Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pūpolsvētdiena, or Palm Sunday

Apaļš kā pūpols, vesels kā rutks! Slimībā ārā, veselība iekšā!

On Palm Sunday Latvians celebrate pūpolu svētdiena. One of the most common traditions on this day is for the first person awake to cut some branches from the pussy willow and use them to wake the rest of the household while wishing them to be “round as a pussy willow, healthy as a turnip.” I go into some detail about the history behind this here, and for more traditional skaitāmpanti and customs, this article from might come in handy.

We had company over last week to help with the Easter egg coloring. Using all natural materials and the traditional methods, we were quite successful with both the onion skin and the red cabbage eggs. Although we generally followed the steps I list in my previous articles about technique (Œufs blancs for the onion skin method and Natural Easter eggs for the red cabbage method), we noticed some differences in shade and definition.

Utilizing old nylons instead of cheese cloth and foregoing the “onion skin nest” produced a much darker brown and more definitive shapes. Make sure to use water to “adhere” your leaves and grasses to the egg before slipping them into the nylon.

Although the eggs nested in onion skins and then wrapped in cheese cloth or nylons resulted in lighter shades of brown, the outcome was a more dappled, multi-hued work of art.

I had difficulties getting the same vibrant blue I had achieved previous years using red cabbage, but letting them sit in the dye bath overnight brought about this beautiful color.

My second batch of cabbage eggs were just a robin egg blue, but they are delicate-looking and unique nonetheless. I have to wonder if I had more water (and therefore a more diluted solution) than previous years, or if the red cabbage I bought was just less vivid…

With visitors coming to Greenville, Easter next weekend and some extremely energetic boys, I have a lot of excitement to look forward to. I hope you have a wonderful week, and good luck with your Easter preparations!

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Greenville Drive at Fluor Field - opening day

Happy opening day!!! Yesterday Greenville Drive baseball returned to Fluor Field with the season opener against Kannapolis Intimidators. The first pitch was thrown by retired Sergeant Michael Batton, who served as an active duty Marine for 10 years before being injured in combat in Iraq in 2006. Greenville managed to tie it up in the eight inning, and the final score was 7-6 after the 10th, with The Drive coming through with a victory in their first home game.

Greenville’s baseball stadium is located on S. Main Street in the West End. Modeled after Fenway Park (home of the Boston Red Sox), Fluor Field even has its own “Green Monster,” a 30-foot high wall in left field with a manual scoreboard. The dimensions all around the outfield wall are to the same specifications as Fenway Park, including “Pesky’s Pole” in right field. Home to more than 70 Greenville Drive home games a year (unless they get rained out like last year!), the stadium also hosts a number of other functions, including the St. Patrick’s day festivities we attended last year and other special sporting events.

On May 28, 2005 with the ground-breaking in what used to be a lumber yard, the construction of West End Field began. Less than 11 months later on April 6, 2006, the Drive defeated the Columbus Catfish 6-1 in the first game played in the new stadium. That year the Field was selected as the "Ballpark of the Year" by, an award given to the best new/rebuilt ballpark, whether it's from the Major, Minor or Independent Leagues. On February 26, 2008 the stadium was officially renamed Fluor Field at the West End after a corporate partnership was reached between the Drive and Fluor Corporation.

Source here

A Minor League team, the Greenville Drive is a Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox and a member of the South Atlantic League. Previously the team played in Columbia and was known as the Capital City Bombers. Our mascot is a frog named Reedy Rip'it, and we’ve become accustomed to seeing him at events around town, such as last summer’s Park Hop.

Source here

Check out this season’s schedule here, and for ticketing and other information visit the official site of the Greenville Drive here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Preparing for Easter

Easter season has officially kicked off for us with the annual company Easter celebration. We cut it close but made it just in time to participate in the egg hunt, and soon the boys were just two of over a hundred kids scrambling to pick up a basketful of eggs. We had great weather, played our share of games, ate a lunch of popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs and chips, saw the Easter Bunny & Bibendum, checked out the rides and finished everything off with popsicles and balloon art.

Today friends are coming over to join us in coloring eggs the traditional Latvian way, with onion skins. Here are the links to the posts you need to make your very own Latvian Easter eggs:
Œufs blancs – the onion skin method
Natural Easter eggs – the red cabbage method

And don’t forget to pick up the farmer’s cheese for the Easter paska! (This post also covers many of the traditional Latvian Easter traditions)
Joyeux Pâques! – my grandmother’s paska recipe 

A nice way to remember the Easters we spent in France is by incorporating some of the French traditions into our holiday here in the US.

I have one week to procure pussy willow branches for Palm Sunday; I wrote about this Latvian tradition in my post I forgot, again! about Latvian Palm Sunday, Pūpolu svētdiena.

I wish everyone luck in beginning your Easter preparations! 

Friday, April 4, 2014

A drawing lesson from Jan Brett

It seems rather cosmic that I met author and illustrator Jan Brett on International Children’s Book Day (although I wouldn’t have known Tuesday was the day except for attending her demonstration). Celebrated since 1967 on Hans Christian Andersen's birthday, this year’s theme is Imagine Nations Through Story sponsored by Ireland. 

I wrote about visiting the Upcountry History Museum with my mother and the boys a few weeks ago. We really enjoyed viewing Jan Brett’s artwork in the special exhibit, but meeting her in person was a treat. I didn’t take any chances and bought a ticket a few weeks ago, and turns out this was the right decision as only 200 fans were able to attend the hour-long demonstration and were first in line to get books signed.

“I wake up, feed the chickens, eat my breakfast, and then I get to color all day.” Mrs. Brett spoke about her inspiration for her most recent book, “Cinders,” loosely based on the fairytale Cinderella but featuring chickens and more sympathetic stepsisters and stepmother. Instructing the artists in the room she described the importance of drawing the eyes to show emotion, and reinforced her point with a game; the audience had to guess her emotion (happiness, sadness, fear, etc.) by only looking at her eyes.

The highlight of the evening was watching her at work. Starting with simple shapes Mrs. Brett formed a chicken, and with a few spots shaded and the addition of color the main character from “Cinders” appeared before our eyes. Of course the illustrations in her books aren’t so quickly drawn, as the media used is different from the markers used Tuesday and the amount of detail in the average illustration is staggering. “An inch an hour” was her estimate.

I then spent an hour waiting to meet her and get a couple of books signed, during which time I marveled how she was able to spend the morning at a local school, sightsee Greenville, give an hour-long presentation and still find the energy to greet every fan with attentiveness and a smile… and the line must have numbered at least 300! Thank you again for the lovely evening, and we’ll treasure our copy of “The Mitten” even more now that it has your personal touch inscribed!

*** I urge you to visit Jan Brett’s website, full of coloring activities, videos, games and more of her beautiful illustrations - Maybe you will be the lucky fan to win a Jan Brett visit to your local school?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Smithsonian in Greenville

"Animal Connections: Our Journey Together" was in town this week, parked next to the Greenville Zoo. The traveling truck exhibit on the bond between humans and animals is meant for children and adults alike, and as we already had plans to head to Cleveland Park to meet friends, we decided to check out the mobile museum on the second day of its Greenville visit.

There were several aspects to the exhibit. The first was human interaction with animals in our home environment: animals in the backyard, urban encroachment and other places our paths might cross. The second was human interaction with animals in learning environments: zoos, farms and the like. Animals as pets and service animals was a third topic.

The exhibit was more suited for adults and children already in school, as many of the displays requiring interaction were a little more complicated. On the other hand, the material was presented in a condensed format, meaning both boys had the required patience to explore the entire exhibit. The displays also elicited questions about some of the various animals featured from both Lauris and Mikus.

A display focusing on human products poisonous to animals

Animal Connections is free to the public, and with high quality displays I felt it was worth the trip to see it. There was no wait to get in and it was actually quite roomy inside, with the expandable sides fully extended providing enough space for double the people that were inside. The Cleveland Park Animal Clinic veterinarians were on hand to answer any questions, and a full exploration of the displays took about 30 minutes.

Presented by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) to mark the 150th anniversary of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the next destination on their itinerary is the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine in Columbus, Ohio. To find out if Animal Connections will be visiting your hometown, click here
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