Category Archives: Lessons learned

Latvia Day 2 : Dienā, Rīgā

I sat bolt upright in the bed with full daylight streaming into the window.  Panicking, I was sure that we had wasted our one day full day in Rīga by sleeping in! Luckliy, my trusted iPhone assured me it was only 5 am.

Wait! 5 am? How was that lucky?? It’s vacation and I like to sleep! 

Being unprepared for the intensity of the sunlight at such early hours, I had not drawn the heavy curtain across the window.  After a few tugs on the curtain, I climbed back into bed for a little more sleep.  While I may have drifted in and out of sleep for a short time, it was apparent that the excitement of touring Rīga was not going to allow sleeping. 

Our second day in Rīga was all about family, my family, family living in Latvia, family visiting Latvia, family in Latvia for the first time and soon to be family.  But, mostly, our second day was about Vecsriga.  All in all, we squeezed in a pretty significant day. 

Armed with a map, iPhone GPS and detailed notes I had written down in a little book with “Don’t Panic” written in friendly letters in the front, we headed out on our own into Vecrīga.  


There is no doubt that on your first visit to Rīga that everyone will tell you that you must go see Svētā Pētera baznīca (St. Peter’s church) which is the tallest church in Vecrīga providing fabulous views at every angle.  Not to be dismissed is the much smaller Svētā Jāņa baznīca (St. John’s) next door that claims to be the oldest church in Rīga.  However, there was no “established date” posted for me to find out just how old it was. I have since found out that St. John’s began holding Lutheran services in 1213 AD.  I was stunned at the beauty of the ceiling but, then, the mathematician in me loves the geometric patterns. 

The Gothic ceiling of Svētā Jāna baznīca


If you are curious as to what filled our time in between the highlights that I am capturing in the blog, the answer is walking.  Walk, walk, walking.  However, in this particular case, Svētā Pētera baznīca (St. Peter’s) is right across the street from St. John’s.  

Mikel in front of Svētā Pētera baznīca

 

St. Peter’s started showing up in history in 1209 which is, technically, before St. John’s claim as the oldest church.  However, I’m sure each church has their own way to spin the story on being the oldest.  St. Peter’s is much larger and has a long history of periods of construction, lightening fire, World War II fire, steeple collapse, reconstruction  and a total of seven different roosters on top of the steeple.  In more recent times, an elevator was installed so that you can go to the top of the tower, 236 ft., to see what the rooster saw. 

The Rooster’s Eye View: One of the spectacular views from St. Peter’s tower

 

I’ve been on the top many towers from Seattle to Toronto to New York. I’ve been in the top of many duomos in Italy. Let me tell you, Italy is beautiful. I could see why the US general forbade the bombing of Sienna in WWII.  Yet, I think the view of Vecrīga is possibly the most stunning city view I have ever beheld from above.  Modern cities are primarily shades of grey. Vecrīga is the whole rainbow.  In hindsight, I didn’t take enough pictures of Vecrīga’s architecture.  Luckily, there is a page on Facebook called Latvia Art & Architecture that regularly shares spectacular photos of Latvia for me to enjoy and remanisce.  A picture of Riga

After St. Peter’s, we walked over to the  nearby square for a short break on a bench while absorbing the architecture of the House of the Blackheads.  It was reconstructed in the 90’s. A prophecy was once written on the building’s doors: “If I am destined to ruination, I will be rebuilt by you!” 

The single most impactful event of the trip to Latvia was our visit to the Occupation museum.  Unlike the rest of Vecrīga, the building housing the Occupation Museum is far from an architectural delight. Given that the subject of the museum is Occupation of Latvia by the Soviets and Germans, I think the appearance of the building suits the subject. Inside the boys got their first real connection with how their grandparents ended up in the US.  Countrymen being deported to Siberia and living in wooden barracks. Some never to return or be heard from again. Our relatives being lucky enough to receive a warning not to return to the farm on one particular evening as the Soviets descended upon the farmers… The Latvians that remained behind resisted the occupation through a calm and strong ability to hold onto their culture and folk songs. Eventually, their freedom was restored after 51 years of occupation.  

By now, we’d already been to many important sights around Vecrīga and it was not even lunchtime yet. Cousin Rob texted to say that he and the boys would meet us at the Irish Pub.  Perhaps Paddy Whalen’s Pub isn’t what you would expect in Riga but Rob claims it’s as Latvian as you can get since it’s been in business for over 20 years. We had been at the Hard Rock Cafe knock off but we lost interest as soon as we saw that there were only four things on the menu and PK couldn’t really come up with a translation to tell us what they were.  At Paddy Whalen’s, Rob ordered karbonāde (pork chops) without even looking at a menu.  Over beer and apple juice in the courtyard, and while the Irish dancers practiced on the wooden stage, Rob filled us in on his memories as a young man on the town in Riga at Paddy Whalen’s Pub.

By the way, let me recommend the apple juice in Latvia. Besides the apple juice being delicious, juice is one of those American drinks that isn’t served with ice so it is a lot easier to accept that you won’t get ice in your drink in Latvia when you order apple juice.   

We all left Paddy Whalen’s together to wander around Vecrīga.  Just as we rounded the next corner, we bumped into Matiss, the groom, accompanied by a Kukainis cousin, coming out of a cafe.  These gentlemen were headed over to Petergailis, which is a cafe in the shadows of St. Peter’s church, to meet up with family friends.  They insisted that we should come along with them.  The boys, both Kengis and Kukainis, were not in the mood for more sitting at a cafe even if it was a gorgeous and sunny ~70 degree day.  But, one of the amazing things about Vecsriga is that without cars driving around, it is fairly quiet.  So, the two older Kengis boys took the younger Kukainis boys out to walk around St. Peter’s and play on a wooden horse statue nearby while the adults visited with family and friends.  I’m sure that a normal visit to Latvia would not result in running into family and friends on every corner or at every cafe. But, since a large number of visits to Latvia are the result of attending a wedding, it’s not unusual either.  

Our next adventure was the heavily recommended canal boat tour. It starts on Pilsētas Kanals near Bastion Hill and encircles Rīga on Daugava River.   We selected one of the small, shallow wooden boats piloted by a Russian.  One has to be careful to distribute the weight of the adults carefully to maintain the balance of the boat!  Let’s just say, we had a close call.  

Dzelzceļa Tilts on Daugava

A well balance boat floats true.


Ivars, another Kengis cousin who lives in Latvia, was in Riga for the afternoon while his mother, Ginta, attended the bridal shower.  Ginta lives in Kalamazoo but had been visiting Ivars for the summer.  So, Ivars wanted to meet up while he was waiting for his mom.  It was also a chance for us to unload the lawnmower blades! Finally!  

Ivars presented the boys with souvenir mugs with their names engraved in them. Rīga, the only place in the world that has my kids names on the souvenirs.  Then we ducked into McDonald’s.  Not to worry!  The only reason we stopped into McDonald’s was to avoid a short rain storm. It was our only visit to McDonald’s on that trip and we never went past the vestibule. 

Ivars was looking for a late lunch so we ended up back at Petergailis for the 3rd time that day.  It was actually a lucky break for Mikel because he had noticed the Rīga Cinema Museum (Rīga Kino Muzejs) on the map during our rest in front of The House of Blackheads and had put that at the top of the activities he wanted to do. PK, happy to get caught up with Ivars , stayed at Petergailis while Mikel, Karlis and I wandered through the cobblestone streets on our own to find Kino Muzejs.  

We had been warned on more than one occasion that it was easy to get turned around in the cobblestone streets of Riga.  However, I’m good with maps, Karlis remembers things, and Mikel had a drive to see the film and theater museum. Although, when we arrived at the building I was sure was the museum, it didn’t look like an entrance.  We turned corners and looked up and down streets, always ending up in the same place. Finally, we got the nerve to go up to the door only to realize we had been correct the very first time.  I guess sometimes you need to trust your gut.

Picture taken from the Wikipedia page.


The museum was small but still interesting. It covered films, actors and directors. Most everything had a strong Soviet influence as a result of the occupation. I think it will be very interesting to visit this museum again in the future to see what changes take place now that Riga is becoming a well known European cultural center. 

We parted ways with Ivars and his lawnmower blades. Now, it was time to meet up with yet another Kengis cousin, also first time visitors to Latvia, Andrea and her husband, Tony.  Per Ivars suggestion we went to Rozengrals, a midieval themed restaurant located in the old wine vault of the City of Riga Council of 1293.  This was definitely going to be an adventure, but, before I go any further, just remove any visuals you have of Midieval Times.  It’s not that kind of restaurant.  Although, we knew what we were ordering, courtesy of English language menus, we were not quite prepared for the delights that came to our table. 

Karlis and the pork shank, Mikel too.


Karlis ordered the pork shank. It looked like a huge turkey leg and easily could have fed two grown men. I understand it was delicious.   I’m not sure why I didn’t get to try it for myself.  

I suppose it is a bit much to expect a midieval restaurant to serve ice in the drinks? 

Mikel had the fish that was presented in a way that looked like it was still able to swim right off his plate.  

Photo courtesy of Rozengals webpage

Mikel was a little perplexed in how to attack a fish presented in such manner but once PK helped him lay it open and take out the bones, Mikel didn’t hesitate to devour the flaky fish. I give big props to my kids for going to a forgeign country and eating whatever was given to them. 

The best part of this meal was the dessert.  The boys ordered pistachio ice cream on ice.  So, the waitress brought them two scoops of ice cream sitting upon a block of ice almost as big as a cinder block. 


It was torture.  I mean, just look at Tony’s distress in the background of the picture.  The whole time we had been in Riga, we were searching for ice, ordering ice then asking for more ice.  Then comes dessert served on a large, useless, wasted chunk of ice.  If I could have wrapped it up in a napkin and taken it home with me, I would have. 

After a quick tour of  Andrea and Tony’s 5 star hotel room, Andrea and Tony headed over to a bar just a block from our apartment. PK opted to go back to the apartment with the boys while I went out for just “one drink” with Andrea, Tony, the groom,the bridal party and a significant collection of other friends and relatives.  Walking down the street to the restaurant, the area seemed a little sketchy but once we were inside the courtyard area it was chic and modern. The topic of conversations that I was engaged in tended to center around what we had done or seen in our 1.5 days Rīga. It was always achknowledged that we had completed the top “must see” places of Riga.  Some that I conversed with were surprised to learn about the Kinomuzejs.   Nice job, Mikel. 

I snuck out of the party just as it was getting too dark to walk alone or possibly as another round of tequila was being poured.  I left the rest behind for what I understand was a very, very late night.

I may have missed out on an all night in Riga, but I have no regrets as my Friday was packed full of plans with places to go in Latvia and old castles to see.  

So, tune in next time as my family and I drive off into the Latvian countryside…

2 Comments

Filed under family, Latvia, Lessons learned, PseudoLatvianism, travel

Murphy’s Law

Click. Click. Click. Click. 

I’m feeling the cocktail of excitement, fear and relief as the car that I am securely strapped into is pulled higher and higher.  I’m excited because I am about to speed down a near vertical angle that looks impossible when viewed from the ground. As the car lurches upward, there is a split second of  fear that the chain dog will snap releasing the coaster backwards ending in a horrific crash.  The click of the the chain comforts me into thinking it must mean everything is fine.  Until we lurch forward again.  And again. And again. It is, after all, by record, the tallest wooden roller coaster. 

Despite my alternating states of emotion, I am drinking in the view.  It’s a shame that the American Eagle name was already claimed because the top of this lift hill is an eagle eye’s view. My son, brave enough to ride the coaster with me, actually isn’t brave enough to have his eyes open at the top.  Looking to the sky from the top of an  impressive height has never quivered my stomach. It’s a glorious view of the people below coming together to scream their heads off.  It almost takes my mind off the click of the roller coaster I am on. 

Click. Click. Fear. Relief. Fear. Relief. Fear.  

Then a pause as we hang at the top of a 180 feet drop while the anticipation builds.  I thought looking down 85 degree decline would trigger some unknown anxiety once we got there but the reality is that I am ready to fly. 

The locks release and we accelerate to 72 miles an hour.  The roller coaster twists us, change directions and never shows us what is coming next.  I can’t control what is coming out of my mouth. 

A month later, I’m driving a tiny economy rental car through the mountains near Golden, Colorado.  I’m fairly certain that the decription on the Avis website would read “Clown Car”.  Most people rent an SUV for the mountains.  Apparently, I rent clown cars.  

The GPS says turn right at the next intersection. I hesitate because this road seems more like a dirt driveway than the shortest route to Golden Gate Canyon State park.  A dirt road in the mountains could end up anywhere.  Like throwing a Jackson down on black number six, I decisively drive ahead into the mountains. On a dirt road. In a clown car. 

At first, I’m just driving along hoping that the GPS signal stays strong enough to guide me back to civilization sometime before my flight leaves that evening.  However, after a while, I note the washed out narrow ditch is a good 3 to 4 feet below the “edge” of the road, and I begin hoping that a tow truck will be able to get to me in time for me to make my evening flight.  I throw a Grant on red number 33 as I press on thinking that I will turn this car around at anytime I feel like the road isn’t safe enough to proceed, provided I’m smart enough to recognize it in time and tire of the gamble. 

After another five miles driving the clown car down the narrowing washed out dirt road, I pulled onto the paved main road. I glanced over my shoulder at the mountain side and once again I cannot control what comes out of my mouth. I laugh semi-hysterically for a good 30 seconds. 

Holy Shit! How the hell am I not sideways in a washed out ditch? 

The laughing reminds me of my uncontrollable laughter on the roller coaster rides a month earlier.  In both instances, I am euphoric because I have just broken Murphy’s Law.

Leave a comment

Filed under Lessons learned, personality flaws, travel, wonderland

Cliché Update

Does anyone remember their New Year’s Resolutions? I have a vague recollection that my helicopter was under enemy fire.

Wait. Sorry, that’s not my story.

I’m more likely to forget.

Q. Did there come a time when you and Admiral Poindexter met with the other New Years Resolution officials or members – as well as members of Congress to try to relate to them what your resolutions were?

A. I don’t recall having anything to do with the Congress in that sense.

That’s why I blogged it. Official, written evidence of my cliched attempt to grow up in 2015. Did I stay the course?

RESOLUTIONS
1. Gain a better understanding of which foods negatively impact how I feel and irritate my digestive system
Yes, if I can count eating fast food 2-3 times a week as trial and error?

2. Build functional strength
I successfully lifted the rear end of the snowmobile. And, I can do two full push-ups in a row.

3. Reduce unnecessary spending
I’m in the middle of a kitchen remodel, planning a big summer vacation then I let my husband go buy a snowmobile..

4. Spend more time on creative projects
Kitchen remodel, string art heart, three unfinished scarves

5. Get on with life
I’m in the middle of a kitchen remodel. Who has time to get on with life??

I remembered 4 out of 5. I’ve actively worked on 2 out of 5.

My status on being cliché – 80%.

Leave a comment

Filed under exercise, Lessons learned, personality flaws, Weight loss

It Will Be Done

I’m changing, or, maybe I’m in a phase. If I was younger and lacking medical barriers, I’d blame it on pregnancy because I feel like I’m nesting. Since that isn’t the case, perhaps I’ve just matured?

Wait, does peri menopause have symptoms of just wanting to get shit done, finally?

I’m sick and tired of wanting to do projects, coming up with ideas, and thinking “I could totally do that” but never, ever doing anything. I have a closet full of materials, but no finished items.

Well, I used to. Now, I just want to get shit done.

I think it started when the glass table broke and my husband threatened me with throwing away the frame or do something with it. So, we made a pallet table.

IMG_4386.JPG Not the finished product

It didn’t seem like it took that much effort (admittedly, the husband and younger kid did quite a bit), but I got to thinking, why stop there? So, I finally, took all the boys scouting awards and put them into displays that I thought up about three years ago.

IMG_4617.JPGThen my friend Robbie took me to a an art class and I said, “Next month, we are doing crafts at my house.” Plus, I was threatened with do something with the rest of the pallet wood or it’ll be burned.

IMG_4618.JPGThe husband painted the family room which spurred me into a shopping spree to redecorate. It’s a good thing, it got cold because it refocused me on more materials waiting in the closet. (a.k.a. money already spent) These are my arm and finger knitting scarves. I’ve only finished four which is enough for one everyday of the week when I include my purchased scarves.

IMG_4609.JPGI actually made a Christmas present last night for one of the boys instead of the materials sitting in the closet for three years like the awards displays. That was after I adjusted the colors of the new LED lights I put on the Christmas tree.

I have more crafting nights planned. I have a bazillion ideas for Christmas. I am….

Oh, crap! I’d better get on those Christmas cards! I have 4-5 boxes of unused cards sitting in the closet from previous years thinking I would send them but did not. Maybe the “get shit done” hormones will make me crave the taste of envelope glue? I think it’s worth a try. Right?

It Will Be Done!
Uh, do you hear what I hear?

1 Comment

Filed under family, Lessons learned, personality flaws, wonderland

Jeanne’s Homemade Applesauce

The apples are ripe for the picking! Only I don’t pick, I buy, cook/bake and eat apples. The freezer is empty (minus 25 bags of frozen corn thanks to the Mister) so it’s an applesauce year. It’s something my mom made for us so I do the same for my kids. Or, maybe, I really just do it for myself.

One thing I treasure from the six months my mom had after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was the “sister time” my sister and I spent with my mom. We did crafts together and added to a long list of insider jokes. One of the activities my mom organized for us was a lesson on how to make Jeanne’s Homemade Applesauce.

Fast forward fourteen years, it’s time to open Jeanne’s instructions and cook down to applesauce.

IMG_4417.JPG
Instructions and apples – check

IMG_4418.JPG
Read Instructions for the fourteenth time.

In Jeanne’s own words:
Hello
My name is Jeanne
Today we are going to learn how to make Applesauce which is fun and very easy. Here are a few steps into a wonderful dish of Homemade Applesauce.

1. Go out and buy yourself a bushel of apples like Macs or Jonathan and just ask the orchard owner what is a good apple for sauce.

2, return home before you use up your energy you will need a lot for applesauce.

3 run water in the sink catching it to about 1/2 full and pour some of the apples into the water to wash.

4 NOw you must make a choice on how you want to cut up the apples I myself like the corer and just drop the quartered apple into the pan on the stove on =—–LOW (COULDN’T FIND THE UNDERLINE for under the Low)

5. The apples must simmer for 2 to 3 hours stir occasionally and watch to see if the apples are going to stick which makes then brown black better known as burnt.

6. An easy way to get them started is to put them in the Micro for about 10 minutes then into the pan and helps to avoid the burning. And gets them off to an easy start;

7. NOw if you remember your apples cooking you can relax for 2 to 3 hours returning to the apples to stir once in a while go read , do laundry ., put the kid to bed , or make a wreath.

8. The apples must be ready to finish now. . Get out the colander put it over a deep dish and pour some hot cooked apple into the colander working with the round handled part sieve through into the deep dish YOu will need to clean out the colander once in a while and pour in more until it is all done. From here you will add sugar and cinnamon to taste. Fill the plastic bags and enjoy when winter comes. You might want to mark on this paper from the amount of apples you have today how much sauce you get so that next year you have an idea how much to buy.

IMG_4419.JPG

My mother gave me an A-.

2 Comments

Filed under family, Lessons learned, wonderland

Ten In A Row?

Ten in a row? Ah, no.

I didn’t even make it ten days in a row, not even seven or even five. Three days (3!) in a row, I conscientiously exercised for a total of sixty minutes a day. I started losing motivation when I acknowledged that although loading severely overgrown shrubbery into the dump trailer felt like sixty minutes of grueling work, it was really only fifteen minutes. With excuses and justifications piling up, I sit here on the seventh day of the sixty day challenge without a single minute of a MovNat workout to claim as my own.

That seems fairly inadequate.

Hmm.

If I am going to make a change to reverse the dysfunctional aging, I can’t give up just because it wasn’t ten consecutive days. My progress wasn’t hindered because I didn’t witness improvements, I enabled other things to take priority. I can’t say I’m surprised by how poorly I implemented the plan. I had predicted it from the start.

If I can’t immediately turn on the drive to workout everyday, I’ll have veer toward bettering last week’s dismal performance. This week’s challenge will be to make my workout a priority a minimum of 4 days this week.

I might also need to include a more positive attitude and/or stop eating lunch at Steak and Shake….

*I did not want to post this today, but I had declared that I would publish all my failures for the public to see. At least, I stuck to one part of the plan.

1 Comment

Filed under exercise, Lessons learned

Sibling Rivalry

My siblings and I get along famously. So famously that when we were younger, people used to ask my mom how she got us to get along so well. I must admit that with a brother 6 years older, we didn’t always get along so famously when parents weren’t around. He was master of the game “Take a Seat”. I was master of taking a seat. Even though I remember hating that “game”, I really don’t feel any rivalry between my siblings and myself. I enjoy seeing them succeed and never feel the need to one up them.

This lack of competitiveness, of course, becomes a problem when my sister suggests that she and I compete in a weight loss challenge against each other where the biggest loser gets $50 from the actual loser. If I felt some sort of rivalry towards her then I would be motivated to make smart eating decisions resulting in a substantial advantage over her. Instead, I pick up the donut (or two) and tell myself it’s ok because surely, Penny will surge ahead on a wave of accomplishment that will carry her to a glorious finale. I just won’t care that she going to beat me. Thus, I’ll be sitting back, five pounds heavier, clapping for her as she crosses the finish line. I won’t even be able to cheer for her verbally because, at that time, I’ll have three brownies shoved in my mouth, “hurmmmfy Pemmffy!”

While I may not be characteristically competitive (against Penny), I am stIll characteristically a solution seeker. Resolutely, I decided to create an alternate set of rules for the challenge. In this game, on June 1st, the loser has to buy two pair of shorts. One pair for the winner to show off how good they look from all that weight loss. The other pair for themselves. Because the only thing worse than jeans shopping is swimsuit shopping. Since I am not a masochist, I settled for shorts. Even then, shorts is just as equally painful as shopping for jeans. The last thing you want to do after spending a month trying to lose weight is buy a pair of shorts in a bigger size. So, once again, to avoid being a masochist, whether I lose the most or lose the least, I’d better get losing!

Leave a comment

Filed under Lessons learned, Weight loss