Monday, September 29, 2014

Wild for Reading

Vilis went to the zoo for the very first time last week! His big brothers were more than happy to show him all of their favorite spots, although Vilis slept through most of it…

One of the programs that is taking place weekly now that school is back in session is Greenville Zoo’s “Wild for Reading Wednesdays,” occuring every Wednesday at 2:30pm in the mini-amphitheater next to the farmyard exhibit. The education department puts on this program, which consists of reading a children’s book followed by a live animal presentation. Last week was a hoot, with a reading of Good-Night Owl followed by the opportunity to meet the cutest little rescued screech owl.

After petting the owl, the boys learned something they can do to help protect these birds of prey. Many times owls are hit by cars, and as the majority of the audience did not have a driver’s license, their role in prevention was simple, yet not so obvious – to stop throwing trash out the car window. The food and crumbs attract rodents to the roadside, which in turn attracts predatory birds, and it is while on the hunt for dinner that many owls get hit.

Once the program concluded the boys were in for a surprise. The Junior League of Greenville had set a pinterest-worthy table, complete with enough sweets for twice the amount of children attending! First the boys opened up Oreos and stuck them on cupcakes adding M&Ms for eyes and a beak to make their own edible owl. But soon enough they could dig into the popcorn and enjoy this lovely treat by the ladies of the Junior League – thank you!

On our tour of the zoo afterwards we noticed a few more new additions/changes, one difference being the new facilities just outside the zoo gates, complete with B-cycle station. Also, a fence has been put up around the elephant paddock, with some landscape work occurring inside. In addition the Angola Colobus Monkey enclosure was closed, with workers busy taking it apart. The changes there and to the tropical bird enclosure are part of the twenty year plan to modernize Greenville Zoo. Smaller improvements were also noticed, such as the addition of a set of blocks, wheelbarrow (in the first picture), crates and storage unit to the playground, designed by Community Playthings. The boys also stumbled upon a clue from “Secret Safari” which I’m not sure I had noticed before. After checking the webpage and learning more about this scavenger hunt, we will definitely be completing the Safari on our next visit to the zoo.

Wild for Reading... Wednesdays
When: Wednesdays, September through May, at 2:30 pm
Where: Farmyard exhibit
Cost: Admission to the zoo

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Enchanted Chalice Renaissance Faire

Certain summers when I was a girl growing up my family would load up the Saab and head an hour north to the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Every weekend during the summer months Elizabethan England would be recreated, 30 acres of swordfighting, games, rides, arts, crafts, food and music. This was where my crossbow obsession started (and ended, as my parents were not keen to have me practice in the house), and the fried dough and other treats consumed on the one visit a year were remembered months afterward. I haven’t come across anything similar since, as all the inhabitants of the 16th century village actually lived on site for the summer and 30 acres provides an enormous stage to be set. Then last weekend The Enchanted Chalice Renaissance Faire and Olde World Bazaar came to Greenville, and I was able to satiate my need for revelry and tomfoolery in this much smaller, yet true-to-the-genre-festival.

The Hounds of East Fairhaven

Located on the grounds of the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, the fair is in at least its 4th year but it was our first visit. An improve comedy bit was getting laughs on the main stage, and people were wandering through the vendors’ section where everything from clothing and weapons to wands were for sale. As we chose to visit on Friday afternoon to allow for Saturday’s trip to Sky Top orchard, portions of the fair such as “Childe's Realm in the Enchanted Forest” weren’t open yet. We posed for pictures and then continued around to the fun & games area.

My little princess...

The boys tried their hand at a few games, but it soon became apparent that at their age it was more luck than skill involved. The jousting arena caught their eye, but we steered them towards the food vendors instead. With options ranging from bbq and pizza to salmon wraps, we had an easy time finding something for everyone. The boys settled in with hot dogs and sprite while we people-watched, the crowd ranging from casual summer-wear to elaborate costumes, corsets and make-up. We had opted for a casual gypsy-pirate look, especially appropriate as that happened to be National Talk Like a Pirate Day; we fit right in with our long skirts, jewelry and swords.

After meeting up with our friend Finn we stopped for a long sword demonstration by Sword Carolina (located right here in the Upstate), an impressive endeavor in the late-summer heat with the full body armor and helmets. It didn’t seem the smartest idea to let the boys watch after they had been repeatedly told not to play-fight with their swords, but their reaction to the clashes was hysterical laughter, eliciting chuckles from the rest of the audience as well. I think the sword fighters were expecting more applause than laughter?

They were followed by another set of fighters, these with armor and weapons recreated for the express purpose of being authentic to the time period. The engagements seemed more violence and less sport, so we soon continued on, doubling back to the Enchanted Forest area in hopes that it would be open. Finding that only the photo-op area was available we let the boys expend some energy but eventually drifted over to the hula-hoops and stilt-walkers area. It was there that dusk found us, and with a couple of reluctant revelers we made our way to the car to keep the little pirates’ appointment with the bathtub.

The Enchanted Chalice Renaissance Faire and Olde World Bazaar ran September 19th 5 to 11pm and Saturday the 20th 10am to 6pm. Admission was $8/adult and $3 for children ages 3 – 10, or $13/adult $5/child for a two-day pass. If we are in town next year we’ll attend on the Saturday to allow more time to explore the fair and to check out some of the musical talent. This year’s headliners included Darby Wilcox, Discordia Arts and Asheville-based Carolina Cieli in addition to the Alchemy Comedy Theater (that performed while we were there). Refreshments were available for purchase and parking was free.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Urine: The Game

With the change of seasons comes the change from summer activities to fall playgroups and programs, a schedule of more organized recurring plans. Also we’re seeing the rotation of exhibits such as at The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, where “The Great Outdoors” exhibit has been replaced by “Grossology.”

We enjoyed the camping and nature exhibit, as it corresponded with the scout and guide jamboree Lielā Nometne Mantojums that we missed during our wait on the arrival of Vilis. With a kayak, tent and campfire there were quite a few things to do and see. However the boys are used to hiking in the actual outdoors and sitting by real campfires, so there was something lacking in making rubbings of fake leaves, or identifying artificial animal tracks and counting the rings on a tree indoors. I did appreciate the life jacket and campfire safety aspect of the exhibit, but we spent most of our time at the museum in the permanent portions.

The new exhibit is 100 percent disgusting. We started with the lifesize version of the game “Operation” but things got grosser fast with the human skin climbing wall, discovering how vomiting works with “The Vomit Center” and the down-low on farts in “Toot Toot.” My personal nasty-line was crossed with “Sniff Sniff,” that enabled visitors to smell the bacteria that cause foot, mouth, armpit and anal odor. We skipped the smelling to create burps in the “Burp Machine” and play “Urine: The Game” (or in our case, Ur-not-really-in: The Game). Similar in degree of grossness to the game we play at home when changing Vilis's diaper, I guess.

Although both boys were a bit put-off by “Nigel Nose-It-All,” the giant faucet explaining the technicalities of runny noses, they did enjoy the exhibit as a whole. I’m not sure how much time we’ll spend here during our visits to the museum because I think it’s generally meant for older children; however there are enough levers, gears and buttons for the boys to fiddle with that if they request to stop in again I’ll oblige (with nose scrunched). 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Le premier jour de l'automne

The official first day of fall has brought cooler temperatures in addition to a few colorful leaves and plans of autumn activities in the coming weeks. The last days of summer saw our good friends at Chunk and KJ’s Adventure tie the knot; I would say they have a brand new adventure waiting ahead of them! Wishing these two all the best as husband and wife!

Source: sananddiz

We couldn’t make the trip up north due to our little Vilis waiting until the very last minute to make his appearance and instead took a shorter trip, up to Sky Top Orchard. It seems like half of Greenville had the same idea.

A bushel of Jonagolds and Arkansas Blacks later I found myself swaying with the breeze at the very top of a tree, reaching for possibly the last Mutsu apple still on a branch in the whole orchard. While the Jonagolds are crisp, juicy and sweet-tart, ideal for pies, baked desserts and sauces (and this year they also will do well for snacking, especially with a tub of caramel on the side), the Mutsus are our favorites. Large apples, they are good for cider, applesauce, eating and cooking with, and seem to encompass fall with every crisp bite. The Arkansas Blacks weren’t completely ripe and so we didn’t pick all too much, but they'll serve well for baking through the winter. A big thank you to vecmamma Inga for coming with!

I love looking back on our previous years excursions to Sky Top, as the only years we missed were during our expatriation to France. This could very well be a tradition we keep during our time here in Greenville, just as boiling a good bit of the apples down into sauce has become the norm for the weeks following our trip.

Sky Top 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014

The boys have been partaking in leaf-themed crafts this last month, and the last weeks have seen me getting the carrot, radish and beets planted in our garden beds, but as Lauris emerged with a sweatshirt pulled over his pajamas this morning, I'd say fall has definitely arrived. Here’s to chrysanthemums, flint corn, applesauce and cider!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mannekin Pis goes Latvian!

This weekend the city of Brussels hosts the Festival of Folklore, Folklorissimo. During the festival there will be several events occurring in Vismet and on the square containing Manneken-Pis, the landmark bronze sculpture depicting a little naked boy urinating into a fountain's basin. We visited the famous statue in 2012 during our tour of the Netherlands and Belgium, but it wasn’t outfitted in such familiar clothes while we were there!

Source: Liga R, here
Source: here

The country chosen as the guest of honor this year at Folklorissimo is Latvia! Some of the events taking place over the weekend will be Latvian folk dance demonstrations, a Latvian crafts show and a sampling of Latvian food and culture. Little Manneken-Pis (the symbol of Brussels folklore) wears a costume at big events, and so in honor of Latvia being the guest of honor at Folklorissimo he will be wearing a new Latvian folk costume. There will also be a tasting of Latvian beer, served in a most unusual manner; on special occasions such as this one the fountain is attached to a keg and Manneken-Pis pees beer…

Source: here

Monday, September 15, 2014

Holy Hipster.

This was an eventful weekend here in Greenville, our top picks being Touch-a-Truck at the Westside Park on Saturday and Indie Craft Parade which ran Saturday through Sunday. Held at the historic Huguenot Mill at the Peace Center on West Broad Street, the fair is a showcase of local artists, a “celebration of handmade art.” We did a drive-by on Saturday and saw the line down the block and decided to return Sunday. The line was no shorter the following morning, but it moved quickly and before we knew it we were inside Huguenot Mill and browsing this year’s selected artists’ work. When Vilis started protesting I had a flashback to the first ever Indie Craft Parade back in 2010, which I also attended with an infant (Lauris) and my mother… After some yummy snacks and some final purchases I took little Vilis home, returning an hour later to pick up my mother who had wanted a longer look around. The line of people waiting to get in stretched even farther than that morning, and the people-watching available inspired the title of this post!

Saturday Roberts accompanied the boys and my mother to Greenville County Rec department’s Touch a Truck at Westside Park. We went to the City of Greenville’s Touch a Truck at the downtown market this past June and the boys really enjoyed themselves, and the event at Westside was no different (although maybe a tad louder?).

In addition to the usual fire truck and Greenville County vehicles, highlights included a cement truck with the extra-long hose (which was extended), a repair/recovery/tow truck adorned with Despicable Me characters and the brand new Greenville trolley. Although the helicopter wasn’t available, the boys didn’t miss it and had plenty of vehicles to explore. A big thank you to my mother & husband for getting the boys out of the house Saturday morning, and credit for the photos goes to my mom. It’s my understanding that we’ll be bringing ear plugs to next year’s event… 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The baby brought the stork!

The stork is an important bird in Latvian folklore, bringing health and wealth to homes with its presence. Having a stork’s nest in one’s homestead brings luck and supposedly even protects buildings from fire, and just the sight of a stork sitting on your roof means there will be good fortune in the coming year. That same stork bill-clattering (that is making a knocking sound by rapidly opening and closing its beak) on the roof means a girl will be getting married that fall. And here I have to add that I never thought I would be googling “what does the stork say?”...

But by far the most common association is between storks and babies. If a stork is seen sitting on your roof you’ll soon have a christening in your home, and if one lands on your roof or flies over the house, a child will be born. Storks have been associated with babies and family for centuries: in Greek mythology they were associated with stealing babies, in Egyptian mythology the soul of a person was represented by a stork, and in Norse mythology the stork represented family values and commitment to one another. Storks can also be a symbol of fidelity and monogamous marriage because storks are believed to mate for life; in reality that's not quite the case, but they do often return to the same nests every year and usually will mate with the same partner.

The link between storks and newborns is believed to have started in Germany, but the explanation could account for the roots of stork folklore in Latvia as well. White storks are migratory birds that fly south in the fall not too long after Jāņi, the midsummer celebration of summer solstice and fertility. Nine months later they return to Europe to nest, and around this time the babies conceived during the Midsummer’s Eve festivities would be born. Obviously the stork brought the baby! (The story could possibly have spread as an attempt to put off answering curious children’s questions for a few more years?)

And so it came about that a stork came to visit us… after Vilis was born. We arrived home to find an eight foot stork announcing his arrival to the world, and the new art in the yard proved a conversation piece for all the neighbors throughout the week. Until Roberts revealed the mastermind behind the gift I suspected several family members (who will not be named) based on the perfect spelling of his middle name Mārtiņš - complete with Latvian long marks, but finally Roberts revealed the storkers' identities. Thanks to our friends for the excellent surprise from Storks and Flamingos! Those of you in the Upstate looking for a baby announcement or birthday surprise for your yard, this is the way to go. In addition to the stork option they also have flamingos to celebrate birthdays, graduations or other occasions. For more information visit, and you can like their facebook page here.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Trains, trains & more trains

My mother took the boys to Mauldin today, for opening day of “Trains, Trains & More Trains” at the Mauldin Cultural Center. According to the Greenville News this display of model trains features the largest push button-operated interactive layout on the East Coast, with American flyer trains from the 1940s and 1950s in addition to operating accessories. The show is put on by the Atlantic Coast S Gauge model train club, but the local Piedmont ‘N Southern Model Railroad Club has joined the fun with additional displays. Tracks fill the large room, with buttons every few feet that operate miniature saw mills, log loaders, demolition crews and all sorts of lights and noises. There is also a Thomas the Tank Engine train that can be operated by little hands from Thomas’s Cab, and another station with two trains that can be raced. Big brother proudly announced that his train beat little brother's every single time. 

The boys only wished they had a stepstool...

Admission is free and the hours are today from 10am-6pm, 1-4pm tomorrow (September 7th), 12-9pm September 12th and 10am-8:30pm September 13th. The Mauldin Cultural Center is located at 101 E. Butler Rd. For more information visit the Mauldin Chamber of Commerce website here or The Greenville News article “Free model train show steams into Mauldin.” 

While the boys were trainspotting in Mauldin with their grandmother, Vilis had his one-week well visit. Not only is he back up to birth weight, but he has grown an inch. In six days. I’m predicting we’ll need an extra refrigerator come teen years for these three boys… 

* If you can’t make it all the way to Mauldin for the train show but need your model train fix, remember there’s always the Miniature World of Trains in downtown Greenville…

Monday, September 1, 2014

Trīs lietas labas lietas!

Vēlos Jūs iepazīstināt
Vilis Mārtiņš

Piedzima 2014. g. 30. augustā, 2:39 pēcpusdienā Grīnvilē, SC. Viņš svēra 10 mārciņas, 14 unces un ir 22,5 collas gaŗš.

Born August 30th at 2:39pm in Greenville, SC, Vilis weighed 10lbs 14oz and is 22.5 inches tall.

Lauris un Mikus priecājās!
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