Monday, 17 November 2008


This week we had to take a trip into Madona and we spotted a butchers tucked away that we hadn't noticed before. I have mentioned before how shops here in Latvia are often tucked away and you cannot be sure what they are until you actually go in, and hopefully it is a shop and not someone's home with the door open (slight exaggeration I know but some places do look like homes at first). Shops in most countries I have been to have large window fronts so that you know exactly what is inside, as well as large advertising signs to let you know before you even get near the shop. At least now I am beginning to recognise the words on the signs which helps to identify what is inside. Anyway when we got into the butchers there wasn't a huge amount of meat out and I couldn't translate the sign at first but the lady behind the counter pulled out a big piece of meat and held it up - it looked like beef, one lady put up her hands to her head and as if she had horns, and said cow in English - it was beef! We haven't seen beef since early on in the year, we have seen pork and pork and errr pork and occasionally chicken but not beef, even the mince (ground meat) is pork. Needless to say we bought it. It is now cut up into two pieces for roasting, two lots for casseroles or pies and there were two slices for braised beef with onions and mushrooms. You would think with this statement that perhaps we are huge meat lovers, which is not really the truth, I make a little bit of meat go a long way with lots of veg which I do love. It is funny what you would really like though when you can't get it and the chance of some beef was just a little too tempting. The next night I also made a steak and mushroom pie - lovely!

For Ian's birthday in September he got 4 DVD's of  "The Good Life" (Good Neighbours as it was called in America). For those too young to remember (sigh!) It is about Tom and his wife Barbara who at the age of 40 decides to leave the rat race and become self-sufficient and chronicles their attempt and their relationship with their two neighbours Jerry and Margot. It is very funny and we loved it as kids when it first came out. What is really weird is how our life has somehow paralleled the series. Ian is now without a job at the age of 45 and we have got back into the swing of growing our own veg and next year we might even look at raising some animals for meat, and growing on a slightly bigger scale. 

We have had chickens in the past and we miss having our own fresh eggs. It isn't until you raise your own you realise how old supermarket eggs actually are. I could never understand the old method of poaching an egg by using metal rings placed in boiling water, you then drop the egg into the centre of the ring to poach it. I always found that the eggs seeped under the ring and made a mess and just thought the whole old method was really stupid. When we got our own hens however in England, I found out that the egg whites are a lot thicker and won't seep out, in fact they are a pain if you want a hard boiled egg because the shell comes away with the egg white. To get a decent hard boiled egg the egg needed to be about 7 days old, then the white would separate from the shell relatively easily. Since boiled eggs were never a problem with supermarket eggs I have to deduce they are at least 7 days old by the time you get them, not a problem for health reasons but certainly not the freshest.

We had to take a trip into Riga for a meeting so we took the chance to do a bit of shopping. I managed to find a pie dish as my old dish had cracked. I only remembered that it had cracked the night I wanted to make the steak and mushroom pie (isn't that always the way?) and that was after hunting through the various places I have kitchen stuff as I still don't have my new kitchen yet, so there are at least three different possible places to look. In the end I had to use the lid of one of my pyrex dishes. One other thing we managed to find at last was a dehumidifier, and we are now in the process of trying to reverse the penetration of damp into our belongings that happened in the month of October before we got regular heat but plenty of damp days. We have a few pieces of wooden furniture that have swelled with the damp and a few of our books went mouldy, as well as some walls. Not useful! Still it is working well and we must have pulled at least a litre of water out of the air, which doesn't sound a lot until you realise that air holds around 20g per cubic meter at 21C to be fully saturated and our dehumidifier is set to 55% humidity so the air will have 11g of water in 1 cubic meter by the time it finishes. Our flat is around 183 cubic meters so should have around 2 kg of water at 55% humidity in the air so 1 litre of water which weighs 1kg is a lot of water. Hope your following this! Do you realise how long it took me to get the answer to that question?

Anyway the reason for going to Riga to do the above shopping was in fact to attend another meeting with Steve Janz and a group of people interested in doing camp work next year. Steve wants people to see camps not as a means to an end but as part of an ongoing build up in relationships with children and youth and also communities. The last meeting we were at one lady was talking about how it was difficult to get children to go on camps as their parents were reluctant to let their children go, especially if they didn't know the leader or the organisation organising the event very well which is very understandable. This week she was talking about the difficulty in getting involved as she has four children and when the tents hold enough for 1 adult with four children in order to be able to build relationships, then she is not really able to help much. I asked the lady about the possibility of inviting families and she got quite excited about the idea. She could see a church getting together to have a week away camping where families from the community could be invited to build relationships with whole families instead of just the children. Many families are so broken and messed up here in Latvia with problems of absentee parents while one or even both away earning money abroad so children are being looked after by the remaining parent or grandparents or even older siblings, alcoholism is also a major issue; how positive it would be if whole families could be loved and supported in their role to bring up their children by the church!

We spent the night at Steve's house so that we could babysit Samuel and Simon, his two small children, for him and his wife Natalija. They have had only one break away from the children earlier this year so were longing for a bit of time without children. Mum and Dad left and the kids didn't even whimper - nice to feel loved heh! Reminds us of our kids who used to smile and wave when we left them at other peoples homes or kick and scream when we had to take them home. I hasten to add the reason was that they loved going to other peoples houses and not because of a difficult home life, lol (hope the kids will back me up on this!). Anyway we played with the kids for a half an hour and then gave them some lunch before putting them down for an afternoon nap. As we had stayed up chatting till nearly 2am, Ian was rather tired so took the opportunity to go for a nap as well. Well a few hours later the baby Simon awoke so I got him up at which point Ian got up. Ian fed Simon and then Samuel woke up by which time it was nearly time for Mum and Dad to come back, as I said to Steve anytime they wanted an afternoon together would be fine, after all babysitting like this couldn't be any easier.

On the way back from Steve's we saw a huge number of cars making their way through our village - well huge in terms of normal traffic here where three cars in a row is a rush hour - we had made it back just in time for the end of an event in the culture house, presumably celebrating 90 years since the first declaration of independence. Latvia first declared independence in 1918 but this was followed by a chaotic war of independence with three Governments, a German one, a Russian one and an independent one. The country was not actually able to hold free elections until 1920 and this only lasted until 1934 with a bloodless coup by the previous Head of the Government, Karlis Ulmanis, who was in power until 1940. In 1939 though Latvia had to agree to Russian troops being stationed in their country and then the Germans invaded before the Russians retook the country in 1944 and they never left until the final withdrawal in 1994, although they redeclared independence in 1991 . So think about the Latvians as they celebrate Independence Day tomorrow, 18th November. Pray for a rising up of the gentle people, pray they gain confidence in the future despite what they have suffered and also despite the state of the world today.

This morning we woke up to our first dusting of snow, with more expected towards the end of the week. The place certainly looked better for a dusting as it was looking a little drab with all the damp. Mind you the temperatures don't look promising either with temperatures barely getting above freezing even during the day. Sorry I didn't get around to getting a picture, I got busy doing my coursework. I am really enjoying the course and finding the facts fascinating, for instance today I learnt that the five permanent members of the Security Council of the UN, Russia, USA, UK, France and China who are charged with promoting peace in the world are responsible for 80% of world trade in arms. Makes you think! Well it does me. 

Well here is a picture that Ian took earlier on in the year in our last weekend in Fort Collins. I was playing about with sharpening pictures and seeing what some of them looked like in Black and White and I liked this one. By the way if you like Black and White photos check out Cole Thompson's website.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if Blogger gives you stats for the numbers of views at your blog, but if you've been wondering who has been stalking you, it's me! I noticed your comment about Latvia's weather at "Throwback at Trapper Creek" the other day. Ever since then, I've gone back to the beginning where you described your move from Colorado.

My intense interest in what you've written (especially the images) comes from the fact that I was born not too far from where you have settled. I'm thinking my dad's family came from somewhere near Ērgļi. I was born in Sāviena and my grandfather had a farm in Ļaudona (south of Madona.)

As for peeling hard boiled eggs when they're fresh, try lowering them (very gently) into boiling water. They're more likely to break or crack when dipped into a rolling boil, but are far easier to peel if you don't start them off in cold water.

Thanks so much for sharing your adventures. I'm loving every post so far. It looks like I have nearly five years to catch up on. I'm looking forward to it.

Joanna said...

I'm glad you dropped by Gusgus and indeed Sāviena is not far away from us, just over an hour. I love living in Latvia and very happily settled, even if we do have our ups and downs as I'm sure you will read if you stick with it. Five years is a lot to catch up on.

Anonymous said...

Ooops... sorry, I forgot to include my name: Gunta. I think I assumed you'd might see it at my blog where I mostly post pictures of the beautiful Oregon Coast where I live now.

It may take awhile to get through the five years, but I look forward to seeing and hearing about the place where I was born. My family and I were part of the exodus in 1944. I was all of eight months old, so your images and snippets are very dear to me.

Joanna said...

A very Latvian name indeed. I think it will take a long time to track through them all. I will try and take some pictures of nearer to your old home, can't promise the place itself, but I will bear you in mind when I'm out and about. Nice to be in touch

Gunta said...

The 'place itself' isn't required, but the glimpses of the surrounding area are quite wonderful. I did visit in 1989, but it was still Soviet then and visiting outside of Rīga was restricted. Five months later hubby had a spinal injury so a return visit wasn't possible.

I can't seem to find a way to sign on to be notified when you respond. I keep having to return to this post to check. Am I missing something? If you'd care to contact me through email, it's: guntab-at-gmail-dot-com. (Your email option or link also doesn't seem to be working for me.)

Gunta said...

PS I think I just found a way to get follow-ups by using my gmail "identity" instead of the WordPress.

Joanna said...

I shall take a look at the email problem sometime, hopefully soon. I'm glad you found a way to keep up with the comments though. I do reply to all the comments, it only seems polite and I am not inundated.

It is nice to know that you are able to revisit a place you know of, even if you can't visit in person