Holiday roadtrip to Estonia from UK and tips for travelling with dog

Our holiday road trip started this year just with me, S and Lonni. Rest of the family joined us later. It was hot and Lonni tried out every fountain we could find. I wasn’t really sure were people’s looks disapproving or admiring. Lots of people asking, how’s Lonni coping on 3 days trip/8-10 hours driving a day? To be honest, we quite often forget she’s in the car. She sleeps most of the way and just waking up bit confused, if I break to hard 🙂

She has to stay in the car on the crossing from England to France, which takes about an hour and half, but she seems not to be traumatised by that and as soon we get off the ferry, we try to find beach to let her run a round before heading of to Germany. This time the beach we chose was full of hunters. We decided not to take risk to get shot and drove bit further from Calais, where we found the beach with no sea to see 🙂 Lonni managed to find the bit of muddy water. She was absolutely disgusting and smelly – ready for our stop in Antwerpen.

The first night we stayed near where iron curtain used to be. We stopped for dinner in Duderstadt, beautiful German town. 

We stayed close-by at Herzberg in the lovely apartment .

It was newly decorated, very clean, with small kitchen and very spacious walk in shower.

Lovely place to stay with the dog, beautiful Harz countryside and some lovely walks too. Pity we didn’t have more time to look around. It’s off the route a bit, but we love taking the road trip as part of the holiday and often try to find places which are more interesting than roadside chain motels.

Second day we drove in Poland. Lovely country, where is so much to discover. We stopped at Wroclaw – charming university town with beautiful old square, river and lots to see. People are friendly and always happy to help you. It’s so much cheaper than in UK or in Estonia. Real gem worth visiting. There are lots of places to choose for staying in Poland.  This time we stayed roadside motel, which was ok, but the lady who runs it was bit surprised and shake her head, when we showed up almost at midnight with Lonni. I think her son advertises the place as dog friendly and not telling her 🙂 She told us not to let Lonni in the bed – like we can stop her while sleeping 🙂 Other than that it was ok. Lovely breakfast and off we went to our last stretch of the journey.

I usually start to feel home already in Germany, food is similar to Estonia. Poland even more so. Lithuania feels like “Hey, I’m home” – rye bread, potato salad, pork and so on.  Even there is still all day driving to do.

Our must stop in Lithuania is Marijampole. Because it’s on the right place, where we need break from the driving, they have lovely park with lots of fountains and streams we can cool down us and Lonni (but also where is good change to lose all your phones – long story, happens only to my husband!) and there is handy cafe next to the park with the terrace, we can have our lunch and I can get all excited about ordering all familiar foods I have been missing.

Few tips for having road trip to Europe with your dog:

  1. Check that your rabies vaccination is up to date. It has to be done 21 days before entering to UK (other countries in Europe don’t seem to care about it). The vaccine is valid for 3 years so no need to do it every year but also no harm  (at least didn’t see any side effects to our dog)
  2. Goes without saying she needs to be microchipped, but it was only checked entering UK.
  3. You need the pet passport. Plan it advance as it varies how long it can take. In our case it took 2 weeks from applying. You can do it through your vet.
  4. Don’t expect your vet knows all rules about travelling with your pet – do your own research. The best resource for the current laws is https://www.gov.uk/take-pet-abroad/coming-back-to-the-uk
  5. Before entering UK, your dog need tapeworm treatment. It’s given as a pill and the vet has to sign the passport. It needs have been given no less than 24 hours and no more than 120 hours (5 days) before returning UK. Find the vet in advance in the country you visiting and book your time. If you travelling in different countries do your calculations correctly and don’t miss the time frame for the treatment.
  6. In our route the only ferry, which doesn’t let pets out the car is between Dover and Calais. When leaving your dog in the car, leave the windows open. I used to leave something to chew for her but I don’t think she ever touched anything. It’s only 1.5 hours so most of them are absolutely fine with it. You can leave bowl with the water.
  7. If it’s you first time travelling with the pet give her lots of practice. Take a long drives, leave her in the car for some periods, not on the hot days of course! Lonni used to get car sick, when she was younger, but she grow out of it.
  8. Stop at least every 3 hours and give your dog at least 10 -20 minutes stretching , especially if it’s a big dog as there isn’t much room in the car.
  9. Take your own food for dog with you. At least for duration of the travel. We don’t have much time to go supermarkets and we’d like to use all our stops sightseeing . Also you dogs stomach might get upset with new food and all the excitement.
  10. Have a poo bags with you! Lots of them! In every pocket and bag you have! You don’t want to be middle of nice town square next to the big pile of poo and nothing to clear it up.
  11. Have your dog bed with you for hotels and camping or where ever you staying. It will be something familiar for her in the new places you visiting. (even so Lonni prefers our beds 🙂  )
  12. Have a bowl for the water in the car and lots of bottles of water for you and for your dog. Offer her drink wherever you stop.
  13. If you feed your dog with anything like we do, it’s handy to have little plastic box with you when you have breakfasts or meals in the hotels, so you can take bits of meats, eggs, fruit (yes, Lonni loves melons and banana) and other things for your dog. Also it comes handy if you only find big tins of food in the supermarket and want to use only half of it. If you only use dry food it’s won’t be necessary.

 

 

Summer, seaside and hot weather

I love, love, love the weather we have had past few weeks (with the little break between) and anyone, who comes to complain just keep away from me! They are usually same people, who complain over rain, wind and  low temperature. There isn’t anything better than waking up 6 o’clock and it’s warm enough just to put the t-shirt and shorts on and take the dog for a walk.

I love summer evenings, when it’s almost dark, but still warm enough to sit in the garden to have a dinner.

I love keeping windows open all night, so it’s the bird song what will wake you in the morning and you already can fill your lungs with the fresh summery air.

Only thing I really miss and I feel it strongly on hot days is closeness of the sea. I always lived less than a mile from the sea until I moved to UK. I grow up in the summer resort and it was daily routine to go swim twice a day and lay on the hot white sand getting all the D vitamin to be ready for long, cold, rainy, snowy 9 months.

We went to seaside few weekends ago. We have been so busy so it was first time this year we got around it. The Dumpton Gap beach between Broadstairs and Margate –  it’s my official favourite beach in Kent! I went swimming! It’s the only beach in UK I have been swimming after living here 16 years! It must be something, doesn’t it? The water temperature must’ve been over 20 C.

It’s the beach with the lovely sign saying “All dogs are welcome off the lead!”

It’s a sandy beach – quite rare in Kent!

So happy me!

I also love Walmer beach, for totally different reasons. I love finding stones, each telling some kind of story.

Like taking photos of funny faces my family makes out of the stones, it is annual competition 🙂

I love just staring as far as you can and maybe see glimpse of France on the clear day. I love the smell of the seaside air, sound of the sea and colour, which changing from deep dark blue to light-light blue within a minutes.

I’m sure one day I will be living back within easy reach of the sea. I know I will!

I have totally lost my cooking mojo and mixing up smoothies is the only thing I have been getting around recently:

Frozen watermelon and strawberries with mint

Lettuce – pineapple -ice

First world problems – series of the unlucky events.

If you think you haven’t done very well recently, maybe following will cheer you up and make you realise you life is not too bad after all.

Last week was pants in every sense.

Wednesday started with the car crash! Ok, not a crash, it was lucky accident. Another car drove into my car, but it was my fault as I came out from the side road. And it only happened, because I trusted someone else in the traffic. Just like my last crash 25 years ago! Lovely lady stopped her car to let me come out of the most dangerous turning I have to take daily bases past 10 years. I thanked her and started to move really slowly and there it was, another nice lady just drove into me! I have no idea how I missed it. It was horrible grey morning and her car didn’t have lights on. I don’t know why it’s not law in UK to have lights on 24 hours? It’s a law in lots of European countries I have driven and it’s not about you seeing better, it’s about other drivers noticing you early enough to react!

On the same afternoon, I was on a way to see Bill Bailey, which was birthday treat for my husband.
I got stuck most horrendous traffic jam. I love Google maps for navigation and for letting you know problems on the way, but this time it just really failed me. The access to motorway was closed and Google map didn’t think so. It tried to make me do U-turn and send me back to the road, which was closed! OMG! That was stressful! Its bit difficult to navigate and drive same time and the language I used to shout out on top of my voice can’t be written down here! I got to the show on time and so did my husband after travelling in and out of London few hours by train. At least show was brilliant!

Not to mention few issues at work so I had to stay late, which turned other plans upside down.

Our lovely Lonni have put bit of a weight on and we thought it’s a good idea is to go on the field and play Frisbee with her. She loves it. She holds her frisbee in her mouth and then runs between us, when we playing another frisbee. We had good fun with all family. Have I said I’m quite competitive – especially in sports? So when my husband throw the Frisbee and it came straight line towards me, I thought it’s the good idea to stop it with my face! Specifically my nose and eye! It’s bettter to sacrifice your face than drop the frisbee, isn’t it? I had sparks coming out of my eyes and blood from the nose! It was entertaining and painful, I laughed through the tears. I have lovely black eye now 🙂

Sunday we had lovely day out at Camden Market. This was K birthday treat. We had smashing day under the hot sun, with yummy food. K learned to use her newly owned bank card and purchased lovely Bart Simson denim shirt. Guess what happened? Somehow it ended in S bag and then we lost it. Only realising it, when we got back home. I felt really sorry for her, even though she put brave face on. I just felt so down and sad about it all and crawled into the bed and wished the week would be over! ( S did buy new shirt for her online though)!

Anyway I needed to get it out so maybe I feel less sorry for myself. There are real problems out there and I should consider myself happy not to be affected by them.

Looking back more positively:

  1. Nobody got hurt in the car crash
  2. I made it to show and we had lovely time
  3. I learned few new things while stuck at work
  4. I can cover my black eye quite sucessfully with make-up
  5. And Keiti will get new shirt thanks to the internet (and daddy)

So all is good!

Looking forward (or not) less eventful week!

 

When Estonian (me) writing (speaking) in English.

I write this blog in English. I don’t know why, as I make lots of stupid mistakes.

I started to speak English, after I met my husband 17 years ago. I did learn English at school, since I was 10, but never was I brave enough to speak it to other people. I could understand and was always nodding with stupid smile back to the people and hiding behind my friends, letting them to do all the talking.

                                                     My school in my hometown

Back in 80s Estonian schools concentrated mostly to grammar and there wasn’t anywhere to practice speaking really. Estonia was part of Soviet Union and getting out from there wasn’t something you could do easily.

My teacher in the high school made us learn the 20 first irregular verbs most of the lessons and I can’t remember anything interesting or inspiring from her…other than she was secretly eating sweets front of the class, pretending she dropped something under the table. She even stopped talking to me and refused to mark any of my work, as I dared to say something about her teaching methods.

Later on, I tried to learn English in language school, which wasn’t too bad. The teacher was from South America and actually spoke quite good English, at least I think so but as my English was so poor I can’t say for sure.

I’m sure I enchanted my husband because I was so quiet and was listening for hours him talking. (by now he has learnt his lesson 🙂 )

In England, I tried few courses aimed to foreigners (ESL), which gives you qualification needed for applying for the university places. They weren’t very inspiring and I didn’t like the approach.

In the end, I decided to take the GCSE English course in Adult education Center and oh, I was lucky. We had most inspiring teacher, who really made me work hard and I actually made real effort to complete the given homework.

I got “A”, missing just few points from “A*”.  I have highest grade in the office and all my colleagues are English 🙂

Despite the high grade, I still find difficult to write in English. I can’t always find juicy words, I admire so much, when reading other people’s blogs. I’m struggling putting “a” and “the” front of the right words. I don’t get order of the words right.

I find speaking in English quite easy, but I still have strong accent and I make mistakes regularly. My job requires giving support over the phone and I’m quite good at that. I’m thinking in English and going back to Estonia, I struggle few days to get my Estonian back in track. I think in English and then I translate it to Estonian and quite often it doesn’t make any sense. My friends think I’ve lost it and wonder, what I’m on about 🙂

I mix up “she” and “he” all the time. Not, that I don’t know, how to use them, but when I’m speaking I just pick whatever comes out first. Realizing my mistake quite quickly. Especially, when I see people staring me with blank faces and wondering, who I’m talking about.

After publishing the last post, my daughter came to correct some mistakes I made. I was grateful but annoyed with myself. How long it takes to learn it’s “how is it…” not “how it is..” ???

Regardless of all said, I will keep writing English and maybe if I would do it more often I’d actually get better.

Please put all corrections to the comments! 🙂 (no hard feelings, will try to learn from them)

In the building on the right I had my sewing, knitting, crocheting lessons, which were in curriculum for all girls from age 10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When is it ok to stop worrying?

Recently I have become to realize, only baby in the house, who needs my tender care is Lonni. Even my cats aren’t too bothered as long they have food under their nose, when they ask for it, which is every time they see me or anyone else to enter the kitchen.  Somehow my 2 babies are not babies anymore. They are almost adults with their own ideas, what they want to do and how to live their lives.

When is it ok to let your children make to their own mistakes and let them realize, their actions might have consequences to their future life? I still feel it’s my responsibility to check they have everything they need for the day and I ask my grumpy teenagers annoying questions.

I sometimes wonder is it more of my problem, than theirs? Am I worried I’m not really needed anymore? Is it the crises, because this stage of my life is over?

I feel, if I’m not checking on them, they will get hurt or fail and they can’t achieve their dreams. I feel responsible of their future, their failures and achievements.

My head says – step back and let them make their mistakes, if they don’t learn now, when  will they? But my heart not letting me step on side and just observe from the distance.

I never been pushy or over protective parent. I have been trying to be supportive and providing new experiences and let them choose their interests and friends. Maybe it’s just a case they don’t really need me for that anymore and I feel bit lost?

Is it wrong to change Xbox password as I’m worried that no homework gets done? I don’t always trust their ability to plan their time. Is it because my time management is appalling and I’m queen of the procrastination!

Why people say its gets easier, when children get older? Physically yes, it’s not so demanding, but mentally I find it’s much more draining. I’m scared to act wrong and I’m worried if I make mistake now, it will come and bite me 10 years’ time.

I avoid thinking of “mistakes” I already made. Not teaching them speak Estonian. Having a full time job, since they were young, which means working through most of the school holidays instead of booking fantastic holidays like other families. Not having enough money to provide them things, their friends have. Letting them have ice cream a day and other crappy food as I’m too busy or I want to go CrossFit instead of cooking nutritious meal every day. I can go on with my “guilty” list. 

So really – will I ever stop worrying?

 

The day I had some time (read: I took some time)

I read few blog posts last week about people not having time and it’s true – if you ask me how I’m doing you get the answer: same old, same old, busy, work, kids,home. Then I read about people who have plenty of time, they have kids, they do work 9-5 everyday, but they find time to do nothing or just do things they really want to. So I think it’s the case of attitude and your choice of life.

So this weekend was almost unplanned day of doing nothing. Not really just laying and not moving a finger but mostly just enjoying a moment.

I did some light housework and cooked some meals, but it’s not really chore. I slept until 9 and stayed bed until 10!!! I honestly can’t remember , when I last had such opportunity.  I tell you it was bliss! 

We had pub dinner on Friday, all four of us, which is rare nowadays,  after beautiful, cold snowy walk. Loved the buzz in the pub, full of people with rosy cheeks from freezing temperature outside, kids having they dinner after having fun sledging and dogs enjoying the fuss they getting in our local. We are so lucky to have the pub on our doorstep and it’s great to see that people keep using it, especially on times, where lots of rural pubs closing down as they can’t compete with big chains.

I actually had time to think and bring back some memories from long time ago, like I used to go music festival back in nineties, when Estonia was just about to become independent from Soviet Union and I saw lots of cool bands like Cure, ZZ Top, The Stranglers, Status Que, Mike and Mechanics, M People, Jethro Tull, Marillion, Ultrafox, Iggy Pop, Simple Minds  to name a few and I actually forgot all about it.

I took some photos in the garden, which slowly recovers from attack of the “beast from the East” Our garden looks mostly sleepy and full of old socks and boxes – thank you Lonni!

But there are snowdrops still there which survived the snow and daffodils are just about to blossom.

I love our garden –sloped, wild, with mossy grass and full of bluebells, daffodils and tulips in spring, bees looking for nectar in summer days. It’s cuddled by big old mature trees and there are lots of hideaway for wildlife.

Every spring I promise to take better care of it, plant more flowers, dig up my vegetable batch again and fill all my planters with tomatoes and pretty flowers like I did first few years of living here. Somehow my life has been speeding up (choice of mine I guess) and summers just racing past. My garden is quite forgiving and as long S keeps grass under control its a pleasant place to be and as much as possible we have our meals out here.

In a process of decluttering and regaining some control over my house  (one of my goals for this year) I found lots of packets of plant seeds, which have been out of date for years now, but I decided to try my luck and sowed them in the pots and hoping my grandmas gardener spirit looking after me and I will get some flowers and veg to plant out this year. So far I can see I will have some dahlias and some black Russian tomatoes, so will see how this goes.

But now really – spring, please hurry up and bring some light to our days!

PS! credits for the snowy photos in my garden go to my son T x

Should you get Chocolate Labrador?

I don’t consider myself as a specialist in “canine science” and following are strictly my personal opinions based on my own life changing experiences. But, when I have been talking to other lucky Choc lab owners I can see lots of similar behaviors and problems they have come across.

First of all, if you choosing your first dog don’t ever  be fooled with most sweetest, teddy bear like puppy! That, what happened to me anyway. I saw this adorable puppy one of our pub lunch’s next table from us and I knew straight away we’ll have one of those.

We were already in process to get a dog. It has been my biggest dream since I was 10 or even younger. I used to go all dog shows, which visited my home town and I even bought red leather lead and red wooden brush for my future dog. I was so desperate – but it took me nearly 30 years, before my dream came true. We weren’t sure what kind of dog we’ll get and we were considering to get rescue, but unfortunately in UK it has been almost impossible to adopt the dog, when you are working full time, even all conditions would’ve been ideal – lots of room for dog, big garden, woodlands just behind the garden giving lots of opportunities to run off lead, enough income to cover all costs and most importantly, very committed owner to be!

So puppy it was meant to be and when I saw advert with those chunky puppies I was sold. I do know the dangers of buying puppy from the advertiser on a website and I will probably wouldn’t go same route if I have to do it again, but I think Lonni’s mum was genuine family dog and local and I’m quite certain no one got harmed in the process.

Little did I know that getting a young puppy is like having a baby! The commitment and time you need to put into can be quite stressful. Of course there are lots of fun and laughter  as well, but for your puppy happiness you need to be committed and put lots of work, time and patience into it. I learnt that chocolate Labradors aren’t just sweet looking teddy bears, they are mad (almost crazy). Unfortunately I learnt it after I got Lonni, that the chocolate colored ones are the maddest of them all. That’s why you don’t see many working chocolate labs! You couldn’t trust blind person led by chocolate lab – as soon she would notice something interesting she would be off with you tangling along middle of traffic or pump into the lamp-post. Don’t get me wrong they are easily trainable! Lonni was one of the best in her puppy class, but take her out into the field and she’s off to meet people and other dogs whatever you shout or do! So embarrassing!

They just think that everyone would be as happy to meet her as she is, when seeing any human being. Most dog owners know that there are plenty of people out there, who don’t find your beloved pup adorable – imagine that! 🙂 and there are lots of grumpy dogs who won’t be impressed by bouncy 25 kg puppy. Doesn’t help that Lonni is alpha female and not scared of anything or anyone! (maybe just bit wary of our black cat Tomi)

She’s also bit of a bully. She doesn’t mind big strong dogs who drag her around by collar and have a play fight and she doesn’t mind curios small brave dogs, who trying to play with her. She doesn’t like weak and nervous ones. She can sense that they are afraid of her and thinks it’s a good opportunity to go after them. I had many of those situations, which ended me in tears and apologizing endlessly to the shocked owners of the terrified dogs. Luckily this behavior has almost disappeared and 99.9% time she’s easy going and playful dog, who doesn’t mind sharing her toys or even food (that’s not really possible anyway. Nobody can eat as fast as Labrador, so when you even trying to take her food you have to be super fast, which I said is almost impossible). Lab on the following video could easily be Lonni 🙂

They are lovely family dogs, but you still need to get ground rules clear. When we first got her, she picked my son, who is youngest in the family and tried to get ahead on pack order. He tried to get my sons favorite place to sit and tried to get between me and him. She soon learned that she’s on the bottom of the pack, she realized that even the cats have more rights 🙂 She was also very bouncy, so when you have small children you have to be mindful that hey can easily knock them over not really thinking about it.

And they are strong – very strong! If she’s seeing something – she would be off if you not stopping her with you arms feet and teeth if needed 🙂 Probably that’s the one reason why I joined CrossFit to be strong enough to control my dog 🙂

All Labradors need plenty of exercise. Firstly because they have lots of energy so it helps them to keep calm(er). Lonni have 2 off lead 30-50 minutes walks a day and we do try to fit some longer walks in on the weekend. She also have access to our garden, when we are at home, but she’s not so interested to exercise herself. Also they need plenty of exercise to keep them slim as they are very greedy and do anything to get some food. It’s very easy to over feed them. I think it’s very common sight seeing Labradors tottering around with no waste line, especially chocolate Labradors.

Choccies are very excitable. It does get better, when they get older, but I remember how our visitors were met by this 28 kg bundle of bouncy happiness and it took for 5-10 minutes to calm her down. We found that the best thing to help her control emotions was giving something to her carry around in her mouth. She actually discovered it herself – she crabs nearest shoe or sock or anything she can find and carries it around, while showing her happiness with her waggy tale. This does mean that most days we all desperately trying to find pair of shoes, when we are in a hurry but the pair is never together.

Above is just a snippet of what it’s like to live with chocolate Labrador, if it didn’t put you off, maybe it’s the dog for you. We love our Lonni and wouldn’t have it any other way! 

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Bye 2017!

Just few hours left until the 2017 closes its door. Time to look and remind myself the goods and make a plans for the 2018.

January

January proved that it’s actually winter month and we had a snow for once! Not for long, but enough for kids to have a play and take a few quick photos to  remember. I did started with Project 30 what slowed straight down in summer holidays and then moved backwards. I will write more about it very soon. On positive side – I’m nearly stone lighter (it feels much better to say stone than 7 kg 🙂 ) . Not so positive – I’m no where near , where I was planning to be by end of the year, but hey – s..t happens and here we go again in new year.

February

I really focused on good nutrition and tried lots of healthy recipes. There was also my birthday, which I don’t really like to be reminded now days 🙂 

March

I took part of first CrossFit Open and absolutely loved  it. I’ m so glad that I found CrossFit 2 and half years ago. It’s really reminded me, that exercise is not for loosing weight or get certain kind of body. It’s fun, it’s the lifestyle choice and it’s good for your mental health. I never have problem to get down to the classes, it’s part of my life and I rather not have glass of wine on Friday night than miss Saturday morning class. (I still love “social drinking” there and then, and good night out with my friends). I train minimum 4 times a week, sometimes up to 6 times and I can’t imagine any other way.

April

April brought us unexpectedly hot summer weather. We had lovely walks and traditional Easter weekend down in Kent coast. I had injury in my knee, which messed up my training and therefore my diet was crap. I do find that you don’t loose weight only with exercise, you need good diet as well, but the exercise helps to follow healthy diet. One of the things I learned this year, that I always have some kind of niggle in my knees and I just have to live with it. Don’t rush back on the training with the injury and train smart, which means concentrate on the movements, which help my knees to get the best state they can be.

May

May brings this summery feeling (not always) lots of lovely walks around, where we live. Beautiful blossoms everywhere and we had family trip to London over very- very long time. We always promise to ourselves to do it more often as it’s only 45 minutes away and there is so much to do and see. It was treat for K for her birthday and we went to see the play, which was really good fun.

June

We had family gathering in our house with lots of lovely food and great sunshine. We did some wild cooking with T in our garden and apparently it was the best meal ever 🙂 I made a paella for 120 people in local music festival to rise money for scouts. I started running, because I really hate it and I don’t like to hate things. Unfortunately my knees didn’t agree with it, so gave it up for now and just do occasional running at the CrossFit.

July

It’s the month for our now traditional Stonepit farm family picnic with live music. I went to see proper cricket match – now, when I can understand most of the rules, its’actually very exciting and doesn’t feel like teams just standing around and then sometimes run a bit and hit the ball with the bat:) I said goodbye to lovely family, who moved back to Estonia 🙁 and we went to Cambridge Folk festival, which we can now cross of the list “Things we should do one day”

August

… and my favourite month of 2017. Road trip to Estonia. I annoyed most of my Facebook friends with photos of everything I saw and did on this trip. Sorry, but I truly enjoyed it and I just wanted to share it with everyone. Lovely places, delicious food, great friends, breath taking sunsets, night swims, discolf with best friends in the night, my best friends wedding in a tiny island, good laughs, dear family – just to name a few things, what made me happy.

September

After the busy august, which also brought us sad news about S dad, the September was quiet with some family time and settling back to routines.

October

Good month, because lovely people came to visit us. We love people coming to stay with us, especially when they coming from far away and I can chat in Estonian all night 🙂 Lots of food and drink and laughter. I also introduced my guests to CrossFit so they can see what I’m  always talking about 🙂

November

My love to Estonian films was restored. Went to see 3 short films in Estonian House in London and had good laugh in good company.

December

It’s Christmas months and everything leading up to it. Christmas parties, frosty walks, visits from very dear friends, family get together and to end this year – one very long walk in lovely Kent countryside.

I wish you all very happy new year and love this beautiful life! 

XXX

 

One Estonian thoughts about Estonia (and Estonians)

I’m going through photos from this year holiday to Estonia. Here are just some random thoughts with some photos:

  • Until I moved to UK I never lived further than 500 meter from the sea. I always feel home, when I can see and feel seaside. Being of 2 fisherman’s granddaughter I love fish and seafood. In Estonia you don’t have to break a bank to eat fish daily and we estonians are not picky what kind of fish we eating (always have black rye bread with it! ….with everything really 🙂 )

  • You can easily find affordable meals in pubs and it doesn’t mean everything deep-fried. This big plate cost around £5 and you get 1/3 plate of different veg and pickles and 90% of cases you get sour cream-mayo sauce with your food – very Estonian!

  • My hometown Pärnu has lovely sandy beach – my favorite place, with seawater temperatures reaching more than 20 degrees and it’s shallow, which is brilliant with small kids but takes you ages to get far enough for swim.

  • Porridge in Estonia is not just your everyday oats. You get all aisle in the shop with lots of different grains. My favorite this summer was  four grain porridge (contains rye, oats, wheat and barley)

  • The market at my hometown means seasonal affordable food from local farms, gardens and forests. We are lucky to live just 5 minutes walk away from the market,  so I was regular shopper every morning. The meat counter is just amazing – you can buy every bit of animal, nothing is wasted and you can even get free fresh bones for dogs. Lonni was very happy about it!

  • I just love my home in Pärnu, it’s often full of my friends and family and there is no need to call before, just pop in, when we are home our door is always open and there is always reason to open bottle of wine.

  • Freshly smoked bacon and chanterelle from local forest – my favorite and so affordable!

  • Estonians love fresh herbal teas – they are always foraging and preparing for the long cold winter.

  • In Estonia you can buy watermelons size of a beach ball 🙂 and they are so sweet and juicy!

  • My favorite place to enjoy sunset – Pärnu Yacht club – open to everyone for food, wine or live music. And great place to see the sunset.

  • Cake for breakfast is considered acceptable in Estonia – one of my favourite kind of breakfasts!

  • Estonians are very proud of their food and you can dine in countless fancy food places in Estonia, which might not be so affordable else where. Although it’s about to change and prices seem to be catching up with UK.

  • My home town have 2 km long mole and you can walk on it- no health and safety to stop you slip on the slippery stone. You do have to use your common sense.

  • Most Estonians know places to have a wild swim, meaning it’s not publicly open swimming area. 

  • Those black rye garlic breads are must and those are only kind of rye bread my children love. Always accompanied with sour cream-mayo-garlic dip.

  • Estonians love house and flat parties. They are quite low-key but so much fun and always include lovely food and lots of drinks.

  • In Estonia you never know where you end up sending your day away. Your friends usually know fantastic secluded places to watch most amazing sunsets. You definitely wont find those places in guidebooks.

  • Estonians are very keen foragers and there are variety of mushrooms and berries you can find everywhere.

  • Estonians love music and singing and learning an instrument or singing is easily accessible and taught at very high standards from very early age. This is my best friend super talented son, only 15 (16 now) years old. 

  • Those ring donuts have been around since I went to school and the café near my school has been run by same ladies who did it 35 year ago in Soviet time (whoops, did I say 35? I’m not so old)

  • Estonians love their salads dressed richly with sour cream and mayonnaise sauce and I love it!!

  • Estonians are very proud gardeners and most of the gardens are immaculate and quite big compared to standard UK gardens.

  • Estonians love making cakes and they are very creative. This tart has been made from biscuits! It’s very original and I haven’t come across anywhere else. And it’s contains quark (lots of it!) so high in protein. Healthy pudding or what!

  • Summers in Estonia are unpredictable you can get +25 heat and then it drop to 15 degrees. So be prepared for anything!

  • Estonians might come across as serious and not very open at first, but once, when you make a friend with them, they always ready to help you.

Miss you my friends and fam! xxx

10K: Running because I’m rubbish at it and Chicken and Chorizo Paella as I’m quite good at it.

I thought that tennis and Crossfit isn’t enough an I need to start running as well  🙂 Actually, I do need some kind of a plan for summer holidays, as we going to Estonia for 3 weeks and I need something to keep me motivated nad moving. Also my tennis sessions stop for nearly 10 weeks as well. So I decided to sign up for the 10K race in September. (UPDATE! they have just cancelled the race I picked, so need to find anothere one for September)

I can’t remember, when I last run as long distance, maybe never. I done 5K few times, so I needed new challenge. I picked beginners 12 week  training plan from the Running Bug  webpage. I run 3 times a week and still do 3 -4 Crossfit sessions a week (not at the moment though as I spend lot’s of time driving my too active children around, which puts my needs ont o the hold) When I’m on holiday I will do only running.

The two first runs have been relatively easy for me –  4 x 5 min run with 2 min walk between. The first run I took Lonni with me. She was bit confused about it all. Usually she runs around woods and disappears to the bushes and I don’t see her for a while. Seeing me running, she didn’t trust to let me out of her sight, maybe she thought I just gallop away – as if 🙂 So she run straight behind me and tried really hard to drip me over. Unfortunately this didn’t work to slow me down so she thought it would be good idea to choke herself to death with a stick. This did make me stop and I got actually really worried about her. Luckily she managed to make herself sick and got rid of whatever was making her choke and running could continue. Next time, when she won’t come, when called I just might try running, seems that this resolves all the recall issues 🙂

   

Mu next run was supposed to be on Sunday -3 x min, 2 min walk between the runs but I got dragged into the “car washing project”, which took over our day and also I have a huge project of decluttering our house going on. So I decided start with the plan again this week as there is still time to fit my 12 week training in.

I think I did right, picking beginners plan – I’m rubbish at running and usually I try to get out of it or moan beforehand, when I know there is running in Crossfit workout. At the moment I actually have been enjoining those runs and I think I had reasonable speed (comparing to the slow-mo speed I use to run) 🙂

No idea how fast I actually run, or what my heart rate was. Not planning to waste money on any expensive devices at the moment, so will run as fast as I feel comfortable and try to challenge myself a bit as well.

I also dragged my daughter into it , who said she’ll come to the race with me. She has become quite athletic young lady after starting Crossfit over 2 years ago.

I think it’s the good place to jot down one paella recipe so I don’t have to look for piece of paper with the recipe, every time I need it. I have been cooking this for crowds (100 people)  past 2 years. Not many people will need recipe for 100 people so this one here is for 8.

CHICKEN AND CHORIZO PAELLA

800g chicken meat – I love chicken thighs and wings with skin on. It’s so much tastier and juicer, but any parts of chicken is ok for this paella.

800g Paella rice – you should be ok t find it for 8 people, but for 100 people I usually have to go 3 different supermarkets to get the required quantity! I should be more organised and order it online beforehand!

200 g diced cooking chorizo, I used a mixture of regular one and spicy one

250g chopped green beans

1 tin (400g) of chopped tomatoes

1.8 l boiling chicken stock (I have been using Knorr stock pots, here you would need 3-4 pots)

pinch of saffron

1tsp of Sweet Paprika ( I found it from Waitrose)

1 Red pepper sliced and preferably roasted, it will give such delicious taste to your paella, I have roasted it in the oven

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Salt

Fresh Rosemary  Sprigs

1 lemon (cut into wedges) for decoration

for extra lush finish use fresh asparagus, sautéed in the olive oil or you can steam it –  but you don’t have to use it  🙂

  1. Usually I prepare everything before hand and store ingredients resealable bags or boxes, so I’m ready to go – it’s necessary if cooking for crowds.
  2. Cut the chicken to suitable size pieces or if using drumsticks and wings, I just leave them as they are. I don’t cut the breast pieces too small or they lose their juicienes.
  3. Remove the “skin” from chorizo and dice it to small pieces.
  4. Chop the beans, I usually cut them to 3
  5. Make  the stock ready – mix the stockpot with boiling water add pinch of saffron and let it infuse.
  6. Wash the pepper and de-seed. Slice it and lay evenly on to the oven tray. Roast it for about 15-20 minutes around 220C. check occasionally and tak it out from the oven just before it starts to turn black
  7. Peel and chop the onion.
  8. NOW THE COOKING BEGINS! Heat some olive oil in your paella pan and cook the chicken pieces sprinkled with some salt, until they browned all around. Half way through, add chorizo and mix it all well so the chorizo flavour gets into the chicken pieces. When done, push the chicken and chorizo outside of the pan
  9. Now you need to make “Sofrito”, it’s what gives your paella “right” taste. First “sweat” onions on slow temprature on middle of the paella pan until soft. Then add chopped tomatoes and cook on the medium heat. Keep stirring. When the mixture reduces down and thickens and turns dark red colour – you have your perfect “sofrito”
  10. Bring the chicken and chorizo back to the middle and mix it woth sofrito. Add sweet paprika and half of the roasted peppers. Mix everything and keep fryinf for the few minutes.
  11. Add the hot stock and deglaze the pan until everything mixed well. Taste for seasoning.
  12. Now add the chopped beans, mix well and keep boiling around 5 minutes.
  13. Add the rice and mix it gently. Try to get the rice to even layer to the pan so all of it will be covered with the stock. Don’t mix it after that and keep the heat low. After about 10 minutes the rice should be appear through the liquid, turn the heat really low and keep cooking another 10 minutes. If the rice drys out unevenly you can move the rice around carefully.
  14. When the rice is dried out, taste a bit from the top layer, it should be “al dente”. Cover the pan with foil and turn up the heat. You might hear popping sound as the paella “caramellaising”. Covering pan also helps finishing off the cooking of the top layer of the rice.
  15. Turn off the heat. Decorate with lemon wedges, rest of the roasted peppers and prepared asparagus. I also pop some rosmary sprigs on the pan and recover it with the foil. Leave it at least for 15 minutes or more.
  16. Remove the foil and serve, not forgetting to scrape the caramellise bits from the pan
  17. When cooking larger quantities, the timings will be longer, sometimes MUCH longer! I learned it from my first time, when cooking for 100.                                                             ENJOY!!!

Note to myself – I need to find better version of veggie paella as omitting the meat from this, doesn’t relly measure up – at least I don’t think so.