Thursday, June 29, 2017

Bye bye Toberlone, Cadbury, Gherardelli, and Lindt...

We found it.  In Riga Latvia.  The perfect chocolate at the Liama Chocolate Factory.

Could it be because when you walk in they give you a little cup of heaven.  They call it a drink of chocolate.  We call in smooth, warm, rich, comforting, deliciousness.

‘Laima’ is the biggest and most well-known producer of chocolate and sweets in the Baltic, where chocolate is made with cocoa beans without using semi-prepared products.  It has survived a communist takeover and is going strong.  Sorry America.  I think you can only buy it in South Carolina, but try Amazon.  It is worth it.

A fun thing that you can do at the museum is personalize a label for your very own chocolate bar.  Look what we wrote without either one knowing it.  Ahhhhh......

I don't know.  Our new love might be Laima chocolate!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Midsummer Eve in Latvia

Jāņi was originally a festival for pagan farmers that existed long before the arrival of Christianity and the traditions of the festival remain immensely popular to this day.  It is held every year on the summer solstice.  The sun sets around 10:30 pm and rises at 3:30 am.  Staying up all night to celebrate is part of the grand party. We were told this holiday is bigger than Christmas.

Other rituals include gathering wildflowers to make garlands to wear on your head. Since we celebrated in the city, the wildflowers were brought in from the markets.
The men wear what Paul calls a "lettuce wreath".  The ladies a simple garland of flowers.  Since Paul refused to wear a lettuce wreath, I thought I would try my hand at weaving a flower wreath for him.  

This table was set up with wildflowers and women were happily going at it.  Looks simple enough I thought.  "I can do this" ha, ha.

I grab my posies and begin.  What is the saying.."More easily said than done".  I started out pretty well but when I went to bend it in to a wreath....well....

I think I will stick to quilting.

We settled for a lovely spray of baby's breath in the rim of his hat.  

Most Latvians head to the country for the Summer Solstice where they celebrate with family.  One of the hallmarks of Jāņi is leaping over the bonfire which is meant to rid people of their burdens. Couples leap holding hands, so that the magical force of the flames binds them together.

In the city they do things in a bigger way.  

There was a lot of liquor flowing during this celebration, but I don't think anyone dared to jump over this bad boy.

A fun thing for us was to see the children's games.  Milking the cow Latvian style reminded me of the Clark County Fair.

My favorite part was the dancing.  European countries have an abundance of meaningful traditions passed down from their ancestors.  I loved participating in the happy and cheerful renditions of the custom of dance.  BYU Folkdancers...look out!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

KGB Cornerhouse

The "occupation" of Latvia and it's surrounding countries Estonia and Lithuania lasted for 51 years.  It was an unprovoked occupation by a major super-power (Russia).  The Latvian government had to chose between a hopeless bloody resistence or the reluctant acceptance to an ultimatum of the threat of overwhelming military force.  They chose the latter.  The regime change was then directed from Moscow under the pretention of legality. 

The psychological and  actual terror of this regime exacted a heavy human toll-destroyed relationships, destroyed lives, and destroyed trust.  At the end of WWII about 1/3 of Latvia's population was destroyed.  

I will not write more on what I experienced there.  I cried.  Wordless pictures tell it all.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Branch Picnic Moscow Style...

Bitsevsky Park was the site for our Branch Picnic on June 17, 2017.
They said to meet at the cemetery.  Well that is not what we expected, but cemetery's are one of my favorite places to go, so we began our adventure.  It was by all standards of cemeterys on of the most beautiful we have seen.

However, we were very happy to have Branch President Denise meet us and take us to this lovely picnic area.  We felt like we were on the Alpine loop. 

 A forrest of quaking aspen trees in the background while Vasi (1st Counselor) and President Denise get the grill going.  Chicken and pork kabobs wrapped in tortillas with an array of fresh vegetables.  

Who can let a little mud stop you from learning to crawl?

The Feast!

The fun and games!

I helped the little girls make a leaf princess.  We named her Una.