Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Crepes

One thing I'll always regret is not going out for crepes with my friend Kelly when we were younger, single, and I didn't need a babysitter to take a road-trip. She gave me her extremely comfortable couch once and we were hoping to go out for crepes the next morning to a place she knew of. Unfortunately I slept in, and I say it was unfortunate, because Kelly has excellent taste. Ever since I've had the desire to learn how to make a decent crepe, or at least something that resembles a crepe. I began last summer. Then we moved to the Czech Republic where I learned to cook on the nuclear reactor, and ate Palacinky. Tangent ahead!

The one vegetarian dish I could always order at a restaurant was fried cheese & fried potatoes. Most restaurants offered one or two of the following vegetarian options as well, and these are direct quotes translated from Czech to English by Czech menu writers...Pizza (ketchup with cheese), Mixed Vegetable (fried cauliflower or broccoli), or Omelet or Pancake. It's the translation of Omelet that still has me confused. Okay, so crepe is French, yes? France is in Europe too, just a couple countries away from the Czech Republic. Crepes are very popular in the Czech Republic, available even in fast food stands throughout Prague, they are called Palacinky. So when I ordered Omelet or Pancake in restaurants I was often served crepes. Yey, except when you expect a big fat cheesy scrambled egg & get a thin dry crepe topped with a sprinkle of tasteless cheese and fruit the mouth stops watering, the beer hangover commences. Then when you learn this and order an omelet on purpose to get a crepe the tastebuds go through another shocker to find a fat eggy mass of mushroom, scallion, and cheese coming at them. It was always a crapshoot. I couldn't even go off of the context clues, like fruit in my scrambled egg, no...I won't go into some of the grosser combinations of vegetarian fare I ingested while dining out. It's not a veggie country. Sometimes I got really excellent crepes filled with fruit, cream and chocolate sauce and sometimes I got good ole fashioned greasy spoon eggs and cheese until I learned to ignore the English translated menu & learned to look for palacinky in the Czech one. Even in Prague. I won't admit to the date that I learned this, because it was really way too long after my arrival. So my question is, can't someone in the Czech restaurant biz figure this out? I mean they serve Coke Cola, so I'm sure there's people who know enough to translate one of the countries top foods correctly into the English version, right? They don't even have to use an English word, it's French. Maybe this is my million dollar idea. I know I sound like a spoiled American brat here, but really if you were to offer an English menu, wouldn't you check in with someone who speaks English once in a while or am I off base. Are crepes called omlets and pancakes in Australia and England? I actually preferred translating the Czech menus myself, since there was always much more available that way & I learned more, but the servers HATED it when we did that. Guess we were too slow and wound up buying more beer that way... Don't even get me started on Czech customer service rituals.

So anyway on Sunday I snuck into the kitchen and made some peach/mango filled crepes on an average American stove. Not my best attempt since the nuclear reactor has evidently burnt (sorry) its impression on my cooking hand. Someday I'll be able to pull off a perfect crepe from whatever pan & stove I'm handed & maybe Kelly will be able to join me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Arachnophobia

I was given a poem about spiders once, rather off-handedly on the back of a piece of scrap paper. Poetry is wonderful, especially the unexpected kind. This particular one made a metaphor of old spiders hatching many babies as stories being spread over time, and in the end thousands of tiny spiders spread their stories through a village. Quite romantic in way, if you aren't totally paralyzed by the mere idea of an 8 legged creature. Don't even mention the time that I slept on and lived with a couch infested with Black Widows, I was born this way. Needless to say I was frustrated with the beauty of the poem, but kept it because I really wanted to overcome my squeamishness and appreciate that beauty more fully. Years went by, I lost the poem, many things changed, and I had a baby. A short time after his birth, I remembered the poem one morning while assessing the new mileage on my body in a mirror. It was a quick assessment, and a quick thought of the poem's take on age and motherhood, and then, of course, spiders. I shuddered, donned my robe, and returned to the wonder and craziness that was our new life with baby. The same night I found 3 baby spiders on my baby. Shudder. I looked in his bed and found more. I looked at the wall. There were more. Somewhere in there my mom entered the room, as she was taking care of us at the time. She found more. I may have screamed a little, but not enough to scare my baby. We looked up. There were hundreds of little spiders crawling on the ceiling over the bed I shared with my precious little baby. My mom was amazing. I remember her moving furniture, standing on the bed with a vacuum cleaner hose, and pulling a silk cloth from the ceiling that could have been filled with more spiders. She was so brave and managed to completely eradicate or scare the 100's of spiders out the window, and thus save my son & I from immanent doom. I don't remember if I slept that night or stared at the ceiling. We never figured out where they came from or where they were going, and it never happened again.

So in my excitement to leave this place, finish this adventure, and embark upon the next I'm attempting to put it all in perspective. It's hard for me to completely recognize the beauty of a place until I've left it, and over the last few moves I've tried to get over this, to be more patient, relish, and observe it's beauties while I'm in it, rather than look back. So while I was feeling particularly down the other day, longing to be home in the states again, I tried to focus on the beauty of this experience and find a metaphor I could use to describe it. The spider poem came to mind. I don't know why, I've read and loved a lot of poetry about location and identity, but no, nothing that appropriate would do for my brain. Spiders came to mind. Then I thought this experience was quite a lot like being paid a million dollars-well make that a billion or some other grand reward-to get into a bathtub full of spiders and out really quickly. That sounds awful, and our experience has been far from awful. It's been a wonderful growing experience, and we've been blessed with many opportunities and will benefit for the rest of our lives in ways I have trouble relating. That is just where the stream of consciousness went.

I guess to me, facing the challenge of a bathtub full of spiders is extremely scary, but leaving that tub would give me an amazing reward I cannot describe.
****Please do not Fed Ex me a bathtub full of spiders****
I imagine looking over the edge of the tub would be frightening, would those spiders bite? Would they crush under my weight? They're most definitely going to crawl...Then I would cringe, close my eyes, and jump in. And OUT. The out part is most important here, because spiders crawl quickly (probably their most scary talent in my opinion) and cling. I would have to shake out my hair, brush myself off, and check my shoulders. Then Joy! It would be over. I did it. I would have a billion dollars or some grand reward. But I would have to keep checking my shoulders to see what remained.

I'm thrilled to be leaving next week, but I'm a little scared. We're leaving with a huge reward, but I'll have to keep checking over my shoulders.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

He's almost 3




Prior to this photo session we had the following exchange when we moved the big chair and found a couple of old toy parts.

"How did my stuff get under here, Mommy?"
"What stuff? Oh those things. I don't know? How did they get under there, Thomas?"
"This is a problem, Mommy. A PROBLEM."

I find this hilarious, for some odd reason. Happy Weekend!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Our Stove

So we've rounded the bend and are in the final stretch! It's JUNE (sung in a high pitched falsetto, if you're wondering) and two weeks to pack our stuff and head back to the states. I just can't stop smiling. No, that's not true, hormones man. Don't mess with the crazy pregnant lady weeping over EVERYTHING, because she's, "just so happy." Seriously, the morning (translate=all day) sickness, swollen large feet, headaches, emotional roller-coaster, and what-have-you were not expected when I first viewed the double lines on my positive pee stick. I panicked, but for completely different reasons.
I didn't start this post to whine. I started to sing a couple of songs of gratitude to the Czech Republic, or well our adventure here. First, the people who garden in their underwear or serve sausages wearing speedos & cowboy hats (seriously, it happened) make me smile. If you had to live through the ridiculous winter here, I bet the first thing you would do would be to shed your crusty wool sweaters and roll in your yard too. There's no average profile of the semi-nude gardener. They come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and thank you to the young black lace bra and white mini skirt we saw gardening while we rode the bus the other day. Way to go with a simple pony-tail and minimal make-up. Way to take a risk, because you really have a great youthful body & women here have a hard time going with the "less is more" look. Semi and full nudity seems to be located in just about any housing location, and that's what strikes me. Nudity is not an issue for me. Dude, whatever, I'm a figure sculptor, but in my life, it has always been accompanied by a sense of family, privacy, and in my adult life, the wafting scent of pachouli. So back to what strikes me, makes me rubber-neck. The display of comfortable nudity in the housing development environment. It just blows my mind to see the brand new row homes one just like the next, with their 4 foot pools, matching trim, 2.5 kids, and competitive lawn mowing, adorned with comfortably nude and semi nude people going about their suburban business.

Next, our nuclear power plant, I mean our old stove and old thin pots make me smile. It's ability to only cook on rip roarin' hot makes great fried potatoes. I now know how to pull off a mean batch of fried potatoes. While I've had more time to cook here as a full-time-stay-at-home Mom, you would think I would have done much more experimentation in the kitchen and added more to my repertoire than a mean batch of potatoes. Chad entered the kitchen a bit during our stay here, so did Thomas (of course he made bubble soup in the sink. The attempts were a family affair. I think it was because Chad was forced to join us at home most nights and take weekends since businesses and his school studio access were not available 24/7. Czech's know how to schedule holidays. There were other reasons (enter crazy morning sick preggo lady a few months back), and the random availability of anything vegetarian, but the stove was a challenge. Most people have this stove here, and I think that's why soup and goulash are so very popular and souffle, not so much. We spent many strange meals together here (remember when Mom tried to feed us soup and toast with mustard for dinner?), and I will always smile while thinking back to our first attempts trying to get the stove to work like we think a stove should together. Chad discovered a rice making method on this stove and I will never forget his plastic bottle strainer. It was the most romantic pot of rice ever.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Cuteness


phone ears = headphones
AND
Thomas made his own birdie costume. Brainstormed, designed, and fashioned totally solo.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Food for Thought

Was directed here by another blogger. Interesting because I clearly remember the youngest female faculty member on staff one year telling me she was handed a notepad in order to take minutes at a faculty meeting by the male chair at the time, no discussion, no vote on who would do it each week, it was just assumed that she would do it. Not an obvious thing, but one of many things that create a much larger problem. The biggest problem was that I didn't recognize it as a problem until she explained it to me, and pointed out there was no reason for her to be chosen over the other male and older staff. The men never took minutes. And there it is in a small study done recently, academic women feel more responsible for administrative duties, and have less time to focus in their fields and less time to advance careers and create & nurture families.

Interesting little tidbit on Czech Maternity and Parental Leave Benefits. Key facts, Parents can both be paid to take a leave of absence from work to care for a newborn & it is the employer's responsibility to give them job stability when they return. Women are paid for 3 years to take care of a child full time instead of work outside of the home, however children may be enrolled in nursery school 5 days per week. Parental benefits are provided for parents regardless of income.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why I can't read the news

This morning Chad updated me on 2 key events in the news he felt were benign enough to mention to me at 6 A. M. Our neighbors know that "I cannot listen to the news in the #@% morning!" I have problems with the news, and while I feel it is important to try to keep up with what is going on in the world for many extremely important reasons, I cannot read the mainstream news. It's very important to understand your fellow man, where your politics/votes are going, and how to treat the current environment so we can sustain a livable earth for many generations to come. However, reading the daily news does none of those things for me. Instead I get depressed, and angry. I start to dislike the people around me. Thoreau said all news is gossip. I don't actively avoid the news, I just don't seek it out & somehow things seep in & the world keeps turning. I'm not an activist. I'm not good at it. I'm good at making my art. I hope to be a good mother. These are very important things for me to share. If I do my best at them the world will benefit, and things will change. Chad doesn't agree with my point of view on this. That's okay, but here is why it's better for him to read the news and not me right now:
At 6 A. M. Chad announced this bit about a successful Mars landing, and you know what my first thought was? "Go Team Alpha Wolf Squadron, " Why? Because we watched Shrek 3 last night, see below

Donkey: Alright people, let's do this thing. Go Team Dynamite!
Pinocchio: But I thought we agreed we'd go by the name Team Super-cool.
Gingerbread Man: As I recall, it was Team Awesome.
Wolf: I voted for Team Alpha Wolf Squadron.
Donkey: Alright, alright, alright. From henceforth, we're all to be known as Team Alpha Super Awesome Cool Dynamite Wolf Squadron.

and while I love scientists, admire the heck out of astronauts, and feel Nasa should be supported my brain says what? Our country's financial sheet, unemployment rate, real estate, dollar are all at ridiculous levels, and the war? Our environment? It struck me that only a Donkey, a wooden puppet, a wolf, and a gingerbread man would solve all of those problems by exploring Mars at a rate of 2 gazillion dollars a day. Successful landing? Sweet, now there will be a resort for the last two remaining people living on Earth after it's environmental apocalypse. Enter visions of two really attractive people stranded in bomb shelters trying to seek each other out for a romantic kiss while dodging radioactive living dead and driving Mad Max like vehicles. Maybe I should avoid movies as well as the news. I didn't share this with Chad, lest the neighbors be sleeping.

At 6:01 A. M. Chad announced this tidbit about Bush supporting the largest marine conservation project in history, and do you want to know what my first thought was? A picture of George Bush's fat face grinning during a farewell speech while he holds up the last living plankton found in his sanctuary in a snow globe, commemorating his environmental record. Hopefully it will be a bullet proof snow globe, because a lot of people are angry with him. I'm not the violent sort, but that weird kid in my science class in high school who used to brag about all of the illegal weapons and explosive material he had under his bed is seems more interesting as the years go by. I don't think I ever got his number, because he scared me, but if I did see him today I might ask him to coffee with his militia friends. Probably decaf.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Almost Forgot...


You can't just have mango. It must be Mango-Tango when you live with us.

This just in...another trophy for Mother of the Year over here. I cleaned under our beds this morning. In the process of doing so I found the letter q part of our alphabet puzzle. Locating this has sent me into fits, you can't say the animal alphabet without q for quail! As I was dusting it off, and smiling with Virgo like satisfaction, Thank you MOM, I noticed Thomas was smacking his lips.
"What do you have in your mouth?"
Thomas crunches, swallows, and blinks inquisitively.
"No, Thomas, really, what are you eating?"
Silence. I look for crumbs around his mouth and teeth and find light orange. Hmmmm. What could he have found under our bed that color? I desperately look around for possible old snack plates we've overlooked in the last day or so. Nothing. I realize the futility of my line of questioning. Then...
"A Fishy, Mommy."
I ask in a very high pitched yet quiet and nice tone, "Where did you find the fishy?"
"On the bed."
Yuck, oh yuck, I think, an old fish cracker not on the bed under it, prepositions kid. When was the last time we ate fish crackers near the bed? Oh no, yuck, just yuck. How many dust bunnies did I just sweep up? Ew. Then he moves across the room and picks up a brand new bag of goldfish crackers, courtesy of his Nana, left by the computer on a bed we use as a desk, by an insanely sleep deprived and hungry pregnant woman living in our flat.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Where did this child come from?

Today was a wonderful day. The weather is still cold gray, people are still burning coal, and we still had a great day. Thomas woke up asking to go to Hawaii. I explained that we would have to make a long trip on an airplane that wouldn't put us in Hawaii until tomorrow, even though I would love to be in Hawaii today. He replied, "We just need to find our fly-boat, Mommy (courtesy the Wonder Pets)." Instead, we boarded a bus to Novy Bor for bread, milk, and produce. The big thing about Novy Bor is our routine. He's used to getting strolled a couple of km's, stopping at the bakery for a treat, multiple trips to food stores, then a trip to the park or the cafe with a "Pooh House" (that would be a Winnie the Pooh plastic playhouse, Chad's reaction to that request the first time he heard it was hilarious). When our trips don't follow that routine, Thomas is highly bothered. Today, he never requested a trip to the park or bakery across town, even after Mommy had to drag him back and forth across a km of highway to find a restroom for the tiniest pregnant bladder EVER. He never complained, even when the 1st place was closed. We walked to a different grocery store and he was totally fine riding in the cart the entire time. Then we walked back to the bus stop. He hugged me and asked for kissies 3 times on the walk. We saw a worm, several beetles, and a whole snail party. Thomas found a huge stick. When we got back to Senov we played at our local library with all sorts of new toys. Then we came home and made nachos, "That's MA-CHIOS, Mommy." I laid a vitamin next to his plate, and told him he could have it when he finished eating. 2 seconds later it was gone, and I asked "Where did the vitamin go?"
"It's in Tommy's pipe, Mommy."
"Your what, giggle? (panic, could he have shoved it in the bathroom drain in 2 seconds?)"
"IN MY PIPE, RIGHT HERE (pointing to chest). We have pipes in our mouths and bodies, Mommy."
Of course, why didn't I know that?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Changes

A friend just informed Chad & I that we talk about money too much, particularly not having enough. He said we need to focus on what we do have, and maybe more will come our way. Noted. He's probably right. I read The Secret, I know.

Seems the only thing I can do between 3 A.M. and 5 A.M. is either agonize over advice like this & its implications, worry about being a mother, or read. I'm completely unable to get my fingers to do anything detailed or creative & clumsy housework at that hour creates ridiculous amounts of noise in our silent apartment building, Domov Mladeze. My reading is limited to the laptop-THANK YOU INTERNET- because I fly through books, but the internet has an endless amount of good writers contributing on a daily basis, and I'm ever so grateful. One of these writers contributed to a column asking people to write about things they were they were denying themselves. I read it last night and while a looming recession was mentioned as a reason to start eliminating excess from our lives, the contributers mainly focused on eliminating things from their diets. There were a few abstract surprises, but overall I was disappointed.

Our experience in a rather economically depressed area has forced us to eliminate a lot from our daily lives. I miss the freedom our vehicles provided. I miss milk that won't last 3 years on a shelf. I miss showers that cover my entire body in a steamy rainstorm. I miss so many THINGS, but it feels good to know we don't need everything we thought we needed before this experience. We've heard a lot of news regarding the rising costs of everything in the states such as gas & food, and the dropping of wages and investments like real-estate. People warn us that we will be surprised at what we'll return to in a month.

This isn't a highly visited site, but I think it would be really neat and maybe inspiring to list something you are denying yourself in the spirit of economy, environmental or social empathy, or just because...

It's quick and easy to comment anonymously, that way you don't have to log on.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Lucky Girls

Yesterday was another beautiful day in Kamenicky Senov, the sun was shining, birds were singing, people were tending their gardens in their underwear, and there wasn't much coal smoke in the air. I was feeling a little emotional, and it's hard to tell whether it was due to the fact that I'm just a girl (translation: pregnant raging hormones). We've recently been the recipients of some major generosity. Our families have send wonderful care packages, Chad's mother's partner received a lung transplant, the people who furnished our flat & provided us with a substantial amount of cookware including a microwave told us to leave it in place for the school, and as always our friends in Kamenice have kept us playing. Yesterday was also a baby shower my mom was going to have to attend alone, and I had been invited and obviously the commute was out. Some things are just brutal to go to alone; weddings, funerals, workplace parties, and baby showers. I was sad for my mom since her friends were all busy, but Annie joined her & I got all choked up. Again. I can't wait to give her a big hug.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bedtime

"Thomas, are you finished with your milk?" Hidden question insinuated here, "Can we brush teeth and read stories NOW?"
"Do you see the milk right here, Mommy?" he points to the milk in his cup and turns to me, "There's still this much milk in here, Mommy. When there's milk in Tommy's cup, it's not all done, Mommy."

Springtime




For real, sun & shorts are here.

Little Slugger


This is probably the only time in our lives when I will be able to post the contents of Thomas's underwear drawer on the internet without irreparably damaging our relationship. He's never really shown much interest in this drawer since he's not to keen on dressing himself. There's interest and skill, but really he doesn't care when I present him with choices of what to wear-something the parenting books says helps toddlers develop a sense of their own power, decision making abilities, and freedom. I think this is less of a power issue & more of a "I'm a boy & I just don't care very much, unless I feel like wearing blue today, Mother, you just don't understand," issue. Sometimes he likes putting his own pants on & sometimes he likes dancing naked. Well, doesn't everyone? So imagine my surprise when I opened his drawer this morning and found these things in his underwear drawer. His friend Madelaine came over yesterday afternoon, and I remember them opening the drawer, but didn't really see what was going on and kind of warned them to stay out of the drawers since fingers could get pinched. They recognized them as pretty much off limits and moved on. I believe he stashed all of his prized possessions-of the moment-in there since you just can't have your girlfriend playing with your favorite pirate eye patch or blue mitten.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Brilliant

"Tommy want a swimming circle." Thinks for a moment, then decides to elaborate since I obviously don't understand the gravity of his situation. "Tommy needs a swimming circle to put WATER IN and go SWIMMING IN."

Friday, May 9, 2008

Eh? I Can't Here Ya!

I posted pictures of Peter Rath leaving Kamenicky Senov with his wheelbarrow on Monday. We haven't heard any details about his long walk yet, but when we do I will post. Recently, we were with a friend who tactfully reminded us to keep our voices down while walking through the small villages here, and recounted the experience of hearing two young loud American girls riled up about something in his flat across a highway & thought they were awful. WELL, he had a point, I was being loud & Chad has a strong voice, BUT we were excited. Why you ask? I haven't recounted much about getting our visas in the blog. We had a lot of expensive difficulty obtaining visas for Thomas and I, in time to remain legal. Our friends here politely listened, but did little more than nod since the Statue of Liberty no longer holds a torch. Flipping the bird to all foreigners takes so much effort. BUT when faced with another US citizen we were excited to relate all of the work we went through to remain here as a family, & warn him about the new rules regarding US citizens who plan to visit Europe for more than 90 days within a 6 month period.

Prior to the end of December US passport holders could visit non-Schengen parts of Europe for 90 days without a visa, cross a border, get a dated stamp from border control, return to the original non-Schengen site, and continue a visa free stay using this method of travel indefinitely. These travelers are not allowed to work or use state resources, etc. Thomas & I were traveling outside of the Czech Republic enough to stay legally without a passport, but in December it joined the Schengen Area. We read misleading information in the Prague Post, and had no regular access to the internet, but looked it up when we had an opportunity and misunderstood the rules. In January the Schengen website updated it's information to clearly explain the new rules. We were going to be illegal in 3 months, if we couldn't obtain a visa. Chad started calling around & was overwhelmed with conflicting information from all sources, and even made a trip to Prague to listen to the state department explain the new rules incorrectly, and answer questions with misleading information. He worked on this around the clock, when he should have been making artwork. We made several overnight trips to Prague in order to obtain, certify, and translate documents. Only some of these expensive documents were eventually used in our application. We finally made a trip to the Czech consulate in Vienna (we had to apply for visas at a consulate outside of the country & heard Vienna was the speediest). Peter Rath generously put us up in a hotel in Vienna and spent the evening with us at the drop of a hat. The next morning the consulate almost denied us the application because my insurance card was paper, not official plastic & was obtained over the internet. After spending $500 on the policy, dragging a toddler through Prague overnight travel, we weren't leaving without at least applying. Chad was really nice. It worked. We were allowed to apply, and told to bring new proof of insurance when the visas were ready. Then we were told we had the wrong documents translated. Chad was nice again. We took the train back to Prague & Chad stayed to have the appropriate document translated and expedited to Vienna. Thomas and I took another train back to Kamenicky Senov alone at night.

Fast Forward to March, we were running out of time & heard nothing from the embassy. Chad made more phone calls. Luckily someone important cared and knew someone else important that could make calls on our behalf. The next day the foreign police visited the school, asking for Thomas and I. We were at the baby center that day, in the next town over. I still don't know what they were checking on. I would like to think they were verifying our residence in a school owned building, not preparing to deport us or question us in a closet. We then received word that our visas were ready, just bring proof that we were insured until the end of June. Why would I buy a policy for the entire month of June, when I have a plane ticket flying us out of here in the middle of June? Why would I need a visa for the middle to end of June? There was a clerical error. Chad notified the consulate & you know what they did? Cancelled our application, and started a new one. Our application that took 3 months to process (only because someone lit a fire under someone else) was in the process of being cancelled. Thomas and I had 3 legal days left to obtain visas. Chad immediately contacted the consulate & the insurance company, late on a Friday afternoon. We called a friend who rushed over & took our documents to fax. We sweated that weekend.

Monday we were informed that it was okay, the cancellation letter had been retrieved and we could find out if our visas were ready after 3 PM that afternoon. Chad started calling at 3PM, and at 3:30PM he reached someone who said we could pick up our visas the next morning before the consulate IN VIENNA closed at 10:30AM, and we were reminded that our stay would expire on Wednesday (meaning after that we would have to apply and receive visas for Austria in order to pick up our visas for the Czech Rebublic, but we wouldn't be legal in the Czech Republic so the consulate probably wouldn't let us apply anyhow). We managed to gather together every possible document we could imagine needing, clothes, snacks, dvd player, and child and board a 4PM bus to Novy Bor, where we caught a 5PM train to Prague. We landed in Prague by 8:30PM on foot, stood in line forever to get 5AM train tickets (it's a 5 hour train ride to Vienna). We then secured a hotel room, searched for groceries to feed our child on the train ride the next morning, and then found a restaurant. We made it back to the hotel around midnight. We kicked ourselves for getting a room for 3.5 hours of sleep & tried to sleep.

The next morning we were delighted (as delighted as one gets on little sleep in the middle of travel) that our tickets were 700Kc cheaper than the first time we purchased train tickets to Vienna. The conductor told us we didn't have seats indicated on the tickets, but he had a perfect private car for women and children. We had a room we could try to sleep in. Thomas and Chad slept wonderfully. We got off the train, and ran to the metro. We got on the wrong car, "thank you kind and misinformed stranger," hit construction, finally reached our stop, and ran (through a huge park filled with toys, poor Thomas)to the embassy. We got there at 10:26AM. There was no one at our window. Chad got loud. Other people made comments. We were loud Americans & a woman appeared at the window. She looked at me. She looked back at the clock. I continued trying to catch my breath & sent fireballs out of my eyes in the nicest possible way. She took our passports, and we had to wait. 15 or so loooooong minutes later we had visas.

We were legal. We took our sweet patient boy to the park for an hour, returned to the train station, boarded the train and remembered to breathe as it took off. BUT we were informed we were in the wrong class and had to move. Ooops, we didn't pay for first class, and didn't know there was a difference but they had a problem filling all those empty seats with just US so we were escorted to similar seats in another car. Just as Thomas was drifting off to sleep we were told we didn't have seats on this train, and would have to pay. WHAT? 500Kc please. WHAT? Chad tried to figure it out & maybe he had run out of patience, but he held back pretty well & paid. Later we were informed by a bemused business man, that we were on a speedy train & that we weren't being cheated, this was normal, but the ticket agent in Prague screwed up & should have charged us when Chad requested the specific train we were on. ARGH. We arrived in Prague and took a bus back to Senov, even though I had resolved to never ever ride one on that journey after the Christmas vomit express with my parents. The next train back wasn't leaving for several hours & we were exhausted. So we took a bus through a blizzard back to Novy Bor. 2 hours later we exited the bus in Novy Bor and waited 30 minutes in the windy cold snow to board the SAME bus with the SAME driver to drive us back to Senov. It was at this point in the story our friend told me to pipe down.

All my life I've been told to speak up, and if Chad hadn't spoken up for us at the embassy we might not be here right now. I was embarrassed on Sunday, but on Tuesday we visited some friends from London (they are Czech natives). We didn't know where they were staying in Senov. We were told to follow a road toward a town, and look for a yellow building & a garden around the side. And you know how we found them? I heard LOUD English being spoken. A voice that drifted down an alley across a road in-between houses full of supposed annoyed Czechs beckoned us to our friends. We had a lovely time feeding & petting baby rabbits & playing out the end of a lovely afternoon. We will miss them and I will miss their loud English.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Do You Know What Sniglets Are & Other Ramblings

Thomas has come up with some really cool words, and I'm sorry if this is just another one of those things only the parents love, but I really have to document these in some way, since he's already invented and abandoned several that I've forgotten.

Motorbikal, you know a motor+bike=motorcycle

Dinie-horses, we told him that tyrannosaurus rex was related to chickens and his once perfectly clear "dinosaurs," turned into diny-farm animals.

With the threat of snow and complete exhausting nausea gone (knock on wood or fake wood or something, anything, please don't make me live through either of those again), we had a lovely time over the holiday weekend. Rain visited often and cancelled our fairy tale hike, and shortened our puppet show on Friday. Luckily it lifted before we left and a jazz band played & Thomas danced & ate lots of ice cream & met new friends from London. We had lunch with a friend on Thursday (a friend with very nice children & lots of toys). She explained that May Day was mostly just another day off for people, an opportunity to spend time with family & friends that marks the beginning of the warmer weather, so that explains the barbecues. She said the kissing & Love day stuff was related to May Day, but not real popular, and she knew nothing of the pagan rituals. I did receive a text message from another friend wishing me a happy Beltane, and wishes that all of the faeries would be free. AND for some odd reason my search just now for information regarding ‘Čarodějnice’ – an annual witch-burning festival, turned up a wealth of information describing exactly what I had been looking for last week. It described the dying tradition of a big town bonfire where everyone roasted sausage & downed lots of beer while children played, some dressed as witches. I don't know what was wrong with Google last week...Anyway back to our wonderful lunch on May Day. Lunch is the main meal in the Czech Republic. It is almost unheard of not to eat soup before the main lunch course, and salad is usually not included. However many dishes are served with a small garnish of cabbage (and yes Czech people know cabbage, the sauerkraut here tastes nothing like what I don't eat in the states), tomato, and cucumber. Literally translated, this is referred to as the plate painting, do not call it salad! Our friend really spoiled us. Thomas loves soup, and she served a cream of potato & mushroom soup. Then she served baked rice, tempeh & radish goulash, and broccoli, and we had barley coffee (it was good, really) and a homemade pudding topped cake. It was a wonderful array of vegetarian foods that tasted good. Nothing was fried or dipped or topped with mayonnaise or tarter sauce. We went home stuffed & exhausted from playing.

Then a good friend, Chad's mentor from the states, Charlie Parriott, came to visit. The holiday weekend offset his business plans, and it was wonderful of him to come play with Thomas & us. We know him from our first days in Seattle, & we miss him & his family a lot. Saturday, the guys helped mow grass & build fire at Peter Rath's atelier. Peter Rath is retiring from his glass atelier and handing it over to a new generation. To commemorate the retirement he has prepared a wheelbarrow (with GPS) full of glass that he is at this moment walking to Vienna. From Senov. He's wearing sneakers. He's over 65, at least. His foot path with the wheelbarrow of glass follows the historical route taken to transport glass from the center of glass making, Kamenicky Senov, to the money-I mean where the companies sold it, Vienna. The best way to transport it with minimal breakage, was by wheelbarrow. Guess foam peanuts weren't en vogue during the horse and carriage days. Today was his send-off. At 10AM we watched him bounce his wheelbarrow jauntily up the hill behind the school, and I swear he clicked his heals. Peter has been very gracious to Chad, Thomas, and I. It was difficult to see him go, especially after having such a wonderful weekend and saying goodbye to Charlie yesterday. The sun was out in full force and we enjoyed a 10+ kilometer walk DOWN the side road of our mountain filled with prairies, farms, and gorgeous views, to a town called Polevsko, for lunch, and then to Novy Bor for his send off, our groceries, and a bus back UP the mountain.

Oh, and I have to balance out all of my complaints with this compliment to Czech cuisine. Czech people know their strawberries. Every strawberry thing I've tried here (including frozen strawberries) has been filled with ripe and real strawberries. There is a bottled juice sold in every public establishment here that is as thick as a full on strawberry smoothie, no bananas. It's sweet, but it has that distinct strawberry flavor, nothing like hot pink kool aide & often I'm afraid that I will choke on a chunk of strawberry when drinking it because it is so authentic.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

We attended our town's Witches Burning Night, čarodějnice or Valpuržina noc in Czech, celebration this evening. Women & children dressed as witches, played games set up by the fire department, and the whole town barbecued over a bonfire (burnt with a scare-crow witch atop) in the square. There was also a contest for the best witch costumes. Later, I believe there were thousands of little private bonfires and parties. Schools were out early, and will be closed for the rest of the week. I'm posting if only to share what I've pieced together about the series of holidays that seems to commence beginning with April 30. May Day marks many things here, and luckily the celebrations seem to revolve around the children. It is a state holiday, once a mandatory celebration under communism, referred to as Labour Day, meant to rally support for the political party it outlawed May Day parades and more traditional celebrations of the coming of Spring. After the fall of communism here, participation in the holiday changed meaning for many people, and it seems more pagan rituals re-emerged as a symbol of protest against the former state mandated celebrations. Other things I've found describe a Love Day where people often gather and kiss a certain statue in Prague. NO ONE in my village has mentioned anything about any of that to us. I think holidays are wildly different, and I use wild for a reason, in our remote area. I've found so much conflicting information regarding this time of year, that I will have to just go on what we experience, rather than Wikipedia (novel approach). We have some really nice people around us all celebrating & inviting us to their traditional parties & events. This morning I will attend a Fairy tale hike with Thomas, tomorrow we will attend a huge children's affair with our friends in Kamenice, in the evening there will be a jazz concert & Chad will help them barbecue, Saturday we will attend a traditional barbecue garden party for this time of year thrown by Peter Rath to also celebrate the beginning of his foot journey to Vienna from Kamenicky Senov with a wheelbarrow filled with glass. The only thing I know to be prepared for is to costume Thomas, um yeah right for 5 seconds, and barbecue. There is, of course, lots of beer and holiday specific sausages involved in these celebrations. I bought 3 packages of tofu yesterday, mixed up some hummus, but sadly I'm running out of the jar of peanut butter I scored last week ALREADY. Chad totally thinks we're having a girl. At least the nausea has become somewhat more manageable!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

He's OUR Little Boy

Last night we attended a witches burning party of sorts. It was more like a bonfire party thrown by the students at Chad's school, but it was fun even though the only evidence of a holiday celebration was on the invite. The students were exuberant & fun to be around. We went after Thomas's exercise class, it was quite a walk uphill across a few fields, and then a climb up a basalt mountain. We enjoyed it, and locating wood & feeding the fire exhausted Thomas by the end of our party-time. We walked back home in twilight close to his bed-time. When we entered our hall & started to remove our boots, Thomas started to pull down his pants. Then he turned around, looked at us both while pulling them back up, laughed and said "OOOPSY," and sat down to remove his boots. This tickled Chad & I to pieces. Can't really explain why, but this was his first admitted silly mistake and I think baby books should have an entire chapters earmarked for the archiving of such events.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Thank You, Nana Dar




This January we started using a little thing called the internet to call our family & friends. We love Skype. We hope it stays practically free.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Things People Say

So once a woman is pregnant, it's like all season on her conscience. These are just some of the things people said to me while my hormones raged out of control.

"So you're close to having this baby? When I delivered, I almost died in childbirth, so I'm worried about you."
Gee, I never thought of that possibility in the past 9 months, maybe I should have opted for a white water rafting trip or bungee jump instead. I'm going home to rethink letting this baby out.

I never felt bad when I was pregnant. I just loved it so much nothing bothered me and I was never tired."
Gosh, guess I don't love gagging on air enough to prevent my body from totally changing to support 2 life systems. I'll work on my level of love, snore as I fall asleep mid sentence.

"Are you sure there aren't twins in there, you're huge."
Wow, maybe I should check on that since it's been 7 months now.

"Are you sure you're pregnant? You don't look it, maybe a couple of beers and a pizza heavier."
Let me just go pee on one more stick after 6 months of pregnancy.

"Have you seen someone yet, well let's weigh you, I don't know about this..."
Said a nurse when we entered for a pediatrician interview when I was 9 months pregnant. Poor Ms. Nurse.

"Smell this, it's disgusting."
UM, NO.

"You married? So, I just heard this great joke about huge breasts..."
I try to make eye contact by ducking down as this guy continues to stare at the ever ballooning breasts while I'm standing next to my husband.

Ironies

I've waited through 7 1/2 months of cold and gray winter weather and finally spring is showing its head every other day or so. We had a week of warm sun & on Saturday it rained for our trip, but wait, I'm not complaining, it was fine. More than fine, we had a wonderful trip, filled with beautiful castles, and the rain let up every time we exited the car, Thomas had a blast, & some fantastic photos will be posted soon. Right now I'm focused on the fact that I can't sleep. I guess one of my personal pregnancy symptoms is insomnia, my body's way of preparing me for the inevitable sleepless nights that will follow baby's birth in November. That's right, the girl who said she wouldn't have any kids is having 2 in less than 5 years. Chad & I will be enrolling in a sex ed course soon after re-entering the states to figure out how the heck this happened, a g a i n. Just in case, we'll be storing our socks in separate drawers until then. At 10 weeks I'm starting to feel less nausea all of the time. Thank you for the prenatal vitamins, Mom! Poor Thomas however is not getting to enjoy the full effect of our spring yet, though. Mommy has had a bit of difficulty with the following:
Smell=Nausea
Hunger=Nausea
Taste=Nausea
Fatigue=Nausea
Breathing=Nausea
Vitamin=Nausea
No Vitamin=Nausea
Existing=Nausea
Mommy wants to hide under the blankets until this all blows over. Wait a minute, this isn't the flu, there's a baby growing in my body, and it will need to come out at some point. Mommy is going back to bed to contemplate this and other less scary thoughts such as how we are going to feed, clothe, and send two to school.
So far, this round is completely different than the first, except for insomnia & bra issues. All of the tactics I used for digestive harmony last time, ginger, ice cream, potatoes, yogurt, and salads, are out. Plus, we're in a completely different environment, one that doesn't offer saltines, organic greens, or 2 ply toilet paper. Hmmm, a list of things I just recently realized were related...

Friday, April 18, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Different

The sun is shining today! And it shined yesterday! The dollar is still plummeting against EVERY type of currency out there, anyone planning on voting this fall? Never-mind, we're going on a day trip to Cesky Krumlov tomorrow, can be seen here, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Český_Krumlov, and check out its location dot on the little map to the side of that page. Then check out the location of our town, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamenicky_Senov , where we will set out from tomorrow morning at 7 A.M. I think it's about a 4.5 hour drive. I'm looking forward to it though, Chad has been very excited about going, since he saw it the first time he visited the Czech Republic & I'm game for some new scenery.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

High on the Hog

A few years ago a friend of ours summed up our existence as US citizens as, "Living high on the hog, and that hog is going to roll over and crush us." I thought it was an accurate metaphor for our consuming culture, and wondered if he thought it up all on his own. Moral outrage was part of the Seattle's welcoming package, we were new transplants to the emerald city, and our popular disdain for the mainstream was appropriately honed over the course of our next 5 years there. I've never felt patriotic, actually I feel that my political view, while strangely mainstream, has been marginalized by the media. When my husband considered applying for the grant that would lead us to a remote part of the Czech Republic for an extended period of time I was skeptical. We weren't sure if it would generate enough income to support 3 of us, and there were no work options for me. If we were in Prague, maybe. I've always looked at the opportunity to live abroad, wherever it might be, mud hut, Paris, etc. as wildly romantic. The experience of living abroad seemed to me a badge of courage, evidence of intellect, cultural superiority, and tons of other snobby validations. That said, actually leaving the country was preceded by a complex set of sacrifices and generosity from friends and family. I considered not going. People all around me raved about the wonderful opportunity it would be for us to live abroad as a family. Slowly I started to convince myself that the benefits were worth the sacrifices. I warmed to the idea of leaving our corrupt consuming country, evil politics, & actually considered what it would be like to leave all of my frustrations with the US behind, my only responsibility to be Thomas's mother.

We have been living in the Czech Republic for 7 1/2 months now. We've seen magnificent things, and experienced beautiful acts of generosity. Still, we aren't on vacation. We aren't even living here on some fancy expait package. We are three people trying to live this adventure to the fullest, off of a stipend meant for one without whittling away at our meager savings in the states. Our income isn't terrible, considering it's about what the average school teacher makes here, but the cost of living gets tricky. The cost of living here can be quite low, but unfortunately to keep it so means sacrificing petroleum products (thus a car & the freedom it allows), electricity beyond one tank of hot water per day, nutritious meals that include fresh fruits and vegetables, 2 ply toilet paper, cleaning products, periodicals, and household goods that last beyond one day of use. Well made clothes, shoes, furniture, shoes (did I mention shoes?), electronics, books, autos, petroleum, electricity, and fresh foods are wildly cost prohibitive when compared with the average income. We shop like our neighbors in this small town, between stores full of affordable clearance-house food, illegal imports, knock-offs that break or rip before they reach home, and stores filled with packaged organic products and solid wood toys, plastered with pictures of blond grinning German models using the well made purchases in sparkly clean homes with 2.5 golden children at their sides. It's daunting. I spent a good portion of the winter trying to figure out how to minimize our energy use even more & wondering if I was just a wasteful American. And the politics? I can't speak too much about it, since to truly understand how the average person here feels I would have to have a phenomenally better grasp of the language, but I can say the politicians are corrupt and selfish and aren't keeping fair representation of their citizens at the top of their priority list.

I don't mean to sound whiny or discouraged, just a bit humbled. Prior to this experience I thought I could be happy as a stay at home mom living in a mud hut, maybe not. I need to have a job and to contribute financially to our family, or the concerns of daily life just grow and keep me awake at night. Mud-hut is no longer on my to do list. I bet people in mud huts feel pretty damn politically and economically marginalized themselves. When I return to the states I want to rub my body all over the racks of adequately designed and tailored clothes at Target. I'm going to lick every green leaf I see in the grocery store & the organics? Watch out! A trip to the GAP just might take the edge off the reality that is our student loan debt.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Feeling a bit homesick

Well the sun is out today, but I'm not fooled. There was a wave of fog this morning, and it's Friday so of course it must be time to snow again.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

This evening I cleared some of our clutter, yes even though we came with a couple of suitcases and we live in a space we could do backflips in, we've created clutter. Anyway I had to do some organizing and found a stack of beautiful cards our loving family and friends sent to us over the winter holidays, and I thought it would be cute to display some of them on our table once again. Thomas took the rest and played post office. Fast forward to dinner. Mouth full of burrito, Thomas grabs the cards and starts telling us about the love you pictures, love you birds, love you trees, love you hearts, and when Chad & I didn't understand he simply said, "These are LOVING PICTURES!"


A couple of years ago I heard a recording featuring Anis Mojgnai, and I lost the clip featuring it. His publicity at the time was rather underground & not really featured on the web. I just found him on youtube. His words copied below are only half of the beauty that is his work, so if you plan to listen to him, don't read the lines below.

SHAKE THE DUST

This is for the fat girls,
this is for the little brothers,
this is for the school yard wimps,
this is for the childhood bullies that tormented them,
this is for the former prom queen,
this is for the milk crate ball players,
this is for the Night Time cereal eaters,
and for the retired elderly Wal-Mart store front door greeters…
Shake the Dust..



This is for the benches and the people sitting on them,
for the bus drivers driving a million broken hymns,
for the men who have to hold down three jobs simply to hold up their children, for the nighttime schoolers, and for the midnight bikers who are trying to fly
...Shake the Dust...
This is for the two year olds who can not be understood because they speak half English and half God, shake the dust,
for the girls whose brothers are going crazy!
For those gym class wall flowers and for the twelve year old kids afraid of taking public showers,
for the kid whose always late to class because he forgets the combination to his locker,
for a girl who loves somebody else shake the dust.
This is for the hard men...the hard men who want love but know it won't come...
For the ones who are forgotten,
for the ones the amendments do not stand up for,
for the ones who are told to speak only when spoken to and then are never spoken to.
Speak every time you stand so that you do not forget yourself,
never let a moment go by you that doesn't remind you that your heart beats 900 times a day...
That there are enough gallons of blood to make you an ocean.
Do not settle for letting these waves that settle and for the dust to collect in your veins.
This is for the celibate pedophile who keeps on struggling,

for the poetry teachers and for the people who go on vacation alone, and for the sweat that drips off of a Mick Jaggers singing lips, and for the shaking skirt on Tina Turner's shaking hips,

and for the heavens and for the hells for which Tina has lived. This!
Is for the tired and for the dreamers, for those families that want to be like the Cleavers, with perfectly made dinners with songs like Wally and the Beaver. This! Is for the bigots, this is for the sexists, this is for the killers, this is for the Big House; pin sentenced cats becoming redeemers, and for the springtime that always shows up right after the winters, this is... This is for you...Make sure that by the time the fishermen returns you are gone, because just like the days I burn at both ends, every time I write, every time I open my eyes I'm cutting out a part of myself to give to you. So Shake the Dust, and take me with you when you do none of this...What has this has fucking ever been for me, that pushes and pulls.. pushes and pulls for you! So grab this world by it's clothes pins and shake it out again and again and jump on top for a spin and when you hop off shake it off for this is yours. Make, Make my words worth, make it not just another poem that I write not just like another poem like another night, make it like it's heavy about us all, walk into it breath it in let it crash through the halls of your arms like the millions of years of millions poets coursing like blood pumping, pushing and making you live, shaking the dust! So when the world knocks at your front door clutch the knob and open on up, running forward into it's wide spread greeting arms with your hands before you your fingertips trembling, though they may be. -Anis Mojgani

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Here's a Haircut!



There's a hardware store in Novy Bor with a Serbian manager who speaks wonderful English. He learned as a teenager, and even now, as a senior citizen with no daily practice, he speaks fluent English. Puts my poorly pronounced Czech verb-nounage to shame. He's always very excited to see us, and eager to converse. The last time we went to his shop, he didn't have the item we were looking for and to ease his disappointment, we let him show us the local barber shop so Thomas could get a haircut. It was very kind of him, although we really didn't need any translation at all. The woman who cut Thomas's hair didn't speak one word, English or Czech. All she had to do was try to make eye contact with our little "Cousin-It" child, hand him a bowl of candy, and snip, snip, Thomas can see again!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Spring Again

We were on the bus yesterday in wonderful sunny weather that has almost melted the huge gray piles of snow left on every corner by plows. The birds were singing and I was pointing out wildlife to Thomas along the grassy meadows dappled with young flowers who've re-emerged brightly even after our recent freeze. I stuffed our jackets into my backpack & prepared to exit the bus with Thomas as we rounded the ever more populated curve into town & noticed a well kept yard. Someone had just cleared all of the brown leaves, branches and debris left from the melting snow & manicured a yard of pretty little garden patches. Then I saw an elderly couple of the rotund variety, sunning themselves in this beautiful yard on main street. Oh, how sweet I thought, then I noticed that the woman was topless in a supportive, but unmistakable bra.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Happy Birthday!


Thinking about my brother today. Can't believe he'll be a father this summer! His baby will be very lucky.

Monday, March 24, 2008




Thank you for the beautiful picture, Dad!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter

Veselé Velikonoce! Happy Easter in the states, as we prepare to watch Easter Monday in the Czech Republic, under a lot of snow. Thomas and Madelaine are loving the weather, and will get together for dinner and egg decorating tomorrow night. Wish us a stain free evening!
Czechs are aware that Easter has strong Christian roots, however what is celebrated here is much more pagan inspired. I've read and heard many different versions, and like I said we are preparing to WATCH this Monday from the relative warmth of our flat. OK, so things that are similar, chocolate bunnies are eaten by small children, eggs are decorated, and people display symbols of birds and butterflies in pastels to embrace spring. Things that are different, the bunnies are an import and have no relation to an Easter bunny who delivers baskets of goodies on tip toe in the wee hours of the morning, more traditional and available are gingerbread lambs. Have you ever seen a 3-D gingerbread lamb? I have to give the artisans around here credit for trying, but I don't have the urge to cuddle them or bite their ears. They were introduced because the traditional meal here was a whole baked lamb, and I don't think whole lambs have been plentiful in the stores here in a LONG time. The decorated eggs were traditionally gifts, given to boys who whipped girls on the legs with newly blossoming pussy willow, or willow switches tied up with decorative ribbon. Then the boys would throw the girls in the nearest lake or bath, "to get the evil out," and be rewarded with chocolate and plum brandy. My friend told me that in our villages it goes a different way. Attractive young single girls get teased on the legs with the switches, and if they aren't beaten they are considered undesirable, sooo it's a great compliment to be singled out in such a way & thus a present must be given to the boy, and that the GIRL then gets to throw a bucket of water at the BOY. Confused? I am. My friend then went on to explain that really the boys go out early on Monday morning and surface completely drunk by noon all over the villages. Willow switches, eggs, and Slivoce (plum brandy), and drunk people are everywhere and it's a lot of fun for everyone else, but she's not really into it (she's a mom too). There's similar conflicting explanations all over the web, must be all the Slivoce. While I was trying to figure out what this holiday was about I learned that on French Easter, the kids get candy from the chimes of a bell who visited Rome or white horses pulling a chariot of eggs, instead of a bunny. Unfortunately, as much as I want to embrace our cultural experience, I like the USA's idea of a bunny, I like the spring, I like willow branches to remain on plants, I like nice hot showers in the privacy of my bathroom, and so before I go to bed tonight Thomas will have a huge basket of goodies courtesy of his loving Grandparents & parents, I mean the Easter Bunny. We'll share the loot on Monday while watching the Slivoce induced fun, maybe.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Care Package


Our wonderful friend sent us a care package today. We are so very thankful for the care packages sent to us from our family, and I'm sorry I haven't posted enough raving about them or managed to get to the post office during open hours to mail our Thank you letters. I think it's because we spend the weeks following packages gorging ourselves on familiar foods and dressing and redressing Thomas in all of his cute outfits on a caffeine high while playing with his new toys. This package was especially heartwarming since my friend is dealing with some major health issues explained in her blog (in my links on the left side). It was quite timely, made our day. AND she sent me shampoo & conditioner, just as the last drops of Bed Head Control Freak, given to me from another angel, are disappearing. Thomas proclaimed that he would find a golden ticket inside of one of the"candy bars," and then cuddled one to sleep.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Easter Bunny on my Conscience

Well, the boys went out this afternoon to watch a floor ball match (indoor street hockey). They had a wonderful time. I tried to paint some of my sculptures. TRIED. Obviously the lack of pictures posted explains how it went. They returned 3 hours later to a grouchy Mama & lunchtime leftovers for dinner. I am now eating chocolate covered sunflower seeds I intend to give, ahem I mean the Easter Bunny should give, Thomas. I'll buy more before the holiday, I promise, my conscience is not clear, horrible mama..bad mama, munch munch munch. We are planning a trip to Vienna this week, but hope to stay the night in Prague. This time we are hoping to come away with Visas for Thomas & I. Wish us luck.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I couldn't think up a snappier title, sorry. We've had a wonderful week. Wednesday our great friends took us too Bad Schandaou, Germany, for an incredible spa experience. There were so many pools of water with different currents, temperatures, salt & herbs, we could have stayed forever. It was really quite a find, and we're lucky our friends knew the drill, since we got in at happy hour, 2 hours for the price of one. I had a similar experience in Seattle, but the spa was only open for women. This was open to families, a beautiful thing. Last night Thomas & I had an excellent time at a party for the Glass Hotshop establishment, Ajeto. Thomas got to see some really accomplished glassblowers in action, and I met some lovely people. We rode home on the bus while the bus driver struck up a conversation with us using the few English phrases he knew and the few Czech verbs and nouns I know. Then the only two other riders, a couple from Vietnam inquired about speaking with us, and generously fed Thomas chocolate all the way up the winding road to Senov. Don't Worry! Happy Ending ahead! Everyone's favorite question for us is "Domov (Home) Kamenicky Senov? Why?" and I respond "Muj manzel ja student a ucitel skola sklarska, My husband is student and teacher glass school." Then they want to know where we are from & it usually takes a few tries to communicate USA, United States, or America. It's funny, we hesitate to say America, since there are several countries that make up America, but it seems to be what people understand. Our bus driver is hoping to travel to Australia in August, so cool. When we arrived in our town square they all helped me. The bus driver swooped down & carried Thomas off & the couple took the stroller. It was one of the only times I've exited a bus without wielding 100 lbs of stroller, groceries & child. Thomas & I made it home by 9 and ate nachos, and the rest of his chocolate.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Look Links, Over There

Some of the wonderful people in our lives are on the internet too. I'm slowly adding links over on the left, because the server is busy ARGH and my pictures of these wonderful people won't load either, ARGH.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Bragging

In the ever more challenging quest to keep us vegetarian & fed here I set out to find some potatoes & garlic this morning. Thomas needed to burn some energy, so we took a walk to the local "convenience" store. I'll explain the quotes at a later time. Oh maybe not, it's almost midnight, I don't really need the sleep, and you totally want to read about grocery shopping, right? The quotes have something to do with the fact that I grew up with WAWA, 24 hour access to fresh hoagies and slurpees? What you don't know that means? You're not from Jersey. It just doesn't seem right that some tired single working mother can't serve me up a huge made-to-order sandwich, groceries, car care, & a slurpee at 3AM. It's just not fair. UM THAT WAS TOTAL SARCASM. I really appreciate the fact that businesses are generally closed for 2 hour lunches, close at 5, and close on weekends and holidays here. The people working actually spend time with family that way. Ahem, when I want a freaking potato though, in a town that considers potato the one and only green vegetable aside from cabbage, I want the stores to open. The 1st store that opens on Sunday was closed for early lunch hours today. The 2nd one had potatoes, well advertised potatoes, the sign read something like this, "Special Green Potatoes, Good for Making Green Salads, Green Soups, & Vegetable dishes." Aren't you proud of my Czech? We moved on to the last store at the other end of town. Thomas was tired, we reached the store 15 minutes before lunch hours were over. Did I mention that he was tired? 20 minutes later, they opened & I happily extracted the 3 less green potatoes from their vegetable bin & a head of garlic without flowers growing out of it. I don't think the clerk appreciated me choosing my own-they keep all of their products behind a counter, and you are supposed to ask for each item, but the produce is only behind a little waist high fence, so I figured it was okay to help myself. This Jersey girl can't take a fence shorter than 10 feet tall without barbed wire seriously. He said something to the effect of "something in Czech, something in Czech, something in Czech, potatoes, garlic." I smiled, I paid, he smiled. Thomas and I said Na Schledenou (Sounding more like Naw shk luuu di n oow). Mission accomplished, we returned to the flat & I holed up in the kitchen for the rest of the afternoon.

The oven was my friend today, although it is a very old, high energy consuming & thus expensive friend. I made, baked macaroni & cheese, straight up béchamel, rotini, and grated local Edam cheese, fresh bread crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper on top; vegan carob cake (we're just no fun, but Mommy cannot handle more chocolate induced tantrums from Sir Sugar Rush, and we were out of eggs & cocoa anyway); Chickpeas baked with spinach, tahini, lemon, tomatoes, and garlic; Rice; Brocolli, Potato, Leek, Garlic and Cheese Flan; Potato, Kidney Bean, Carrot, Leek, Broccoli Stem, vegetable soup, seasoned with bay, basil, dill, thyme, balsamic vinegar, sea salt, and pepper; TVP reconstituted with the extra broth from the soup to make rice and kidney beans with later this week; and hummus, chickpeas, lemon, garlic & tahini.

I also washed the dishes. I deserve a hoagie.

Friday, March 7, 2008

This Just In

Breaking news here! I was putting away laundry this morning while Thomas was playing with his small cars. I left the room he was playing in for a minute & as I was returning he ran up to me and said,
"Tommy want to play Legos?"
"You want to play with the Legos?" and before I could say, let's pick up the other toys first, we entered the room and he scampered to PUT AWAY the last car that was out. HE HAD ALREADY CLEANED UP THE PREVIOUSLY PLAYED WITH TOYS!!!!!!!!!
I know that's a lot of capitals, but I don't know how else to stress my excitement about this. I fed him all of the chocolate in our flat as I swung from the chandelier like Tarzan expressing my joy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Lasagna Wasn't Half Bad.

Some of my new pieces came out of the kiln & made it safely back to our flat last night. Now to finish them. I wish there was a recipe for perfect color and surface for every occasion. Thomas has no fear when it comes to painting. Unfortunately I have 6 years of professor critiques still warbling on the fringes of my brain that hinder my freedom sometimes, not to mention the voices that remind me that company is coming tomorrow and the floors need to be cleaned.

"Don't decorate. Decorate. Don't faux shade or patina. Patina. Don't let the color detract. Be bold..." Someone once told me it takes a good 10 years for teacher's influences to go away. I hope not. A lot of those influences are really valuable. I think it's just really important for me to focus and listen for my own voice, mentally center, and just make things. Today I painted a piece with a sink full of dishes and an unswept floor.

The images below are some of my sculptures raw fired terra cotta, pre-paint.



Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Thinking

Gouda cheese is spectacular as it is melting. It's liquid texture at this point is not too stringy, not too crispy, and the flavor is like a little piece of heaven on earth. OK, back to it, commence complaining. It snowed today, it's snowing right now.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Still too Chicken for Haircuts...

But, I am attempting to cook a meal in our oven. We arrived in our flat six months ago to an oven caked with at least an inch of black rock-like buildup. There were no racks in it. There is no temperature gage, although, thankfully we received a nice portable oven thermometer courtesy of Grandma Lillian. The build-up, well that took a few weeks, then a few months, and finally after some legal chemical foam soaking & a metal paint scraper & millions of pairs of disposable gloves...I had an oven. Try to translate oven rack in Czech. I dare you. Several visits to busy hardware stores with impatient counter people & I was humbled. We bought a baking sheet, bent the sides with pliers & viola...oven rack. I thawed some squishy french fries as my first experiment, and faithfully recorded the oven temperature every 10 minutes on each setting. I'm really glad I used cheap frozen fries that we didn't really want to eat anyway. Since then I've been able to drag out the details of cooking on old Czech stoves from a couple of natives. Turn it up all the way, put the dish in, and when it's hot turn it off, but keep the dish in to finish cooking. HA The next time I baked I almost created a nuclear incident. Last week I successfully baked an egg, potato, & leek casserole AND a rather dense and dry cake like thing. Tonight I'm attempting lasagna casserole, wish me luck, the thermometer hasn't read over 300 degrees Fahrenheit for over an hour. On a related lasagna note, Thomas loves Garfield the movie. Loves it. Sings the theme song, Holla by the baha men, in his spare moments. "Hey, ho, heeeeaaaayyyy, Hey, ho heeeeaaay..."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Please Share

Spring has sprung!!!!! I have to get outside and take some SUNLIT pictures. We haven't seen sunlight much since we arrived last September. To celebrate a warm and sunny future, I've started a new project, sharing my artwork. It's taken me a while to come to the conclusion, that I really need to personally invest in making. I make art. That is what I do, so it is high time I looked at it as something of value, instead of an employment handicap. I've just opened an Etsy shop to feature my work, and hopefully sell. Here is where I need help. I'm not asking my family and friends to buy my work, that isn't really a viable business plan. You've all helped my family immensely at every crossroad and in between. What I need help with is spreading the word about my Etsy shop. Etsy is a wonderful resource, but the best way to market on it is through word of mouth. If you have the chance, please forward a link to my shop to the people in your address book. I've included a link to my shop at the top left of this page. Here it is again http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5651466 I would love to hear what you all think about the shop page & the work on it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bed-Head



Dobry rano! Wouldn't it be great if we all looked this great first thing in the morning? We need haircuts. When we first arrived in Kamenicky Senov I was overwhelmed by many things, positive and negative. There were times when I wanted to set up our portable dvd player, pop in our Backyardigan's DVD's, and cuddle up to Thomas in bed all day, and not take a step out of our flat. I had no way to communicate with the locals, no phone, no internet, and it was scary. Fortunately we needed to eat & part of me knew that spending the next 10 months trying to keep my son appeased with English cartoons and pretzels wouldn't be a healthy or an optimal way to experience our adventure here. I convinced myself we had to leave the flat and interact with people every single day. I carry a little slovnik or phrase book/dictionary everywhere I go. It even goes with me to take out the trash, I don't know what trash is in Czech, but it doesn't sound like trash. Can you imagine the trouble I might encounter while taking a small bag of trash down a flight of stairs and 1 meter to our trash can outside? The possible misunderstandings are just infinite. Soooo my son needs a haircut. He endured a home cut last month sometime, but it took waaaaay too long in adult years which one must multiply by 4000 to equal toddler years. I'm nervous. My husband did pretty well getting a haircut recently, but he did have to ask the lady to please remove an inch or so from his forehead after she buzz cut everything, except bangs. She gave him MAN BANGS, like maybe it's cool if you're Frankenstein tall, exist on a diet of trendy sarcasm, marlboro lights, & espresso, listen to goth, and have a penchant for black leather pants and short puffy purple vests, BUT that is not my husband. Thank GAWD. Anyway, I'm scared. The other children here all have the same stock buzz cut, almost bald. Thomas can pull off just about any look, pant-less pirate, blue paint forehead special, etc. but I must procure some pictures and do some heavy studying in my slovnick before we embark upon the kadernicky. That said, I'm considering asking for the buzz cut for myself, since the water here has my hair somewhere in between frizzy, limp, dry, oily, and big all at the same time. Don't even get me started on the availability of hair products here that don't cause my scalp to throw up its arms, scream retreat, and leave my head in despair. We'll see. Tomorrow is a new hair day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hiking

Sunny Moravia


We recently stayed in Moravia for a Fulbright Conference where we met new grantees and the Slavic grantees. Wonderful company & accommodations, and I was shocked out of my mole like countenance by the extraordinary amount of sun.

Dad's Night

Two weeks ago my wonderful friend, Julie, suggested that the Daddies take the kids to a carnival & make a night of it. They had a blast, ate yummy treats, returned to Madelaine's flat, made a huge mess (as documented by Thomas's Daddy in these pictures), took a bath, and passed out for the night. Ahem, well at least until Thomas woke up screaming and a midnight 8-9?km uphill hike back to our flat was necessary, but we won't really go into all of that. I was able to begin painting my artwork in the peaceful silence available in our flat until that hour. Thomas and Madelaine make a beautiful pair every time we get together. It's amazing really, as unpredictable as they can be, they always get along.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Translations

In case you're wondering...
neperliva voda=no gas water
perliva voda=gas water

Please try not to snort while suppressing maniacal giggles when your kind Czech server asks you which you prefer, "Vater vit gas or vitout?" My mother was better at this than me. Potty humor never fails.

Celozrnna Mouka=Whole Wheat Flour
Moucha=Fly

Please, when trying to locate whole wheat flour, make sure you ask the shop assistant for moookaa, not moookhhha. They will look at you inquisitively and might consider directing your strange vegetarian-natural-food-freak self out to the dumpster full of vermin because well you're a non-Czech speaking, non-meat loving weirdo asking for a bag of flies.

Yes, there are many wonderful things we have experienced that I could write about, but it's more fun to record how I make an ass of myself.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Arrrr Happy Valentines Day Matey


Green



I can't wait for spring. We really like this dish detergent. We really don't like iceberg lettuce.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Harold's



This is THE place to visit when you travel in the Czech Republic. It's relatively new, quirky, sincere, and SMOKE FREE!!!!!!! Not to mention child friendly. Thomas's look says it all. Oh, and I helped paint the sign, another reason to check it out. They are working on a website. What are you waiting for? Get your plane tickets, and a train ticket, and a bus ticket to Ceska Kamenice, you can't miss it...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Freshly or Recently Produced

"Tommy want something new?"
"Tommy want to go someplace new?"
"Tommy want new snack?"

Upon our arrival in Kamenicky Senov after our last trip. So lucky he's cute.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lists

In the event of fantastic weather or belly-button-lint-picking-season, ignore this post. Actually, I would have appreciated some of this information as we were preparing our budget, packing before moving, and while searching for household goods via public transport in rural Czech Republic.

Things we are glad we brought with us: lots of children's clothing (they can be pricey & darn it, our kid grows),children's books, one set of queen size linens, one towel & washcloth per person, entire medicine cabinet contents (it is possible to get most things here between drogeries & lekarnas, however when you need tums or advil, it's really difficult to demonstrate the patience necessary to locate them until familiar with the town), kitchen tools-garlic press, cheese slicer, potato peeler, scissors, measuring spoons, bottle openers, sharp knives, and a linen dishtowel-thick blue jeans, winter hats, gloves, scarves, computer gear, backpacks, all weather boots, walking shoes, camera gear, electrical converters, and international t-mobile compatible cell phone, and research materials (books), bathing suits (swim diapers), formal wear, vitamins, art supplies, and backpacks. Many of these things are high quality & available here. Unfortunately we have run into really high quality goods for high prices, and really poor quality goods in Asian import stores at affordable prices. Frustrating, when you would rather spend time enjoying the abroad experience & researching rather than consumption.

Things we've purchased here with prices that I recall: teflon frying pan (150Kc, Ikea), teflon spatula, electric teapot (Kauflan 199Kc sale), coffee press, alarm clock (300Kc, Plus), mop & broom & buckets (between 400 & 800Kc average just for the mop!), extra linens & pillows for guests (2000Kc, at OBI & Interspar), faucet water filter (700Kc), several pair of children's shoes for our sprout (average $25-$35 on sale for quality boots & sneakers, full price for leather shoes or good snow boots $50 to $100), and clothes for the sprout (300Kc for lined winter pants, 80Kc for turtleneck shirts), a little potty seat (200Kc), and lamps. I wish we had made a huge Ikea list & made a trip to one of Prague's Ikea's with empty suitcases, since their prices are good for adequate quality.

Things we were sent from loving friends and family we couldn't locate here easily or for a reasonable price: Oven thermometer, pot-holders, red hot pepper flakes, powdered hummus, ground cumin (Rimsky Kmin seeds are found here in natural food stores), contact lens rewetting drops & solution, food mill (in the absence of a blender/food processor), mesh strainer, English picture books for our son (we have many in Czech), ink cartridges for the printer, natural foods, cookbooks, toys, toddler clothes, organic peanut butter, sewing kit, cheese grater, teaspoon sized teaspoons, and much,much more. I will have to update this.

NO MORE SMAZENY SYR

That would be fried cheese at the local smoke filled pub. These are recipes I've come up with, while trying to feed us well through the winter. Fresh fruit & veggies are scarce right now, and some standby ingredients (international/ethnic) are very expensive, so I've adapted these to accommodate availability and budget.

Tomato Lentil Curry

Leek - few slices
Garlic - 3 cloves
Ginger - thumb
Canned Tomatoes - 2
Cumin (Rimsky Kmin)
Lemon Juice
Red & Black Pepper (red pepper flakes, when we can spare them as we rely on our family&friends in the states for those)
Salt
Lentils - 1.5 cups to 2
Basil - at least a TBS dry
Carrotts - 2-3 sliced

I boil all of these things until lentils are soft over med to low heat. I add water if it starts to dry out (drier than say a chili).

Spinach Pasta

Frozen Spinach
Red & black pepper
Salt
Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
Pasta

Boil Pasta, saute other ingredients until frozen spinach isn't frozen & mix everything together. We serve with Moravian cheese (like swiss) since we can't get parmesan a lot & it's the only available cheese with flavor that isn't blue. Although, if you're a blue cheese fan, I'm sure that would be a wonderful addition. We serve it alongside a couple of slices of fresh tomato.

Tofu Burger

1 brick of tofu or a can of beans
1 handful of walnuts and/or sunflower seeds
1 egg or handful of cheese (usually use Moravian, gouda or parmesan)
1-2 slices of toasted or stale bread, grated with cheese grater or some whole wheat flour
3-5 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar or wine
1 Tsp black pepper
1 Tsp basil, thyme, oregano & parsley (dried)
Sauted leek slices (3-4 small pieces, we don't like a lot of onion flavor)
2-3 crushed garlic cloves
leftover veggies (or fresh chopped carrot, peas, broccoli, whatever)
Some tomato sauce if too dry, the mix should be sticky
Olive Oil

I put together all of the wet ingredients in a bowl & add the dry spices & tofu (as if to marinate) but am usually too rushed to let sit for more than a minute or two. Then I saute- if I have time-the garlic, leek, and veggies with the nuts and mix everything together with a fork (don't let the hot stuff hit the egg). Then I heat a pan with a little oil to prevent sticking and either create patties or a big fat scramble if I'm too lazy to mold & flip burgers. I serve the scramble with tomato sauce & pasta, or potatoes.

Tomato Sauce

2 Cans crushed tomatoes
1 TBS or 2 of each dry basil, thyme, balsamic vinegar or wine & olive oil
3-6 cloves crushed garlic

Saute herbs, vinegar, oil, then garlic (don't let it turn brown), add tomato before garlic cooks too long & simmer to hearts delight. If we're feeling extra special, I add chopped mushrooms, but too many other vegetables will require more spices, as they weaken the flavor balance. I use this in Italian cooking, for minestrone broth (with a TBS of tamari and a few cups of water and a bay leaf), and to make it mexican I saute a bay leaf, oregano, cumin, red pepper, parsley, and onion or leek & add the sauce. To make enchilada sauce I make a rue out of butter, olive oil, whole wheat flour, and add the mexican version of this sauce. Sometimes I am too lazy to make enchiladas (what with the stuffing & baking) soooo I just make wet burritos by adding pinto, kidney, or black beans, carrot, potato, and cauliflower to the sauce & spooning it into a tortilla (black beans go really well with potatoes & kidneys go really well with the carrots). We serve with yogurt instead of sour cream. I add some of this sauce to rice with cheese, beans, and broccoli to make fried rice.


Tofu Ruben

Sliced sauted tofu (sometimes I add a tsp of tamari)
saurkraut (we like the hame brand in a jar)
mustard & mayo
tomato slices
optional Moravian cheese

I slap these things together and then put the sandwiches back in the hot pan I used to cook the tofu, flip when toasty & throw a small lid on top (to weigh them down like a panini) & serve