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


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


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..."