Monday, 28 February 2011

Tragedy and joys

A stunning sunset
This week there was an immense tragedy at our house, Macbook Pro number 2 died. We bought Macbook Pro's just before we left America because Ian's old work one went on and on and on and still works even now, if a little cranky and needs to be constantly plugged in but it is 8 years old. We expected new ones to do the same, but oh no! The extra expense of buying what we thought would be a robust and reliable computer turned out to be a bad move. We don't know for sure if Macbook Pro number 2 died of the same disease as Macbook Pro number 1or not, aka a logic board, as we have to go all the way into Riga to take it to an apple repairer to find out, but we do know if it is then it is mega expensive to replace. So two computers bought a month apart both die within three months of each other, somehow don't feel like such an ardent Mac fan anymore.

A creative project this week. One of our neighbours isn't
sleeping well and is pregnant and a pillow like this helped
me all those years ago (over 21 now, help!) and so I had a
go at making one from fabric and pillows that weren't being
used for her. Kept me out of mischief for an afternoon anyway
Last week I mentioned that the majority of Latvians use a third of the electric we do which I found quite shocking, as I thought we don't use that much electric, but this week I am not so sure. A survey of households by a social and research agency found that only 4% of economically active Latvians use less than 100 KW/hrs per month, as unemployment stands at around 20% and if all of the unemployed used less than 100 KW/hrs then that is a quarter of Latvians in total not nearly half as Latvernergo stated. It does get complicated trying to compare the figures though as they are not comparing like with like and maybe the other proportion of folks are pensioners and possibly those out in rural areas do not use much electricity either as the study was done in Riga. What is for sure is that the rates are going up even though Latvernergo are not in any danger of making a loss, because by August of last year they were well in profit, but the bigger the profit the more tax so I guess the government or the IMF are happy. Just a shame those profits are not being invested in a better network, particularly in rural areas so that when the neighbours starts milking the cows the lights don't dim for everyone else on the line. The survey does call into question where Latvenergo gets their figures from though.

You have to trust me on this, I took this picture of the
sparkly diamond rain and would it show up on the camera?
No of course it didn't. Still you can see we have a lot of
snow still
We have still been having lots of glorious sunny weather and hardly a cloud in the sky for most of it too. The temperatures though have still been low, around -20s at night and -15-ish during the day but the last couple of days it has been gradually warming up and may have even briefly got to close to 0C today. Had to take a layer off just to shift some wood as I was getting too hot. There was one day this week it was so pretty as it looked like it was raining diamonds, just imagine a very slight drizzle but with the sun shining and instead of wet drops of fine rain, they are shiny, sparkly dancing, dazzling, lights shimmering their way down to the ground. It felt like another gift from heaven to remind me of the richness of God, a message to me to not worry about tomorrow because God has my tomorrows in his hands. At least the continued cold weather meant I finally got out skiing this week, I couldn't put it off any longer. I didn't do badly at all, I made my own little track around our orchard while Ian was busy digging in the snow with his tractor to clear a path down to our unfinished barn and I only fell down five times, twice in the first five minutes. One thing I did find was that getting up from a groomed track (ie one made by a skidoo and so compacted) was easier than trying to get up from the fresh snow of my home made track, every time I put my hand down it sank in the snow up to my elbow, and digging in my sticks didn't help either. In the end I found out that laying the sticks across the snow and leaning on them that way helped me to get up, difficult to explain and probably hilarious to watch, so glad none of you were there to see me.

Not sure what this is a footprint of but have wondered if
it was a lynx. One of the ladies I teach English too, saw one
while out skiing this last week.
We have had a fun time reconnecting with folks this week, about time too really as we have been back over a month already. Some friends were having a short break at the disney like castle quite close by and so we joined them at the end of their skiing day for a meal. Two days later and we joined some more friends for another meal round at their house - I could get quite use to this, saves me cooking anyway. On our way back, however, from the second meal we were stopped by the police, who for some reason were parked smack bang in the middle of the road outside our apartment, only we didn't realise they were police because it was dark, until we saw the reflective police stick that is, being waved by one guy indicating for us to pull over, although the road is that narrow that wasn't an option so we just stopped. It is quite normal to be stopped by the police here and it is nothing to worry about, we have been stopped numerous times, usually on the way to the airport but a lack of language here is a big help and all they want to see is driver's licence, technical documents and insurance documents - which should be in the car anyway. Often we get stopped during holiday times ie round about Christmas and Jani, the mid-summer festival time as they are checking for drunk drivers but they stop just about everyone then, so not a problem. What they were doing outside our apartment is beyond me though, as it is hardly a hive of activity. There is our apartment block of 18 apartments and a few houses on our street and hardly else anyone uses it, especially at that time of night and not all of them have cars either.

The view from the front door of our
other apartment
The update on our heating is that this week we have had good heat in our radiators despite the fact it has been so cold, so I am expecting a lower bill than the month before paradoxically. We shall see if our theory is correct that the lower the heat in the radiators the higher the bill because it is not high enough to switch on the recirculation pump, since we are charged for the amount of water pumping around the radiators and not necessarily the heat they contain.  The good news is that our house is sending off a letter of complaint this week as enough people have signed the letter and the heating company will now have 28 days to reply, should be interesting to know what they have to say. We shall not be paying for last months bill until it has been rectified that is for sure.

We feel like we have really made progress this week as we have finally just about finished off our other apartment and cleaned up the layers of dust from all the work. so if you were following last week I did get my sums right this time and we had more than enough flooring to finish the job off (Phew!). We are really pleased with it, as it looks very smart in a shabby chic sort of way. We have tried to use the original fittings where possible, which in reality means the doors and door frames and that is about it and we have taken the walls back to the rough plastered finish which is actually quite rustic in a way and I love the texture. It still looks a bit spartan and I have to sort out some pictures to hang up and we still have a few finishing off jobs such as beading around the laminate flooring as we didn't find any at the big diy stores (so it is not just our small local stores that don't have it in). I think we will try and make our own later on with our own wood and a router or maybe it will just not get done like the apartment we live in as we still waiting for skirting boards or beading to finish off the floors here too after nearly three years. So who is up for a visit now it is looking smart? One thing that is nice is that I now have somewhere that I can work which is not our bedroom and I can walk up to the apartment for a bit of exercise too. Unfortunately there is no internet there so I have to download all my work at home first to my computer so that I can read it when I get there, but perhaps it is a good idea there is no internet to distract me while I am there, probably get much more done.

This now has my desk and books in
We have had a few visitors to the apartment already, one day we left the door open as we were taking things up and down to the basement and an open door is an open invitation here, so one of our neighbours wandered in to have a look, she was impressed with the changes and my Latvian certainly stretched to "skaista" - beautiful, and the international "super" which was rather sweet. We also had young visitors today as unfortunately the lady we visited the other day for one of our meals out wasn't feeling very well over the weekend and is in hospital for a short stay and her son needed taking to basketball practice and then stay at our apartment for a short while to wait for his dad. I suddenly realised how out of practice I am with having kids around in my own place, there isn't much to do and not much in the way of things to drink but we coped and set them to work helping Ian take a load of wood down into the basement - as you do, nothing like a bit of child labour to keep the place warm. Actually they were very good and very helpful.

Looking back towards the front door
we have left these door frames unpainted
to match in with the doors. It means
the toilet door does not look so glaringly
modern compared to the others now

I love this mulberry colour in the living room. And do you
like the two little African guys in the corner, a present from
our son from his African trip

This is the bedroom and you can
see the door which had the paint
stripped off, sanded down and linseed
oil added 


  1. Another interesting week in the Storie household! What a nice gesture of making the pillow for a neighbour. I have one of those on my bed that props me up against the headboard when I want to read in bed or watch TV. Very comfy!

    Your photo of the diamond raindrops - couldn't help thinking that the copy is never as good as the real thing.

    Your other apartment looks really nice. Well done for all your hard work.

  2. It was an interesting week this last week and not a bad week overall if we discount the laptop dying - but I guess since it was Ian that was using that one then I have less of a gripe :o). I had persuaded him that a smaller one was adequate for me and he could have mine, little realising that mine was about to die so he has had the frustration twice now.

    Glad you like the apartment, and since the copy is never as good as the real thing, you'll have to come and see it for yourself :o)

  3. Thanks for the invite - you never know!

  4. Sorry about the laptop - hope you can get it fixed or get another one. Nice work on the apartment! Any movement on the Sheffield house?

  5. Thanks Julia, glad you like it.

    There is some interest in the Sheffield house so we shall see how it goes

  6. get the kettle on I'm coming!!! you may regret it, I may never leave....
    commiserations re the laptop too....

  7. Kettle's on when are you coming? :o)

  8. Sometimes I think refinishing old wood floors is the MOST satisfying part of any renovation project. Bringing out the beauty in the wood is so dramatic.
    Nice job.

  9. It has been satisfying indeed to retain the old wood doors and door frames, it is a shame that the wooden floor undearneath the laminate was not suitable for sanding down. We needed the extra insulation between us and the basement as a gale blows up through the floor, hence the laminate.

    One of the most annoying things about being here in Latvia is that old furniture is rare and not valued. I would love to get hold of some old pieces to do up to put in the other apartment.


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