Monday, 29 December 2008

Buon Natale

We were very fortunate to have a wonderful Christmas. I have had some reflective time and truly feel so blessed that my family is healthy, happy and gainfully employed. We have a roof over our heads, children to love (and who love us). Santa made a stop at our house and we broke bread with some dear friends. Truly, truly, how blessed I am.
We are pretty isolated from what is happening in the states. I can't imagine what it must be like.
Santa brought the girls the dollhouse I grew up with. They can't stop playing with it. It did receive a few updates by the elves. It's been so fun watching them play with something I received such joy from when I was a child.
We received a true miracle later in the evening via big snowflakes. We had had a warm sunny day to enjoy and then this gift. Jacqueline was out early the next morning in her pj's making snow angels. She finally got in appropriate clothing and sledded down our little hill. The squeals were so much fun as was the watching. Julia wanted nothing to do with sledding or the snow. She also couldn't really walk to well in her snow boots. I ordered them a size too big I think. She looked cute though!!!
We were bums the rest of the days and enjoyed every minute of it. Now, we are off to the races with my parents arrival in a few short hours.

Friday, 19 December 2008

The week

I really love being in Italy for Christmas. There is none of the madness of home - no commercials for my children to watch and get "ideas." I am a little stressed as I have been under the weather as have my children and I need to get baking. I know my dear Italian neighbors will be bringing me Panatone soon and Grappa (yikes). I like to give back.

Jacqueline broke one of her nativity kings the other day b/c she was playing with it. I love that she plays with her nativity - that is what she talks about more than anything this season - Jesus' birth. Since she goes to a religious school here, she actually does a Christmas play. Two of my girlfriends have told me this week that Christmas is not discussed at all at school and the kids are pretty much reprimanded if they discuss Jesus. I am thankful Jacqueline knows the true meaning of Christmas - the celebration of our Lord's birth. She may not be able to comprehend it all, but we are getting there. Believe me, I'm a constant work in progress. I am thankful I have two girlfriends with whom I do Bible Study with every week. It keeps me fed and accountable.

Since I am on bigger topics today - did you know that on the military bases they play the national anthem daily? You stop whatever you are doing and face the flag even if you are driving. I wonder what our country would be like if this happened every day at 4:45? Also, when I went to the movies last week, they played the national anthem and you stand before the movie starts. The individual I was with said if someone cut her she would bleed "red, white and blue." Isn't that terrific? I wish the same for us all. I treasure our freedom and so much about our country. I am more patriotic living here than ever before. We are all rich for being Americans.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Mad rush

Well, we got a beautiful new piece of Italian furniture - thanks Mom and Dad - made in Verona. Due to this piece, my house was totally rearranged - thanks Kristianne. Yes, totally rearranged, just before T'giving. We redid 5 of the 7 rooms in the house. Our living room upstairs had one sofa, two wing chairs, the dining room table and some book cases. Well, now the bookcases are where the table was, another sofa was moved in from the garage and the leather chair is up from the play room.
We moved the girls in together and brought all of the playroom stuff up (and yes, I will paint another mural). Julia's room is now the arts and crafts room plus two shrunks are in there for their clothes.
We brought a table down from the attic and it is now in the kitchen.
The playroom is now the dining room with our hutch,the wing chairs, the new piece and the table. I had to paint over the mural. We hung curtains too.
I have to say, it look AWESOME and I love the way our house functions now. Michael though, has banned Kristianne from coming back. Our hat is off to Dave for moving the furniture with Michael and for Dawn hearing me moan and groan about all the work. Don't worry - we left the guest room intact.
It wasn't finished when we left for T'giving. I finished it hours before we had Michael's office - 30 people over for dinner.
Also during this week Jacqueline decided to become a "Poopcaso" Because she didn't use her brain (her words), she decided to draw on the wall with her poop. Needless to say, Michael came home for lunch so I could walk around the block a few times. I had 3 Christmas parties in 24 hours this same week. All were terrific!!! One was at a Villa built in the 14th Century and we had a melt in your mouth souffle, mustard pork, vegtable risotto and tiramsu plus wine and prosecco!!! Ahhh. I can still savor all those flavors. Raffa catered our JAG Christmas party and we had beef, lasagna, her famous tomatoes and spinach.
JDWs school has a sale to raise money and I bought a beautiful nativity set. It was built by one of the nuns brothers. It will truly be a treasure.
It's been wonderful having Jacqueline speak Italian. She loves to show off how much she knows - just spouts it off now everywhere. The Italians eat it up. This is of course on a day she isn't writing all over the walls with poop.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Pictures of Praha

Astronomical Clock

Yummy. All the desserts were good especially at the Christmas market.

On the train

The Magic of Prague

Okay. I will admit that I am a bit of a snob. I like good things, good wine, good friends and chips and salsa. What a surprise to find the first and last one is Prague of all places.
Last week, I was wondering if we should really go. The tickets for the overnight train were expensive and everyone kept telling me how awfully cold it is there and I wouldn't sleep on the train. There are two things I don't tolerate well at all: being cold and being tired.
I also wondered if I would miss Thanksgiving dinner. Last year, we went to the club on base and then left for our trip (what a memory that is with JDW throwing up all over the place as we walked in).
But we went even though Julia had had a 104 fever the day before! We drove 15 minutes to the Pordenone train station and hopped the 9 o'clock train to Udine where we took the 11 o'clock pm train to Praha/Prague. Our steward was fabulous and brought the girls souvenir tickets. He was from Vienna. A friend of mine warned me the cars were dirty, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was glad she suggested pillowcases and blankets as the pillowcases were lacking the blankets scratchy. The car really was clean - just old. We also received 4 bottles of free water. WOW. I truly deserved a whole case after what we paid plus dinner, drinks and b'fast, but alas, we didn't get any of that. The girls quickly conked out, but Michael and I were up as Julia coughed most of the night.
The next morning we arrived in Prague around noon with the sun shining! Yeah. The lady whose apartment we were renting sent her driver to pick us up at the train station. This was so much better than figuring out public transportation after no sleep. Our apartment (found through Rick Steves) overlooked the River in the Jewish Quarter. Jacqueline quickly spied the ice skating rink also in front of the building. Lidia walked us over to a sandwich shop for lunch. It was hard getting use to their currency since lunch cost 500 crowns (100 = 5 dollars). As you can see, food wasn't cheap. Lidia was stunning - She had long dark hair, slimly built and tall with a stunning red coat on. I know my mouth was hanging open when she came out of the door. I expected someone who looked German.
We came home after lunch and slept. It felt so good. We then headed up the street to another Rick Steves recommendation: Bohemian Bagel. Now, I know we should have eaten Czech food, but we didn't. After eating as much pizza and pasta as we do, we craved American food. I was absolutely thrilled to see a turkey sandwich with stuffing and gravy on it and a side of cranberry sauce. Hallelujah! I had my turkey in Prague. It was so decadent with the stuffing on the sandwich. There was also a playroom for kids. Michael and I also got to have a conversation along with him eating a Philly Cheesesteak (surprisingly good). Whoo Hoo! We sat near some Americans who just moved to Prague and we spoke with them a bit about living abroad. Oh. And I had Bailey's cheesecake for dessert. It melted in my mouth. I want to go back just to eat here again.
The next day we toured around Old Town and Wenceslas Square (which isn't a square) and yes, had a coffee drink at Starbucks. We happened to sit down by some Texans from Katy. We just wandered around the city looking at the sights and walked along the river. Jacqueline and Michael went ice skating that evening.
Okay, so we had to finally get a move on the next day. We hit the Castle Quarter - on a hill in Prague you see a church standing out above the city - it is a magnificent sight. I really enjoyed the architecture of Prague and all the windows dressed for Christmas (especially Louis Vitton as it had crystals suspended from the ceiling with the purses dangling in between). It was kind of like being in NYC to look at its windows as many of the stores are the same.
We also saw a wedding at the Town Hall. The girl was wearing a 1980's wedding dress - pouffy for miles and miles and miles. We also enjoyed watching all the barely there mini-skirts and lepoard jackets and fur coats (my gosh, I couldn't believe the number of furs).
Back to Castle Quarter, we walked over to catch the tram up to the castle. Well, we got on the tram going the wrong way. We didn't get off either as Rick Steves said this tram was a good way to see the city for cheap. Well, he was right, but I don't recommend it! We saw the suburbs and everything in between. I do have to say it was worth it for one thing. As we changed trams there was a drunk guy on the tram behind us. The conductor got on board and literally drug him down the stairs by the lapel of his coat. His head went thwap, thwap, thwap against each step. We all just stood there with our mouths hanging open aghast. Jacqueline asked me what was wrong with him. I told her he was drunk and explained to her what that was. She looked at me shaking her head and said "I am NEVER getting drunk." I will forever reminder her of this story.
We really enjoyed the church and the quarter once we got there. I can't imagine what Prague is like in season. It was pretty crowded out of season. It was interesting seeing the tomb of Wenceslas as I love that carol. We also loved the Loreta church with the frescoed courtyard. It also helped that the organ was being played.
We walked back down the hill to our apartment as there was a Mexican food place across the street from where we were staying! The chips (very salty) and salsa were terrific as was the guacamole. I had nachos while Michael had a burrito and the girls a quesadilla. The food was all good and plentiful. I washed it all down with a margarita, of course.
After our dinner, we went to Bethlehem Chapel for a concert by the Royal Prague Symphony. The girls lasted 30 minutes, which was great! I didn't bring anything for them to do or else they would have lasted longer. I wanted this Chapel to be beautiful, but it wasn't. It was a white square with some frescos. Prettier on the inside than out.
The following morning the kiddos and Michael went to b'fast at Bohemian Bagel. I ran over to St. James Cathedral. Absolutely incredible fresco's again. The hanging hand was a nice touch. I went over to the Mucha Museum too. I gathered the troops and we watched the Astronomical clock chime on the hour. We then headed over to Little Quarter again to take the funicular up to the Perin hill where there is a mini Eiffel tower. The view was incredible. The weather was warmer on Sunday and we had blue skies. We also hit the mirror maze. JDW and JLW loved it, but it only had two rooms and was short - we were there maybe 15 minutes. We headed back down the Hill, picked up some artwork and walked across the beautiful Charles Bridge as the sun was setting. What a sight. It will forever be ingrained in my head since my camera died.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Today Dawn and I hit a store for Christmas shopping and we both scored big! I can't put what I got b/c it is my sweet nieces Christmas present nor can I put Dawn's down b/c it is for her gift for their squadron Christmas party. We were smiling when we left the store b/c neither realized we'd come out with these awesome gifts.
Then, since we had some time to spare, we tried to go to lunch. We went to 4 restaurants. At the fourth, the man delivering bread started asking me if we were looking for a lunch place (except he used a different word than I knew) and I told him yes. He told me to follow him - we could barely keep up with him.
He took us to a restaurant I had been wanting to go to and Dawn had been once (but for dinner). The lady at the counter was none too pleased we were there at 11:45 - she kept saying to me "Presto. Presto." So we sat down and had a glass of Prosecco until they were open. We had a delicous crepe filled with cheese and speck (ham). Yummy! I love watching the Italians come in and eat. Most of them are dressed so nicely especially the older men - usually in a sport coat.
The days are getting crisp again and winter is definitely in the air. We had 10 straight days of rain and one day it didn't get any higher than 48. It's difficult for this Texas girl. The following morning though we woke up to snow on the mountains.
Julia turned 2 on Monday. I can't believe it. She is getting big, but thankfully can snuggle right down in my arms still. I'll post pictures of her party next. We just had a few friends over for dinner to celebrate. I'm not sure I really want to celebrate 2, I'd just like to fast forward to 4!

Friday, 14 November 2008

so many things...

Today, my neighbor frantically came over as I was leaving telling me an animal was in our yard. I freak b/c what animal is in our yard? Our yard is completely fenced in. I am communicating 1/2 in English and 1/2 in Italian. She shows me - a sweet little hedgehog is stuck in our badminton net (it was put properly away too). It looked up at me with it's little brown eyes crying "Help me." So I pulled out the cell and called my husband because I could.

You have got to be kidding me that I was going to get it out just then with the two girls running around and I was suppose to be at a friends house setting up for a party.

Michael came home and thankfully our wonderful landlord, Gisueppe, pulled up at the same time. They were out there for almost an hour cutting it out of the net. Michael said he kept kissing and talking to the hedgehog in Italian. He then was very excited and Michael had absolutely no idea what he was saying - he ran off and then ran back with a head of lettuce for this sweet animal. We hope and pray it is okay.

Michael just got back from the states. It was a wild week without him of course. The rain has been non-stop! Not just a light rain, but the type of rain that gets you wet no matter how big the umbrella. My wellies came in super handy this week as did my new umbrella. It was only 49 yesterday! The week of no sunshine was difficult for this Texas girl. As you can see, the girls had some fun, painting their feet with pink toenail polish. Julia contracted an ear infection and a stomach bug. This is when I cry uncle and say parenting is for the young.

Alas, with the rain, we did get a break today. The sun shone on our beautiful mountains, which had a very good dusting of snow. The next landscape I go to will seem so plain to the beauty I face every day. I do appreciate every moment of it. Tonight Jacqueline told me she threw the stars in the sky. I just love that.

The past two days I have participated in Operation Yellow Ribbon. I hadn't done this at all before. Volunteers at our base prepare food (sandwiches, baked goods etc.) and drinks for all the people headed downrange or coming home. One Colonel I spoke with was making his fifth trip. I am so blessed we've only had to do one (albeit it was for a year). It was so moving being able to do something "hands on" for our troops. It also brings the stark reality home about the war and not just some image on tv. There are so many people that pass through our midst that we serve. I do plan on keeping this up so I can give them a little slice of home and show my appreciation for the sacrifice they are making for all of us. I hope God blesses and protects them as I wonder which one won't make it home.