Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The First of the Lasts

Recognize the girl behind that mask??


She's the last of our children at home...my sweet girl...on her final day of Czech school!!

While she still has maturita exams to complete in the coming three weeks, today was the last day of school for Claire. From here on out she'll be prepping for, and taking, her big exams.

But what happens the last day of school here for the fourth year students? They dress up and go into town asking for money! I'm sure Claire will write about that on her blog as it's quite a tradition here (You can see it HERE).

But for me, this is a day that hardly seems possible. Wasn't she just headed off to kindergarten??!!

It's not time to get too sentimental as there are many more milestones to complete before she heads to the US for college in August.

However, I have been documenting first and last days of school for a long time, so couldn't miss this one!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Taking the Train

I didn't grow up riding trains.

I think the first, and only time, I ever rode one in the U.S. was in my 20's!

But trains are a way of life here in Czech, and honestly, it's my favorite mode of transportation.

Due to an unfortunate event (see HERE for Claire's story of what happened), we had to get up early this morning for a trip to the US embassy in Prague.

Even though we were on the road at 5:45 this morning, headed for the train station in Ostrava to catch the 6:30 AM to Prague, I had that happy feeling of "We're going for a train ride" the whole way there!

I really do love a train ride.

Riding on the train is so much more efficient than a car ride...everyone gets to relax and enjoy the ride.

 Or, get some work done, as was the case for Dave! :)

While I like to read too, I mostly enjoy just looking out the window and soaking in the beauty of Czech...especially when spring has just arrived and the fields, trees and flowers are positively lush with new growth.

Oh yeah. And I like it when they bring the dessert tray around and offer you Chunky Monkey ice cream.

Maybe that's why I like taking the train so much.

We weren't in Prague long today - just until 3:30 (and if you heard the news that there was an explosion in the city, there was. Thankfully no one was seriously injured, but a building was seriously damaged from the natural gas leak that caused it. We were on the metro when it happened so didn't even hear the blast, though people said you could hear it from a long ways away).

Riding back in the afternoon was even better than the morning ride...the closer we got to Ostrava, the more sun we saw (surprise, surprise!), and the greener the fields. I spent most of the trip looking out the window at sites like this. AWWWW! I love Czech in the springtime!

I'm thankful for the train system here...and all over Europe really. It's a system that works well, is reasonably priced, comfortable, and a whole lot of enjoyment for the money!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Tentatively Better

Minus the beard, that's about how I've felt the past five days.

Furrowed brow, hurting eyes, and a head as hard as stone.

But this evening I can tentatively say the migraine has broken after five long days.


These only come about once a year...no rhyme or reason, just enforced down time. I'm anxious to get back up and going so am hoping tomorrow when I wake, I'll feel like myself again instead of this guy in the picture! :)

If you've prayed for me, THANK YOU!

Friday, April 26, 2013


Grateful. And comforted. That's what I am today.

Dave is such a good man, taking care of and comforting me when I don't feel well (day four of the migraine).

It's not easy to be on the receiving end. I'd rather be the one giving help and comfort.

But for now, I've had no choice but to receive it.

I'm thankful that Dave is tuned into giving comfort to me on the Father's behalf. Hopefully I'm continuing to learn how to give comfort as I receive it from him.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

Thursday, April 25, 2013


As I've laid in bed these past three days with a severe migraine, it's been good to review in my head the verses I've memorized since the beginning of the year, especially this one.

At times like this when I'm not feeling well, can't do anything (shout outs to Claire and Dave for taking care of me!), not even move much, it's absolutely comforting to know that my Father is over even THIS.

He's enthroned above it all.

And He's right here beside me.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Colorful Italy

One of the inescapable traits of Italy is the vibrant colors you see, especially in the markets.

Don't you want an espresso in one of these colorful cups??

Walking through the market in Campo de' Fiori provided the perfect place to capture the gorgeous colors.

Though I was only "window shopping" (can you call it that if you're in an outdoor market?!), I couldn't resist lingering over these beautiful pieces of Italian pottery. What Italian specialty would you serve on those plates? Or would you just display them for inspiration?!

Wouldn't that make a gorgeous bridesmaid bouquet? Wow...what would the wedding party look like if they were dressed in those spectacular colors?

And then...there is the plethora of fruit, sitting out in stall after stall in the market! How can you resist a blood orange?? SO tasty!

Strawberries are already in season there. You just want to pop one of those in your mouth, don't you?!

It was seemingly an endless supply of fresh veggies, just waiting to be whipped up into something delicious.

Who doesn't want to eat their vegetables when they look this yummy? Artichoke anyone?!

In Czech, we don't have asparagus in the stores very often. I wished I could've bought some to take home!

And then there were the rows and rows of spices. Truly, I wanted to buy them all! Sadly, I bought none. But they were fun to look at!

I was thinking of Claire when I took this photo...if she'd been there I think I wouldve been buying one of those fruit cups for her!

 Ah Italy, what a beautiful country you are!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Wonder

Whenever I'm traveling, it's the little things that intrigue me.

Oh, it's fun to see famous landmarks too!

But while we were in Rome for a few days, it gave me no end of delight to notice the small things. I often had the phrase, "I wonder..." rambling around in my head as we walked through the city.

Like...I wonder how many years this gentleman has been selling roasted chestnuts in a quaint square of Rome?

I wonder if these two men meet up in Piazza Navona every Sunday morning with their dogs? Or do they even know each other??

I wonder who would buy a "Hello Kitty" stove top espresso maker? All the other colors make sense to me. But "Hello Kitty"? Not so much!

I wonder who cast this door knocker? Did they create it in the likeness of someone they knew?! And how long has it been on this door??

I wonder who left an Italian flag out their window? How long has it been there? Do they even remember it's there?

I wonder who this man is sending a text to? Is he waiting for someone at the red mailboxes and they haven't showed up yet? Or was that just a good place to stop and write someone?

I wonder how much money is made each week by people who throw a coin in Trevi Fountain, hoping it will bring them back to Rome?!

(Actually, the tour guide answered that one for me! Approximately 3500 Euros...$4500...a week! They give it to the Red Cross for relief work)

I wonder who uses the garden on top of the yellow building that overlooks the Pantheon? Do they have their morning coffee up there?

I wonder if the people walking on this little street know that just behind them, at the place with the yellow lettering, the best coffee in the world is sold? Well, at least it is according to Roman citizens! Our tour guide said that all those who live in Rome know this is THE place to come!

I wonder if I'll ever have one of these coffee drinks again at the place that sells the best coffee in the world?!

It's called a "Caffe Granita" and is frozen espresso, shaved into ice, along with a whole lot of whipped cream. I'm hoping my wish at Trevi Fountain will get me back to Rome to have one of these again someday!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Not A Coincidence

This is definitely not one of my best photos.

But it's got a great story to go along with it!

On Tuesday we were in Florence to see the sites with the group we've been traveling with.

Our first stop was the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo's "David" statue. I've seen it before, but was still excited because we had a great guide who was full of interesting stories, not just facts about it.

Before we went up for a close look, she had us sit down on benches while she spoke. I took the above photo with my iPhone just for memory's sake...a glimpse of "David", behind one of Michelangelo's unfinished statues.

I saw the guide (the one standing in the above photo) obviously in the middle of explaining something to the women in front of her, and actually thought "I hope I don't get in trouble for taking a photo with my phone!", since she looked right at me the second after I took it! (Shhh...not supposed to take pictures in there!)

A few moments later we walked around to the other side, headed towards "David" and as we walked, I glanced to the left and saw...

Two friends of ours from Vancouver, Washington!!!!!!!

They were the very women the guide was speaking to in the picture above!! I had absolutely NO idea it was them when I snapped that quick photo moments earlier!

Eileen had actually written to me last week to say that her daughter, Megan, had won a trip through the travel agency she works with and that they'd be in Italy at the very same time as we would.

From the dates she gave me, I knew there was a slight chance we'd be in Florence on the same day. But because our group's schedule was planned by someone other than us, I couldn't give any times or places of when or where we could meet, so told her I'd just keep my eye out for them.

I really COULD NOT believe it that we actually saw each other!!!!

We had less than five minutes together, but it was oh so sweet to have crossed paths.

In Florence, Italy of all places!!!

**Eileen and Megan, I hope the rest of your trip was just great!!!!

The Banqueting Table

Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of my life.

The actual activity was something I have only dreamed of, so that fed my soul down to the core!

But there was also the symbolic nature of it that touched me so deeply, and will forever be ingrained in my thoughts and emotions.

Down the road from where we are staying here in Tuscany is a family chateau, working vineyard and olive grove. It has belonged to the family for nearly 600 years, but in recent history, one hundred of those years the estate was abandoned and in disrepair. 

In the 90's, the Italian family decided it was time to reclaim their heritage, so moved in and began restoring and renovating.

Twenty years later, they have brought back to life this beautiful place...though not to new world standards, but in keeping with their family history and the old world that it began in.

Of course there are modern conveniences, but you actually feel a sense of what it was like all those years ago, and the heart and soul of the family who first began it.

This is Fiona, not a family member (originally from Scotland, but married an Italian and never went back!). But she works for them, giving on-site cooking classes a few days a week.

She spent three hours with us in the original kitchen of the chateau, teaching us and guiding us in a most wonderful cooking experience!

All the ingredients had been laid out and prepared for us before we arrived. We listened carefully to her instruction and followed step by step, where she was leading us.

I was truly experiencing bliss working in this old world kitchen! Yes, I'm using an electric mixer, BUT! I was standing on a floor that's been there nearly 600 years, looking up at shelves that were built centuries ago, standing at a counter where countless cooks, maids, servants and perhaps even children have stood.

The sense of history was so near to the surface.

And there must've been something a bit magical about the kitchen as EVEN DAVE was cooking!

Among other dishes, we made homemade gnocchi. Yes, those are mine...I never would've imagined making those!

Fresh asparagus bought at the market that morning, went into a dish along with the gnocchi, a process guided by Fiona, but mostly left to our hands.

There was something so rich about being together, working together, doing something so beautiful and of value. I seriously wanted to break out in a little happy dance at times because it was just THAT fun and meaningful!!!

After finishing the preparations and plating, it was time to sit down at the centuries old table, and enjoy the meal together.

How I loved sharing it with everyone, but of course, especially Dave - particularly since he'd been in the kitchen with me all those hours!

As we sat together, enjoying the meal, it was as if I'd been transported to heaven for those moments.

We'd been guided and taught.

We were given responsibility.

We experienced the joy of fellowship in the process of working together, making mistakes, learning and laughing.

And in the end, at the leading of our teacher, we were led to a banqueting table...the culmination of all that we'd experienced.

And it was there the symbolism met me. We were in the middle of what our lives are like right now - working together, being led, experiencing trial and error, joy and laughter.

As we sat at the table, I thought, "This is where I'm headed!!"

One day I'll sit at the banqueting table in heaven, with the greatest "teacher", the King of Kings!

Around the table will be all those who labored with me on earth.

And there we will join together in the greatest celebration of our lives!

Worship, praise, and giving honor to the One who sits on the throne.

How I look forward to that day!!

And how thankful I am for glimpses of it here on earth.