Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Me and Chocolate

I have this love of chocolate. I have written about it before and have been seeking to tame it. In the process I have learned a thing or two.

Eating vs. Savoring

  • Eating: For those who love chocolate you know what it is like to have a chocolate craving when one can devour a whole dark chocolate bar with hazelnuts all by yourself with no problem. Or maybe it is the Snickers you sneak into your groceries at the store and eat before reaching home. Eating chocolate entails trying to satisfy oneself with the quantity of chocolate consumed and the mere feelings and rush of the moment. . 
  • Savoring: When you are on a diet and are being strict about sugar and chocolate intake eating chocolate is absolutely out of the question. This is where savoring chocolate comes in . . . Try taking one small square of chocolate and letting it melt in your mouth. Enjoy the flavor, the consistency, the pleasure of the taste. When savored and enjoyed to the full one small square really IS enough to satisfy even the most worst chocolate addict. Only when truly savored do we get to enjoy chocolate to the fullest. Not to mention the feeling of pleasure knowing we haven't just succumbed to an unhealthy chocolate rush. But  have rather enjoyed the true flavor we so admire, and are able to leave it at that. . 
How about you, how do you enjoy chocolate and deal with your chocolate addiction? !



Gossip, to most of us, if not all of us, has a negative connotation. No one wants to be known as a gossip, with whom no one dares share secrets.

Lately I have been wondering if I am a gossip and what it really means to gossip. I often say, I don't want to gossip when I tell something. Then I find myself being questioned by God through my conscious, "Is it true that you do not want to gossip?" And I stop and wonder if what I just shared or said was gossiping.

It seems the line between retelling something, telling how one feels and gossiping is so fine and uncertain that most of us aren't sure whether we are gossiping or not.

Today I went to the dictionary and found gossip defined in these ways:

1. Rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature.
2. A person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts.
3. Trivial, chatty talk or writing.
Hmm. . . interesting. So gossip can just be a chatty talk about nothing- that sounds harmless enough. But it can also be hurtful, and the spreading of information better left a secret.
When I went to God's word to find some verses on gossip I found :
 Proverbs 20:19 He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets. Therefore do not associate with a gossip. 
When I looked up what "gossip" meant in Hebrew (the original language) I discovered. 


  1. to be spacious, be open, be wide
  2. to be simple, entice, deceive, persuade
  3. to be deceived, be gullible 
Hmm. . . what might this mean? That when we persuade others to believe what we are telling about a situation or person, we are gossiping? That when we believe everything someone else tells us about another that we are listening to gossip? Could it also mean that revealing too much information is also gossip?

What do you think, where in the line between telling something and gossiping? Is there a line? Is it ok to tell how you feel about something to a friend, if it involves another person? Or is that gossip? Are you a gossip? How do you feel about that?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Luiza Malinowska- Featured Artist
Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Luiza of MinkuLUL.
Her work is superb, and the more I see of it the more I am awed. Enjoy our interview with Luiza.
About you:

I'm a painter with a degree in landscape architecture, who always loved to create her own clothes. I live in cold Poland and am constantly dreaming about relocating to sunny Italy. In the snowy months of winter I let my passion take charge and paint my dreams on silk and other textiles: flowers, animals and landscapes.

Why silk painting?

I started painting watercolors many years ago, as a child – my grandma encouraged me and taught me to love nature. Some years ago I stumbled upon the possibility of painting on fabrics, and gradually I moved from painting on T-shirts and jeans to lovely smooth shiny silks, which is quite similar to watercolors, but so much more...! Now I try so hard to find my place on Etsy to support my passion, because now I can't imagine my life without painting (maybe it's a bit of a cliché but still that's the truth) and creating items of everyday wear. I really find this type of art 'useful' and 'purposeful' – it's lovely to see other people wearing your own creations!

What inspires your paintings?

I love nature and find inspiration in floral motives as well as in Art-Nouveau. I love painting landscapes and probably I'm a traditionalist if it comes to watercolors, but painting those watercolor on silk is something I find really challenging and new.

What is your favorite silk painting you have done?

I think it must be scarf called 'Sunset' I really love how it lightens up a person who wears it. As you can see there's almost no gutta used – I'm so proud how it turned up!

Your favorite type of silk, dyes, resist, etc.

I try to get my supplies locally and support polish business so I use polish paint (which you can buy only in few shops here). I love Javana gutta but I had some problems with theirs paints (one just won't stay on the silk, the others leave stains). I really don't recommend Deco Gutta from Lefranc & Bourgeois – the colourless one will be almost invisible after drying and you won't see it on your silk.

Please share a tip for other silk artists or those interested in silk art

I really encourage everyone to try painting without using gutta: its' really possible to get general sharps of landscapes for instance, you just have to “fight” one color with another by controlling the spread with second brush. Oh, and a simple syringe from a pharmacy will make a great pipette for taking your paint out of the jar without spreading it all over your workplace!
You can find me here:
Etsy shop
DaWanda shop
Deviantart account
Facebook accout

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Little Things

Sometimes is is something as small as iceberg lettuce which can make a person feel American in another country. 

Made some yummy salads with this and green leaf lettuce- my preferred lettuce :)

It all started with the cauliflower . . .

I was at the grocery store searching for normal things, some of which were vegetables. I had just rejected the cauliflower despite the good price-- its look left much to be desired. 

An older lady approached me and asked me if I speak English. These thoughts crossed my mind in an instant, "Whoa! Me, English? How did you know? Do I look that out of place here?" But I said, "Yes, I do. How funny you should ask, since I'm American."

We discussed produce, she wanted to know why I rejected the cauliflower and which vegetables were better. 

Turns out she and her husband are here from the STATES house-sitting for 5 weeks. 

I gave her the rundown on local produce and other produce I myself was buying which I considered a good price and good quality. I was so so happy to help a fellow citizen.

It was so random to meet Americans in the produce department. Such a God thing that he turned her eyes to me and had her ask ME if I spoke English. It was so much fun to speak English to someone ( I don't get that often over here), and so weird to have a conversation in the grocery store. I realized after that that Latvians are quiet about their shopping  :) 

It is interesting how if one meets a fellow countrymen thousands of miles from home you feel as if you are immediate friends. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Disney Inspired Necktie

In an another post I was working on this commission- which was to be like the banner shown. 
This was the tie as I painted it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I love Tuesdays, can you guess why? 

Tuesdays are my day out. 

Our wonderful baby sitter comes and I go out. 

I go to the post office most weeks. 

I wait in line, sometimes a very long line. 

I mail packages to far off friends and far away lands. 

And sometimes, like today I even get a package myself. 

Sometimes they have surprises, and conversation hearts :) 

I like Tuesdays. 

I get to go shopping- grocery shopping that is! 

I like planning our meals and looking for deals. 

I run more errands if there are more. 

I sit, I think, I rest and write. 

I have time for me. 

I like Tuesdays. 

I come home and chat with our dear sweet nanny. 

I hear my kids laugh. 

I plan their supper. 

I like Tuesdays. 

My husband comes home and changes his clothes. 

Then off we go on our date night. 

We go to a cafe or restaurant. 

We laugh, we talk, we dream, we smile. 

We have time just to sit and listen to one another without the interruptions of little ones. 

I like Tuesdays because they are our special days. A day of rest for Mom and a day for a date or US. 

Thank God for Tuesdays!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Best Friend

More than 10 years ago one timid girl was to start attending college. She was afraid, she was shy, she was full of doubt. Not once had she stepped foot in a "regular" classroom. She has spent all of her school days taught at home. She was different, but bright. She was conservative, but fun in her quiet way. She had a higher calling now and was convinced that to reach her dreams she needed a college education and so she believed, and stepped out in faith.

Some weeks before the semester was to begin she got a call from  her soon to be roommate- introducing herself and wishing her the best until they should soon meet.

The first day of orientation is overwhelming to a freshman and this shy girl was delighted when her new roommate turned out to be studying the exact same thing as herself! They were kindred spirits from the start- bosom friends from day one.

Four year of rooming together and lots of shared memories left these two even better friends. They had both studied to be missionaries and both were sure of their callings. They left college with good grades, big dreams and health and youth on their sides.

Some years passed and one of them ended up returning to the land of her forefathers to teach English and minister there. The other went to get her MA and to go through the strenuous preparation of being a full time missionary.

The one married a man of the people of her fathers.

The other was on the brink of beginning her first term as a missionary in East.

Then the unthinkable darkness, a nightmare of despair came and struck this young single woman. She was taken down with disease. She was removed from her dream. She was taken to home and long hours waiting on doctors. She was bitten by pain.

What will be? What can become when we are so faced with a crumbling of our dreams? Do we whither up in bitterness? Becoming dry shells of broken dreams?

Not so with my friend! She lived on. She lived in hope. She lived in joy! She lived in Jesus!

Her life is not the life she would have chosen. Her life is not the life she dreamed. Her life is not the life she had planned on. But her life is hers, a precious gift from the Giver of all good gifts!

This young women struck with illness and chronic disease in her youth is my dearest friend. My heart aches with her at every tear of pain she cries. My heart prays for her, with prayers that I cannot put into words. I know not how best to pray for her. I know not what to do to ease her pain. But yet I see her and admire her for who she is and has become.

Sometimes I ask myself, would I take her place? When I cry out to God and ask him, "Why, why would you do this to her? Why don't you heal her?! Why don't you do something?!I know you can! " I feel as if a question is asked of me, "Would you take her place?" And in the shame and selfishness of my heart I know I cannot answer, Yes". I who fear pain- who screamed as my babies came into this world. I tremble at the idea of facing every day with pain.

I stop. I stand in humble awe. For I know that God who saw fit to give my friend her talents, and dreams, also has a reason for letting her go through this fiery hell of pain. She is being refined-like pure spotless gold. She is being made purer, richer, more beautiful in the eyes of He who made her. She is His daughter, His love and her All!

Be encouraged dear friend! I cannot take your pain, or your place. But know that you are not alone and my prayers spill like tears raining from my eyes on your behalf.

Be a friend to the chronically ill. Be real! Be there!

Devotions Together!

Six years of married life my husband and I have sought for way to study God's word together. We have stumbled over each wanting to read in our language. We have read aloud in Latvian and sometimes in English. We have tried a daily devotional and every time we have given up after a short while. Always going back to reading alone and only praying together.

I had been in search of something that would guide us to study the Bible together and not just read a devotional. Devotionals are good for some- but they leave me wanting more of God's word.

At long last we have a found a solution for us! A Bible intended for couples!

I found this Bible while home for the holidays. I almost didn't buy it because of the high price, and my gift certificate being just too small to cover the large sum.

BUT I reasoned with myself that if we would finally start to read together it would be worth every penny!

This has definitely been worth the price. Things I love about this study Bible:

  1. It doesn't use dates, but only days of the week. So if we get behind we don't get stressed. 
  2. It has passages that are manageable in length so we we have time to read and discuss. 
  3. The questions get us talking on topics we normally don't discuss. 
  4. The stories are actual for married couples. 
  5. The weekend special assignments with fun ideas for dates. 
I could go on and on about how much I love this Bible.

As a cross-cultural couple we are able to each read the passage quietly in our native language. Then I translate the questions for my husband and the story as well.

If you want to get this cheaper buy it online- and not in a bookstore. I could have saved at least $15.00 that way.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Winter's Flowers

A little reminder to myself to see God in the little things. I posted this 7 years ago during my first year in Latvia.
February 6, 2006
Hello Friend
Do you ever just wake up feeling down? Today I did just that. My room was cold, the weather has been frigid and when we don’t heat during the night by morning everything is freezing. It was hard to get up today. 

As I walked to the train station I was delighted by the sparkling snow God was "sprinkling" on the earth. While waiting for the train I got the chance to examine the snowflakes that were landing on my black coat. 

They were superb, each so intricate. I was amazed at God’s design, his care to the tiniest details. Usually I don’t have the chance to examine the forms of snowflakes. Even the ones the sizes of a speck were shaped like tiny flowers, with six little “petals.” “Winter’s flowers,” I thought to myself. 

How creative God is. He could have made snow be shapeless little blobs. But instead each one is so beautifully shaped. How thorough God is, in all of his creation. 

My heart was reprimanded; surely God was also with me. I had been feeling down, and alone. But God had never left me. He was with me all the time, caring about the little details of my life, if I would just see him. God who has designed the snowflakes, and given shape and beauty to ones barely visible, he also cares immensely for me and the events of my life. Thank God for his lessons that he is always teaching us.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cooking with a Friend

Some cookbooks are like old friends. You know the ones, they are loved, worn, messy, and perhaps even falling apart. 

Growing up my Mom had this cookbook. We had some favorite recipes from it, and I still do. I wouldn't call this my favorite recipe book- but it has some great basic recipes for going back to. 

I love cookbooks and I loved getting new ideas and inspiration from them. I am not one to follow any recipe completely- I love altering and making each recipe my own. 

What is your favorite cookbook? Why? 

Happy cooking!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Les Misérables -2012. My Review

This film has finally come out in Latvia and my husband and I went to see for Valentine's Day.

He is not a musical fan- so he was a bit skeptical after the first 5 minutes. Saying, "Singing now and then is ok. But singing all the time is just too much. "

I had high expectations for this film, having heard various reviews. My brother even claimed it was the best film he has seen.

After being disgusted by the trailers for other movies I have absolutely no desire to see. (We haven't been to see a movie for at least 2 years or more and the previews were appalling!) I was excited when the film finally started!

My first thought/word that came to mind was "Magnificent". I loved the way the film started with so much power in the first scene.

I found the film to be very moving. I loved the focus on forgiveness- and how the main character was in constant conversation with God through his prayers.

I found the constant singing fine- because as a musician myself I know the power of emotion that can be realized through song and music.

Of course I didn't like all of the film. But in general it left me very well satisfied and pleased that at last a film has a main character having an amazing life change and a relationship with God. The power of God is this man's life is seen throughout the movie and I liked that!

The one thing I didn't like in addition to some scenes was how many close ups there were during songs. When it just focused on the singer's face for an entire song that was a bit odd.

I am now really wanting to read this book. I like it when a movie gets me so curious that I want to read the original version.

So what was your opinion on this film? Did you see it? 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Maria Jurimae: A Featured Artist Interview

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Maria Jürimäe. She is one of the leaders of our Silk Artist's Team on Etsy. It has been a pleasure getting to know her a bit over the past year or so and you are in for a treat with her story today.
About you:

I am an Estonian silk artist, I have painted on silk and taught silk painting for over 16 years. I am member of SPIN and one of the leaders of Silk Artists Team in Etsy. I also work at the University of Tartu in the field of education. I have two lovely daughters, 6 and 8 years old and sometimes they participate in my silk painting or develop their own creations.

Why silk painting?

I have painted with watercolors as long as I remember myself - my father is an artist, so painting was just a natural part of living. Watercolor didn't have a bad smell (like oil paints had) and the transparency and blends were enchanting. I also loved the thinking part - you had to plan your work in advance to get the dreamed result.

I discovered silk painting as a student and fell in love with it immediately - compared to watercolor it allowed even better blends, the color of steam fixed dyes was just irresistible! And silk had a distinct character – it was a living material and in the beginning it seemed to me that I have just two options – to let silk to whatever she wants (and just admire it and help the process by adding some dyes, water, salt, etc.) or to try to do what I want and end up with disappointment. Learning to accept silk and cooperate with it was really a rewarding experience. And eventually I have learned to think “the silky way” and am able to express even the most complex ideas on silk – not forcing my will over it, but with cooperation this wonderful material.

What inspires your paintings?

The nature, the God, the Angels, the music. . .
I love to be the medium. Most of my scarves just “come to me” from somewhere – I just have to let the brush to do its work, and sing my songs. It is a wonderful feeling.

I also love to make made to order scarves – to use the ideas of different people (even the craziest ideas can be expressed on silk) and make them alive on silk. People, their stories and their problem they would like to find solutions inspire me. Most of my clients have told me that the result is even better than they have imagined, so I have become quite confident in it ; )

What is your favorite silk painting you have painted? 

 It is almost impossible to pick one favorite. But because it is spring I will choose one of my signature scarves: Lily of the Valley.

Your favorite type of silk, dyes, resist, etc.

I love silk dyes fixed by steam. I have mixed the dyes by myself and used Pebeo, Marabu, Schjering. I just love those bright colors! Nothing can be compared to steam fixed silk dyes. My favourite guttas are from Marabu – they work well and don’t add extra texture to silk.

I love the softness and tender touch of silk. This material is perfect for feeling. . . so my favourite types of silk are crepe satin and ponge. I hesitated a long time before opening an Internet shop – because photos are just 2D images of my soft, shiny, living scarves. . . but it seems that the magic of silk can be somehow captured even via photos.

I have also loved to learn very thin and transparent chiffon silk – it is hard to paint because it is so transparent, but it gives a really rich and elegant result especially in evening wear.
I order most of my scarves, dyes, and guttas from Estonian resellers Vunder and Scanimpex.
Please share a tip for other silk artists or those interested in silk art

If I have to pick up one tip, it might be – cooperation with silk. I almost never pre-plan my silks in detail by drawing a 1:1 size paper with the design. I begin to play with colors on silk and adjust my design ideas according to results. This way every scarf or tie will be one-of-the kind (I have painted for over 1000 scarves) and the energy of scarf will be free-flowing, not forced.

If something goes “wrong” it actually is a sign to continue the work in (a bit) different direction – learning to read those signs takes some time, but it is surely worth of learning.

OK, this is more philosophy as tip. So something more practical too: to avoid the back-flow from pre-hemmed edges I suggest firstly to paint the right side of silk with quite dry brush (especially the edges – when the brush is wet the silk absorbs it and later it results with back-flow) and when the silk is ready, to add just very little paint with large, but dry brush to those areas of back side that have remained white.

And using a large, sharp ended watercolor brush (not too wet!) is helpful by filling tiny areas too ; ))

You can fine Maria here: 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Valentine's Party Ideas

This week will be one with lots of parties in our home. Some good friends will be visiting from Sweden and our gathering promises 14 kids 6 and under, and 10 adults. Wow!

Friday we will be having our 2nd annual Valentine's party for the girl's from our youth group. Last year we had a marvelous time and I loved going all out for them!

Last week I finally succumbed to Pinterest because I was in need of a way to gather up ideas for this party. I have been enjoying it a bit and am so looking forward to this years Valentine's Party.

Last year I made these sugar cookie pops. Everyone LOVED them, as did I :) I am not normally a fan of sugar cookies- they are just too plain for my taste. But decorated with white chocolate these became my top favorite sugar cookies. Not to mention how cute they look on a stick!

So while I continue gathering my ideas together, making lists and beginning my baking. Tell me, what are you doing special for Valentine's Day?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mommy Stress - Part 1

Being a Mom is one of the most rewarding positions a woman could ever hold. But this very same title and the responsibilities and emotions involved can bring on some of the most intense stress a woman has experienced or will ever face.

It has been on my heart to write about Mom stress for a time. And yesterday I just happened to run across a program on Focus on the Family that again brought this to the light in my thoughts.

What are your areas of stress as a Mom?

For those of us with young kids (mine are 4 , 2 and 9 mos) your stress might look something like mine:
  1. Lack of sleep (leading to impatience, frustration, difficulty controlling emotions)
  2. Lack of personal time and space (no time for me and my hobbies and taking care of myself)
  3. Frustrations over kid's fighting, whining, etc. 
  4. Naptimes
  5. Worry over the health, education, discipline of our kids. 
  6. Worry about my relationship with my husband (do we make time for each other, do we communicate well, are we on the same page regarding our kids,etc. 
The list could go on and on.  But you get the idea, as Mommies we are continually faced with stressful situations.

What do you do? How do you cope? How do you get beyond the stress?

The fact is that as women our "stresses" are so interconnected they all add up to such a load that without some kind of "help" we will eventually explode unless we have a way of dealing with these things.

For me, my greatest hope is my relationship with our Saviour- Jesus. His word gives us all kinds of messages of hope. James 1: 5 says that "If anyone lacks wisdom he (or she) should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. . . "

I  find great peace in the knowledge that God will provide me such an amazing wisdom- it is available for me, and you!

There are lots of practical things we can do to deal with the stress we face as Mom's and I would love to hear how you do so.

Until another day!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

We like ours local

Today was a day of running errands, getting groceries, etc.

It has been a long while since I had been to our local market- literally an outdoor market with vendors. The meat and dairy section is indoors. But in all truth this market has changed little (as far as I recall) in the past 16 years.

I really enjoy going to the market, both here in my small town and in the capital. That is a cultural experience in and of itself for any American :)

Today I was in need of potatoes, and produce (green onions, dill, lettuce) . The man selling me produce offered me delicious cucumbers from Estonia. I kindly refused him, telling him I would wait for our own Latvian cucumbers.

Perhaps it was just me, but I am quite sure they smiled in quiet agreement. And again I was reminded how Latvians put such a high value on locally grown produce.

Growing up in America I never remember being particularly interested in where my potatoes, apples and greens came from. I cared about what they tasted like and that was the key. But in Latvia it is important, and it seems that people pay a good deal of attention to this. Knowing how things are grown in various countries plays a part in our choices of produce.

We would much prefer,  I dare say , to buy apples from Poland when local ones are sold out. Believing their views on pesticides and natural growth habits to be closer to our local style than that of some more southern countries.

And those of you Latvians who read my blog, may correct my ignorance if I am mistaken. How about you, do you pay attention to where you your fruits and veges come from? Do you care? Why or why not?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Emma- 2009

Being a fan of classic literature- it is of course a given that I would prefer that type of movies as well. 

A couple years back I saw this version of Emma for the first time. Romola Garai does a fabulous job as Emma. And it was this version of the story that made me actually want to read the book. 

I just loved the book and would recommend this TV mini- series to anyone who enjoys classic literature and that type of movies. 

You can just imagine my further delight when last week I learned that another actress in the movie is a distant relative of mine- by marriage. Now this movie holds an even dearer place in my heart! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mask Ball

The days leading up to my husband's huge work party were full of fun experiments making masks. I got some great ideas online on how to make masks. And made about 10 in the process because I started having so much fun experimenting. The kids loved having masks of their own too. 

We had a wonderful evening in our disguises- and I was pleased my husband agreed to wear the hat. He was rather skeptical on that one. But his colleagues didn't even recognize him in this get-up and he lots lots of compliments. 

Having never been to a mask ball it was an interesting experience- I have no idea what they are normally like. But we had fun on our evening out as a couple- and that is what counts, right?! We even got to put to practice our dance steps we had learned this Fall in our dance lessons.

Have you ever made a mask for a mask ball? I would love to see photos!