Well, I figure it's time for another home reno post, as there finally seems to be some "movement at the station". We had hoped to race the winter last year, and get the roof on and windows in so that we could heat the inside and work could continue over winter. Sadly, our builders lost the race, and the house has been pretty much snowed in for the last 4 months. During winter we had a bit of drama, including finding mould and rot in the new timber that had been used in the frame (let's not go there) which resulted in a few heated exchanges with the builder, but we have now moved on, both in terms of solutions and emotionally. We also found a lot more rot and decay in the older walls, and by now, with a bit of extra demolishing (oh, joy), I can safely say I will have a 90% brand-new house. Not what I ever wanted, but that's the way it's turned out, and I'm TRYING to roll with it. The only bits of old that are left are the end walls, the staircase, one or two individual bit of interior wall that we could save, and, um... the chimneys, and that's about it. I am not going to complain or whinge at this point, apart from mentioning the fact that if I had known in the beginning I was getting a new house, I certainly wouldn't have opted for leaving the original floor plan of a 1890s workers boarding house. But... let's not go there either.
Now the temps are up above zero again, and everything is moving at a cracking pace! Yesterday we had our windows put in. This is a huge step, one which has suggested the quiet hope that we may actually see a finished house at some stage. Because the house is in a heritage area - this inner-city suburb has been included in Riga's UNESCO world heritage site because of its untouched (ha!) wooden architecture - our facade has to be traditional, and so our windows are quite lovely, stained and oiled wood. Amazing to see 24 of them being installed in one day (Maria, you said you wanted to sew curtains when you came to visit in June.... well there's certainly lots of opportunities for you to express yourself!). All sewerage and water pipes are going in, and Jem has spent today pacing things out in the house to work out where our electricity switches are going. So things are getting a little more exciting for us!
Whenever we drive out to see how building work is going, the boys are rebellious. We always spend way too long there, and they can't run around because of all of the holes in the floors and nails and building trash around. Their initial excitement when we bought "Jeff" (this is the name they gave the house way back then) was quickly replaced by dread and boredom when they realised that "Jeff" was going to monopolise their parents' time and patience, and meant long hours of sitting in the car waiting for us to finish talking to builders. They also have not been able to visualise the place when it will be finished - and let's face it, all of us have had trouble at times - and so have started to develop a fear that we will one day have to sleep and eat in the huge expanse of demolished and rotting timber that we keep talking about. But I get the feeling that yesterday was also a turning point for the boys, because the windows made it seem more "house-like", and after Mikus was helped to climb up the timber frame so that he could perch on the third floor under the rafters, everyone seemed a bit happier.
In the next update we are hoping to have our facade almost finished - the boards we are cladding the house with have an old-fashioned profile, and have been painted in a lovely, powdery, matt traditional Swedish paint. The colour has turned out very orange, though, and I get the feeling that pretty soon "Jeff" will be re-christened the "carrot-house"!

View from our bedroom windows

Keeping the old staircase is my last stand. Lord help the builder who suggests "we just have to dismantle the staircase while we work on the floor, don't worry, we will put it back in for you, only straighter". The poor man saw what it's like when I go beserk!

Nice scaffolding, huh? Pass all the safety regulations in Oz, ya reckon?

On Good Friday the sunset coloured the sky like an Easter egg! It was the beginning of four days at Kūgures, celebrating springtime with gusto. Mikus and Matīss had so looked forward to this holiday, and their excitement about all the Easter traditions got the rest of us excited too. Not to mention that the snow has finally melted, and there is hope and life and warmth in the world...

M and M hung out quite a bit with vectēvs, all of the enjoying his new 'netbook' computer, compact and SO interesting. On Saturday night we coloured eggs the Latvian way, with onion skins. My brother's girlfriend, Ilze, was very active in organising the egg colouring, and between all of us we created the most impressive set of Easter eggs we've ever made at Kūgures. This year we had two pots on the stove - one with red onion skins and the other with the traditional brown ones. We also surrounded some of our eggs in rice - a first for me - which gave a 3D speckled quality.

I never really knew I looked like a witch until I saw this photo! Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...

Showing off Jem's filigree masterpiece. The only one he made, and what a beauty it was.

Sunday morning was the traditional Sunday breakfast - for which my ageless grandmother also arrived. She proceeded in trying to beat my kids at egg-smashing comps.

Mikus and Tiss thought this was the greatest, and after showing reasonable decorum on Sunday morning by only smashing the eggs we could eat, pulverised the rest of them this morning (Monday). Too tempting to have unsmashed Easter eggs just hanging around on the table!

By the time we finished breakfast, the Easter Bunny had done his delivery (late riser, that bunny of ours). It is always funny to watch the kids waltz straight past the eggs, hidden in the most obvious of spots. According to my parents I used to do exactly the same.

Another springtime tradition is birch tree tapping. We are not masters of this procedure (we always worry that we are somehow hurting the tree!), so we asked our neighbour and farmhand, Normunds, to show us how its done this year. He used a drill much bigger than we would normally use, and got an impressive stream of juice dripping into the bucket, which we emptied a number of times during the next few days. The juice is like pure, cold water, with a hint of sugar. If you leave it for a few days it goes cloudy, and a bit sour - an inimitable birch juice taste, which I can't adequately describe. We had so much juice that we ended up boiling it for coffee, and I still have about 5 litres I've brought with me back to Riga.

My brother also put the hammock back up in the garden. Certainly a sign that summer is coming. The boys spent a good few hours playing their favourite game - "on a flying carpet", or "on a rocket ship" - whereby they both cling on for dear life and swing the hammock violently, all the time screaming instructions to each other as if they were co-pilots on some possessed devil-craft. Hours of fun for any male under the age of 10.

So there it is. Easter at Kūgures. Wouldn't rather be anywhere else!


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