Monday, August 30, 2010


So the other night I was bored...I had purchased the stuff for spinach ravioli and decided that after the gym Wednesday I didn't want to watch TV or read so I broke out the pasta machine.  I made a recipe that I found online.  It rolled out really well but I haven't eaten them yet, so we'll see how they taste this weekend.  I made it with wheat flour, which is a little healthier.  While it was setting I set about to make the filling.  I had some ricotta cheese that I got from the commissary and the mozzerella cheese that Mom shippped me (THANK YOU, my lovely mother!) .  I squeezed out the water from the spinach and put it in a bowl.  Next I added some of the ricotta and the mozzerella.  Then some garlic powder, basil and just a bit of oregano and salt.  Stir it all up and then went to roll out the pasta.  Man, the pasta machine is the best invention! :D  It allowed me to get some lovely sheets of pasta.  Then I hand cut the squares.  I played around with sizes and 1 versus 2 pieces of pasta.  I had so much dough that I also made some angel hair pasta.  I love cooking...just wish I had someone to share it with!
Here is a picture of the finished product with a basil parmesan sauce

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rundale Palace

Rundale Palace is a place that many visitors to Latvia go to, even locals.  I finally drove out there with Lori this past Saturday.  The day was cloudy and rainy...but I had high hopes that the weather would clear up.
Some of the interior is original, but a lot of it has had to be restored.  That happens a lot here in the Baltics...not much was maintained, so they've had to go back and restore.  But isn't this beautiful?  Pink marble with relief roses and vines!  Very pretty...but I'm not sure I'd want a whole room that way...maybe just a little for accent?
Here you can see the original and what state it is in.  They've done a fabulous job of restoring and seeing the original was quite interesting.
I imagine that the need for a "tropical" retreat was needed in the dead of winter!  But it is amazing the amount of detail and that someone used to live here...quite opulent but not the most opulent that I've seen.
I was a little hungry and so feeling a little irreverant and could not help myself from saying "I like big butts" when we walked in and saw these old dresses...that then prompted the picture of me sticking my butt out! LOL...I'm so silly...
Outside the palace is the French gardens.  We paid 2 lats to visit the French gardens, but as you can see it was rainy and I was soooo hungry (it was 3 o'clock by this point and I had ran 22 km that morning!) that we just took pictures and went to see if we could find somewhere to eat.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer and fruit

After experiencing a winter in Latvia last year, I have decided to do some preparation for winter and things that I can't find when I need them.  At Thanksgiving, we always have pies.  I love blueberry pies and instead of ordering blueberry pie filling online (which is kind of expensive) I bought some blueberries in the farmers market and some jars from Depot (not Home Depot but it's the same kind of store).
I didn't take a picture of the blueberries because I didn't think to until Ruth said I should write about it in my blog.  So, here are the same kind of jars I used. 
The way to start is in a heavy duty stock pot, put 4 cups water, 2 cups sugar, 7 tablespoons of corn starch and bring to a rolling boil.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Then add 1/2 of the blueberries and the juice and grated rind of a lemon.  Bring back to a boil and reduce and simmer for 4 minutes, stiring occassionally to prevent burning.  Then add the rest of the blueberries and cook for another 4 minutes.  If you are going to pressure seal, do not cook for the additional four minutes.  Since I don't have a pressure cooker, I heat the oven to 300 and then put the jars and the lids into oven to heat while I cook.  Then I put the finished producted into the heated jars, put the lid on and then let them seal.
Here is the blueberry pie filling, raspberry jam, and canned peaches.  The peaches are AMAZING! :)
Then I wanted to do apple sauce, apple pie filling and apple butter.  Here are the apples I used.  They are from Poland and are really sweet and yummy.
I like to use a salt bath to keep the apples pretty.  It works just as well as pectin or lemon.  The really nice thing about it is that it allows you to eliminate the salt in the recipe.
Here are the apples, water, cinnamon and sugar in the pot.  The nice thing is that applesauce doesn't take that long to cook.  This small batch was tender in about 5 minutes.
Then I puree the apples in a blender and then put into jars and put the lids on and then let them seal.  The applesauce is SO yummy and I know what's in it. :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Views I see every day

As the time draws close to me leaving Latvia, I am trying to get all the pictures taken and things done that I have put off.  Riga is actually a beautiful city when you can see it...i.e. the summer! LOL.
Riga is known for it's Art Nouveau.  This is the building right across the street from my apartment.
This is the view of the street that I walk down to go to the store or the central market.  Just like any other "large" city, there are cars, busses and pedestrians.
McDonald's is every where...the one major difference: no drive-up windows...there are walk-up windows instead!
Riga is a pretty "Westernized" city, there are malls all over the city.  Origo is the closest one to me and that is where I do a majority of my grocery shopping.  They have their grocery chains inside the malls.  This one is called Rimi.  The interesting thing is that you can't always find what you want or need.  Sometimes they run out of something and it is weeks or months before they get more!
A lot of people live outside the city and then take the train into work everyday because it is cheaper to live outside the city.  This is the Central Station.  It is by the mall that is just down the street from my house.  I haven't been adventurous enough to take a train yet, but I may have to come September...but we'll see.
Latvians love ice cream during summer.  Very few buildings have air conditioning because typically summers do not get above 75.  This summer is the hottest summer on record in something like 85 years!  I bet they wish they had it now!  But they try to keep cool with ice cream...although I don't think it works very well, but it tastes great!
These old zeplain hangers have been transformed into the central market.  Here you can find fish, meat, vegtables, fruits, tea...almost anything.  There is a lot more selection during the summer but hold your breath if you go into the fish's really strong smelling!
This is where, during the summer, there are a lot of fruit and vegtable vendors.  There are some during the winter as well, but there are quite a few more during summer.  Walking ten feet you might find peaches for 10 centimi I recommend looking around a bit before you actually purchase anything!
Inside the zeplain hangers there are more established vendors.  Here there is dried fruit and nuts, bread, cheese.  While the majority of vendors in a section are selling the same things, you'll find the various odd vendor...there was a vendor where you could buy underwear and socks right next to the fruit...a little funny, no? ;)
In the fish section, you can find fresh fish but you can also find a lot of dried fish.  Well, I'm not sure if they are dried or smoked...they could be smoked but I thought it was funny to see a "bucket o' fish"!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ventspils, Latvia

Since I have less than four months left, I have decided to work more local trips into my remaining weeks.  So last weekend after getting up early and running, Wendy Smith, her daughter Shannon, and I drove to Ventspils, Latvia.  It is on the tip of the horn of Latvia on the Baltic Sea.  It is the largest port in Latvia.
This is a view from the Ventspils Castle to the port.  ("Pils" actually means castle in Latvian.  So any city that has it is the name means that there is a castle in the city.)  The cranes go all along the River Venta which is deep enough for ships to dock.
Ventspils has another interesting thing...they have stautes of cows all over the city.  This one just outside the Ventspils Castle had a multi-colored blanket that covered it.  The only time I'll literally get to take a bull by the horns! ;)
On the very tip of the horn of Latvia, is the beach and the "Ventspils Blue Cow"!  It is really interesting that Ventspils has these cow statues because there aren't that many cows in Latvia.  The blue cow is HUGE!  Wendy and Shannon were cooling down in the water, so I didn't get a picture standing next to the bull, but I could barely reach his nose, that's how tall he is!

Little did I know that the Baltic Sea had jelly fish, but it does!  I took a picture not knowing if they would show up, but they do! :)  Aren't they cool?!?!  They are slimy and yucky and it was hard to walk in some parts of the sea without stepping on them!  But I did my best! :)

See...I told you I got in the cold Baltic Sea!!! :)  This day I didn't get all wet because I forgot my swiming suit, but I have gotten all the way in, and here is proof that I did get in! :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

...and then running a half-marathon!

How many crazy people turn 31 and then run a half-marathon?!?!?!  Me!  LOL.  I'm not really crazy, just thought I'd train for something concrete instead of just working out.  So I signed up to run in the Kuldiga, Latvia pusmaraton (half-marathon) on August 8, 2010.  Well, Latvia has been experiencing it's hottest summer in something crazy like 85 years!  So it was really warm and the race didn't start until 1 pm!

(Pics to come soon)

It's amazing how running that far in that kind of weather can drain you.  I've been training for about a year now and I should have been able to finish the half-marathon in 2 hours, but because of the heat and the cobblestone (I haven't been running on cobblestone during my training so I had to slow down when the streets turned to cobblestone so I wouldn't break my ankle!) it took me 2 hours 25 minutes and 25 seconds. :(  Which means that my marathon will take me over 5 hours to run!  Well, I can't have that!  So I've started running faster on my training sessions.  I'm gonna finish the marathon in 4 hours 30 minutes!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Turning 31...

Sometimes it is hard to believe how quickly time flies.  Last year, I turned 30 in Riga far away from family and friends.  It wasn't hard because my birthday isn't something I make a big deal out of.  This year, I had hoped that Ruth would be able to come for a visit, but Braydon got baptised the first weekend of August and so she went to Oregon for that.  I did get to talk to my family on Sunday (which I've always said is my real birthday anyway!) 
So, how did I celebrate my birthday this year?  Well, Monday I woke up with a headache and a fever, so I actually spent the day sleeping!  So once again, I spent my birthday all alone in a foreign country.  But hey, I chose this! :)  And I hope that being sick isn't a sign of my aging! ;)  Actually I definitely don't feel 31...but then DOES 31 really feel?
Happy Birthday to me! :D