Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice and ornaments

We've had snow aplenty here in Prague, and I meant to go outside and take lots of beautiful pictures of the rooftops covered in snow, Charles Bridge covered in snow, the castle covered in snow. Only thing is, I've discovered that I'm a dreadful wimp when it comes to taking pictures in ice cold, finger freezing weather. I step outside, camera in hand, walk a block and then dive into a coffee shop till my eyelashes unfreeze. Then I repeat myself, and finally I scamper home to warm up by sitting on top of a radiator.

Today though, the shortest day of the year, was a gorgeously sunny day here in Prague. Please imagine sparkly streets covered with Christmas shoppers and people running around going to their last business meetings of the year (that was me) while I show off a few of my favorite Christmas tree ornaments, all from the Czech Republic or Austria.

{1} Ferris wheel made of beads and bells, {2} beaded bike, and a strange little insect I made myself, {3} a hedgehog looking like it belongs in a creche, {4} spinning top and a mushroom for Eurolush, {5} sleeping cat, {6} beaded train, {7} embroidered shoe - the first Christmas ornament I ever bought years ago in the Viennese Christmas markets.

I hope everyone has a really Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Ya'll take care and for all of you with snow, enjoy the fun!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Christmas tree comes home

C loves Christmas trees, even if they feel as prickly as hedgehogs. At least she's learned to wear her ski mittens when she picks them up!

Living close to a Christmas market, one of the many things I look forward to in December is the chance to pick out a tree and walk it home with us. It was freezing Saturday, and I worried about our tree guys' fingers, but they very nicely held up many a tree for us to consider and then wrapped up the chosen one in its wrap for our walk home, all the while smiling and talking away to Caroline about Christmas and Ježíšek* and was she really going to carry the tree all the way home by herself?

*Ježíšek is little baby Jesus, who delivers presents to Czech children on Christmas Eve in lieu of Saint Nick, who has after all visited only a few weeks before.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Mikulas Eve

Half of Vinohrady showed up to see the trios of devil, angel and Mikulas in Namesti Miru last night. Caroline practiced her song before we headed out, but stayed nervous until her first trio checked their big book and told her she'd cleared customs - this year at least the devil wouldn't be bundling her off in his sack - and as always, the angel told her that if she sang nicely they'd even give her some candy. So she did.
On the way home we passed a trio getting ready for their big show. Here a proud Mikulas gets his beard glued on by golden angels.
This might be my favorite picture, ever.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Namesti Miru Christmas Market

At the end of November each year market stalls pop up round the base of the local church, a Christmas tree stands tall and piped in music reminds us that the Advent season has begun. One of a handful of markets in Prague, Namesti Miru's fair ranks as my favorite not only for its around-the-corner handiness, but because it sells Christmas doodahs designed not just for tourists, but locals too. We walk by many times during December for ornaments, stocking stuffers and mulled wine and we're sure to be there on St. Nicolas Eve, helping Caroline brave the angel/devil/Nicolas trios as they ask their yearly "have you been goods".

{1} Christmas tree, and stalls open for business, {2} a master trdelnik maker prepares to hand over his treat, {3} but first one more roll through the cinnamon! {4} A Nutcracker and Frosty hang beside a most beguiling donkey and merry-go-round at the ornament stand.

trdelnik = a sweet pastry baked around a hot metal pole, finished with sugar, cinnamon, hazelnuts and sometimes cocoa.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Prep work

Without a Thanksgiving buffer, Christmas decorations show up even earlier here in Prague than in the States. I've spent the last three Decembers excessively working until the day before we head out on holiday, and each year I've missed the chance to walk the city taking pictures and enjoying the season. This year promises to be much quieter, and I'm looking forward to the next few weeks and getting to enjoy and share all the stops Prague pulls out for the holidays. Here are a few pictures I thought might help set the scene!

{1} Star light from street view, {2} gateway into a nave, {3} a delighted cherub, {4} stained glass industrial style, {5} C shows off our latest project...

You might know the Czech Republic for its beautiful ornaments. Blown glass balls and twisted spiral drops, santas and hippos and an orchestra of glass instruments - you can find them all in the Christmas markets. But my favorite Czech Christmas decorations are the old beaded ornaments shaped as ferris wheels and bicycles, sleds and bells, stockings and airplanes. Every year I try to add one beaded ornament to our collection. Antique stores are my best bet for a good find; I've found beauties as far away as Vienna, and as close by as around the corner from home. This year, with more time on my hands, I decided to try to make a beaded addition myself. The star Caroline holds is the first result. Next up, I may try a bicycle of my own. Photos to come!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Leaves fall, balloons fly

{1} C in front of a photo of student crowds in the early 70s, {2} big leaf, small hand {3} another leaf for the collection, {4} no, we can't keep this leaf as a pet, {5} cupcake eaten up a tree, while watching the river go by, {6} through a looking glass, {7} poster from 1989, the balloon is back.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A toast to twenty

Twenty years ago yesterday, students gathered in downtown Prague and marched through the city in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of International Students Day.* The police and the students clashed, one thing led to another and in a few days there were more than students demonstrating - the unions were out in force, the people were in the streets and democracy was in the air. By the end of 1989, the first free elections in more than forty years were held and Vaclav Havel voted President of Czechoslovakia.

Yesterday 10,000 people marched the route again. We walked parts of it earlier in the afternoon, but when the crowds got thick, veered off with the children towards home. It was an odd, uneven celebration, one that didn't feel weighty enough for the event. In the end, the best bits of the day were the personal stories told by our friends as we walked through downtown and talked about what used to be here, what used to be there, and especially about the march twenty years back; how no one knew just what would happen afterwards, and how much has changed since then.

* International Students Day marks the day in 1939 when the Nazis shut down Czech universities and sent more than a thousand students to concentration camps over protests and anti-Nazi demonstrations. Nine students and professors were executed without trial.

Monday, November 09, 2009

More than the sum of its parts

Twenty years ago today the East German police stepped down from their guard towers, put the safety locks on their guns and allowed West Berliners and East Berliners to walk (not run) across the sandy no-mans-land and climb the wall into each other's territory.

Caroline's teacher told her class about the wall today, and asked each student to find out what their parents remembered of the day.

What I remember: a long walk across campus after a late rehearsal, news called between students on the sidewalk, a dash up the stairs to my dorm to turn on the radio and hear for myself. The radio announcers were uncommonly excited; in between feeds from Berlin of the celebrations, they explained what was going on and what it could mean. I kept the radio on well past midnight, listening in the dark to the remarkable news that the Cold War could be over, and the Berlin Wall just a wall, soon down.

{1} Rondo-cubism meets new Prague architecture {2} mushroom hunters in the forest {3} seed pods by a stream {4} the ruins of Okor {5} James, looking very fall like {6} cubist wallpaper and reflections of the 19th century {center} graffiti, as usual.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Slanted sun September

A quick post in between sneezes.

We didn't venture out of Prague this weekend but we did keep up our walking. Despite its slant, if the sun shines, we want to be out enjoying its efforts.

At the end of September, linden leaves cover the sidewalks [1], but there are still leaves in the massive ash trees that branch above the smaller trees [2].

Caroline and James get all dressed up to go out [3 & center]. After some discussion, C agrees to narrow her bow choice down to one - bow and wearer [6]. James may, or may not, have been relieved.

A gratuitous graffiti picture, recently discovered [4]. And glass bottles in a neighborhood bar [5].

As always, you can click on the picture to see a bigger image. And did you know that the Czech word for sneeze is kýchat ? Oddly apt. Kerchoo!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Czech Paradise

I've recently picked up a book called 77 výletů s dětmi po Čechách, or 77 trips with children around Czechia, and it is full of hikes, bike rides and stroller walks through the country. Last week friends of ours organized a hike in Český ráj along one of the trails mentioned in the book, and we tagged along to try it out.

We'd been in the area before (Český ráj is an hour from Prague, perfect for weekend trips) but never with a stroller. Thanks to the well chosen path, we missed the many stairs and steep paths around the rocks that make Český ráj famous, and the stroller survived the trip with no problem. The kids swarmed around us and then divided; some dragged behind and some wandered into the woods. (It's more fun to pretend to be Shrek and the princess when you're climbing over rocks and hiding behind big trees than when you're strolling up a path full of grownups.) We kept our eyes out for mushrooms, but only found chicken of the woods, and a few beautiful Amanita muscaria.

For anyone wanting to try out the trail, drive north on the E45 to Turnov, and turn onto 442 towards Sedmihorky. Take the first right after the Sedmihorky train station, and drive up the road to Sedmihorky Lazne, where you can park and find the many trails leading into the hills. We hiked to Valdstejn that day, about a 6 km hike there and back.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Vinobrani 09

September is Vinobrani time. It's the new wine season when wine festivals across the country feature stands stacked with liters of burčak or stormy wine - the grape's cider. Wine festivals seem almost always to include fun fairs too, and costumed reenactors [4&6], booths full of handmade toys and gingerbread valentines [3].

Last weekend we drove to Roudnice nad Labem to check out the Lobkowiczs' vinobrani celebrations and visit some friends. The weather was beautiful, just right for a vinobrani day, and the children loved running from booth to booth trying out the wooden swords and shields (C added a shield to her collection), and begging for the very many choices of candy and helium balloons.

Roudnice is built around the chateau [1], which stands just above the Labe river. The Lobkowicz family is gradually restoring the chateau now, and it has the air of a decayed beauty with a well built roof promising better days ahead. We arrived early, before twelve and burčak time, but not too early for sausages [5], or for several rides on the merry go round [center].

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Grade!

Caroline is an official first grader, since the first of September. She's very proud of her new role, and is enjoying all the trappings of being a prvňáčka, from the art suitcase (seriously loaded down with art supplies, I look forward to seeing the results) to the special backpack shaped like a briefcase, which every prvňáčka, or first grader, proudly sports.

C's first day of first grade was more ceremony than study. Her Czech family, our babysitters, arrived early that day, and we all walked together to her new school. It felt like a festival day, with groups of families and new students calling out to each other as they passed on the sidewalk, heading to their classes. Once arrived, C found a spot near her friends, oohed and ahhed over her new books, and tried to pay attention to her teacher in the midst of a frenzy of picture snapping and occasional sob (mostly from the parents, the children were quite brave!). The kids took turns introducing themselves, the teacher read her opening remarks, and an hour later school was over for the day.

Each day for the rest of the week C's school added another hour to the first graders' schedule, working up to four hours a day. Caroline told us that mostly they were learning to behave, but that they'd also learned to talk Martian - spelling out words just the same way any self respecting Martian might demand to be taken to 'your lea-der". The first word they spelled was, predictably, Mama. The second? Praha.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Visit to the mountains

Once a year we head to the northern border of the Czech Republic, to a little ski town called Rokytnice nad Jizerou, deep in the Krkonoše mountains. A perfect mountain weekend calls for a camp fire, a hike, some nature study and at least one stop at a hospoda for Czech food. It almost always rains too, so there is usually plenty of time for just hanging around and talking to our friends or reading books.

Last weekend we drove through torrential rains to Roktynice. We ate lunch and watched the sun appear and then, once again, the perfect mountain weekend unwound until Sunday evening fell and it was time to drive down into the city for the week ahead.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Caroline's birthday

1. C and James breakfast together, 2. Caroline feeds James, now she is 6. 3. C at her birthday party. 4. Cupcakes 5. James decides to get down and walk (first time!), since it seems to be a day for celebration.

C's sixth birthday was on her first day of summer vacation, and she woke up bedazzled by all the sleep, strange for a Monday. She remembered straight away though, that it was her birthday and that she was the grand age of 6. Then she looked in the mirror, stared herself up and down and said, "But I don’t feel older. Am I bigger? Are my hands bigger than before?"

Six to C means being grownup, so she decided to be regally polite, and invited James to join her for breakfast at her red table. She even pulled out a chair and poured him some cereal so they could "dine" together. (James plays with cereal, rather than eating it, but as long as he stays in his chair, the flakes don't go too far).

While she breakfasted, we decided that for her birthday dinner she'd like knedlicky with a red sauce. She reassured me that it was easy, much easier than what Dada and I usually made and if I would just get some tomatoes and mash them up she was sure they'd taste fine on the dumplings. And she told me, confidentially, that it was really okay to buy the knedlicky in the store, almost no one made them from scratch any more.

Breakfast finished, and a little time left before our babysitter arrived and I headed to work, we squeezed in a reading from "Now we are Six."

So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,
"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said: "True,
It isn't much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. "That's how it is," says Pooh.

That's how it is, Mommie, said Caroline. And I gave her a hug and a twirl for being six and my girl.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Where we left off

Summer solstice pictures from June. I pull them out to look at the green and purple every now and then. I love the Maxfield Parrish clouds, and remember how swirling still the longest day of the year sky seemed, light at nearly ten.

A month later and where have I been? Mostly perched in my office chair with pen in one hand, phone in the other - my battle implements against the economy and the inevitable slow down of a European July. 6:30 comes, and I stop typing long enough to make dinner and play with the children for a few hours, then they are in bed and I am back at my desk until midnight. And so it goes.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009


There is a cocktail bar we love here, called Hapu. Even after 8 years of drop by visits, we still don't know where its name comes from, but to us Hapu means cool atmosphere, drinks that deserve to show up on a dessert menu, and lots of memories. I've still never played the giant guitar yet though.

Happy Weekend!

Orlicka 8
13000 Prague 3

Monday, June 15, 2009

Design ideas everywhere

I'm trying to learn how to see with my new camera's eye, so I'm taking lots of shots and then thinking through my favorites. These are more pictures from our Trebon trip. I think they're telling me I see patterns everywhere, I need to work on my cropping before I get to Picasa, and boy is it fun to take pictures that you can blow up to high resolution and not find noisy specs in them!

Besides their clarity, I liked these pictures because of the way they made me think about design, both in photos and in buildings and signs. Here are some of those thoughts...

[1.] Curlicue shop sign. It says Drogerie kosmetika Judita or "Judith's cosmetics and bath supplies." A good reminder that local brands don't need to be immediately readable, and hey, ironwork is in!
[2.] Are Southern Bohemian facades designed to look like fluffy clouds, or is that just me?
[3.] Flower shots are addictive. Plus they count as design - look at those natural color contrasts.
[4.] Again with the S. Bohemian facade, here's another example of a building with sky aspirations (see those curly cloud corners?) The details aren't clear here, but the painting shows God and Jesus discussing the earth, while a devil of some sort writhes in the lower clouds. Home Baroque.
[5.] Symmetry in flowers is fun too (not to mention that playing with the depth of field in a new dslr while shooting flowers is like eating chocolate cake for breakfast.)
[6.] I love how the rigid patterns of the leaves contrast with the doodley ironwork of the tipped up chairs. Deliciously summer.
[7.] Squares are prolific in Czech street and facade design, especially in Prague. Are squares an urban thing? These squares didn't seem to fit in Trebon the way the curlicues did.
[8.] Leaves against the sky take just the right balance of light to get right. I took this by accident, then shot thirty more hoping I'd figure out the trick. Naturally, my first shot was the only one that worked.
[9.] Center - a small door that picks up on Trebon's sky and sunburst themes and delivers its message with beautiful simplicity.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Lilies of Trebon

lily collage 
We spent the weekend in our favorite Czech spa town, Třeboň, visiting one of our babysitters. It's June, but don't tell that to the weather - it has spat rain and chill at us for several weeks. I worried we'd be rained in all weekend too so packed books, paper and pencils, and found a room in a pension that was big enough for all four of us and then some.

My worries came to nothing. We did happily wear our winter coats Saturday morning, but by Sunday, shorts and t-shirts were in season. Saturday's market tempted us all out and around the old Třeboň square, where Caroline and her friend Kačinka looked at every single thing, and I may have taken a picture of every single thing, myself.

Luckily too, because as I scanned through my pile of pics from the weekend I noticed a theme emerge, a lily theme. And in one of the market shots I found a basket of wooden lilies, glowing if not gilded. The floating variety showed up in a canal just outside the city walls and in a fountain just inside the castle's.

Why are lilies so popular in Třeboň? I'd guess because it's a water town, right in the middle of the carp pond region of the Czech Republic, and just beside the largest of those ponds, Svět or the World. Even the town clown is water related, he's the local representative of the vodniks, water sprites who haunt ponds and lakes in the Czech Republic and are appeased by tobacco thrown into the water by fishermen before the carp haul begins each fall. (Note to self, I wonder if Třeboň's vodnik hoped for a plug himself!)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


I'm back! Actually I got home Monday night, but after an infinitely tiny amount of sleep all weekend, I really did not return until yesterday, or maybe this morning. How little? Thanks to jetlag, a minor flood and flights home I averaged 3 hours of sleep every night I was gone. Luckily the conference was worth it and I'm glad I've seen Phoenix at all hours of the day.

Here then are an assortment of pictures from the trip. From the left:
1. Sunrise over mountains and city, 2. Camelback Mountain from the airport (the camel is lying down, naturally); 3. native terrain; 4. patio misters working full blast to keep diners cool; 5. dressed up and ready to roll; 6. cactuses at sunrise; center: hotel escalator.

As with every collage, I'm struck by the coincidences. For example, my legs look remarkably like the cactuses to their left, do they not? More artistically, I liked how the hotel hung art that fit with their region (center), and reflected the sunrises that are understandably famous. I was actually glad to be jetlagged and awake at 4 since it gave me the chance to see the beautiful side of the city before it got very hot.

And thanks to being up and about early every morning, I managed to avoid getting rained on when the guy above me fell asleep in his bathtub with the water running. Blessings all around! (He survived with all but his ego intact, my suitcase and bed were not so lucky.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A bike ride, and curlicues

1. Street graffiti, 2. House banisters, 3. Chestnut leaf shadows, 4. Shadows on the staircase ceiling, 5. C on Silver, showing us her pedaling technique.

Since my last post I've taken tons of pictures and written several half posts, only to leave all by the wayside as I remember one more thing I need to do before I head off for the weekend. This morning I'm flying to Arizona on my first solo trip since James was born. It's a whirlwind visit - fly in Thursday fly out Sunday - but I'm still taking a half empty suitcase, just in case I can get some Stateside shopping in.

As it's a business trip, I've become obsessed with trying to figure out what people wear in Phoenix to meetings when it's 100F outside and 75 inside. Other semi-senseless worries include trying to decide what to do on a plane without two children to entertain (C suggested stickers and an activity book), and wondering if James will forget me in four days.

But life in the Kolo* household is not just travel this, travel that. We're really more about wheels. Somehow going to camp helped C decide it was time to learn to ride her bike. She got home Friday and declared her passion. Saturday we spent the morning googling the how-to's and the afternoon trying them out. Thanks to a simple step break down, C started out coasting down a grassy hill, pedaling down that same hill, and then learning to steer round a handy tree. She took the practice very seriously, insisting on trying each step five times before moving to the next, and by the end of our first bike try, had graduated to concrete and the skating slope in front of a local school.

Sunday we packed bike and stroller off to our favorite park, Stromovka, to try out some of the paths there. Stromovka is just by the river and is wonderfully flat, with wide paths ideal for roller blading and biking (and the occasional horse).

Chanting "I think I can, I think I can" under her breath, C picked a path she could coast down, remembered how to balance, and took to the pedals. Instead of stopping after a few feet, she kept going and biked first 30 yards, and then more. By the end of the day she was confidently pedaling past dogs and other bikers, the purple helmeted princess knight C and her horse/bike Silver, ready to roll.

*Kolo, by the way, means wheel or bike in Czech, so it is quite appropriate that we're a biking household these days!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Can you tell what I brought home yesterday?

No, not James. And Caroline got home today, tired, smudgy around the knees, but deliriously happy about camp and all the fun stuff she and her friends got to do: ride horses, eat lots of fruit dumplings, discover ant houses, hunt for mushrooms, dress up for a carnival. The stories are still unfolding as she remembers or pulls another souvenir from her suitcase.

But yesterday. Around noon I walked into the biggest store of its kind in the Czech Republic. Swarms of guys wearing black t-shirts, beards and sandals were crowded around the displays and I couldn't push by them without running into one or the other multi-pocketed bag. After taking to the less exciting corridors, I dug up a shop assistant reading manuals in a corner and cruelly interupted his reverie on the new Xyi8300 (at least I think that's what it was). Putting his latest dream down, he reluctantly showed me the top two models in my price range.

Ten minutes later, I was on the phone to my business partner. Twenty minutes, and I walked out of the store with a grin even the jaded shop assistant could understand.

And then the fun began.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Caroline goes to Camp

postcard from C 
Postcard from camp, I'm guessing there are three horses and she is getting to ride one! And happily, she hearts us. The back of the card says, nice and simply, "CAROLINE IS O.K., BUY"

Every year, Caroline's kindergarten spends a week at Škola v prírode, or school in nature. Half the school's teachers go and most of the předškolní, or 5 year old kids, too and for a week ahead of time, it is the only thing that the mothers picking up their children talk about.

This is C's last pre-school year, her year for kindergarten camp. Back in March, she brought her camp instructions home, and we started going through it line by line. I thought we'd have most everything already, but then again, I'd heard that the girls shouldn't pack dresses, and Caroline rarely wears anything else. So we poured over the list to make sure she'd be set to go.

There were all the standard things you'd expect, like a pláštěnka, or rain poncho, and holinky, gum boots, but it took me several calls to friends to figure out exactly what oteplene sustaky might mean. (Apparently, a track suit lined in flannel on the inside and nylon on the out. Now I know what they are, but I still don't know their name in English!)

Thanks to C's babysitters and several expeditions, we managed to find everything, even the elusive sustaky. The night before she left, I read C her clothing list and she ran back and forth collecting everything while I marked her name on each piece and we folded it away. All packed, down to the smallest bear and largest rubber boot, and I thought we were finished for the night. But no. "Mommie," C said, "can you teach me how to take a shower?"

So it was, on the eve of her first overnight camp, at nearly six years of age, that C decided it was time to step under water and voluntarily get her face wet. What else new will she learn this week? Come Friday, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Art of Missing Someone, and a Museum Visit

1 &2. Local graffiti, 3. Nearly empty chapel, 4. Spring at Mamacoffee, 5. Tactile exhibit, 6. Door from chapel, Center. Master of Theodoricus paintings*

Friday, Caroline waved farewell, swung backpack onto shoulder, climbed up bus steps, and headed for the country. As we waved goodbye to her through the bus's tinted windows, I did a quick mental calendar check, because surely she’s still only five. Why did it feel like she should be carrying a guitar and wearing sunglasses behind those dark windows, off to see America. And why were we crying when she’d be back in a week and anyway, we’d all been looking forward to her kindergarten camp since Christmas?

Imponderables. I moped a bit and then threw myself into a spreadsheet so I wouldn’t think for the rest of the day. By the time Will came home from work I was so deep in numbers it took me until the next morning’s coffee to recover my equanimity. We spent Saturday the way we usually do, shopping at our local stores, strolling by mamacoffee for an espresso, pushing the stroller through the park to check out the latest flowers, and keeping my camera ready for any new additions to our local graffiti.

This Saturday though, the green grocers wanted to know if we’d heard anything from the children yet (their daughter and Caroline were bus buddies). The Greek store cashier asked where the little holčicka was and the drug store cashier volunteered that maybe the weather was on its way to getting warm after all. We walked home and I couldn’t help thinking that big cities are full of little villages and I was happy right in the middle of ours, even if it took C heading to camp to remind me.

The next day, still getting used to the quietness of space without Caroline, we decided to do what we hadn’t had a chance to do for nearly six years - visit a museum undisturbed.

Or at least nearly. We lulled James to sleep strolling across the sway and rattle of cobblestone, and arrived at the Convent of St. Agnes happy to have won sixty minutes of quiet. We spent a few of those minutes wandering around the ground floor looking for pictures, lost in a maze of corridors, convincing ourselves that the art collection must have moved. We found empty chapels and a tactile exhibit for the blind (complete with a braille typewriter for leaving notes), we circled the gardens again, and just as we were about to leave, discovered the staircase up to the galleries.

The Convent houses the Czech National Gallery’s medieval art collection, beginning the exhibition with a wood carving from the very early 1200s, and ending it with prints from the mid 1500s. Sometimes, in an art museum that covers the medieval to modern, I’m happy to stroll past the rooms of madonnas and saints to get to the renaissance. But that morning, with a sleeping stroller, and a collection dedicated to the Gothic, we slowed down and took the time to look.

We were the only visitors, the guards decided we were harmless, and we were free of children, so we spent the rest of our hour arguing all we wanted: about the goldfinch in the madonna portraits (from the apocrypha or not?), the Theodoricus blank books and their bindings, the apostles and just who might be Judas, and the aptness of poor Catherine clutching her wheel. We had a deliciously nerdy time, and James slept until the last gallery.

When he woke, he wanted to be carried, and his wiggling turned the paintings back into art to rush by. It was time to go. We stopped to pick up a book to try to solve a few of our morning debates, and headed home.

And if you’re wondering how Caroline is doing, the latest news from this morning is that she hasn’t cried one bit, she can’t wait to ride the horses today and she’s been a perfect milá, or dear. Pshew.

Goldfinch – the jury is still out on this, Will thinks they are related to the birds in the apocrypha which the infant Jesus brought to life from mud. The National Gallery guidebook suggests the association of goldfinch with thistle bushes, thistles representing the crucifixion, the goldfinch thus foreshadowing the poor babe’s later fate. My guess is that it could be a combination of the two, depending upon where the tradition started from and if that group of artists even had access to the apocrypha books.

Blank books – it’s pretty unusual to see blank manuscripts already bound, as most medieval manuscripts would be prepped by assembling parchment into folios, scoring the skins for neatness, writing and illuminating the text, and then binding the whole. My vote is a tabula rasa motif, but Will is not biting.

*Master of Theodoricus paintings from the Virtual walk through of the gallery. Understandably, no cameras are allowed in the actual exhibition.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Friday, May 08, 2009

First year roundup

James, from 0 to 1 in no time at all.

The pictures are so you can bear the long long post that follows. I’ve recently been tagged for three (THREE) memes. An unusual number, considering the last time I was tagged in my eons/aeons of blogging was never. If you don’t mind, then, I’ll be babbling on about myself and my opinions even more than I usually do. I promise I’ll try to add unrelated pics each time to keep it interesting.

This meme is from Eurolush, via Duvyken.

What are your current obsessions?
Digital SLRS (to buy or not to buy, which one, and when?), the impossibility of keeping a house straight and toys in it, asparagus.

Which item from you wardrobe do you wear most often?
My red flannel pjs. Luckily in Prague it stays cold until June so I can wear them at least 9 months of the year.

What's for dinner?
Pho soup doctored with tomatoes, spring onions, dried mushrooms, and extra bits of chicken and ham; eaten with chopsticks.

What's your greatest fear at the moment?
I’m flying to Arizona at the end of the month on a business trip and it will be the first time that I've left James overnight. Will he remember me when I get back? Will he be wearing clothes when I get back?

What are you listening to?
The hum of the fan belt in my computer (everyone except the computer and myself is asleep).

If you were a goddess what would you be?
Does a muse count? I’d like to be the muse of music.

What are your favourite holiday spots?
France, particularly the Ardèche and bits of Brittany. I also love visiting European cities for long weekends. Copenhagen, Dresden, Zurich, Vienna, Bratislava all make wonderful weekend trips. I am currently looking forward to visiting Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Berlin soon.

What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Swallows and Amazons to Caroline right now, and Keeping the World Away, by Margaret Forster, to myself. I picked up a new mountain of books in Switzerland over Easter and have felt like a kid ripping through a pile of presents ever since. Gleeful gluttony is what it is.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Reading books when I should be doing everything else, not having to fold laundry, taxis.

Who or what makes you laugh?
My family for sure - Caroline in particular is very funny and dramatic. And Will has a wonderfully dry sense of humor.

What is your favourite spring thing to do?
When spring arrives, my first thought is "Time to go on a trip to Germany to buy fresh asparagus!!" In March I start checking German news sites to find out when it will be in the markets. Also, spring in general means travel to me, and lots more light for photographs.

Where are you planning to travel next?
Berlin. It is only a few hours away by car and I can’t believe we haven’t visited yet.

What is the best thing you ate or drank lately?
It would have to be the Colombian meringues from Essen. Also, a wonderful muesli cereal made with grated apples, white yogurt, and oats soaked overnight so they turned fluffy and delicious. Yum! And, of course, the deviled eggs from last weekend.

When was the last time you were tipsy?
Probably last Saturday, though I could still feel my toes so I'm not sure if that counts.

What is your favourite ever film?
I adore Singing in the Rain. Music, physical comedy, no plot and dancing - what more could I want? I also really love the movie Once. I could watch the scene where the couple first plays music together over and over.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned from your children?
That stubbornness is most definitely inherited. Also, that reading out loud is much more fun than I could have imagined.

What song can't you get out of your head?
“Ghost,” by Neutral Milk Hotel. Very rocky, but I love it.

What book do you know you should read but refuse to?
Ulysses, by James Joyce. I’ve bought the book and every James Joyce day I pick it up, determined to read a chapter, but never get through it. Maybe this year?

What is your physical abnormality/abnormal physical ability?
I have never lost a limbo contest, even when I was 8 months pregnant. I’m pretty flexible. Of course, this might also demonstrate a certain competitive streak I'm rumored to have.

What is your favourite colour?
Red for small goods, orange for accents, light sea blue for walls, dark blue and burgundy for shirts, green for grass and trees, white for plates at a table, silver for candlesticks and gold for rings. I love color, but have never been able to pin down a favorite.

Following the rules of the meme, I tag Poppy in Provence, Meg, Lucy, Liz, and my sister, Ee. I'm leaving her unlinked until/unless she accepts the challenge!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

May Days

Holidays fall fast and thick in May in Europe. Last Friday, May Day, we celebrated our first May holiday and James' first birthday, all at once!

How did we spend our May Day? From left, counterclockwise:
[1.] Playing on the recently refurbished Riegrovy Sady playground, now one of the nicest playgrounds I've had the chance to push a swing in.
[2.] Baking and decorating fairy cakes, and then gobbling them up.
[3.] Taking James to his first beer garden to meet up with friends.
[4.] Prepping for the cocktail party we threw Saturday to celebrate surviving a year with two children. I made a ton of food, including deviled eggs. Yum. These two plates represent approximately 5% of the tastiness outlaid.
[5.] Gratuitous cow pic I added for the fun of it. The word in Czech for cow is krava, and we suspect that a Czech family by the name of Kravin had a good sense of humor, way back when.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dandelion time

Every Prague park hosts dandelions this time of year. They seem to grow taller here than in the States, with flower heads that stretch halfway across my hand. Caroline has a hard time resisting picking them. She tells us that "every childrens like dandelions" so she must too.

This weekend, I took a few apart to show her their seed filaments (still unaired) and the sticky milk from their stems. In this picture, she's trying to set sail a few petals before they separate from the seed.

In other news - C and I decided* that we'd send out postcards to everyone who commented on Heidi's house. Not everyone gets a Heidi postcard from Heididorf, but everyone gets a Heidi postcard. So now all I need are addresses. You can email me from my profile page.

*I'm a softie, and found that I couldn't, after all, bring myself to draw names.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Heidi's Home

Have you read the children's book Heidi? When we were little, I read Heidi every fall for a few years, curling up with the book and a bowl of crackers and cheese to tide me over the first delicious chapter. I loved how different her life on the mountain was from our low country marsh and water world, and I'd get sniffily every time I read about her trip to Frankfurt and how she longed for her home and for her grandfather and friends. Thanks to log cabin replicas, I thought I had a good idea about the mountain hut she lived in, but I grew up wondering what her alp and the view from her window might really look like.

My sister moved to Switzerland ten years ago, and since then we've spent many of our holidays there, exploring Zurich and the mountains nearby. But I'd never been to Heidiland, so on the last day of our Easter trip we decided to go visit the mountains where Johanna Spyri gave Heidi a home. Caroline is just the right age for an introduction, and it would give us a chance for one last walk before we headed back to Prague.

Heidi's alp is south-east of Zurich, very close to the border of Lichtenstein and not far from the most western tip of Austria. The mountains here are toothy and steep, and jut up from the river and the valley with no knee-high hills to soften their edges. We drove off the highway from Chur, and in less than five minutes were heading directly up hill through Maienfeld and then past orchards and up to the Dorfli, the small hamlet where Heidi's Aunt Deet and mother were sprung from.

Dorfli, renamed Heididorf, is now a collection of mountain houses with nice cars in the driveway and beautiful, postage stamp gardens. Behind the houses, heading up the slope yet again, stands a small museum, a goat pasture and a house modeled after Heidi's grandfather's hut. Caroline was enraptured with the hut, and she went searching about the rooms to find a few of the grandfather's three legged stools, to climb up the ladder into Heidi's bedroom and best of all, to sit on Heidi's bed and feel the hay mattress.

When we left the hut, we visited the goats, who were having a slow day napping in their shed. They perked up when they saw visitors with goat feed and one handily jumped the fence to beg for his share. He ate the bag too, in a last moment spurt of gluttony. Then it was time to head back to our cars and wend our way to the highway (this time through back roads that took us through more orchards, a Swiss military encampment and many small, nearly empty, villages.) As we drove, I read Caroline the first few chapters of Heidi. We have been reading Heidi every night since.

Our copy is a new edition we picked up at the museum for Caroline. While we were there I also bought some postcards of Heidi illustrations. When Will asked me who they were for, I said, for Kolo readers of course!! So if you've followed me this far down the page, and would like a postcard of a Heidi scene, I have three to mail away. I'll do a random pick on Friday, just leave a comment, and let me know your email address if I don't have it already.

Photo by Julia@kolo. Illustrations by Maria Kirk, from The Project Gutenberg Ebook of Heidi.

Monday, April 20, 2009

View over Lake Lucerne

[1.] Fountain in front of the Grand Hotel, currently closed for renovation. [2.] View over Lake Lucerne. [3. and center] Caroline on the ferry. [4.] Wild flowers and tree on top of Bürgenstock. [5.] Tavern characters welcome guests for lunch. [6.] Adams family warning sign, very high up indeed.

What is more Swiss than an alp or a lake? Easter Monday we decided to visit both, and faithfully followed our brother-in-law, Micha, along two-lane roads that went up and up in dizzying curves and swoops until we stopped, in the middle of a field, across from a lone fire station.

A terrible back seat passenger, I stumbled to the grassy bank by the parking lot, declared that we'd landed in paradise, what a nice field, and was it true we didn't have to drive anywhere ever again? Caroline and her cousin Julian started to collect buttercups, and the baby met grass and decided the spikey stuff just wasn't for him.

I could have stayed there all day (I was sure we could find bottled water, if not the fire station did have hydrants nearby) but just as we were starting to hook daisies into chains and discuss snack options, Micha looked up from the map he'd been pouring over since we arrived and called his troops to order. Time to march!

We started our hike in the Obbürgen valley.* It wasn't, at first, the most scenic of routes, though we did pass a long barn filled with whispering cows and a radio turned to country music. But it was stroller friendly and snow free, and after pushing the stroller, carrying the baby, and cajoling Caroline up the mountain (in turns), we felt we'd earned our lunch. The view from the top of Bürgenstock is gorgeous too - Lake Lucerne stretches out far below, the hotels that line the ridge are Magic Mountain worthy, and you can see alps nearly to Austria.

After lunch at a ridge top tavern, we hiked down a path steeper than our route up. The guys carried the stroller over the bumps and my sister and I swung Caroline between us and reminded her of the ice cream just a few kilometers away. We found her cornet at a ferry stop on the south side of the lake, and she nibbled it up while we waited for our boat (and drank martinis, yum). The ride across the lake was short but wonderful, and on the way back to my sister's house I dreamed of houseboats on the lake, and hikes in high summer. Switzerland in August, here we come!

* You can also reach the top of Bürgenstock by funicular. Built in 1888, the Bürgenstock Bahn is the oldest electrical funicular in Switzerland.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Zurich in the spring

A week ago, we drove from Prague to Switzerland to spend Easter with my sister and her family. They live just outside Zürich in a little town on the lake, but every time we visit, my sister and I try to plan a morning in the city.

Switzerland is rightfully known for its trains and public transportation, and on our trip downtown, I wound up taking plenty of pictures of the train stations we passed through. Probably the most iconic image from that morning shows [1.] our platform's clock five minutes before the S-bahn arrived.

[2.] The children didn't go with us, but James saw us off. He was aptly (and accidentally) dressed in his choo choo train overalls. Keeping with our theme, the children played trains all weekend.

[3.] The train station in my sister's town is just by the lake, beside a villa that has been turned into the town hall. The town has set up a parade of sculptures for visitors passing by.

[4. & Center] After making the requisite visits to book and toy stores, we stopped by Jelmoli, one of Zürich's biggest department stores, just before we headed home. We visited nearly every floor to cross off the last of our list - yogurt glasses, an Easter dress, straw for baskets, and coffee pastilles (a jelly bean alternative). Our last escalator ride took us to the basement where we ate Asian food at stand up counters before heading to the train station.

[5.] Electrical wires for trains in Switzerland all seem to be above ground, most likely to avoid the dangers of on the ground electrical lines.

[6.] Waiting for the train home, we people watched and I snapped the last of my station pictures.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Imagine, this is not here - Prague's John Lennon Wall

We're still settling down from the excitement of Sunday, with occasional lapses back to bubbly when a new story pops, or another cool photo gets unearthed. One of our friends who talked to both the Obamas had a story posted on (a fun fashion blog I'm partial to. Go, check it out!), and yesterday we were the lucky recipients of a picture of Caroline waving at President Obama as he shook hands after the speech. I'll post that picture as soon as I get permission from the photographer.

But April weekends aren't just about Presidential drop-ins. No, this last weekend we also celebrated from afar the birthday of Will's sister, Meg. We had just mailed her one of our favorite illustrated books - The Wall: Growing up behind the Iron Curtain, by Peter Sis - and I wanted to make sure I had the latest view of the book's main character. So Saturday we took a tram to just below the castle stairs and wandered through the little alleys connecting the mainland to Kampa Island until we found just the street we wanted.

John Lennon wall, Kampa, Prague 
Running along Velkopřevorské náměstí, not far from the Charles Bridge, this is the wall where Czech kids and the communist regime of the late 1980s clashed over graffiti and freedom of expression, just before another wall fell. Its name, the John Lennon Wall, comes from the tradition of having a portrait of Lennon, lyrics from his songs, or as you see above, a peace sign with Imagine painted into it. Today anyone can write on the wall, it isn't illegal, and when tourists come to visit they often do.

These pictures are for Meg, to show her what that wall looked like last Saturday, and to show you the most famous Czech graffiti spot of them all. Happy Birthday Meg!!

Monday, April 06, 2009

What a day!

1. Sunday, we woke early and by 7 or so were squeezing on to a tram headed to the castle. It was a very crowded tram, and also a very quiet one.
2. We were so early the security gate we came through was nearly empty - a nice surprise.
3. C was in a great mood! Apparently early mornings agree with her ;-).
4. The morning haze over Prague never quite lifted throughout the speech.
5. Our tickets placed us right next to the Czech government stage. They arrived a lot later than we did. The police were out in full force, both on the ground and...
6. ...perched on the surrounding palace roofs.
7. One of C's friends from choir found us a few hours into our wait, C was ecstatic. If you watch C-Span, we've heard that both C and her friend appeared on TV.
8. The club wielding Titan guarding the castle's gates looked like it was about to take a swing at the press club. They seemed unfazed.
9. President Obama, gesturing during his speech. It was remarkable. A transcript is here, but listening to it live and feeling the excitement all around us made it seem even more powerful.
10. Unlike the audience, the current Czech government did not react with a great deal of enthusiasm to his speech. Central here are the ex-Prime Minister Toplanek and the President, Vaclav Klaus.
11. Caroline, listening to the speech. When President Obama declared that when he was born, few people would have predicted that someone like him would one day become the President of the U.S., Caroline called out from her perch on Will's shoulders - "We did that!!"
12. Michelle Obama joined the President as he finished the speech, and they walked hand in hand down to greet the crowds. Caroline's "Hello Mr. President!" got a wave.

An amazing day.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

President Obama's Prague Speech Spot

...or, the Prague square soon to be seen round the world

This weekend, President Obama is stopping off in Prague to deliver his only public speech during his current European visit. His trip is a big deal for the Czech Republic, and already you can hear the helicopters making their practice swoops over our roofs. The U.S. embassy has cranked out its warden messages, Facebook notes, and website notices to the thousands of people who want to come to see him speak, and anyone living along the main road from the airport to downtown knows that they have to keep their windows closed, and cars should probably avoid the avenue altogether.

But if you are a resident of a country that does not sing "Kde domov můj?" at its hockey games, or drink pilsner as if it were the local ice tea, you may be wondering where exactly the President's people have chosen to have him speak, and perhaps, why?

Sunday, April 5th, at 10:00 a.m. President Obama will speak at the castle end of Hradčanské náměstí, or Hradčany Square. Pronounced h-rad-chan-skeh nam-yes-tee, Hradčanské náměstí is a long, narrow square just beyond the Prague Castle's main gates. It isn't by any means the largest square in Prague, but it has the advantage of being surrounded by buildings that are mainly museums or government buildings, the roads approaching it are easily secured, and it has a spectacular view of the castle behind it.

I thought you might be interested in seeing what the square looks like on a normal day, when perhaps thirty people are out and about on its pavement and greens, rather than thirty thousand. Please note the very vigorous guard holding a club over the right side of the gate, and his slightly stiffer, yet live, counterparts in the sentry boxes beneath him.

Edited to add: Here is a photo of Saturday's view of the Square. The guards still stand in their boxes, and I wonder if they will also be there for the speech? (Note from Monday: The guards stood sentry the entire time, even when they were behind the stage.)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Coffee, Cakes, and Ceramics

Essen isn't all about mines and heavy industry (though the Krupps family have played an important part in its history for hundreds of years). It also has street markets the equal to some of my favorite in France, cute boutiques and coffee shops, and at least one bakery that would stand out in even the most cosmopolitan of cities.

We Saturday shop in Prague, visiting local stores to pick up staples and surcees for the week ahead. It's one of my favorite times of the week and about the only reason I can imagine waking up early on a weekend morning. So when Manuel and Isa, the friends we stayed with in Essen, invited us to join them on their Saturday stroll we jumped at the chance. We visited Essen's farmers' market, stopped off at a bio grocery, and took a break for coffee before sending the strollers with their bags of flowers, cheese, sausage, vegetables and a chicken or two home with the babies and a contingency of grownups to carry the bags up the stairs.

Then C, Manuel and I headed to Manuel's favorite bakery, Criolla. A bakery run by a Colombian couple, it offers cakes, meringues, pies, caramels and even homemade marshmellows. But not the vanilla flavored marshmellows you might be thinking of. These marshmellows were meltingly delicate passion-fruit flavored morsels of goodness. If you've ever imagined the Turkish Delight in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that is exactly what they taste like. We also acquired two cake quarters for after lunch coffee and they turned out to be the moistest, most lemony cakes I've yet to eat. But the crowning glory of our taste test were the chocolate meringues. Chewy insides with outsides that melt in your mouth, they were so good, Will declared them the Best Ever Meringues and I had to agree. If you happen to be in Essen, I say, hie thee to the bakery, you will not be disappointed.

After lunch we took a tram-metro* to the mines of yesterday. There we visited a pottery studio housed in one of the old buildings of the mine. The Keramische Werkstatt Margaretenhöhe had an open house exhibition of their pottery, and we were lucky enough to be invited along to see the workshop and wares. We toured the studio (big enough for five potters and the many pots, plates and bowls they prepare before glazing, small enough to charm the children with its boathouse feel and bamboo garden) and ate more cake and coffee before heading home for the evening. It was a very cozy day, as Caroline said.

*We rode underground and above ground in it, and it looked like a tram, so I gave it the clunky title of a tram-metro. Perhaps someone else can tell me what these cool cars are called?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The World's Most Photogenic Coal Mine

Back from a whirlwind trip to Germany! Just so you know - thanks to new highways springing up all over Germany and the Czech Republic, you can now drive from Prague to Essen in six hours and thirty-eight minutes. I do love the autobahn.

One of the highlights of our visit was a trip we took to the Zollverein Coal Mine. Closed since 1993 and a UNESCO site since 2001, its buildings have since been converted into museums and studios, but the iron works still stand. Saturday we visited an open-house pottery exhibition in one of the surrounding studio buildings, and took the time to take lots of pictures.

Clockwise from the top
1. View of the mining facility from the bus stop.
2. Lantern and wheel.
3. Giant drill bit.
4. Wheel mounted in concrete.
5. Ladders along a wall.
6. Side view of the main mine shaft. At its deepest, the mine is 500 meters deep.
7. Coke processing plant smoke stacks.
8. Old signs and reflections.
9. Entrance to Zollverein.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Saturday Market

Market pictures from Essen, just in.

1. Ostrich, emu and swan eggs, ready for Easter
2. A paradise of flowers
3. Canopies and radishes, for canapes?
4. Van side, filled with tasty pastries.
5. C with tulip bouquet.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hark! the shrill trumpet sounds horse, away!*

Or to Germany rather. We're heading to the North tomorrow to visit friends and catch a blues show. Requisite stops include a toy store (C is very excited) and the biggest book store we can find (for me). I've never been to Essen before so the camera is well charged and I'm hoping the sun will make an appearance. I'll take a few for you!

*Egregious quote, presented solely to tie picture in with subject matter. The photo is yet another picture from our walk last weekend (I know I know, I'm flogging that hike to death, but trust me you'd rather see the castle than yet another picture of the odd roof-top lake outside my window - even though it DID have ice on it today. Very exciting.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Prague Street Poetry - Wings of Hope

Saturday we discovered this poem drawn on a wall at the foot of the castle steps. A little googling found its author, Jan Skácel and its title. He published "Naděje s bukovými křídly" in 1983 in a book by the same name which means, roughly translated, "Hope with beech wings."

I translated the rest this morning. The original has more subtlety to it, but I hope you can catch its notion of the new day waiting to be shaped like an angel still to be carved from wood. How that day can be angry but that it is within us to transform it. How we fly forth on the new day's wings of hope, staying grounded by the heart of what we carve our day from.

(The beech is characterized as a messenger tree in Celtic folklore; the linden is the national tree of the Czech Republic and in Roman mythology, a sign of fidelity. Make of this what you will.)

Here is the poem in Czech

"Naděje s bukovými křídly"
Jan Skácel

Novému ránu rožneme svíci
Je neznámé a nemá tváře
Jak anděl v dřevu lípy spící
A čekající na řezbáře

Někdy se na nás anděl hněvá
Anděla máme každý svého
A naděje má z buku křídla
A srdce z dřeva lipového

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blue skies above the castle

It's snowing, sleeting, and spitting rain here today, but who wants to see that? Instead I thought I'd show you some more pictures from our walk Saturday. These are all from the castle. And yes, I know, it is a bit shocking to see three photos in a kolo post. I feel extravagent!

[1.] Gate into Prague castle gardens
I'm not sure who has the job of polishing these gate fittings, but they've definitely been using their elbows to good effect. The gardens are still closed until April, so we only got to peek.

[2.] View of the castle from the moat side. From here you can see a broad swath of St. Vitus' cathedral, the round Powder Tower, and a goodly portion of the walls of 16th century houses that line a small lane around the cathedral. If you could look down you'd see a deep ravine, called the Stag Moat after the deer that used to roam through it. For a virtual tour, click to the castle's official website.

[3.] Cathedral steeples and bell tower. The bell tower has many, many stairs in it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Light Fantastic

Vltava view 
One of the constants of our life in Prague is that friends move. This year we have had to say good-bye to a record number - four sets of friends in three months. Saying good-bye is particularly hard for Caroline, who has come to believe that California is a sort of paradise where friends disappear to, never to be seen again. Over the weekend we said our farewells to another family - this time heading to the slightly closer but more unpronounceable land of Massachusetts. Before we had to say good-bye though, we all took a long walk together through the Prague castle and down the hill to the river.

The weather was perfect that afternoon and I took hundreds of pictures. This was one of my last, just as the light started to lose its luster. It shows the shore of the Vltava, a ferry turning around in the river, and Old Town in the background. This is one of my favorite views of Prague - I like the casualness of the shore meeting the water and the spires in the background, and I hope it is a view for our friends to remember with pleasure too. Bon voyage Kelly, Alain, Paige and Colby!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Slices of Friday

This morning the calendar declared that it is not only our nephew's birthday - Happy Birthday Julian!! - but also the first day of spring. The sun happily obliged the season and shone all morning. I worked away hummingly, every now and then thinking up a new reason to [1.] take another picture of the sun on daffodils, [2.] the sun on James, the sun on the floor creeping towards the wall. I saw some white flower blossoms drift by and felt what good timing that was too - the fruit trees all in bloom and the wind catching their flowers to whisk them away and into our courtyard. How poetic. How springlike.

A little later I looked out the window and realized the flower blossoms were a flurry of snow flakes. Apparently I see with a different part of my brain than I think with. As a side note, there are no fruit trees in bloom in Prague yet.

To celebrate Friday, spring, JuJu's birthday and the fact that neither household benefactor had a meeting until well past noon, W and I went to lunch together at a new Korean restaurant* nearby. I have an unabashed love of eating out of a box with chopsticks, and ordered [3.] the bulgogi box lunch. Spicey kimchi, sweet bulgogi, sticky rice, miso soup, octopus and spinach salad. Yum.

Walking home and back to work, I ducked into our local bazaar to see if they had any Easter decorations. They were still scanty on the chicks but I found [4.] an oil painting I thought beautiful. It was suspiciously cheap, and the frame is 60s awful but I brought it home anyway. In a moment almost as surreal as the morning's flower blossom snow fall, I met a French grande dame examining glassware in the store. She pulled me over to inspect the painting. "Tres tres bien," she declared, and then went into a detailed discussion about oil painting which I could not in the least follow. "Bonjour madame, hesky vikend Pani" I said as I left, the painting wrapped in newspapers and tucked under my arm to protect it from the snow, still falling.

*Sami Grill Anny Letenské 1235/5, Prague 2
Phone: (+420) 222 524 666