New Years Day morning is not such a personal time. The village children come with the survachka, a branch is decorated with all kinds of coloured threads, dry fruits, peppers and popcorn, and and chant a verse chasing away evil and bad things that have happened so you have a happy and prosperous new year whilst lightly being tapped on the back with the survachka. This tradition, called Survakane, was originally performed by young boys and men, rather than children, and we've been told it is still conducted in cities, although in that case only family members receive the blessing rather than neighbours. In return the children get money and sweets, although I prefer giving fruit to sweets. Later that day Paul and myself indulged in my first attempt at pulled pork, not as good as I remember from mums birthday trip to new York, but worthy of tweaking the recipe .
(Survachka, a picture found online)
During the month I also experimented with cottage cheese and orange cupcakes (variation on last months cottage cheese and cinnamon ones) and banana and coconut cake. The cottage cheese and orange will be a regular occurrence but the banana/coconut recipe is on back burner until I want to experiment more with it.
Because we were uninsured for last years fire our savings took a bit of a hammering so we have a new financial policy this year ... cash only purchases and all purchases to be recorded on a spread sheet. This is currently a temporary measure until we can stop concentrating on the house and start generating an income again but if it highlights serious areas of frippery it may become part of everyday living.
We received a summons to the house of the neighbour we animal sit for as the English speaking neighbours were in the village. Despite our limited Bulgarian and his non-existent English we can normally occupy a large amount of time and communicate enough for rakia and coffee conversations. The summons suggested he wanted to communicate without confusion, he did but it was nothing serious and more an excuse to ply us with coffee and wine. We ended up agreeing to animal sit for another weekend whilst he went to visit his daughter and on his return got plied with bottles of cornoil, packets of cigarettes and bread vouchers (for the village shop). This was much more than normal thanks, but we accepted as we thought he felt he was thanking us for the 3 weeks he'd been in America. as well. The male half of the other English family in our village was also at our neighbours, for wine and coffee, and I took the opportunity to ask if he would feed our animals for us while we were in France. I didn't want to ask Illiya because of his age and health, although I suspect I may owe him an apology for not asking.
A friend who was leaving Bulgaria offered Paul and myself a double bed, and a single bed for mutual friends who live reasonably close to us. As we would need to take the van for the double it was just as easy to collect the single at the same time. Unfortunately the night before I decided it would be a good idea to poison the pair of us...I knew there was a valid reason for me rarely cooking English food, mince and dumplings is just too fatty and stodgy, especially when served with pasta because you're ran out of potatoes. Thankfully by the time it came to depart, for friends house, our bodies had excavated most of the nastiness.
When we delivered the single bed it gave Paul a chance to look at a bandsaw and thickness/planer that were surplus to owners requirements. The downside of the delivery trip is his workshop needs to move up the priority list, if I want any of my cellar to be useful in it's original guise. Although an upside is the workshop will be attached to the barn so that may be rebuilt and housing sheep and/or goats sooner than anticipated.
Although this winter has seen little 'proper' snow it has seemed much colder, this feeling in confirmed when water coming out of taps like slush makes teeth cleaning an interesting experience. A few days after cleaning teeth with slush we found the bathroom pipes, including the hot water supply, frozen solid. No problem - light the petchka (woodburner) pipes will defrost and then we can each have a nice hot bath in a warm room, mmmm it took over 10 hours for the pipes to defrost but we were lucky as the the room stayed warm overnight and prevented burst pipes which a number of friends experienced as the temperature dropped further.
Tracey's second trip, within a month, to Veliko Tarnovo was another lunch appointment although this one was tinged with sadness. A friend whose past year has been tinged with much misfortune was returning to the UK ready to start work at the end of the month. 12 females and one slightly drunken male attended the farewell lunch, which seemingly got much more interesting after the group from this area left, with the remaining females managing (deliberately) to lose the male.
The mild weather, i.e. not under a metre of snow, meant our gamble of not rearranging things so we had a winters worth of pre-chopped and stacked wood piled close at hand paid off. Sunny, warmish, days found Paul chainsawing both bought wood and those rafters which are too badly damaged to repurpose. As Paul loaded the sawhorse with the next batch of logs to cut Tracey bagged the sawn wood ready for lugging over to the area we're living in. The use of female logic meant Paul moved most of the bagged timber whilst Tracey made coffee, a system that works well.
So last week of the month approaches with a mad hunt for passports, they were where there should have been, a place we obviously didn't check as we're both terrible at returning things to their rightful place.
Not sure why we haven't taken pictures this month but we'll try to improve on that in future posts.