need to grill them until the skin is black just like in this image. Once they cool down you should peel off the black skin and save the yummy middle in a sieve. Stand them for half an hour and then start chopping them both finely. Aubergines are key for this recipe of Zakuska. 

Now it's time for the onions ... chop them finely or use an electric chopper. Set them aside. Do the same for the garlic. 

At this stage you can pat yourself on the shoulder as the hard work is done. Take a big pot, add the sunflower oil, chopped aubergine, grated carrot, chopped red bell pepper, chopped onions, put them on a stove and stir for about 10 minutes. After that,  add the cup of water and put the pot in the oven at about 150 degrees celsius for about 3-4 hours stirring from time to time.

After that, scoop the content into glass jars and you are done. Put the lid on .... and you can start eating ... spread on a piece of bread, as a dip with vegetables, on top of pasta, added to casseroles ... there are endless possibilities.



Self explorations and who influenced your life



Mid September and I've felt the need to take advantage of another beautiful autumn day! Yep! A walk by the sea early in the morning followed by a bit of intuitive drawing and working on a few more pages from my therapeutical workbook “Self explorations”! The question was related to people who influenced my life ... such an easy answer for me ... so many reasons why, so much gratitude ... for Jane! I hope that you ... have at least one person who played an influential, inspiring role in your life! 



Why making your own natural cosmetics is the way to move forward in the modern days



As the weather is so much gentler in England (after weeks after weeks of relentless heat), I am back again in my experimenting phase ... this time I ve made ... for the first time a whipped body butter ... it has lots of fascinating ingredients ... argan oil, Shea butter, grape seed oil, Epsom salts, beeswax, frankincense essential oil.... it smells lovely, it feels really light on the skin ... it needs to be kept in the fridge as it is water based but who cares ... it s 100% natural ...apparently it helps people with rheumatic pain ... I don t know but apparently it does.....there is something magical about making your own skincare products ... really magical ...

I came across making cosmetics a couple of years ago ... I was already making cold pressed soaps and I've started to think what else can I do with all of the yummy ingredients ... with the divine butters, oils with exotic names? So ... the one who was in the driving seat for me was my CURIOUS side ... and this is how .... another world started to open in front of my eyes ... a world which keeps showing me new and exciting avenues. Not all products are a success of course but the success is even sweeter when one comes across a great recipe ... this product is really divine ... the funny thing is that I don't like to make cakes and batters but I have no problem making :) creams ... I have as much patience as is needed here :) 

So, if you want to make your own creams, soaps ... just start, start with the research phase and carry on ... I will start posting some little video on youtube with my step by step process ... the youtube channel is BEEHIVE ARTS STUDIO 




Paint your journals and simply relax


I usually paint my journal covers .... late at night. My muse is really happy to join me in the evening ... over a cup of tea and the occasional biscuit of little bit of chocolate.  In the little movie below you will see my cover no 9 and cover no 10 .... journals painted in the last 3 weeks. I approach journal covers as small canvases ... it is a great practice ground for any artist ... beginner or not. Have a go ... 

You can watch my creative process, the step by step journey ... the way the above journal has been created. Bellow you have the fourth video. You can find all of my videos on my YOUTUBE channel called BEEHIVE ARTS STUDIO 



Painting Buddha a journey


Painting Buddha is a state of mind. Painting Buddha is a journey ... Painting Buddha is each time a different experience. I know this ... as I am walking this talk .... probably the first Buddha I've painted was 3 years ago .... it was enough to get me hooked and I am sure it is the same for many artists who try their hand at a particular subject and feel a deep connection to it. It is a never-ending source of inspiration and a never-ending way of painting it .... colour wise, expression wise, energy wise .... 

It is even more interesting when you decide to paint on top of an older painting ... in my case, before I had a painting I called ... the dreamcatcher ... you can see it below .... 


I did this painting last year when I was experimenting with stencils ... I enjoyed painting it but I know a couple of weeks ago ... that I want to paint something else on top ... this is how it happens sometimes ... one feels that it is time for ... transformation ... and boy of boy this painting loved changing plenty of times. 

Once finished, the title came pretty fast ... it is ... The Dreamcatcher Buddha ... have a look at the video below ... and see the phases it went through ... 



The night blooming cereus or the queen of the night



2 years ago we ve been gifted 2 branches of a night blooming cereus ....a beautiful and interesting plant (the mother plant of the one we've been gifted) is coming from Grenada island ....little did we know that the plant will grow into a tree ...with such unusual, silky leaves ..and that have the first flower bud .....soooo exciting for us ...the flower is extraordinarily beautiful and it opens only during the night ....can t wait to witness its development!


Of course I will be taking photos regularly and post it's journey! I've read quite a few bits of articles ab out this plant and apparently it only flowers during one night  ... so one needs to almost guard :) the plant during the night to catch the moment of flowering or it will be missed alltogether .... or ... one needs to install a camera ... and film the process ... 


Creative routines


A brisk walk in the harbour just before the rain started ... so many gorgeous plants ... a few minutes of creativity unleashed and ... 15 minutes with my “Self explorations” workbook .. and a special journey down the memory lane ....fascinating how many memories came back to me connected to my very few trips to Russia ... memories deeply buried in my mind.....reclaiming bits of my life 🙂 ... I need an extra page as memories keep coming back to me 🙂 ... and now, Pilates!


The beginning of a new day


It's been a sequence of days, weeks and months lockdown .... days seems to be the same ... but are they? Of course not ... how about documenting your morning activities for the next 10 days .... 

This is how my morning started today .... with a cup of tea, a bit of reading and a bit of tai chi with my sober. I've devoured the last 20 pages of a book I love .... an autobiography again ... a talented Romanian illustrator and designer who at a similar age with me, was the witness of a monumental change in Romania ... in her case ... the change from a Monarchy with all of the political networks assigned to a democratic society, to a Communist Romania ... and in my case from a Communist Romania ... to a Wild West type of capitalism ..... 

A shame books like this one are not translated into English ... 

Musings from the garden


Musings from the garden ..... little did I know 4 years ago when I started my first class of wu dang tai chi that I will enjoy it and stick with it. Little did I know that once I graduated to the sabre form that I will enjoy it so much and that each time I come out in the garden the sabre will accompany me, next to my journal, book, pen and coffee ... but it does.


And also little did I know that my ambition to remember by heart the 5 forms I ve been taught will come so handy these days when I can and do practice on my own, in the garden or in the house. Ambition and determination always pays of ... this is what my father used to say. And it does! And as I am thinking about my parents, my mother used to say that ... I am like a crow ... oh well maybe this is why these lovely black creatures keep coming to me each time they see me


About Albania ... the beginning of a story



About Albania ......Memories ....are amazing .....they are collected somewhere in our mind and many times only a sound, a word, a smell, a person can bring them back to life .....this was the case yesterday when I was buying my takeaway coffee in the harbour ....Lola, the lovely waiter was Albanian (yes, when I “feel” a foreign accent, I want to find out where is it from). When I told her I went to Albania years ago on business and mentioned a bit of my adventures and love for her country, she had tears in her eyes. I know how it is. I am also a foreigner. What happened after that is even more interesting ....during the day I had an avalanche of flashbacks ...bits I completely forgot about ....vivid memories of my time in Saranda where I went for a “human trafficking prevention conference”, of the people I met and their dramatic experiences, the superb town/ resort was an absolute jewel of authenticity and peace (it reminded me of Balcic in the 1920’s when it was popular with artists, musicians, writers), of the hundreds of years old olive trees (this is where I fall in love with this tree), Tirana with the abundance of colourful terasa and young people being so fluent in many languages, the road from Tirana to Saranda which took hours and revealed a country of incredible beauty ....mountains, sea, hills ...peppered with the thousands of little military buildings, testimony of the paranoia of their communist leader, being stopped at point gun .....seeing military helicopters surveilling areas ....shortly the Kosovo conflict was going to start, delicious dinners with some of the other country managers of various American charities and so much more .....I cannot believe i was so lucky to have these experiences. Definitely it is time to write down properly my Albanian experiences will be in the book I am writing now .....the painting .....the tree ....could very well be.....memories of Albania