Sunday, 20 July 2014

On Sheep and Nuts

Arthur and I, and my brother's family had a great time at a fantastic homestead/guest house/deer garden. It made my brother long for his own little (or rather, quite large) house by a river, preferably a very great river with wide, sandy beaches, while Arthur and I agreed it was nice but we wouldn't want to live that way any more. It seems that homesteading is not for us at this point in our lives. It was amazing, though, to see what those people who used to call themselves absolute city-dwellers had achieved with their own means and their own hands. I think I would love to have a guest house some day, but it might take some decades - there are much too many things I still want to do before that.

This is a water power-plant at Ķegums.

The sheep of the deer park (we didn't get to see the deer up close, but the sheep more than made up for it!). I still hope to keep some sheep some day, I adore sheep!

A huge vine-tree. You can't see that in the picture very clearly, but it was the thickest one I had ever seen,

A very old and almost blind boar. We felt sorry for it because we had fed all the bread that the owners had given us to the sheep.

I saw a red hazel for the first time. Now I intend to have one in my garden, too. I think I even know the perfect spot for it.

On our way back.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

I'm a Student! I'm Sooooo Happy!

Four years of frustrated waiting, two weeks of nervous soul searching, three days of going through books of statistics and psychology, and a sleepless night translating a movie have all resulted in a full scholarship. I couldn't be happier. I can't say I'm proud at this point, it's more like I've won the lottery (only two people of all that have applied get full scholarships, so what are the odds... I could tell you if I knew how many applied, but I was so incredibly nervous I couldn't count or as much as look at the numbers on the lists). But my family is proud, and I'm so happy to hear the pride in their voices and e-mails. It feels so good...
Now it's just three years of master's studies (followed by a doctor's degree perhaps), just three years of devoting every single Friday and Saturday from morning till night to the Goddess of Psychology, then a couple years of supervised practice and then... oh, the possibilities are endless! I wouldn't put it past me to write a self-help book (on weight loss, no less!).

We had an interview and a theoretical exam which was basically translating this text into Latvian. I certainly aced the translation, but I felt I had done very badly at the interview. However, the results indicate the opposite, and I will not have to worry where to get 5100 euros to study the Thing that I love most! (My husband and children are not things. Neither is gardening. And technically nor is psychology, bet let's not get all technical.)


Monday, 14 July 2014

So Excited and Anxious!

I've got my entrance exams tomorrow at the University. I'm going for it. I need a master's degree in psychology. Keep your fingers crossed for me, please!
That means, I have to do all the work today (and tonight). I really hope it's not going to be an all-nighter, because no one can really be up to their game after a sleepless night. But this time I'll at least turn up and do my best instead of sabotaging myself and staying at home working. It's all or nothing this time.
I'm sorry to bring this up once again but it turns out that a week after I got my wages I'm running out of money AGAIN. So it has made me think hard about what I want to do and which university I should choose. Tomorrow may be of greater importance than I thought just a week ago. But more on that some other day.

In the midst of all feverish working and frustration I want to share a couple of pictures from the last couple of days. Yesterday our friend The Potter opened the kiln. It's a special occasion every year, and people come from all over the country to see it. It's a bit like unwrapping Easter eggs that have been carefully wrapped in onion peels and little green shoots etc. You never know quite what to expect.

This is one of my husband's many vases. It's especially exciting to see how the ceramic glaze will have changed its colour. 

I want to mention another great party we went to this Friday - my aunt turned 50 and threw an ultra mega giga party for a lot of guests with heaps of delicious food, wonderful games (I'm a sucker for charades, I just can't keep my mouth shut), and a sauna, and a hot-tub, and and a pond.

And once again we've pulled out the old dart-board from my single-girl days (it cost a small fortune then but now looks a bit musty) and I've bought the cheapest darts ever. I don't think it matters, since more often than not they can't even hit the board.

 OK, I'm going back to the trenches. And I really hope tomorrow will bring a new era in my life, so keep those pretty little fingers crossed for me, deal? I'll be ever so grateful.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Cold Spell is Over

We complained and whined for a month. We were infuriated when we learned that the the air temperature on Midsummer Night was lower than on Christmas Eve! (+6 C). I looked at all sorts of mould and mildew taking over my garden. I felt offended the plants I had devoted so much time to didn't want to grow.

It's all over now! The summer is back with a vengeance! It's 30 degrees outside for the second day running, while the river is still very cold and the water levels - dangerously high after the long rains.

Look at the dog! What's with the grin? Oh, that's not a grin, or at least - not just a grin! It's so hot we're feeding ice-cream to the dog! (Just a bit, and just this once.)

I'm swamped. For the first time in months I have more work than I can combine with 6 hours of sleep. I'm not complaining, though. I need to step up and earn twice as much and more. In addition to the twenty-something translation jobs I have to do till next Friday (including a Minecraft book and a dubbed cartoon - "Legends of Oz", no less!) I need to get to the university three times - once this week to submit the papers and twice next week - to pass the exam and to register for master's degree studies in clinical psychology.

But life goes on, kids and husband still need food, garden still needs looking after, dishes still need washing and laundry needs taking care of. And I wouldn't change a thing. That's what makes my summers so intense that I need the whole winter to get ready for the next one.

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Friday, 4 July 2014

Mother's Pride

I'm a very proud mom today, I took the kids on a bike ride, and instead of the 14 kilometres we had hoped to conquer, we did 24. We had to overcome difficulties like roadworks and rain, and some brake trouble, and some quite heavy traffic (for our small town standards), but we got to a restaurant and had a magical meal - my boys and I. (Yes, it was payday today!) It was quite an expensive meal, too, but I feel we need to take kids to eat out from time to time so they know how to act in such situations. It's very hard for me, and I hardly ever do it, but I don't want to pass this shyness and self-consciousness to my kids.

It took us two and a half hours to ride those 24 kilometres, and we stopped to pick some wild strawberries and to rest on the way back, but I decided it would be better to go slow - Ralph gets tired and reluctant very easily - than not to go at all.

A marvellous day, and I'm sure tomorrow will be even better.

Scales (on Plants, not in the Bathroom by the Mirror!)

Trout got his tuxedo out of the trunk and he put it on. [...] It had a greenish patina of mold. Some of the growths it supported resembled patches of fine rabbit fur. [...] He dabbed at his tuxedo with a damp rag, and the fungi came away easily. “Hate to do this, Bill,” he said of the fungi he was murdering. “Fungi have as much right to life as I do. They know what they want, Bill. Damned if I do anymore.”
This quote from Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions" came to my mind this morning when my husband came in and told me the potted oleander had scales. Yes, scales know what they want, and yes, they do have a right to live. But not on my houseplants, thank you very much!

I went outside to check, and sure enough, all the lower branches and leaves were infested. 

There are many different types of scales or mealybugs, but what they have in common is the waxy coating they use to stick to a plant that makes them quite resistant to many common insecticides. I've read recommendations to spray oil under the leaves to suffocate them, or to use specific insecticides, but it wouldn't be practical in my case when the oleander is not too huge (about a metre high) and I can deal with the problem in a more direct way. One popular suggestion is wiping the leaves (especially the undersides) with some alcohol. Basically any alcohol (not beer or wine though) that dissolves fat, or, in this case - wax. I have to say - it worked like a charm! The only alcohol I had at home was my husband's shaving lotion, but it worked great. I dabbed some lotion on a cotton pad and gently rubbed the scales off of all the infested leaves. The scales came off easily on the cotton. Now I just have to check the oleander in a couple of weeks and see if I've missed any. Here's to hoping the beasts won't like the smell of my husband's soft and sexy chin after shaving!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

A Lazy Day for a Neurotic Mind

It's very hard to do nothing. Surely you know the feeling. You've got a million things to do but you just can't bring yourself to do them, so you just waste your time wishing you had an absolute need, or better still, an urgent must to do something. But you don't. The deadlines seem far off, the chores seem daunting, and you just do nothing. You spend a lazy day and at the end of the day feel weirdly exhausted and less than fulfilled.

Here's what I did today.
I cooked. I cooked a lot. Three meals for the children, two meals for my husband. I baked. I had some jam that had gone sour, and I used that. It didn't turn out right, but then again - normally I wouldn't even bother. It's just that we're down to the last eggs and flour. Oh well.

All this running out of money thing has hugely improved our diet and our eating habits. It can't be overstated, it's nothing short of a miracle - seeing my kids at the table at mealtimes and clearing off their plates without so much as a complaint. They're eating chicken, they're eating pork chops, they're eating anything I give them and thanking me afterwards. Ever since I've stopped buying convenience food like cereal or yogurt, or cookies, or cottage cheese desserts, they've come to eat "normal", healthy, proper food. I am concerned how to keep this rhythm going after next week when I'm getting paid. But there's a downside - I have to spend a lot of time cooking and even more time - planning.

I also did the laundry. It's all piling up in the bedroom again, but at least it's dry - lately we've been having much more rain than sunshine, so I had to wash at least one load today. It's supposed to be hot and sunny next week - hopefully I'll get to washing blankets and airing the pillows.

In the afternoon I took the kids exploring. We rode our bikes to an eerie little place some 4 kilometres from our home - there are little gardens and sheds, and almost no people at all, apart from quite a curious man who was working in his garden and looking ever the fence all the time to see if we hadn't come to steal some strawberries or beans. But we hadn't. We had come to explore and to have a picnic. And the dog had run all the way with us!

And then we came home, catching the first large raindrops, and sat down to watch a very nice Swedish family movie "Nils Karlsson Pyssling" together. I loved the book (it's quite a short story) as a child, and I was glad to see that the boys loved the movie which is done quite close to the original. I can never enjoy a movie if I don't have something to knit or sew, so I spent a good while rummaging around the room for an embroidery project I had begun years ago, but I couldn't find it (surprise, surprise), and the boys suggested that I should crochet them some slippers. I've made dozens of those from some leftover yarn, and they don't last long, so I had already decided not to make them any more, but the temptation of doing something with yarn was too great. It's been more than a year since I've knit anything at all. Partly because I felt no need for knitwear, partly because the kids had entered a phase when Mom-made things seemed a bit, well, humiliating, and partly - because I had actively tried to do something that involved less sitting down and more moving around. So I was quite scared to pick up the needles (or the crochet hook, for that matter) and to decide what to make. But I'm so very glad I did. That simple Mary-Jane slipper pattern seems to have broken down some "knitters block", and I foresee many more leisurely projects in the coming days. So it's been a wonderful day after all.