Tag Archives: Latvia

Latvian Day 3 – Pils

It only seems right that a vacation that felt like a wish granted to me via my fairy godmother would include castles.  Let me tell you, Latvia has castles.  If you happen to watch the TV miniseries of War and Peace from 2016, you might recognize Rundālei Palace that is actually located in Latvia.

We did not visit Rundāle palace while we were in Latvia but the pils we visited were pretty amazing in their own right.

First thing on Friday morning, I picked up the  rental car I reserved months prior to give us the freedom to drive where ever we wanted in the countryside. As it turns out, my forethought to reserve a car was pretty darn smart. Other family members that rented cars that day, out of necessity due to missing the party bus to the wedding location (due to being out with the wedding party till the wee hours the previous night)  paid premium rental prices because of a music festival out in the country side.  Maybe it was the Positivus Festival

Anyway… Our target was was Cēsis, LV. Before heading out to Cēsis castle, we stopped at a hotel in town for a nature break. We had expected that once we got out away from Riga, we’d be more successful communicating in Latvian. Well, once again, tourism won out. English was more easily understood than Latvian.  Either way, we found the toilet and took care of business.  Fortunately, this hotel was just a pit stop, not our destination. A bit farther out is Cēsis Pils.  Before you are able to take in the wonder of the ruins of Cēsis Pils, you need to enjoy the new Cēsis Pils. 

Can I just say now that very few of my pictures do justice to the real beauty of Latvia?

Behind new Cēsis Pils is the old castle ruins.    There are enough walls and bricks remaining to aid your imagination into visualizing how the castle was laid out and what the delightful views one would have from the towers.  There are two other castles in the vicinity of Cēsis Pils.  One of which you can see in the distance of the picture below, however, Cēsis was the only pils we visited that day. One can hardly ignore hungry tummies, especially when the skies continue to darken and threaten rain.

 I’d be remiss not to admit how awed I was of the modern scenic ampitheather that was been created out of the ruins. It must be amazing to watch a performance in that atmosphere. 

A view of inside the castle grounds from the tower

By the time we returned to town for lunch, there was a torrential downpour going on. This made it quite difficult to discern if a cafe had suitable fare for lunch. After running from one cafe to the next, we slumped into the grocery store next to the sports bar that didn’t allow minors in the middle of the day.   Turns out that the grocery store had a cafeteria type restaurant and, honestly, it had some of the best Latvian food we had the whole trip.  We ordered carbonade ( pork chops),  kartupeļi (potatoes), and probably maize (bread, likely rye) or/and sula (juice). Should I mention that we were drenched from the rain, like leaving a trail of puddles through the cafeteria line? 

Once we were done eating and with time to kill, we hit the grocery store to do some shopping.  Afterall, no trip is complete until you pick up a box of Prozit for each person back home. You only need to hope you keep the chocolates in one piece while traveling home so that the liquor inside the chocolates doesn’t escape.  

Castles are not the only thing worth visiting in the Gauja River area.  As is often done in the US, we visited the boyhood home of a man of historical significance.  Well, he was significant to us and many that we know, that’s for sure.  Ivars met us along the roadside and guided us to the boyhood home of Andrejs Kengis, PK’s dad, which is called Sietiņi.  

Childhood home of Andrejs, Ginta (pictured on the right), Aija and Janis

The family still owns land in the area but we are not allowed to go up to the actual house and it’s not visible from the road. Luckily, the barn, built by PK’s grandfather, is still visible from the road. 

The Kengis family doesn’t talk much about the literal story of leaving Latvia.  Essentially, there came a point in the occupation when the Russians began to send farmers off to Siberia (or did other things to them).  The family had been visiting another household when they received word that if they went home they would be killed. So, the Kengis family fled for safety in the middle of the night.  I now realize why Sound of Music has a special place in my mother-in-law’s heart. 

We inquired about where the name Sietiņi comes from. Ivars then guided us to the nearby sandstone cliffs along the Gauja River.  Sietiņi translates to sieve or strainer. 

Ivars recommended that we make a stop at the local cemetery before moving on to the wedding location. I admit, I was reluctant.  What could be so interesting about a cemetery (besides ancestors).  In hindsight, I regret that I did not take more pictures. This cemetery was like a botonical garden on castle grounds.  It was quite amazing. 

Site of Piedkalns: Augusts, Milda and Marija

There was one more castle that we visited that day, but since it was also the location of Matiss’s wedding, I think it’s best to save those impressions for the next chapter, Kāzas (wedding). 

By the way, it rained most of the day.  But, who’s to let a little rain get into the way of fun? 



Filed under family, Latvia, travel


Sing with me!

It’s Christ-mas, Christ-mas

Editor’s note – here’s a great Latvian cultural blog that will be celebrating 24 days of Christmas Baltic style! Priecīgus Ziemassvētku, Liene!

Ok, it’s Christmas time, not actually Christmas but I was anxiously waiting for Dec 1st as though it was Dec 25th.

I’m over the hill and acting like a child from 1 to 99. How did this happen?

Perhaps it was the US Capitol Christmas tree viewing? I recently read a facebook post that flew by on my news feed as I was scrolling for celebrity gossip that children are more successful if they experience delayed gratification. It was the “you can have one cookie now or two cookies if you wait an hour” test. I postulate, although I was dunked into the Christmas spirit when the US Capitol tree came to town and because I prohibited celebrating early, that my excitement was intensified by anticipation for Thanksgiving to be done! The feeling reminds me of the good ol’ Christmas mornings of my youth when I’d bask in the overflowing glow of the Christmas tree while waiting for everyone else to wake up.

Perhaps I’m overly excited about spending Christmas at my house, with my tree, with presents decorated my way? (please, husband, don’t use a whole roll of wrapping paper on a jewelry box). We spend nearly every holiday out-of-state. Usually, to accommodate all the family gatherings and obligations, we have to leave days before each holiday. As a result, I don’t get a chance to share many of the wonderful things my parents did for me with my children. It won’t be much longer before the magic will fade for them. Older Kid is already nonchalant about decorations. I feel this year has to be a ringer (Ref. Polar Express Sleigh Bell).

Perhaps I’m just a holiday freak?

…I figure that statement doesn’t require any further explanation.

So Sing with me!

All I really want from you, is your beau-ti-ful Christ-mas lights
Learn more about the song Beautiful Christmas Lights here
Younger Kid has taken over the outdoor lights. I guess, I can’t have everything my way.




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Filed under family, wonderland

Six Steps Celebrating Jani: A Beginners Guide To PseudoLatvianism

Jani: A midsummer’s celebration that is like celebrating New Year’s Eve only it makes New Year’s Eve look like Groundhog’s Day. (Note: Reasons for celebrating Jani will be covered under PseudoLatvian Novice : Transitioning from Light-Weight to Mid-Weight.

1. Build a bonfire by the lake.

2. Build a bonfire so big that it could be seen 10 miles away. Since you’ll need to be in the country side for this bonfire to avoid being arrested for arson, it helps to follow number 1 so “could be seen” will change to “can be seen”.

3. Put a bonfire up on a pole. Lighting this bonfire can be tricky. The old tradition is to have a young man with the proper skills light it with an arrow. However, one missed shot in the wrong location could lead to a wildfire that can be viewed 10 miles away which is not the way to complete number 2.

4. Adorn your head and the head of everyone else with a crown of flowers or leaves depending upon gender, preference, or availability of materials.

5. Eat cheese. If it doesn’t have seeds in it, you’ve got the wrong cheese.

6. Sing and dance all night until the sun comes up. What else are you going to do while you wait for that “10 mile” bonfire to burn out?

To sum it up, enjoy the fires, accessorize with organics, and forget that you need singing and dancing lessons. Or, go to Garezers where you can be indoctrinated into PseudoLatvianism in one night.

20140623-114322-42202165.jpg2013 Jani Bonfire in forefront and pole bonfire in the distance.


Filed under Michigan, PseudoLatvianism

Who’s A Stylish Blogger

Stylish is not one of the worlds that people associate with me. However, Liene** erroneously attached that word to my name or more precisely, my blog. Liene is the girl who’s going with this kid who knows this guy that told the girlfriend of a brother of the boyfriend of the sister of my best friend (it’s a backwards quote) and has a blog over at Femme au foyer.

This is what she had to say:

I would like to pass the stylish blogger award on to these lovely ladies:
Barefoot Roses at A Barefoot Rose By Any Other Name for her unique barefoot style

I think someone should examine Liene’s head. And, they might as well do mine while they are at it. I’m not much of a girly-girl but I guess that I do some stylish things. Such as:


1. Painted Toes – I don’t wear nail polish on my fingers but I won’t go in public without my toes polished. Going barefoot gives me the excuse I need to keep my toes up to date and show off that bright color. My current favorite is #381 Russet Flame. Yoowza!

2. Jewelry – this past summer I reacquainted myself with toe rings. I wore a toe ring for most of my younger adult life until I lost it or had kids or ate a monster or something like that. Now, that I am back to being barefoot all the time, I felt a replacement toe ring was required. It’s shiny and silver. I never know it’s there except when it reflects the light and catches my eye.

3. Mud masks – one can pay a couple hundreds of dollars for a day at the spa to have a mask applied to remove toxins and minimize pores. Or, one can head to their local creek side trail shortly after the waters recede from the lowlands. The mud on that trail is cool, comfortable and helps remove toxins like fat. I’m a fan of both kinds of mud masks.


Santa Socks!

4. Winter socks – With the onset of cooler temperatures, I sadly have to put on protective wear. Fortunately, there is this little thing every girl can get excited about. SOCKS! I’ve always had a soft spot for crazy holiday socks but last year I got hooked on wild everyday socks too. Turns out, I’m just one in a million with a sock fetish. Not that I mind, it just means the sock manufacturers will continue to feed my need.

So, my final stylish thing is to buck the tradition of the stylish bloggy award. I’m supposed to list seven stylish things I do. I only have four. Since I doubt you care, I quit.

I am giving my sister the next Stylish Blog award because her reviews are straight to the point. How she has time to watch movies AND review them, I’ll never know. So check Penny Rose out at Two Thumbs Up. (if only I could go on about those two thumbs up! Let’s just say, sisters stick together).

**Visit Liene, a pregnant Latvian descendant, American Expat, living in France with two cats, Roberts, and Lauris. Seriously, she makes fountains very interesting. But don’t miss out on the hunt for white eggs at Easter.

It has taken me so long to write this blog post that I don’t even care if it has good writing style or not. It’s posted!!


Filed under Barefoot, personality flaws

Visitors From A Foreign Land

I’m more tired then a… then a … then a… Ok. I’m tired, let’s just leave it at that. Sunday, my husband’s cousin paid us a visit from Latvia and brought his daughter (and his mother who lives in the States) to meet her cousins for the first time. We spent a quantity of quality time with them.

Before they arrived my mind was a whirl of ideas for showing Meitena what American life is like.  I wanted to take her to Route 66…

Flat Stanley Visits Route 66

and show her the Gemini Giant…

Flat Stanley and The Gemini Giant

For sure we needed to go for ice cream….take a look at the river…visit the boys’ school…bike ride to the park…

In the end, we were just plain tuckered out so, we just showed Meitena a great day in an American home.  Meitena could hardly wait to get into the pool.  She tugged at her dad’s arm during the house tour until he relented.  Formalities mean nothing to a child excited to jump into four feet of wonder.  Once she was in, it was hard to get her out.

We also took them out to dinner at our favorite local restaurant.  Hayden’s Crossing is a marvelous place to eat.  Don’t pass on the pub sticks, the side of veggies, or the mashed potatoes.  Although, it is hard to find room for all of it in my tummy.

Then the kids had a little Sunday drive around the yard.  The gator was given to us about six years ago as a hand-me-down present.  They are really too big for it but they don’t stop driving it.

Hey, hey. You. You. Get into my car.

I didn’t manage a trip to the ice cream shop but, lucky for Meitena, my BIL had delivered my favorite Plainwell Ice Cream from back home just the day before.  I could almost run all the way home for a scoop of their ice cream.  It’s hard to pick one favorite flavor when they have so many delightful ones.  At the top of my list is Chocolate Hazelnut, Pumpkin, Mint Chocolate Chip, Butter Pecan, Lemon Chiffon… maybe I had better save that for another post… Bonus for me that PIC can travel three hours in a car then refreeze like the master ice cream it is.

After ice cream, K-man and Meitena rode up and down the block on our bikes.  Soon, even with the glow necklaces on, it got too dark for riding so they took a late night dip in the pool.  Glow necklaces are always a big hit at night, but they are an even bigger hit in the pool at night.  It took me a while to convince K-man that the hot water of the pool (92 deg F) would not ruin them.

Late night swim by the glow of a necklace

Not willing to let the party end so early, the kids hung out in the family room watching their favorite Disney pre-teen episodes.  Meitena was delighted to get to watch new episodes.  The boys were delighted to stay up until 10:30 pm.  They were not so delightful the next day.

Bedtime wind down

In hind sight, I’m a little sorry I didn’t show her Route 66, but I’ve never seen three kids become such good friends so fast despite some language barriers. Meitena’s English is pretty good but the boys only know a few greetings in Latvian.

The cousin kept us up all hours of the night solving the world’s problems.  I still managed to roll out of bed the next morning to go for another  3 mile VFF run.  The Aunt was up early too and surprised to not only find me awake but sweaty to boot.  Although it was tiring, I could not resist the cool morning air and clear skies (no orange, no green).

Some day, we’ll make the long trip back to the motherland.  I love to travel and really feel a need for the boys to connect with their paternal heritage.  In addition to going over seas again, I plan to visit all 50 states.  So, it got me thinking… if I was visiting your town or your state (or country), what would you show me?

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Filed under cycling, Michigan, running, swimming, Vibram Five Fingers