Friday, December 23, 2011

Ziemassvētki klāt!

No baznīcas braucot Ziemas svētku vakarā
-Jānis Poruks

Balts sniedziņš snieg uz skujiņām,
Un, maigi dziedot, pulkstens skan;
Mirdz šur tur ciemos ugunis,
Un sirds tā laimīgi pukst man.
Man ir, it kā kad paceltos
Gars augstumos, kur debess telts
Ir pulcējusi eņģeļus,
Kur āres spīd kā spožais zelts.
Es saprotu, es sajūtu,
Ka šeit uz zemes spodrība –
Tas augstākais, ko mums var dot,
Un skaidram būt ir godība.
Ai, māmiņa, cik laba tu:
Tu mani baltu mazgāji,
No acīm skūpstot asaras,
Man svētku drānas uztērpi.
Ai, māmiņa, vai mūžīgi
Es varēšu tāds skaidrs būt,
Jeb vai būs liktens nolēmis
Man citādam virs zemes kļūt?
Balts sniedziņš snieg uz skujiņām,
Un, maigi dziedot, pulkstens skan;
Mirdz šur tur ciemos ugunis,
Un sirds pukst aplaimota man.

Novēlam ikkatram spožus, skaistus Ziemassvētkus, un visu to labāko 2012. gadā!

Our family wishes everyone a warm and magical Christmas, and best wishes in the coming year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December in the Auvergne - piparkūkas!

The Latvian Christmas cookie is without a doubt the piparkūka. The direct translation would be “peppercake” and they can be compared to gingerbread, but I’ve always thought that they taste more of the molasses and other spices and have a much different texture. The recipe I’ve used the past ten years that my mother gave me calls for cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander as well as cream of tartar, baking powder and baking soda. Of biggest concern to me (as I had checked and double checked the spice rack to guarantee that I could find all the necessary ingredients I still needed) were the required dark molasses, dark brown sugar and lard. For those familiar with the French brown sugar, it is very light and very granular, and this would take away from the dark brown color of the finished product. The molasses is another tricky ingredient, some cooks swear by a certain brand of unsulphered variety I have only seen in the States, and although my mother promised me Crisco would suffice in place of the lard, I have yet to find anything of the sort in the stores here.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon Lyle’s Black Treacle in the Irish store nearby, “made from cane molasses… add(ing) a distinctive rich, dark flavour to traditional recipes like... gingerbreads.” I’m not sure if it is unsulphered, but being the closest thing to dark molasses I would find, I decided to take the risk. Then a fellow mom arrived bearing the dark brown sugar and lard I had been searching the past three weeks for; she says she got them at her local supermarket! The lard I understand why I have not seen, I had been searching near the butter and cream, instead it is located in the charcuterie aisle. However, the dark brown sugar I still have not found – I don’t believe any of the stores I frequent carry the brand she brought. But thanks Sue; you saved my yearly cookie ritual!

 A labor of love, the dough takes me more than an hour to make, and then once it is allowed to rest for a few days the real work begins. The dough is not the easiest to work with, it takes a lot of muscle to roll it out as thin as I prefer it and this year I found my ginormous pregnant stomach was interfering with my leverage. But as the ratio of thinness is directly proportional to crispness, taste and cook’s reputation, I labored on. Another shortcut can be taken with size of the cookies, I have cookie cutters in a variety of shapes and sizes, but again, I prefer the bite-sized morsels which just happen to take three times as long to make. Once they are on the pan, they are glazed with egg yolk and then decorated. Traditional decorations include chopped or sliced almonds and rough sugar, and I added in a little chocolate since I had some on hand.

The final and most dangerous portion of the process is the oven. Being so thin they burn to a crisp in an instant, and no two pans take the same amount of time to cook. Being on unfamiliar territory with an oven that had yet to bake its first batch of piparkūkas added to the challenge. The end result was that they took anywhere between 4 to 15 minutes to cook, and often I removed the cookies from the outer edges that cooked faster before returning the rest of the pan to the oven. But I can proudly say, this year’s batch is finished and you are more than welcome to stop by and try one!

Ziemassvētku gaidās – Vilis Plūdonis

„Māsiņ, vai tu zini ko?
Nestāsti tik citiem to!
Eglīti jau rūķītis
Mums uz svētkiem atnesis.
Nejauši to ieraudzīju
Vakar es, kad laukā biju:
Malkas šķūnītis bij vaļā,
Skatos – eglīte stāv zaļa.
Nu vairs, māsiņ, šaubu nav:
Ziemassvētki klātu jau.”

„Nu tu tiešām redzēji?”

„Vai tad tu vēl netici...
Tad vēl citas jaunas ziņas:
Māte ceps ar’ zaķaustiņas!
Piparraušu necepšot:
Tie tik zobus maitājot.”

„Man gan piparrauši garšo...”
„Jā, un cik tie jauki smaršo!...”

„Brālīt! iesim palūgties
Māmiņai, lai cep ar’ tos!”

And here is a quick translation that in no way does this famous Latvian poet justice...

Waiting for Christmas – Vilis Plūdonis

“Sister, did you know?
Only don’t tell anyone else!
A Christmas elf has already brought
Our Christmas tree.
I accidentally saw it
Yesterday, when I was outside:
The woodshed door was open,
And I saw the green tree.
Now there is no doubt:
Christmas is very near.”

“You really saw it?”

“You still don’t believe…
Then more good news:
Mother is cooking zaķaustiņas!
She said she will not cook piparkūkas
Because they are bad for our teeth.”

“But I love piparkūkas…”
“Yes, and they smell so nice!...”

“Brother, let’s go ask
Mother to bake some of those as well!”

With all the cooking we still found time to take a ride on the Christmas train that is taking tours around downtown Clermont. Although not real trains, the little tourist trams are decorated with lovely Christmas lights, run every half an hour, have eight stops including Place de Jaude and the Christmas marché and run between 2pm and 7pm (8pm on Saturdays) every day from now until Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

December in the Auvergne - home stretch!

Thank goodness for the weekend! Just as the Latvian Christmas carol sings Man atnāca Ziemassvētki, Visi darbi nedarīti: Ne krekliņi man mazgāti, Ne nāteles balinātas (Christmas came for me with all the chores undone: the shirts unwashed and the nāteles unbleached), there are many thing yet to be done before Christmas!

We were able to accomplish several things this weekend, the biggest of which was finishing gift wrapping and packing for those gifts to be sent off to family across the Atlantic. Hopefully these presents will not arrive too late!

Putting the final touches on the tree

Sunday morning came the first snow of the season. Puy de Dôme received its first dusting almost a week ago, and although nothing stuck from this morning’s precipitation, it was a nice change from the weather of the last couple of days.

In the south of France they have the Mistral; a regional wind, which usually blows during the winter and spring, lasts one or two days (or sometimes more than a week) and can reach speeds of more than ninety kilometers an hour. What we had Thursday and Friday was something else! Supposedly reaching speeds of over 120 km/hour, I was naïve enough to venture outside and was rewarded with rain in the face and a scare that I would be hit by shingles or panes of glass that were raining down across the city. The Clermont-Ferrand airport was closed, train service discontinued due to downed trees and power lines, and perhaps the saddest result of all, the top of the grand Christmas tree on Place de Jaude was snapped off…

Another item checked off our to-do list was a visit to see Santa. Last year Lauris paid a visit to Ziemassvētku vecītis in Latvija, with many tears and quite a bit of crying being the result. This year was not much different. Lauris was calm as we approached a short and skinny version of Santa in the Place de Jaude mall, and we spent ten minutes watching other children sitting on his lap having their pictures taken. But once it was his turn the previously mentioned waterworks ensued, and the only picture we were able to get of this year’s visit was one with Santa, a teary but well-dressed Lauris, and a disheveled and tired 7 months pregnant mom.

Wishing everyone a productive yet enjoyable last week before Chistmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

December in the Auvergne - decorating the tree

One of my favorite Latvian Christmas carols, “Ak, eglīte, ak, eglīte,” is an ode to the Christmas tree. It sings of the beauty of the evergreen, and of the peace, light and happiness it brings into the home, be it a castle or a hut. Our beautiful tree has been gracing our living room for over a week now and although the lights were in place soon after its arrival, only a few days ago did we finally hang the decorations.

Lauris helped. Then he un-helped for a bit before helping again. So far there have only been a handful of casualties, and one of them occurred while a certain blogger was attempting to take a few pictures of the ornaments.

When the Christmas tree originally arrived, it proved to be a little taller than our ceiling, so a good meter was cut off. I finally used the last of the cut branches for a garland. This is our first home that has a fireplace, and therefore an ideal location for the Christmas stockings (which will possibly merit another post as I have yet to hang them), the advent wreath, a garland and our numerous holiday knick-knacks and candles.

As we listened to Christmas music, hung ornaments and drank our hot chocolate, I set aside one single decoration: our angel tree topper. It will wait patiently on the shelf until Roberts gets home to place it.

Ak, eglīte, ak, eglīte

Ak, eglīte, ak, eglīte,
Tu patstāvīga esi:
Tu zaļo ziemas aukstumā,
Tāpat kā vasar’s karstumā.
Ak, eglīte, ak, eglīte,
Tu patstāvīga esi.

Ak, eglīte, ak, eglīte,
Tu manim patikt vari:
No Ziemassvētku eglītes
Man spīd daudz gaišas svecītes.
Ak, eglīte, ak, eglīte,
Tu manim patikt vari.

Ak, eglīte, ak, eglīte,
Tavs apģērbs man ko māca:
Patstāvība un cerība
Dod spēku skumjā nestundā.
Ak, eglīte, ak, eglīte,
Tavs apģērbs man ko māca.

Ak, eglīte, ak, eglīte,
Cik skaista tug an esi:
Tu grezno pilis, būdiņas,
Nes visur mieru, līksmību.
Ak, eglīte, ak, eglīte,
Cik skaista tu gan esi!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December in the Auvergne - the Christmas party

A Latvian Christmas carol tells of "the hundred cakes I baked while waiting for Christmas, when a hundred dancing children came to visit."

Simtu cepu kukulīšu,
Ziemassvētku gaidīdama:
Simtiņš nāca danča bērnu
Ziemassvētku vakarā.

The big Christmas party I had been looking forward to for over a month now was on Sunday. As we lost a very dear member of the family last week, Roberts flew back to the US to represent the three of us and so it was only Lauris and I making the drive out to his friend Stephan’s house.

The party had it all; good food, good company, plenty of dancing children for Lauris to run around with and of course, chocolate with firecrackers. A French tradition perhaps?

A potluck lunch, but we didn’t return home until early evening, and there were soon two of us taking a well-deserved nap. Another lovely December weekend, but I am oh-so-happy that it’s over and Roberts is back home with us.

Monday, December 12, 2011

December in the Auvergne - trees taking over

On our walk to the crafts fair at Massillion International School on Saturday we passed by the fountain in Place Delille that usually looks like this:

It appears Place de Jaude isn't the only place the Christmas elves have been busy!

Svētvakara - Augusts Saulietis

... Un lēni durvis veras:
Tēvs zaļu eglīti nes,
Un zaros tai pārslas zaigo
Kā baltas zvaigznītes.

Un vienu svecīti spožu
Dedz māte un eglītē liek:
Cik gaiši un silti no viņas
Kā saulē visapkārt tiek!

"Pie Taviem šūpļiem stāvu" -
Tad tēvs un māte dzied,
Un lielas, zaļas zvaigznes
Aiz sniegainā loga zied.

Friday, December 9, 2011

December in the Auvergne – raclette

Nāc, māsiņ, ciemoties
Ziemassvētku vakarā:
Būs pupiņas, būs zirnīši,
Būs cūciņas šņukurīts.

“Come for a visit on Christmas eve, there will be beans, peas and pork!” (Sounds a bit better in the Latvian Christmas carol!) This post is not about pork and beans, and honestly, it didn’t even happen in December, but since the holidays are upon us along with the various dinners, lunches and gatherings, I felt it was an appropriate “December in the Auvergne” post. During the very last days of November we were invited to a friend’s house to celebrate the November birthdays: among the five families that attended there had been seven birthdays (including mine)! The menu? Raclette!

The three amigos meet again!

A dish originally from Switzerland and the Savoy region of France, it involves melted cheese, potatoes and charcuterie/jambon cru. According to Wikipedia, the term raclette derives from the French word racler, meaning "to scrape", because traditionally the heated cheese was scraped from a large round onto diners’ plates. The modern version involves an electric table-top grill with small pans for heating the cheese and a griddle top for cooking the ham.

Melted cheese with bacon and potatoes, I believe I’ve mentioned a pregnant woman’s affinity for such dishes in posts such as Truffade, and Happy New Year. Actually, I’m surprised how little I’ve written about this particular weakness of mine, considering how much I’ve been thinking about it the past months. Why do my pregnancy cravings center around bacon, cheese and fried dough instead of healthier options such as veggies and grains, I do not question.

The evening was a wonderful success. The children spent all their energy while the adults dined and talked, and the raclette grills were turned off much too soon (in my opinion) to make room for dessert (well that did change my mind). Four different birthday cakes with candles appeared, happy birthday was sung twice, and I have my doubts that anyone left without a stuffed belly and that inner peace that comes after such a pleasant occasion.

* Thanks Robert, for all the pictures! Pregnancy brain struck again, as I left my camera at home!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December in the Auvergne – everything is illuminated

The Latvian Christmas carol “Dedziniet gaišu guni, laidiet Dievu istabā: Dieviņš brauca par kalniņu sudrabotu mētelīti,” counsels everyone to keep warmth and brightness in your home and to let God in, for God is coming over the hills in a silver coat.

Warmth and brightness came to our apartment this weekend in the form of our friends from Chatenet. On Saturday they helped Roberts find and bring home our very first French Christmas tree, and by the evening it was softly glowing with Christmas lights. But there were more lights in Clermont-Ferrand to be seen, as it was also the kick-off weekend of Illuminations and the Christmas festivities here in Clermont-Ferrand.

After a morning spent resting and recuperating from the flu, I was physically able to join my family and our guests on an outing to downtown. As we emerged from the apartment a light drizzle was falling, but at that precise minute all the Christmas lights decorating our street were turned on for the first time, and this encouraged us to continue on to Place de Jaude. The Christmas tree there was not yet lit but the plaza was full of people that had come out to enjoy the shopping and lights on this dreary Saturday. Rue Nestor Perret was the site for the annual fête du miel with a dozen local honey vendors set up displaying their wares, and the smell of roasted chestnuts was in the air, as vendors sold everything from churros to crêpes from small mobile carts.

Although the drizzle had stopped, the wind was still blowing pretty fiercely, and exactly at the moment as I started wondering if I had misunderstood the time that the lighting of the tree would take place (for there were very few people milling around the tree as we were), the Christmas tree was illuminated! With beautifully flowing icicle lights interspersed with the smaller lights, the wind was moving the branches, causing a wavelike effect. Along with the tree dozens of smaller light displays all over Jaude were also turned on, and the giant Ferris Wheel was simply icing on the cake.

We continued north to the Marché de Noël, set up in Place de la Victoire next to the cathedral. Although the Christmas market was filled with people and all the vendors were open for business, the lights there had not yet been turned on. As we sipped on hot wine and enjoyed the atmosphere came a wonderful surprise; the overhead canopy of Christmas lights came alive, the roving musicians struck up a nice Christmas melody, and the whole marché came even more alive than it had been!

We didn’t linger much longer, after Roberts and Max’s parents enjoyed a quick snack of oysters at the oyster vendor’s booth it was time to head back home to enjoy the lights of our own tree. But that is how Clermont-Ferrand came to be illuminated for Christmas this year, and we were there to see it happen.

Monday, December 5, 2011

December in the Auvergne – the Christmas spirit arrives in our home

Another Latvian Christmas carol sings “Bagāti Ziemassvētki no Rīgas nāca: trīs simti sulaiņi bruņoti līdz,” a wealthy Christmas came from Rīga (the capital of Latvia), three hundred guards along with it .

Our visitors came from Chatenet, not Rīga, and although they were three not three hundred, they brought along with them the Christmas spirit and a wonderful start to the holiday season. Arriving with a beautiful holly wreath that now holds the advent candles, food from their garden and a sac full of presents, their timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Friday I came down with some 24-hour bug, and we almost cancelled at the last minute after I found myself laid out on the couch before noon. Luckily, after consulting our guests they decided they would travel anyway, risking the possibility of contracting what I had in order to help with Lauris and assist Roberts in a few tasks I wouldn’t be able to be of aid with. They arrived just in time, taking over the duty of watching Lauris and making dinner.

The next morning is when our guests really proved their weight in gold. As I rested, my husband, Lauris and our Chatenet guests left on a difficult assignment; to find our first French Christmas tree. My hopes were that they would find something a little taller than the 3-4 ft trees I’d been seeing at all the local grocery stores, and they didn’t disappoint.

Testing for "bounce"
As my husband tells the story, at their first stop a salesperson brought out a 3 meter tree wrapped in the mesh wrap and named the price, which was over 100 euro! Knowing how sad I would be if he came home empty handed, he almost bought it; luckily at the urging of the others, he asked to see the tree unwrapped. As the man pulled off the wrapping, a good shower of needles fell, and as he pulled at the branches, even more dropped. Finally, he gave it a good tap and when the pile on the floor doubled, they decided that this tree wouldn’t survive the trip home.

The next stop proved to be the final stop. After the first experience my husband was worried that this might be The Most Expensive Tree Ever, and so when they saw the 27 euro price tag on a 10+ ft tree at a tree lot, they assumed it would be per meter. The salesperson quickly assured them that the price could not be right, but when she returned came the nicest surprise; it was actually 4 euro less than the sign said!

Note: saws were not actually used in close proximity to children!

Needless to say, the five were soon on their way home with a giant tree somehow strapped to our car (this I wish I had seen!), and as the fathers carried it into the house, the holiday scent of spruce entered along with it. Before long they had it standing in our living room, Christmas lights softly glowing, and I have to say it is The Most Beautiful Tree I have ever had the luck to have in my home. Thank you to my Chatenet elves!

Friday, December 2, 2011

December in the Auvergne - trees and trucks

There’s an old Latvian Christmas carol that sings of Christmas arriving in a decorated sleigh:
            Ziemassvētki sabraukuši rakstītāmi kamanām’,
            Tidrallā, tidrallā, rakstītāmi kamanām.
Here in Clermont, it arrives on an AltéAd semi-truck.

Last Wednesday the plumbers and heating repairman that were once again visiting our apartment had a difficult time finding parking. The signs we had noticed the previous night clearly stated no parking anywhere on rue Blatin all day. Roberts took the car to work, and so we weren’t worried, but the repair team spent some time finding an alternate spot and blamed the day’s ban on the city installing Christmas lights.

I was excited, and kept an eye out all day for the Clermont elves. The Christmas decorations and lights had been appearing up and down all the other streets all week and it seemed ours was the only one left bare. I wondered if there would be a mass towing of disobediant parkers as there had been with one of the large marathons.

Then at dusk the flashing lights alerted me that something was going on. I grabbed Laurīts and the camera, and we went to the balcony to watch. But instead of the machinery needed for Christmas lights, instead we had police blocking off the side streets and redirecting all traffic…

Then, off in the distance, what to my wandering eyes should appear? A slow moving flatbed semi, with the annual Christmas tree on back! In Chicago the Daley plaza Christmas “tree” is actually composed of many smaller trees mounted onto a base, so I was delighted to see one single giant tree riding down our street like a forest on wheels.

27 meters high and weighing 8 tons, the tree is over eighty years old and from the Allagnat region. Those citizens that dared disobey the no parking signs will possibly find scratches on the sides of their cars, as the branches of the behemoth stretched from curb to curb. The Christmas tree was set up the following day, and over the past week has slowly been decorated. Lauris and I have followed the daily progress closely; one day watching as bottom branches were cut off only to be mounted in barer spots higher up, the next few as dozens of smaller trees were installed around the base, then as the lights, decorations and topper attached.

Redistributing branches and adding decorations

We can’t wait until all the lights are turned on this Saturday! And the tree will remain illuminated in Place de Jaude until the 8th of January, giving us more than a month to enjoy its festive beauty and remember the day that the Christmas tree came riding past our windows.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


One hundred posts. Another milestone reached this November, this one will not pass unnoticed, but will pass without the fanfare of my 30th birthday or Lauris’s first haircut. Similar to the one-year anniversary of our arrival in France (November 8th), it serves to remind me of how quickly time flies.

Looking back on the past year I realize how much things have changed: Lauris is not a little baby anymore, but far from making our lives easier this has only made things more challenging. We aren’t the new arrivals in Clermont-Ferrand any longer; we have been in our apartment for over six months now and a handful of families have arrived since. We have become accustomed to life here; we have chosen our favorite flower shop and boulangerie, know the best times to go grocery shopping to avoid the lines, and somewhat understand the daily rhythm of the city. And most importantly Clermont now feels like home, we have formed friendships and established relationships that give our life here excitement and meaning.

A 29 week bump
But as the saying goes, the more things change, the more things stay the same. My French language skills have barely improved beyond what I arrived in France with. We still have only the most basic understanding of how “things work” here, many times struggling under the deluge of paperwork and appointments needed to retain our status as legal residents. And the longing to be near family has not only remained with us, but possibly increased as we miss all the family gatherings and celebrations back in the US.

This next year will bring far greater change as we welcome the new addition to the family and learn to adjust to being a family of four. But it will also bring more opportunity to travel to new places, meet new people and experience new things, and for this I am extremely grateful. Keeping this diary of our adventures here has become so much more than what it started as 100 posts ago; from a method of keeping friends and family updated on our travels, Lauris’s development and life in France, it has expanded into a catharsis that allows me to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. No matter that the laundry basket is full and I have yet to finish the ironing from the last, no matter that the room/table/area I just cleaned is already a mess, no matter that there are days where all I do is prepare food, at the end of the day I have something to show for my efforts because I have this blog, I have my 100 posts, and I have a record that we are learning, living and loving our time here in France.

Rue des Gras on Thanksgiving day

And the post that started it all, Happy New Year!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Première coupe de cheveux

Another big event this month, Lauris got his first haircut! He really didn’t have much hair as a baby, so I had been reluctant to cut any of his wispy locks. There was a short period of time when his hair seemed to have a reddish tint, and as he looks a whole lot like Roberts I was rooting for a little auburn so that my genes would make an appearance as well. However, the more hair he gets, the more blonde it looks, and the hair on top especially was starting to get very long. He was getting some perma-bed-head from sleeping on his back, and although I was hoping not to have it cut too short, I did wish that we could get rid of some of that fuzz and the strands that were getting in his face.

Finally after yet another skype conversation with his grandfather in Kalamazoo where the topic of haircuts was brought up, I decided it was time (plus it would be a nice surprise for dad when he gets home from his business trip!). We cruised past a barbershop that had been recommended by a friend as being great with children, but they were booked full and the barber seemed a little surprised at how young Lauris was. So we went to the park, and stopped in the local salon on our way home to see if they could cut it. The woman took one look at little angel Lauris and made me promise to come back at 5pm that very day, of course she would give him his first haircut!

We returned as promised, mom with a bagful of books, toys and dread that we would have a disaster in the chair, Lauris with his flyaway hair doing a number from the static of his hat. He watched with interest as she finished up another customer’s hair, and then both women fawned and flirted with him as the bill was settled and au revoirs were said. Then, as I was busy pulling out Lauris’s books and toys, the hairdresser scooped Lauris up, sat him in the chair up on a booster seat, threw a special Mickey sheet over him and buttoned it behind his neck, and Lauris didn’t even bat an eye! It was as if he was a regular and was ready to talk baseball! She snipped away, and I was relieved to see that the distractions weren’t necessary and I was going to have my hands free to snap some photos.

Not even ten minutes later my little wild-haired boy had been transformed into a proper toddler, I had an envelope with a few snippets for the memory book in hand, and my camera with première coupe de cheveux pictures was stowed. As I bundled Lauris up and buckled him in I asked how much I owed. “Un cadeau” she replied, a gift, it is his first haircut.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

As a Latvian-American, Thanksgiving has always been a holiday celebrated a little differently from my American friends. As they all headed home for four days of family, food and football, I was usually catching a train/plane/ride to another city for that year’s annual ALJA Kongress. As a member of the American Latvian Youth Association (in the last years a board member), the annual board meeting and elections were very much anticipated, as was the party, the reunions with friends long not seen, and the chance to be a tourist in yet another American city.

At the last Kongress I attended, I was up in front serving as secretary for the meeting of members when the motion was submitted and voted „yes” on to congratulate me on “the bun in the oven.” (Submitted by my wonderful husband, this was also our first big public announcement on the pregnancy!) This also turned out to be my last Kongress; even though one can be a member until the age of 35, I decided to pass on my board position of treasurer to the next capable hands, spent one year serving on the board of advisors and am now content watching my younger siblings enjoy the annual shenanigans.

Hard at work at my last ALJA Kongress
Here in France Thanksgiving has taken on a whole new meaning. Although we were in Clermont for the holiday last year, we hadn’t really met many Americans, and so we celebrated our thanks just the three of us, my husband, Lauris and I. This year, we will be attending the annual Thanksgiving and Harvest Fellowship Thanksgiving celebration hosted by Christ Church Clermont along with well over 100 other English-speaking residents of Clermont-Ferrand and the surrounding area. I have had the traditional turkey with trimmings on Thanksgiving before; living in Georgia I spent one Thanksgiving with the wonderful family that I rented my little house from. However, this will be my first real American Thanksgiving and I find it incredible ironic that it will be in France

I have so much to be thankful for this year, and as my stomach expands and my emotions escalate, I find myself often in tears over all the wonderful family and friends, old and new, that are here with us in France. Whether you are here in person, through skype, with letters, cards and packages, or with us just by reading this blog, I value your friendship, your kind words, your thoughts and your love. Happy holidays.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I’m getting old.

It’s one celebration after another this month, as we observed Lauris’s 18 month birthday and then Latvia’s independence day. I've neglected to mention the first of the bunch, this was my 30th birthday. Sandwiched between our Normandy trip and the Halloween party, I didn’t have the energy (nor the will) to organize anything, and so all the planning was left to Roberts. 

My expectation was flowers and dinner, and Roberts didn’t disappoint. The day before the dreaded 30 I came home to find vases of flowers scattered through the house. And then although the day itself was spent preparing for the Halloween party and cleaning house, in the evening a sitter arrived to take care of Lauris while we went out to dinner.

My quest for the best truffade in Clermont-Ferrand continued with a meal at La Caveau, which has been recommended to me by several friends especially for this Auvergne dish. The atmosphere (which was exactly what the name promised) was excellent, the room we were seated in held only four tables and all the cooking was done right there on the spot. We ordered chicken and beef (served with a blue cheese sauce), and both were equally delicious, but the champion was the truffade, which definitely ranks among my favorites here in Clermont.

Spoiled rotten!

The biggest surprise of my birthday came in the form of various packages that started arriving in the mail even a few days before, and continued turning up for a whole week. I first opened my present from my husband, in fact I should say presents, 30 individually wrapped gifts he and Lauris had been drawing, gathering and wrapping for who knows how long. I thought it was very cute, how he was sticking to the theme of thirty, and should have known it was no coincidence when I opened the present from my godmother, 30 of her favorite poems on colored sheets of paper. Then, the list of 30 things from my aunt and her family, the artwork of thirty leaves from my godson and family (along with a list of 30 breads to make and 30 Latvian centers in North America), another list of 30 from my grandmother along with a selection of 30 tea sachets, and a 30 song CD compilation from my cousin in Montreal. My sister and her husband continued the leaf theme with a 30 page book with pressed leaves they had gathered in Brooklyn (and 30 Reese’s!) The kicker, thirty individually wrapped presents from my parents and siblings in Chicago containing among other things; the traditional Latvian birthday cake (kliņģeris), chocolate, a framed piece of art of 30 leaves personally gathered, scanned and arranged, a few perfectly sized maternity shirts and a ton of other stuff! It was only a week later that I learned my sweet husband had come up with the idea and coordinated these mailings; thanks to him and all the participants for the best birthday, ever.

So I’m a year older, a year wiser. It isn’t as traumatic as I expected it to feel, to know that I’ve lived three decades; this is partly due to the adventure of everyday life here in France, but most of the credit belongs to my loving husband and son, who continue to make each and every day a new adventure.

Monday, November 21, 2011

30. dzimšanas diena

For the English version you’ll have to wait for the next post!

Lauris nav vienīgais kuŗš novembrī svinēja jubilēju; es mēneša sākumā svinēju savu trīsdesmito dzimšanas dienu. Visumā nebiju pārāk sajūsmā par šo dienu, mēs bijām nupat atgriezušies no mūsu Normandijas ceļojuma un bija jāgatavojās uz lielo Halovīna balli mūsu dzīvoklī. Tamdēļ arī neko sevišķi nebiju plānojusi, atstāju visu Roberta rokās domājot, ka būs sarunāta auklīte Laurim un jaukas vakariņas pilsētā.

Lauris palīdz salikt jauno IKEA lādi

Tā arī notika. Dienu ar Lauri pavadiju grebjot ķirbi nogales viesībām, taisot sikspārnu tūtiņas, kur bērniem likt savas konfektes un tīrot māju. Vakarā aukle atnāca un ar Robertu devos uz pilsētu. Neesmu vēl uzdevusi meklēt Clermont-Ferrand labāko truffade, vietējo kartupeļa un siera specialitāti, un vairākas paziņas ir man ieminējušās, ka viņām mīļākā truffade esot La Caveau resturantā. Nolēmām pamēģināt neko citu daudz par šo vietu nezinot. Atradām, un tiešām atradamies tādā „aliņā”, mūsu istabā tikai četri galdiņi un pavārds. Resturanta specialitāte izrādijas: gaļa! Vērša gaļa, jēra gaļa, vistas gaļa, visas ceptas uz uguns un pasniegtas ar zilo sieru vai sēņu mērci, un ar lielu pannu truffade! Roberts pasūtija vērša gaļu, es cāļa, mēs abi apēdām pusi savas maltītes un tad izmainijāmies, lai varētu arī nogaršot ko citu. Gala vērtējums? Varena gaisotne un apkalpošana, garšīgs ēdiens, truffade viena no labākām kuŗu esmu Clermont ēdusi, vienīgi cenas uz augsto pusi (un vīnu var tikai pirkt pa pudeli, ne pa glāzei).

Mājās ieradāmies un atradām Lauri labā omā. Tad arī iznāca attaisīt kādu dāvanu. Man par samērā lielu pārsteigumu bija pienākušas pastā vairākas pakas no ģimenes Amerikā; nesagaidītas, jo attāluma pēc domāju būs kartiņas. Roberts jau iepriekšējā vakarā mani pārsteidza ar puķēm izkaisītām vāzēs pa visu māju, bet galveno dāvanu viņš neatklāja par savējo līdz nākamai nedēļai! Izrādijās, ka netikai viņš ar Lauri man bija sazīmējuši, satinuši un sarakstijuši trīsdesmit dāvaniņas, viņi arī bija mudinājuši maniem radiņiem līdzīgus sūtijumus izveidot. Un tā man nāca pakas, viena pēc otras, ilgāk pa nedēļu! Sākumā brīnijos, ka visi sadomājuši tik varenas ‘30’-tēmatotas dāvanas. Vēlāk sapratu, ka kādam to bija jāorganizē, bet pate neuzminēju atbildīgo; to beidzot tikai uzzināju runājot ar sūtijuma dalībniekiem.

Gribu dalīties ar dažām no manām dāvanām. No krustmātes atnāca 30 viņas mīļākie dzejoļi, drukāti  uz krāsainiem papīriem (kuŗiem starpā arī bija daži mani mīļākie dzejoļi). No krustdēla un ģimenes bija varena fotogrāfija no 30 rudens lapām ko bija salasijuši un salikuši kolāžā (arī saraksts ar 30 raugumaizītēm un 30 latviešu centriem Ziemeļamerikā). Vecmamma sūtija man 30 tējas maisiņus un sarakstu ar 30 lietām kas viņai nāk prātā domājot par mani. No māsas ar vīru turpinājās rudens lapu tēma, viņi bija salikuši grāmatu ar 30 skaistām Ņujorkas lapām un tad vēl kastē salikuši 30 manas mīļākās šokolādes. Māsica Montreālā atsūtija 30-dziesmu CD. Tante ar ģimeni Čikagā arī bija izdomājuši 30 lietu garu sarakstu. Un mani vecāki, māsa un brālis bija salikuši 30 dāvanas kuŗu starpā bija dzimšanas dienas kliņģeris (!), šokolāde, ierāmēta rudens lapu kolāža kuŗu bija paši veidojuši, un vēl visādas varenas lietiņas. Protams pakām arī bija klāt lietas kuŗas tieši nepiesaistija numuru 30, bet abi divi saraksti bija tik vareni, ka ar tiem dalīšos.

D omātāja
A ktīva blogotāja
U gunskura vadītāja
D arītāja
Z inīga ceļvede

L aura lutinātāja
A vīzītes (Foršās) bijušā redaktrise
I zcila omletes gatavotāja
M īļa māsica
E nerģiska „Scrabble” spēlētāja
S ēņu necienītāja

U teņa apmeklētāja
N ovērtēta sieva

B ibliotēkas baudītāja
U zjautrinoša „Soļānka” dalībniece
Č akla mājas māte
A merikas pilsone
S ieru un saldējuma degustētāja

L iela lasītāja
I nteresanta tūristu gide
E x ugunsdzēsēja
N ometņotāja
E iropas ceļotāja
I ndīgās efejas pazinēja

D abas draudzene
A sprātīga
I Pad lietotāja
G eocaching eksperte
A stoņpadsmitā augustā vārda dienas svinētāja
I iespaidīga jāņsiera raušu cepēja
            (no Ceru ģimenes)

30 Ļoti svarīgas lietas kas man nāk prātā, kad domāju par Lieni Daigu;

1. Viņa ir mana pirmā mazmeita
2. Pieder manas ģimenes ļoti eksklusīvam 31-61-81-91-01 klubam
3. Pirmajā dzīves gadā naktīs nelabprāt gulēja, neļāva gulēt arī savai māmiņai.
4. Kā dzirdu, 28. un 29. dzīves gadā labprā™ gulētu cauras naktis!!... (kādēļ nē?).
5. Dāvāja man pirmo mazmazdēlu.
6. Kā maza guntiņa ievēroja Robertu Kukaini.
7. Sasniedza Dzimtenes Lielgaidas pakāpi.
8. Manā ģimenē, savā paaudzē pirmā latviešu gaidu vadītāja.
9. Dzīvoja veselu nedēļu nometnē ar 3 mēn. Vecu dēliņu! (es to nekad pat neapsvērtu darīt!)
10. Savā mūžā dzīvojusi čētrās ASV pavalstīs.
11. Strādājusi vēl vairāk pavalstīs.
12. Kāpusi augstos kokos pētīt un skaitīt putnu ligzdas un olas.
13. Ugunsdzēsēja.
14. Vienīgā mežkope ģimenē.
15. Saimnieka „puisis” (persona?) Gaŗezerā.
16. Pussmagās automašīnas īpašniece
17. Mīl kaķus.
18. Atveda man Ziemassvētku eglīti no Georgia’s.
19. Sūta man jaukas, gaŗas vēstules un pasta kartītes no visām pasaules malām.
20. Apceļojusi, es nezinu cik, pasaules valstis.
21. Dzīvo Francijā.
22. Viņai garšo: šprotes, Colby Jack, šokolāde.
23. Viņai negaršo: sēnes
24. Regulāri raksta dienas grāmatu – blog.
25. Cep vienreizējas pajas – pekanu un ķiršu.
26. Ir grūtības siet Jāņu sieru.
27. Ģērbjas eleganti!
28. Drošina mani, ka varēšot rīkoties ar I PAD.
29. Ir Laura Ūsiņa mamma.
30. Ir Roberta sieva.
Es tevi ļoti mīlu, V(ecmamma)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...