Monday, 30 December 2013

An International Flavour

Our gift from our time spent chatting to the folks at Raksi
the camelid attraction farm
Well, when you can't go to see the world, have the world come to you! This last week we visited America, Britain, Sweden and of course Latvia and were visited by Britain and Mexico, courtesy of our international friends who live relatively near by, and I thought only last week it was going to be a quiet week. Our Christmas started with decorating the Christmas tree that ended up being done on Christmas Eve as usual and because we don't have young children around, we decided to have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve - how Latvian! Actually it was more like how convenient, as we were trying to juggle a couple of things with feeding the animals, which makes trying to have Christmas dinner during the day on Christmas day a little difficult, especially if we have a good breakfast.

My Estonian Walnut from my friend in
Estonia. The ribbons are in the colours
of the Estonian flag
Breakfast on Christmas day was croissants again this year, followed by good old fry up of home-made bacon, mushrooms and eggs (unfortunately not our eggs or our mushrooms). I made the croissants a little different this year, as I added a cube of dark chocolate to some of them and it worked really well. Croissants for breakfast on Christmas day is an annual tradition that started when our children were young. One of my son's commented this last week that he would like to come for Christmas next year, if he has a job, there were two reasons, first the croissants and second we have more chance of having snow than where he lives - not that we have any this year, but it is true that Latvia is more likely to have snow at Christmas time than in the midlands of the UK. I guess we'll have to put in an early booking then for some snow next year. I'm pleased though that our yearly ritual of having home-made croissants for breakfast on Christmas morning was appreciated enough to deserve a mention.

Eating croissants for Christmas breakfast
We had our breakfast out in the caravan, or rather I had my breakfast out in the caravan, on our land. Ian ate his at home and had second (or is it third) breakfast with me. Ian takes some filling at times and he has to eat as soon as he gets up, but there is always room for more and he snacks through the day as well as eating bigger portions than I do for main meals. He needs the energy though and is still as thin as a lat as we say (and that isn't as thin as a Latvian kind of lat, but as thin as a thin piece of wood which is also called a lat - confused? I wish I hadn't started now). For a change the sun actually shone on Christmas day and so we went for a walk after the croissants and before the fry up. It was then time to feed the animals, sit around and chat a bit, do some knitting for me and Ian pottered about, before it was time to feed them yet again and meander on home.

Eating hay in the sunshine
Once home it was time to talk with our two sons and their families and the briefest of chats with our daughter to book a chat for the following day, courtesy of Skype. Ian also phoned his mother and then it was time to go out to one of our American friends and his British wife, with their children of rather confused nationality- not quite sure how British, American or Latvian they are, but they are fluent in all three languages, switching with ease between all of them. We had a good time eating and chatting before playing a game of trying to guess our chosen profession. After the fourth round we were all thoroughly confused, as we had forgotten which round someone had chosen plumber, or astrophysicist etc. Still there were a few laughs along the way.

The little stuffed owl I knitted - don't worry,
the recipients have already seen the photos
There were no presents to open this year, but don't feel too bad for us. We got some fleeces from my parents but they arrived early, as we collected them from our son's house in November and with the cold snap we had we've already worn them and fully appreciated them. Our daughter sent us a gift card that is redeemable over the net and I am sure we will enjoy spending that some time soon, but not exactly something to unwrap. One son is unemployed and so no presents from him and we wouldn't expect one, he needs the cash more than we do. The other son said he has got me something expensive, but I have to wait, as it is a birthday and Christmas present (it will be my 50th birthday this next year) so that's exciting and got me wondering what he has planned or got for me. I have no idea what it is. I haven't been terribly organised myself either and I have only managed to finish one Christmas present so far this year and one early birthday present - it was meant to be a Christmas present but ended up too small for the recipient but makes a good present for a little one. I was only ready to post the aforementioned present today and would you know it, the post office was shut!

This is a little harder to see in the photo, but his is a hat
with a knitted owl motif and two big green button eyes
On Boxing Day (26th December for our friends who have not heard of Boxing Day) our British friends came to see us ......... errrrr, I mean they came to see the alpacas. Let's be honest now! They brought their adult son, who hadn't seen our alpacas before and our friends hadn't seen the new ladies we got in October. We managed a big meal in stages, first eating the first course, which I prepared whilst Ian was out on the land seeing to the animals, then going back out to the land for a quick wander around, feed the animals and then back for pudding. With all of us hailing from northern English stock, we could call it pudding without any confusion, for many of our friends it is dessert, pudding being something completely different to what we ate for many of them, and just in case you're wondering it was apple pie. Our first course was home-made boiled ham, roast carrots, parsnips, onions, home-made sausage balls, sage and onion stuffing, cranberry and applesauce, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, roast squash, leeks in white sauce and Yorkshire puddings (not dessert). I don't think I've forgotten anything! The day wasn't finished once they left either, they had hardly gone out of the door when we headed out to another friend's 40th birthday party (so that covers our Latvian and Swedish connections). We rolled back home, well stuffed.

Our own Christmas tree from our own land.
Can't get much fresher than that and not
sprayed with any chemicals either
Our last guest of the week was a friend I made on my Teaching in Higher Education course at Tartu University. He mentioned he was backpacking around the Baltics and I offered a place to stay if he wanted to come and this is where the Mexican connection comes in. He arrived fine by bus from Riga, if a little tired, as he had only just got in from Prague. I had to wave at him madly to get off the bus, as there are no signs for our end of route bus. He put his rucksack in the car and we went and bought a few things from the shop. As we were getting back in the car though, he mentioned he thought he had dropped his passport on the bus.

Decorations above the window, to brighten the place on
those dull winter days
We got home and he checked through everything, still no passport. I rang a friend of ours whose husband is one of the bus drivers and after a little confusion, she went to the bus garage and talked to the cleaner - no passport. The Riga bus station was emailed and a contact number was given - no passport. In the end we found out we needed to see a policeman to get a form to say it was missing. Easier said than done in our village, in some ways as the police station is not always manned, although one of them only lives around the corner from us, so not far to go if necessary. Anyway we managed to find some policemen, who were in a car outside the supermarket - which seemed odd, but later found out that is because they were not the regulars and only filling in for holiday time.

Rosy sunrise
Unfortunately they didn't speak English, but as luck would have it, our friends turned up, who we had visited a few days before and they translated for us. The whole of our village will probably know now that our Mexican friend had lost his passport, as we had to ask in the supermarket if one had been found, just in case it was dropped there or nearby. Of course it not often that a Mexican will lose their passport in the middle of rural Latvia and so it created a bit of excitement for the policeman. They had no idea what to do, so they had to phone up and find out. Not quite the type of excitement my friend my friend had in mind, I'm sure, but he did get to meet some of my friends. At least he has got enough documentation to be legal in the country, so gives him time to sort it out. We just need a piece of paper from the police to say the complaint has been registered, but that won't be very quick - they're on holiday remember!

Not the kind of Christmas present we wanted from the
wild boar. Those holes are deep
The lack of snow this year has been both a blessing and a curse. The animals prefer eating the grass to eating hay and so enjoying the green stuff, where they can get it. They are eating plenty of hay too. as the grass will not be terribly nutritious at this time of the year. The problem is though that they run out of good grass quite quickly at this time of the year and fences are deliberately small so that Ian isn't running around like an idiot trying to collect it when it does eventually freeze or snow. That in itself leads to issues with animals escaping, always looking for the greener grass. One of our sheep kept just walking through the fence, admittedly it wasn't electrified, but hadn't been for a while, since the snow. Even with four wires the little sheep kept walking through it. Fortunately now she is used to Ian feeding them in the day, so she comes running when he has a bowl in hand. With the continued mild weather, the fence is now electrified and being so damp, packs a powerful punch. She is not escaping now! Our other troublemaker is Hercules who would frequently escape by eating under the wire and gradually just moving forward with the wire going up over his back. Ian decided not to bother resorting to electrifying the fence when he spotted Hercules jumping the fence completely - good job he hasn't intentions of wandering. The boys are now permanently in their paddock with just hay to eat, they did fine on it last year and this year's hay is better quality.

Food, friends, fellowship, family - albeit via Skype! I think that has been my kind of Christmas, much of the paraphernalia that has been linked with the holiday is just rubbish compared to what's important. Would be nice to see our son next year and his family if he can make it. Something to look forward to.

That just leaves me to wish you a very Happy New Year and may you be blessed with the important things in life. To finish here is a review of my photos of 2013, courtesy of Google


  1. Happy New Year to you and Ian too Joanna. You certainly lead interesting and busy lives.

  2. A very happy new year to you both! May it be full of adventure and opportunities! Be blessed!

  3. Hi Gina, Happy New Year to you too. We are certainly enjoying the variety of things we do. Your life looks interesting too, I would love to fit in some more creative things to do, but rarely seem to be organised enough any more.

    Ju Thanks for the blessings, greatly appreciated. I look forward to the adventure and opportunities. Happy New Year to you as well

  4. lat and pudding? no translation needed here up in the frozen wastelands of the North!! I knew exactly what you meant. Wow, I'm exhausted just reading this and I thought I had a busy Christmas!! Have the very best of Wednesdays and every day to come.....x

  5. Eee Lass! Didn't think you would need a translation, my fellow Lancastrian. I would hate you to think though that we tear around at high speed, it is the countryside after all, but it is tricky when the daylight hours are short and the animals need feeding to make sure they are in top condition for the winter, when or if that ever really kicks in.

  6. I have just come across your blog and loved reading about your Latvian Christmas....your alpacas sound gorgeous. I spin and last summer spun alpaca for the first time. I couldn't believe how soft it was...fabulous! Anyway - thank you for blogging - and happy New Year! Alison

  7. Welcome to the blog Alison and thank you for your encouragement. Our alpacas have beautiful fleece and we are really looking forward to getting the fleece off our youngest alpaca this year - she will be two this year and her fleece is so soft it is like cotton wool. I have a question for you, what is the difference between spinning alpaca wool and sheep's wool? We hopefully will have a local spinning it for the first time and so it would be nice to know how they differ


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