Easy chocolate cake

I like cakes. And recently I discovered that I also like to bake cakes, so now every week or so I am baking a new cake at home.

One recipe I have tried already twice. Easy to make, easy to have all ingredients at home and easy to make guests happy!

- 200 g chocolate
- 200 g butter
- 200 g sugar
- 300 g flour
- 3 eggs
- breadcrumbs

- Melt chocolate. Make sure you really have 200 g and not less, otherwise it's not so amazingly good! :) I mostly melt chocolate in the pan, but the best way to do it is in a hot water bath (check Google how to do it correctly if you do not know).
- Melt butter.
- Mix with the mixer the eggs and the sugar.
- Add the flour, melted chocolate and melted butter. Mix everything together.
- Take a spring-form pan used for cakes and rub it with the butter.
- Rub the form also with a bit of breadcrumbs.
- Put the dough in the form and bake for around 30 minutes in 175° C.
- After that it still needs to be a bit wet inside, but you do not know it before tasting. Just make sure you do not cool it too fast (they say that it should stay in an oven a bit afterwards).

The last time I baked it, it was tasting a bit like brownies - but maybe that's because I didn't have so much chocolate at home and I used only half of the necessary dose, so it was not so strong. Normally after eating a piece of it you should be completely full and not being able to eat the second one!

Enjoy and let me know how was it if you bake it!


Maģistra darba aizstāvēšana

Tiem, kas sekojuši mana maģistra darba procesam, noteikti šķitīs interesanti uzzināt, kā tad veicās paša maģistra darba aizstāvēšanā.

Daži jau no e-pastiem zina - mans Latvijas piedzīvojums bija vien aptuveni 48 stundas īss, sestdien darbs tika aizstāvēts.

Neprasiet, lūdzu, atzīmi, jo dažas lietas gribas paturēt pie sevis (jā, kā jau noprotams - nav tik augsta, kā bija cerēts un gribēts). Iemeslus tam varētu uzskaitīt vairākus, bet negribu nodarboties arīdzan ar nopelšanu, atrunām vai ko tamlīdzīgu. Kā teica apkārtējie - galvenais, ka aizstāvēts sekmīgi un ka grāds jau pēc dažām nedēļām būs rokā!

Pastāstīšu nedaudz par pārējo aizstāvēšanas daļu. Biju sagatavojusi prezentāciju ar Prezi
palīdzību - pirmo reizi, kad to darīju. Pagāja laiks, kamēr piešāvos, tomēr pašai bija interesanti un ceru, ka nākamajās reizēs pratīšu izmantot vairāk Prezi piedāvātātas iespējas.
Ņemot vērā to, ka neviens no maniem latviešiem, kuriem sūtīju prezentāciju apskatīties, par to nebija iepriekš dzirdējis, biju domājusi, ka arī augstskolā būšu vienīgā prezentētāja ar šo programmu, bet nekā! No piecām meitenēm, kas uzstājās (mani ieskaitot), trīs izmantoja Prezi. Prieks!

15 atvēlētās minūtes izrādījās pa īsu - vajadzēja vēl kādas 5-7 minūtes, lai gan manīju, ka citiem laiku tik ļoti neskatījās. Varbūt tas tāpēc, ka es uzstājos pirmā... Toties jautājumi bira kā no pārpilnības raga ne tikai par manu, bet arī citām prezentācijām! Komisijas locekļi bija vai nu ļoti ieinteresēti vai saņēmuši tādu uzdevumu - no katra vismaz pa vienam, ja ne vairākiem jautājumiem.

Patīkami bija arī tas, ka pārējām meitenēm bija ļoti atšķirīgi temati, nostiprinot pārliecību, cik gan daudzpusīga ir Vidzemes Augstskola.

No otras puses, žēl, ka tikai pieci maģistra darbi - maz... Meitenes teica, ka kursu esot sākuši 14 cilvēki, pārējie nav tikuši līdz darba iesniegšanai - varbūt pavasarī...

Lai nu kā, labs darbiņš, kas padarīts. Šī sadaļa manā dzīvē beidzot tiks noslēgta. Un liels paldies manai maģistra darba vadītājai Agitai Līviņai! Tiekamies manā izlaidumā 19. februārī Valmierā!


To Schiphol airport by bike

What to do if you have a flight only at 2pm, but you need to leave home already at 9am and shopping doesn't seem to be fun?

The answer is simple - biking to the airport! And that's what I did on Thursday, when I took my flight to Riga.

I wanted to try biking to Schiphol airport already for quite some time (just to have a drink there or so), but never managed. This was a perfect opportunity to do so. It's only ~15km away from Amsterdam downtown, so duable if you are in no rush. Without any rush, the trip took for me around 90 minutes.

There are several ways where to bike. Although the map suggested me the fastest way through Amsterdamse Bos, I didn't feel like going through the forest alone, so decided to bike along Nieuwe Meer - and also because I haven't seen it before. Perfect signs everywhere from there on to the airport helped me not to get lost.

The trip could be divided in three parts. First one to Amsterdam Zuid was nothing special, have done it loads of times. The second to Nieuwe Meer and around it was really nice and peacful, almost no people (especially exactly at Nieuwe Meer), just me and the nature. The third part to the airport is quite boring. You see the airport and planes already from 5km distance, but still need to bike around all the airport teritorry before you reach the terminal. No exciting views and the motorway just next to you.

Yesterday when I was biking back from the airport (yes, it was a short trip abroad), decided to take the fastest route (the signs said - 9km instead of ~15km) through Badhoevedorp. The first part was nice, through that small village/town/place and then along the canal, but the second part was nothing so special again.

Should try once to reach the airport through Amsterdamse Bos as well :)

If you are wondering about the pictures - they are taken in the airport :)


Free sport? Yes, why not!

Last week was my week of sport. Besides daily biking activities which here is more a mean of transport, not really sport, I also visited two sport/fitness clubs. After checking out both of them and having talks with membership coordinators from both clubs, I think that I have a quite good overview of Dutch sport clubs.

So let me sum up what have I found so far.

In the Netherlands it is common for sport clubs to give out free day passes or "gratis dagpas" for possible customers. During the day they not only have a chance to try all facilities in the club, but also get a guided tour around it and a chat with the membership coordinator, who tells how much does it cost to join the club and what are the membership options.
Most of the clubs have membership only for 12 months, some of them also for six months, but that's more expensive. And yes, it means that you can't join only for one month, one week or one day - it is simply not possible. Once you join the club, you are stuck with it for a year. So make your choice carefully! Off-peak passes which do not include weekday evenings are normally cheaper than normal all-inclusive passes, and there are also discounts if you join as a couple. That also explains why the clubs are so eager to advertise free day passes to make sure that the customers will be satisfied once they join.
After a hot discussion on my Facebook profile with Dutch and non Dutch people I learnt that it is common to have mixed sauna in sport clubs, which also proved to be true in both clubs I visited. However, I still do not know if Dutch people go naked, with a swimming suit or with a towel? The first sauna seemed to be towel friendly, while the second one looked like swimming suit friendly, which definitely is not so good because you are supposed to go to sauna naked.
Unfortunately there are not so many fitness clubs in Amsterdam which have also swimming pool. I love swimming and I do not care about the fitness so much as about swimming, going to sauna, swimming again, going to another sauna, then trying jacuzzi etc.

In the next weeks I hope to discover some swimming pools (unfortunately no free day passes), so wait for another blogpost later on!

And a small advice - Sports World Amsterdam is a good choice if you want to try different classes (e.g., I tried yoga class), but Sportcentrum Amstelpark is the best choice if you are both into fitness and swimming. They have a great swimming pool and three different saunas.


Aerobic for cheese

This question goes to Dutchies: do you what is "Slankie"? The normal answer - some kind of cheese brand... Today's answer - brand with weird PR actions!

days ago I got an e-mail saying that they need a bunch of woman (20+ years old) for "Slankie" action on Sunday for 45-60min. So I signed up!

It turned out to be a very basic outdoors aerobic class for around 30min. We all got yellow raincoats (it was quite warm outside and even more warmer after the action) and needed to stand in a line with left foot on the walkway and right food on the road. A tall guy in the front of us was shouting us instructions we needed to follow. Loads of people around just starting, taking pictures or even shooting videos (I guess, some TV).

Steps? Hands up, hand down, hands up, hands down! Hands on the shoulders of the person in the front of you! Walk eight steps further etc. etc.

I still don't understand what is the idea and message behind it, but I guess that I should simply wait for tomorrow's newspapers and try to figure it out then.


Cultural life in Amsterdam

Yesterday I had the chance to visit two events in one day.

At first it was a very inspiring meeting with Dutch and Palestinian theatre makers who are working together to create a play for children. It will be performed in the upcoming summer in the schools of Gaza - so the target audience are children.
For more than two hours they were telling about the history of the project, the first meetings and cooperation between Dutch and Palestinian artists. They were speaking so passionate and so enthusiastic about it all!
After the meeting there was a chance to try Arab sweets and some food which Palestinian guests have prepared. Delicious!

The second part of exploring culture in Amsterdam came two hours later, when I was watching a theatre play in the Flemish Arts Centre "De Brakke Grond". The theatre play "Hannah en Martin" was in Dutch (or was it Flemish? :S) with English subtitles (or rather upper titles). I won the tickets in I AMsterdam competition (thanks to Facebook!), wouldn't have been going otherwise. The play was ... weird. It was about two real German lovers between the World Wars, the man was Nazi socialist, the woman - Jewish and his student. The actors were changing their characters during the play (pretending to be one person, then another one, then another one), so sometimes it was a bit confusing which character is speaking now. But I guess that it was meant like that.

However, it was nice to see different kind of theatre as so far I have been going only to Latvian theatres and some musicals in London, but it's not the same. I hope to see some more plays either here or somewhere else in English to get to know more about the way theatre is played in other countries.

Apart from that I must admit that there are so many ways and opportunities to discover Dutch culture here in Amsterdam! In the last months I have been going to quite a few different meetings in several cultural centres, institutes or somewhere else. How to find them? Just subscribe to different newsletters and Facebook Pages, get updates and have free time to go!

Thank you, Amsterdam!


Piedzīvojumu krievu veikalā

Šodien biju aizvedusi Sintiju iepazīties ar krievu veikaliņu Amsterdamā, kurš saucas "Blin Blin Blin" un atrodas netālu no zoodārza. Pati biju tur tikai vienu reizi pirms pusotra gada, bet izskatās, ka pa šo laiku nekas nav mainījies.

Sortiments - ļoti dažāds, sākot ar alkoholu, pelmeņiem, piena produktiem, skābētiem gurķiem utt. un beidzot ar žurnāliem, CD un DVD krievu valodā.

Kā jau tas bija sagaidāms, tur iespējams iegādāties ne tikai Krievijā ražotas preces, bet arī Gruzijas un Transilvānijas vīnus, Latvijas "Laimas" šokolādes un šprotes, lietuviešu alu un maizi, kā arī poļu pelmeņus. Varbūt vēl kādas Ukrainas un Baltkrievijas preces, kas tik ļoti neizceļas. Daļa preču bija ražotas tieši ārzemju tirgum, piemēram, poļu pelmeņiem uzraksts bija poliski un vāciski, bet Rīgas šprotēm - angliski. Sintija teica, ka ārzemēm paredzētās šprotes ražojot citādāk nekā tās, ko tirgo Latvijā...

Cenas - zināmas tikai daļēji, jo uz aptuveni puses no precēm tās nebija minētas. Nākamnedēļ braukšu ēst biezpienu un pelmeņus uz Latviju, tāpēc nepajautāju, cik tie maksā, bet, piemēram, šprotes bija par aptuveni 2-3 eiro.

Apkalpošana - kas tā tāda? :) Tantuks (šķiet, ka krievu babuška, vismaz krieviski ar mums runāja) sēdēja savā stūrī un, šķiet, minēja krustvārdu mīklas. Bijām vienīgās apmeklētājas, bet aci uz mums viņa pameta vien tad, kad ienācām un kad gājām maksāt. Ceru, ka neiztraucējām viņas ikdienas ritmu, lai gan sajūta tāda bija!

Centīšos atrast, vai ir vēl kādi līdzīgi veikali. Laiku pa laikam biezpiena saldos ēdienus un pelmeņus gribētos apēst, bet tos jau no Latvijas īsti nevar atvest...

P.S. Bilde no veikala mājas lapas.


How to fall in love with Brussels

It would not be fair to compare Brussels with Riga, because that would mean putting both cities in a closed box and looking to them from only one perspective. I hope you agree that they deserve much more, they deserve to be treated as unique in their own way and loved for the reasons you can love one, but not the second one (and the other way around).

Elizabeth Gilibert in her book “Eat pray love” wrote that each city can be described by one word. If she is right, then Brussels is definitely Career.

Before I moved to Brussels, several times I heard that you do not move to Brussels because you are in love with the city. No, you move there to work. To earn money. To climb up in your career. To lobby – for yourself. I feel that it is also the way Brussels is organised. You are there on your own, you need to follow your own path and nobody else will help you unless it’s in their interests or they really like you.

Or maybe I should say that Brussels is a Market? One big and huge market, where you can buy everything you want – starting with girls next to Gare du Nord and finishing with a warm chair in the European Parliament. The same as all other markets, it is also messy, sometimes dirty and always loud and full of people. Some of them come there knowing what to look for, some of them pass by curious to see what so famous Market has to offer and some of them wander around aimlessly.

For sure Brussels is the most multicultural city I have seen so far. Even the metropolitan London can not compete with the feeling you get when walking on the streets of Brussels. Not only “Mini-Europe” next to Atomium, but also Brussels itself takes a bit of different cultures and puts it together in one place. Turkey, Middle East, Brazil, North Africa, China, Flanders – they are just a couple of streets away from each other and all you need to do is to take another turn to find yourself in another continent.

Something like that would never happen, and probably never will, in Riga. Wherever you go, it is still Riga, the same culture, the same language and the same signs. Yes, sometimes you hear English or Russian more than Latvian, sometimes you see that those wooden houses are not comparable with art noveau found just five minutes away by tram and sometimes you think that parks so green make you feel like being in a countryside. However, never ever you have a feeling that you are in a different country or yet – a different world.

Also those who say that it is not possible to get to know Brussels in a short time are right. Brussels likes to keep its best places secret so only those who seek can find. You need to know where to go and what to look for in order to fall in love with it. And once you get the opportunity to have a glance to the way locals live, you understand – this is different. This is not Brussels which expats or tourists know, this is another city!

As I said before, people told me that one does not move to Brussels because of being in love with
the city. Despite that, there are some who stay in the city because they have fallen in love with it during their stay. And let me say that it makes Brussels meant for those who are patient enough – you need to take your time to discover the best parts of it, but once you have found them, your love becomes bigger and stronger.

This article was written as an assignment in one of the recruitment procedures when I was looking for a job. The editor wanted me to write an article, comparing Brussels with Riga. It has never been published.


Būt vai nebūt par savedēju?

Uz šo Šekspīra jautājumu jaunā versijā "būt vai nebūt par savedēju?" mani pavedināja doma no pieredzes pirms kāda laika.

Man ir lielisks draugs. Un man ir lieliska draudzene. Iepriekš abi nebija pazīstami, bet reiz vienā manis rīkotā pasākumā sapazinās un... dzirksteles vien dzirkstuļoja! Turpinājumu varat paši iedomāties :) No diviem lieliskiem draugiem izveidojās viens lielisks pāris, par ko man, protams, bija prieks.

Pēc samērā ilga laika lieliskais pāris vairs nebija tik lielisks un izšķīrās. Dzīvē tā notiek. Problēma vien tā, ja neizšķiras draudzīgi, bet gan sirdī paliek nepatīkamas atmiņas. Tā bija arī šoreiz no vienas iesaistītās personas puses.

Un nu seko problēma, ar ko jātiek galā man... Lai arī abi cilvēki ir joprojām mani lieliski draugi, es vairs nevaru rīkot pasākumus, kuros gribētu abu sabiedrību - jo tad viena puse neieradīsies. Vēl vairāk, es arī nevaru minēt otras puses vārdu vai, nedod Dievs, nejauši ielādēt kādā sociālā tīkla vietnē bildes no tusiņa, kur esmu bijusi gan es, gan otra puse. Vārdu sakot, pēc vienas puses domām, man kontakts ar otru pusi ir jāpārtrauc un jāatbalsta šī viena puse.

Viņu šķiršanās iemesli nav mana darīšana. Viņu savstarpējās problēmas, kurās es neesmu iesaistīta, arī nav mana darīšana. Bet par draugiem gribas paturēt abus, jo abi tiešām ir lieliski cilvēki.

Ko darīt? Kam piekāpties un kuru aicināt uz nākamo dzimšanas dienas vai Jaunā gada tusiņu? Un vai iepazīstināt nākamos draugos savā starpā?


Joining the choir

I have done it! Yesterday I went to my second rehearsal and I am happy to join the English Reformed Church Choir. It was one of the few non-Dutch choirs in Amsterdam as it turns out that most of them (including also Latvian choir) are located in Den Haag.

The choir has a wide range of nationalities and age (I think I am the youngest one, some ladies have been singing there for years and look around 70 years old - but they have wonderful voices), but unfortunately not a wide range of genders as I have seen only one man - poor bass! And we have no tenors at all.

I know almost nothing about church music and I have not been singing in a choir for ages. I used to sing when I was going in the primary school and also some years of the high school, but that was it. However, as a typical Latvian I love singing and wanted to have some hobby here. Joining the choir was a good choice!

In 10 days we have to sing in a service in the church (once a month), we are going to sing two songs. The first time I heard those songs were yesterday in the rehearsal, so let's see how it goes for me. I still need to get used to the music and hear it more, because then it's easier to sing.

P.S. Pictures are from the English Reformed Church website.


The Development of Tourism Skills With The Aid of Non-formal education in Latvia, The Netherlands And Ukraine

For all of those who are curious how did my master thesis end up, here is the summary. Thanks to my sister for the translation!

The Master Thesis “The Development of Tourism Skills With The Aid of Non-formal education in Latvia, The Netherlands And Ukraine” written by Anita Kalmane has focused on a field that has not yet been fully investigated in Latvia, and has viewed the influence and investment of youth organisations on the youth development, specifically on the development of tourism skills. In recent years the importance of non-formal education and a volunteer’s place in a society has been frequently discussed, but precise statistics on how many youth organisations are there in Europe and in the countries that have been investigated in this paper and what investment are they providing as a part of non-formal education, has not been carried out.

The aim of the paper was to clarify what skills the youth are developing in the tourism area with the aid of non-formal education and through which activities these skills are being developed. The research question was that non-formal education develops youth tourism skills and abilities.

The following methods were used for the research purposes – the overview of the theoretical materials, questionnairing and in-depth interviews. In order to prove the research question the Author investigated the background information of non-formal education and the existing situation of youth organisations in Latvia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, as well as investigated what exactly are tourism skills (including the evaluation of the classification of occupations in Latvia) and how contemporary youth can be characterized. In total 170 socially active young adults of the investigated countries were questionnaired in order to clarify whether they have been, for how long and in what way involved in any youth organisation and how their tourism skills have improved during this period. The Author of the paper has also carried out six in-depth interviews with representatives of the tourism area who have previously been active participants in youth organisations in order to find out their opinions and experiences.

In the end it was concluded that there are no single, united understanding between professionals or youth about the tourism skills, because they differ according to the types of tourism and a specification of a tourism company. Also the youth do not have enough information about volunteering and awareness that participating in non-governmental organisations (including youth organisations) is one of the volunteer’s job options. The Author of the paper concluded that there are no major differences in the youth acquirement of tourism skills between young adults in Latvia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, thus, this skill acquirement is influenced by the time period and the activity of an organisation. Almost all of the young adults who were questionnaired admit that they have developed three of eleven tourism skills mentioned by the Author of the paper – the ability to motivate other people; communication skills; ability to take decisions and leadership skills. All of them are also social skills, therefore the Author of the paper suggests to the future researchers to pay attention on what skills in general are possible to develop in different types of organisations. The Author of the paper also expresses an idea that the creators of lifelong learning policy should pay more attention on the recognition of youth organisations in Latvia and Ukraine.