Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 09, 2008
The organizers carved pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns and handed out candy to the children as they marched through the night, following a candlelit path through the park and the woods on the trail of a mysterious cat who had stolen a giant pumpkin and must be pursued!
The end of the trail led us to a small stage set up for shadow theater. There the cat was duly tracked down by the children, who bought the pumpkin off of her for a treasure of silver coins (chestnuts wrapped in aluminum foil), and were then rewarded with babovka and more bonbons.
It was all very satisfyingly scary and safe at the same time and Caroline ranked it right up there with trick-or-treating for fun, though as she noted, there was a little too much "boo-ky"* involved for total comfort.
*boo-ky = a Czechlish word made up by C to mean scary in a Halloween sort of way.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Because not all things red are Republican...
Updated to add: Hurray! Red or Blue, I'm proud of the United States of America. Can we change, yes we can!
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Saturday, November 01, 2008
We knew what her braids should look like (and even how to do them) and we already had a pencil picked out for her freckles. I'd spotted just the right stocking/sock combo and had decided to not worry about her shoes - hard to see in the dark, not on her feet at any party she might go to. But we still weren't sure about the main ingredient, Pippi's dress. C suggested we veer toward the ugly and the large. Her babysitter thought she should wear something whose next stop was under the sink as a cleaning cloth. I had visions of a jumper and sewn-on patchwork.
In the end we compromised. I found a denim dress, large, with cool pockets. C wore one of my big painting shirts under it, sleeves rolled up. To keep the winter out, she topped it all with an old sweater of mine (paper patched), a super spotty scarf and a very warm hat. We took lots of pictures, then we headed out for some candy collection.
Trick-or-treating in Prague? Well may you ask. There is no long-term Halloween tradition in the Czech Republic. You have to head to tourist or expat oriented stores if you're looking for Halloween decorations, and costumes come from places focused on costume balls or theater, not October 31st. But every year, it does seem to get easier to find pumpkins, and there are lots of things to do with kids, from pumpkin carving to partying at the bagel shop.
And there is one neighborhood that rolls out the candy carpet for kids. Nicknamed Little America for its suburban feel, Nebušice in Prague 6 has become a mecca for trick-or-treating children. For the last two years, we have met up with friends, woven through bands of costumed children and gone door to door with C. Next to an international school, Nebušice is a favorite spot for round the world households, and a lot of the families dress up in their native costumes to greet the kids. We've seen tiny children dressed in Korean robes, ladies in Swedish dresses, and my favorite - a British family dressed in colonial capes with a prison stock in their front yard.
I'm out of practice with the whole concept of trick-or-treating, so I am inevitably impressed by the generosity of these families as they open their doors to kids who are mostly not from their neighborhood. I appreciate the way an entire community turns a foreign holiday into a celebration that feels like home, and gives kids a sense of being a part of a big group of English speakers. That's something C usually only gets to experience when we head to the States once a year.
Pippi and J (he went as a well-bundled baby) slept on the car ride home, and we spent the drive talking about our favorite Halloween memories. I remembered the parties we had as children, the suburban trick-or-treating in middle school, the massive costume parades we went to in graduate school. We wondered how Caroline would remember her 5th Halloween as Pippi of the long stockings, the night we drove from Prague to Little America and back again.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
This graffiti cat recently appeared on the store's security shutter (viewable only when closed). He looks to me like he's ready to swallow a canary, or maybe something a bit more fowl sized.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I borrowed the idea of a postcard poem from Lucy, who is usually found at Box Elder. My postcard is more statement than song though.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I thought I'd post a picture as the sun sets tonight (4:49) of a copper-headed J. An antidote of sorts!
* As our household's Google addict, I have to add that this is not strictly true. The sun sets in Prague at 4:00 for two weeks, starting December 7. By December 21 it actually sets at 4:02. Thanks timeanddate.com.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
And now for some history:
Not far from Prague, on the road to Vienna, the red roofs of Konopiště stand sentinel above the treeline. Drive closer and you'll find the castle and lake surrounded by parkland that stretches to the edge of the closest town, Benešov.
Konopiště has everything we've come to expect in a Czech castle - bears in the moat, falcons on the lawn, working tile stoves and ghost stories. We like to take our house guests to visit this particular spot though, because it was part of a story that almost all of our friends recognize.
Does the name Franz Ferdinand ring a bell?
Not the band, I hasten to add; the Archduke. He bought the castle in 1887 and used it as his country estate until his assassination in 1914.
If your only memory of Franz Ferdinand is an open car and a shot heard round the world, I'm not surprised. Here he has more dimensions. Czechs like him - he spent a lot of time in our neck of the woods, and he was an advocate of greater Czech autonomy at a time when most members of his family were not.
Tour guides make him human. They tell the story of his love affair with his wife Sophie, of his children and of his favorite rose garden. They also like to show off his massive trophy collection. The man clearly liked to hunt. He shot thousands of deer and birds and blanketed the castle walls with heads (a form of insulation from cold winters? the ultimate guy's castle?). The effect is a bit creepy. Oddly, it also makes the castle look lived in*, in a way that many castles around the country do not.
* Check out these pics if you want to see the castle looking even more lived in. I love how bored the boys look.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I bought the siphon because I thought it would be an elegant addition to W's bar. When we started using it, we realized its other benefits. No more plastic bottles taking up space at home and in the recycle bin, and the soda chargers, or bombičky, come in sets of ten at 2 CZK a pop, and are returnable for a deposit and reuse. In Prague, you can order the chargers online or find them through www.sifos.cz, at their local distributors.
Our favorite mixes so far:
1 tsp raspberry syrup
1 cherry and a tiny twist of lemon
1 lowball glass
soda water to the top!
1 tsp sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 oz bourbon
1 highball glass
Dissolve the sugar in your highball by mixing with lemon and bourbon. Fill w ice. Top up w soda. Stir and enjoy. The result tastes remarkably like the drinks my grandfather used to make!
In the picture behind the siphon is another favorite birthday present from this year. Back in August, my brother-in-law knew that my sister and I were searching lucklessly for wipe-off placemats that we liked. Creative fellow, he smuggled a laminator into their basement, cut up navigational maps from one of their favorite sailing trips, laminated, trimmed and gave them to us for our birthday. These are by far my favorite everyday placemats now, and C likes to pretend to sail her spoon around the islands at breakfast time.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The Library of Congress web site is a fabulous source of historic data and fun too. I like to visit every now and again to check out their photo collection on Flickr. When I get addicted to a tune, I'll see what they have to offer on it. This morning I was feeling a bit homesick and thought I'd see what I could dig up about my home town. Yet again, the LOC came up trumps.
What you see above is a detail from a bird's-eye view print of Charleston, S.C., drawn by C. Drie in 1872. The detail is of the neighborhood my sister and I grew up in one hundred years later. Most of the ponds in the picture were filled in by the time we came along, and the only schooners we knew were replica tourist boats or our great-uncle's, but the streets are the same and the house we grew up in with its walls to climb and garden to run around in is there too. Ellen, this one is for you.
For more bird's eye view prints, visit here.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Have you sent in a request for your ballot but not received it yet? No worries, you can still send in a write-in absentee ballot. VoteFromAbroad.org and Democrats Abroad sent me the following handy dandy information sheet which I've pasted below, adding a few more links of my own to make it a bit more equal opportunity.
Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB)
Step-by-Step Voter Check-List
The FWAB is a back-up ballot that you can use to vote with today. If you subsequently receive your state ballot, vote with that, too. The FWAB is only counted if your state ballot is not received by your state by the ballot return deadline. Click here for deadlines.
Get the FWAB: Go to http://www.VoteFromAbroad.org. Simply answer the six screens of questions and download and print the nine page document. You will receive (1) Instructions (where you will find the address to send the FWAB), (2) Electronic Transmission Sheet and Federal Postcard Application which you do NOT need; (3) The Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot which includes a Voter’s Declaration/Affirmation, the Ballot and Instructions.
Sign and Date the Voter's Declaration/Affirmation: When you use VoteFromAbroad.org, the Voter's Declaration/Affirmation will be filled in based upon your voting state's requirements and the information you provided. You just need to review the information, sign and date it. Check the following list to see if you need a witness or additional documentation.
- Alabama: 2 witnesses OR Notary (must be over the age of 18)
- Alaska: 1 witness (dated and signed)
- Arizona: Proof of Citizenship (copy of passport or birth certificate)
- Louisiana: 2 witnesses (must sign security envelope)
- North Carolina: 2 witnesses (must be over 18 sign and include address)
- South Carolina: 1 witness – No signature necessary
- Virginia: 1 witness – No signature necessary
- Wisconsin: 1 witness (include date of birth of witness – must be a U.S. Citizen)
Vote the FWAB: You can either write in the candidate's name or the word Democrat/Republican. (It is unlikely that you will need the second page of the ballot).
To find out who the Democratic or Republican candidates are for House and Senate, click here. To find your Congressional District, click here, enter your voting zip code and then click on "current election."
Seal the Ballot Envelope: Put your voted FWAB ONLY in a plain white envelope and seal it. Write on the outside of the envelope “Security Envelope.”
In the Mailing Envelope: Put the sealed “Security Envelope” and the Signed and Dated Voter's Declaration/Affirmation in a mailing envelope.
Enter Return Address: Write your name and current mailing address in the upper left hand corner of the mailing envelope.
Address the Envelope: Write the address of your Local Election Office on the mailing envelope. The address of your Local Election Office is provided on your customized information sheet.
Double Check: Double check that you have completed everything.
Ensure evidence of mailing from outside the US:
Foreign Postmark: Affix the appropriate postage. All states will accept a foreign postmark as evidence of submission from outside the U.S.
Consular Stamp: All states have been informed by the U.S. State Department that they should accept a consular stamp as evidence of submission from outside the U.S. Using the consular service results in your mailing envelope being placed in the US postal system. Affix a $.42 U.S. Postage Stamp.
Commercial Courier: Some states will also accept a commercial courier service waybill as evidence of submission from outside the U.S. Using a courier service should be a last resort. Alabama explicitly refuses to accept materials sent to them by commercial couriers, such as Federal Express and DHL. If using a courier, please staple a copy of the air waybill to the ballot envelope prior to sealing the courier envelope.
Seal the addressed envelope – and Mail your FWAB Today!
VoteFromAbroad.org has a useful FAQ right here.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
We're on the edge of the dark dark days of winter, the gray days that reach across half of our year, pulling us inside and off of hiking paths, city sidewalks, playgrounds and beer gardens, rendering photographs flat and lightless and...well, you see what I am saying. I'm all about drinking coffee and curling up inside with a good book, but six months is a long rainy weekend. So I love the sun right now, knowing it will be gone soon.
Yesterday it was torrentially bright and beautiful here. To celebrate we took a trip to the Botanical Gardens to visit their pumpkin exhibition and meet up with some friends. We spent the afternoon playing giraffeball (a giraffe is a lot easier to catch than a football, Caroline made her first completion!), drinking fizzy drinks and moving from one patch of sunlit grass to another. Every now and again, we looked at a flower or two too. The pumpkins turned out to be mostly ornamental squash, nicely arranged.1. The giraffe is in the air!! One girl down. 2. Gourds, arranged. 3. Path through the garden's forest. 4. & 5. Flowers on show.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
When it comes to providing guaranteed chewing satisfaction though, there's only one choice. It's a certain curvy pacifier J can hold onto easily. He's so comfortable with it now that he'll grab its handle, pop it out of his mouth, then bite it again for a nibble or two before popping it out again. Give other babies a bear or a cuddly dog, this blue dudlik, or pacifier, is James' favorite toy. We have a double of it that we hang from his baby gym and he can spend minutes (that's hours for you and me) swatting at it while he chews on its twin.
If J's life is thorougly pacified, Caroline's is thoroughly shod. I recently made a count of her slippers* and realized that she has different sets for her kindergarten, music school, and swimming class. At home she has winter and summer slippers and a pair that one of her babysitters picked up in Japan because they would be cute in the bathroom. That's six. She also has playground shoes for school and another pair for home, sandals and winter boots. The other day she worried, with all seriousness, that she had no shoes to wear. It was raining and she'd grown out of her galoshes. A Central European to the core, C believes every situation demands a different shoe.
Luckily, look-alike crocs have landed with a splash in Prague and you can now find violently grape-scented purple "roks" for 49 crowns. That's a pricey beer, or half of an expensive coffee. This makes slipper shopping a breeze and I just have to remember to apply C's name in permanent marker across the toe (bubble letters please Mommie, she asked last time) before sending her off with a pair to her next destination.
* Here's a longer explanation about slipper culture in the Czech Republic.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Mix cobblestones and tram lines with well traveled roads and you get a bumpy ride on many downtown streets here in Prague. I'm guessing the not-so-smooth terrain is why our zebra stripes get their clean edges from duct tape, and their refresher shines from hand applied paint.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I think she liked the squares almost as much as her drawing.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
We did not have a bite of Krtek (our favorite little mole), even though he was much admired by the little girls. As Caroline and I finally decided, his picture would last a lot longer than his cookie presence.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
*burčak = newly pressed wine, so called because of its stormy appearance. In Austria, Switzerland and Germany it is known as sturm.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
If you're interested in checking out the latest poll results, look no further than RealClearPolitics. It's a very satisfying site for slightly geeky data seekers.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Then on Saturday we were out for an ice cream/nature walk. We found linden, oak and maple leaves, tried to shake down some green chestnuts and whirled a fist full of maple seeds above our heads. We were down to our cone tips and were turning the corner to head back to the house. The sun came out for a moment, and there, in a row were these cars.
Red, yellow, blue.
Caroline looked for green, orange and purple cars all the way home.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thursday, September 11, 2008
When we get together we tend to spend our visits talking and cooking, eating and talking, walking and talking, interspersed every now and again by the need to intervene in the dramas that only five year olds who think they are thirteen can create. We have a lot of territory to cover, nearly a year's worth, and five days doesn't always seem enough.
But every now and again, to get errands done, to remind each girl what she will bitterly miss as soon as we part, and to visit with other friends and family, we take a morning off and head our separate ways. During our morning out on this trip we had the pleasure of meeting up with one of the bloggers I regularly read - Lucy from Box Elder. I started stopping by Lucy's blog because of her photography, and in short order became a fan of her poetry (word clever and image oriented like Marianne Moore). She's funny too and writes about being an expat in the countryside of Brittany with the balance of feeling comfortable in her environment and recognizing its uniqueness which I like.
By a happy coincidence, Lucy not only lives in Brittany but in the neighborhood of Val Andre, and we were able to meet in a market town nearby and have some coffee and chat. Perhaps because she was freed from peer pressure for the first time that week, Caroline behaved like a saint. The baby decided to smile the entire visit, the coffee was deliciously strong and we talked and talked as if we'd met before. I'm looking forward to next time - Prague or Brittany, rain or shine!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Our trip was pretty much centered around food and wine (and cider and coffee). I don't know how much this reflects our love of seafood and cheesy products, or because we spend our vacations with a French expat living in England, or because we have small children and can't wander about as much as other vacationers, but when we go to France, we tend to spend a lot of time preparing meals and hanging out at the table.
Here's the consumption tally from our five days on the coast:
1. market visits - three. We got to know the olive stand family quite well.
2. grocery store visits - three. How I love thee, E.LeClerc.
3. ice cream parlors - four. Did you know, French scoops are thrice the size of Czech scoops? Thus rendering our family favorite of pistachio and chocolate into nearly a meal.
4. lollipop stand - one. Even Caroline, the queen of lollipops, thought one visit to the succette stand enough. The resulting lollipop remains largely intact, unvanquished by many many licks.
5. cafes - three. Mostly for their email connections. And to meet new friends! More on this later.
6. restaurants - three. Because mussels and fries taste much better in a restaurant.
7. home cooked seafood - As Will would say, not enough. In tally though we did a good job of covering the basics: cooking oysters, ray, squid, shrimp, and fish cakes.
8. cheese and yogurt - enough to start our own dairy. Luckily we could make the yogurt ourselves.
9. Czech beer consumed - one case, imported for the occasion.
10. Alsace Cremant - three bottles (we were trying to save some for posterity)
11. Brittany cider - much.
With some trepidation then, yesterday I decided to greet our scales again and see what they might have to tell me. I'm happy to note that after their news I tripped blithley to the grocery store and picked up some goat cheese (driven in from France, approximately six times the cost of E.LeClerc) to celebrate and reminisce.
Monday, September 08, 2008
There was something about the color of the St. Malo sand that made all my photos of the beach look like tinted postcards from the sixties. Or maybe it was just the light that day.
* When we first visited Europe and I discovered cranes in medieval paintings, I fell in love.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
*If you have ever wondered about the origins of Veela in the Harry Potter series, look no further than the fairy, or víla, of slavic Europe.)
Friday, September 05, 2008
I've spent the week catching up with work (conference calls until almost midnight, project plans galore) but life's settled back to an even keel now and I promise more photos and stories soon.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
On the way, we're planning to wind our way through the Alsace region and meet my sister in Colmar to go wine tasting, shopping, hiking and art viewing (perhaps not in that order). Then we'll skirt Paris and scoot to the coast.
I'm looking forward to hiking along the cliff tops, eating mussels, playing on the sand with C, meeting up with old friends (and maybe new as well!) and taking lots and lots of pictures. Somewhere along the way I promise to raise a glass of cider to everyone, and you can be sure there will be many pics when we're home!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Graffiti has even gotten its own local festival. From August 26th till September 6th Trafacka gallery is running a graffiti and street art festival here. I just read about this the other day - I think we'll have to stop by for a visit when we're back from vacation in a week or so!