Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Leah Richardson!!!!!!

Well, our little 5 year-old is now a big-girl 6 year-old!  We had a ton of fun Saturday, January 16, 2010, visiting LIDO-Centre with our new friend Mike Johnson (an American gentleman who's lived in Latvia for 9 years and runs the Patricia Tourist Office -  LIDO is by far our favorite restaurant in Riga, and this one featured an ice-skating rink and lots of fun activities for the kiddos.  In the following picture, Niki and Bill (on the left) are being tourists and taking a picture of the girls in front of this massive eating establishment.  
With the ability to seat 1,000 people, this is supposedly Europe's largest log-cabin structure, and it's made completely out of Latvian timber.  As with our first visit to the LIDO restaurant close to our apartment, the food was cheesy, rich, and awesome, making us more appreciative of all the walking we're doing to counter-balance the excessive calorie intake!  This was our first experience with public transportation as well; we rode the tram to get there, necessitating our first etalons purchase.  Here's a picture of the family bundled-up after a warm meal:
We all enjoyed our trip and made it home in time to have Skype birthday parties with both sets of grandparents and with friends.  This was a VERY action-packed day!  We bought a beautiful Sokolade Torte from a pastry store nearby for the festivities!
Lots of tasty layers in this cake (which we're told is "par for the course" here), the contents of which elicited mixed reactions from some of those more-picky Richardsons.  No worries, however, the chocolate roses on the top went over BIG!
On Friday January 15, we met our friend Irene Geisler (a student Fulbrighter  from Western Michigan University researching WW-II history of Latvia) for a lunch-date.  Irene was kind enough to check-out our apartment for us this fall.  It was exceptionally cold, so we all took a quick walking tour of Old Town and ate lunch at Rozengrals, a medieval candle-lit restaurant that was mentioned in 1293 Riga City Council records as a festival place and wine-vault.  Good food and good company...HUZZAH!

Irene also set us up with Latvian language lessons with Liva Kalnina, a law student who goes to school just down the street from our apartment.  Liva seemed very nice and we're looking forward to learning how to pronounce these words more correctly (as well as what words to pronounce!).

Other items...the girls have started to sleep through the night in their rooms this week.  Bill visited the Central Market today and discovered MAXIMA, a Dollar General-type store that had cheap clothes hangers and other items that seemed way too expensive at the mall (as they are in the U.S. as well...maybe we're not so different after all!).  The market environment (inside several buildings that look like airplane hangars, plus the outside tables) is pretty amazing and fast-paced.  We think that there are some decent deals, but Bill was moving too fast to catch everything.  He met with several of the trumpet students at the Jazeps Vitols Latvian Academy of Music and will start teaching tomorrow, January 18, a week early.  He has been appointed the flugelhorn player in the Latvian Brass Band and will attend his first rehearsal with them on Monday. 

We have had a couple of questions about our apartment.  The way things are set-up, we actually don't live in a flat overlooking the street, as opposed to the ones you see in this picture.  Instead, there is a password-protected gate we enter from the busy sidewalk, then walk through a small courtyard to get to our building.  With this arrangement, we really don't hear much street-noise.  All-in-all, we certainly can't complain. With the weather, we're looking forward to reaching 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) to do some serious outdoor play with the kiddos.

There are lots of great things happening here.  Of course, we keep up with many of you via e-mail and facebook.  The plan at this point is to post a blog entry each week...we'll see how long that lasts!