Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Strange Things That Happen When the Temperature Approaches Zero Degrees Fahrenheit

You think to yourself, vegetables are highly overrated, and try to get out of walking across one simple street to buy a few, scurvy be damned.

Eventually, you talk yourself into going vegetable shopping, and you wonder how many pairs of long underwear will fit under your jeans.

Turns out, only one fits. You briefly consider ordering your jeans one size bigger next year.

Once outside, you are afraid to look up for fear of feeling your eyeball juice crystallize in the wind.

You start doing cost-benefit analyses in your head, like "if I put my gloved hands in my pockets, my fingers are less likely to freeze solid and snap off of my hands, but I am more likely to break an elbow when I fall on a patch of ice."

You put your hands in your pockets. You're a risk-taker like that.

You realize, for the first time since that ill-advised trip to Siberia one long-ago December, that you do indeed have nose hairs. And all of them are frozen.

When you finally arrive at the vegetable kiosk, you make endless idle chit-chat with the vendor to avoid going back outside.

On the way home, you risk a brief squint up at the sun (your eyeballs don't freeze shut!) and, despite the fact that you haven't seen that happy glowing orb in days, you wish it would just go away already, because everyone knows it's warmer outside when it's cloudy.

5 minutes from home, and you can't feel your face anymore. That whole "there's no bad weather, only bad clothing" thing is an obvious lie. Unless maybe you can buy clothing for your face? Resolve to google "face clothes" when you get home.

Home at last. You're already completely numb, so you think to yourself, what the hell, I might as well take the dog for a walk now. It doesn't even feel cold anymore!

How can the dog not be shaking from cold? Resolve to google "how to knit clothes from dog fur" when you get home.

Walk in the house. As the feeling returns to your extremities, you break into a sweat and wonder when it got so darned hot in here.

On the plus side, it's supposed to hit 21 degrees tomorrow - that's practically beach weather!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Prague, Part Two

Back again with more from Prague! If you're the type of person who hates reading about all of the awesome vacations your friends go on while you're stuck at home doing dishes (and let's face it, we're all a little bit like that), then skip this post, because it isn't for you. It's for ME, to remember our little adventure, years hence. It also gives me one more place to store my photos. Ever since the Great "My iMac Deleted All of My Photos" Debacle of 2013, I like to put my favorite photos somewhere other than iPhoto, because iPhoto is evil.

So, without further ado: The Charles Bridge. One of the most beautiful spaces in all of Prague. Which explains why every tourist in the Czech Republic converged upon the place at the same time as we did, despite the fact that it was about 100 degrees below zero that morning.

My kids are like a walking Land's End catalog.

One of the many statues for which the bridge is famous. Those specks are birds, not a dirty camera lens.

Walking across the bridge, we lost S and his friend N in the crowd. Which wouldn't be a problem, except that my ONE GOAL for the morning was to take a family photo on that bridge, but 1/6 of the family had gone missing within the first 5 minutes on the bridge, and at least one other person was beginning to whine about the cold already. (In my defense, though, it was pretty cold.)

At the end of the bridge. Who are all of these people and why are they ruining my vacation photos???

It's okay, though. It was well worth fighting the crowds, because on the other side of that archway we found a Starbucks. With restrooms. And central heating. Because did I mention it was freaking cold?

Another bridge statue. They started work on this bridge in the 1300s. Amazing. 

Finally found the boys and got that family photo on the bridge.
Back in Old Town, here's that famous Astronomical Clock.

The Old Town Market at night. We walked through it/stopped in it about 5 times every day on our way somewhere.  Hot chocolate and trdelnik everywhere. So good.

No idea what this is, but it was right by our hotel, so we walked through it every day.

The Old Jewish Cemetery. Very cool and very creepy. The girls hated it, but not as much as they hated the attached museum. Don't take your kids there unless they are old enough to understand and process big ideas like the Holocaust, because let me tell you, it is not easy to explain to an 8-year-old girl that yes, all of the kids who drew these pictures we are looking at were later killed by the Nazis. Also, as Mrs. GlobeHopper pointed out on her blog, there is very little explanation available on the walls, so invest in the audio guide if you want to understand what happened there.

Another view inside the cemetery.
Totally haunted. Has to be.

Back outside again.

...and back to shopping.

Giant bubbles. Much more fun than cemeteries.

The Segway workers offered the kids free rides. They loved it.

One last family photo on our last morning in Prague. I already want to go back.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Prague Christmas Markets, Part One

Me, I like a good beach vacation, full of sunshine, shorts, books and fancy cold drinks by the pool. But Bart has been wanting to go see a Christmas market since, well, forever, so I decided it was about time to let him choose a vacation destination.

We researched the various countries and their various markets, and were sort of settling down to the idea of Prague, in the Czech Republic, when we heard that our friends the GlobeHoppers were planning the same trip at the same time. Upon hearing that news, we immediately bought our tickets to Prague and figured we'd just elbow our way into their family.

So it was that a few days before Christmas, and just one day before my birthday, we hopped on a plane for a combined winter vacation/reunion/birthday party.

It was so, so fun. We ate and drank and ate and drank. And then we ate and drank some more. We meandered from market to market, with no definite end in mind, unless you count my goal of sampling gleuwein and trdelnik from every vendor we passed.

The kids all had a great time, though truth be told, I think their favorite part may have been hanging out with their friends in the executive lounge of the hotel at the end of every day.

It was a second visit for me and Bart - we went there back in 2000, when our eldest was just a baby, and I've wanted to return ever since. How does one get posted there, exactly? Because that would be one of my top "dream posts."

Santa was in the hotel every afternoon. And every afternoon, Ainsley had to visit him.

She even convinced most of the other kids to visit him as well.

Trdelnik. Oh. My. Gawd. So delicious. This is basically a sweet yeasted dough that is wrapped around a metal canister and cooked over a fire, then rolled in cinnamon sugar. I think I bought and subsequently consumed about 3 per day. Plus or minus a few. Mostly plus.

Close up shot of the rollers and cookers.

Rolling in cinnamon sugar.

I bought them for the girls and then demanded bites from each of theirs.

With the GlobeHoppers in front of one of the smaller markets.

Dinner. Gleuwein and sausage. Delicious.

More gleuwein, and hot cider for the kids.

When you get tired of gleuwein, you can always switch to hot mead.  But if you're a lightweight - and I am! - stick with the small portion.

Mr. GlobeHopper started drinking gleuwein early. So I had to join him. Obviously. This is what friends do for one another.

Lest you think it was all alcohol and fried dough, let me reassure you: there were also chocolate crepes involved.

And cookies!

Kyra bought a big cookie at one of the markets, carried it back to the hotel, and then convinced a waitress to contribute a Czech chocolate bar. This was my birthday "cake." Yes, with more wine. It was my vacation AND my birthday, so stop judging already.

My boys.

S with his friend N from Jordan, whose mom was forcing him to hold up a camel for some sort of a middle eastern "Flat Stanley" situation. This is probably why S is smiling, but N is not.

Ainsley followed B and her sister around everywhere.

Us, the first night, in Old Town Square. Rainy and cold, but beautiful.

It looks sort of haunted, doesn't it? It's the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, built in the 14th and 15th centuries. There was a picture of the Pope inside the church, causing Ainsley to squawk "Kyra! There's that guy from your first communion!!"

You're not allowed to take pictures inside the church, but someone in our family took a surreptitious shot with his phone. I'm not going to tell you who did it, but I'll give you a hint - it wasn't the person who was on her second glass of gleuwein.
Back outside again. The famous Astronomical Clock is just behind Bart's shoulder.

A typical Old Town street. Can you see why I love it so much?

Right. So these pictures are not ordered chronologically, obviously. Here's the Old Town Square Christmas tree, with the Lady of Tyn in the background.

Kyra and Ainsley got to hold a pair of turtledoves down at the Wenceslas Square market.
Stay tuned - more photos to come in another post!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas from Moscow!

It's snowing rather a lot here, but I'm warm inside, surrounded by bits of wrapping paper and too-many-gifts. Aidan is outside trying out his new snowboard, having helped his dad shovel the walk already. Seamus is upstairs setting up his new green screen, which, I have no idea why he wanted one? But apparently he is happy about it.

Breakfast sour cream apricot braid was a hit. Chocolate mousse is chilling in the fridge for tonight's dessert. Dinner has yet to be made, but I'm taking a break to upload some pictures of the festivities for our faraway loved ones.

Merry Christmas to friends and family all across the globe. I'm blessed to have each one of you in my life, even if many of you are too far away today.

At yesterday's Breakfast with Santa.

New Christmas dresses from Nana G!

Aidan's big present - a monitor for his computer. Hopefully he can set it up himself!

She asked Santa for "pink boxing gloves." This does not bode well for the rest of us.

The gloves do go nicely with the new princess dress, though.

The kids all got new hats from Nana S.

And Kyra got her own knitting supplies.

I can't knit. But my mom can!

More earrings to fight over.

Remember last Christmas? I was still taller back then.
Well, at least I'm taller than one of them still.

When asked what he's grateful for this year, Seamus said he's happy that "dad is home with us this year."

Gee, do you think she's excited much?

Please. Write your own stuff.