Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Belated Father's Day!

As I was away this weekend, I didn't have a chance to pay tribute to my daddy on the blog actually on Father's Day. (Though I did call him!)

My dad is a wonderful father: he's always loved and supported me, worked hard as an engineer for the Navy to provide for us, and taught us about Jesus. He taught us the practice of not blindly accepting doctrine, but checking it against the Bible. He helped Mom homeschool us, especially highschool math--and wouldn't let me ever say, "I hate math" during my temper-tantrum, math-disliking years (I finally fell in love with math at algebra). He can sing almost every song on the oldies station. He's a terrific mixture of serious and goofball.

He instilled in us the importance of maps:
A Family Classic

He loves Don Quixote and Sancho Panza:
Dad, Don Quixote, and Sancho Panza

He does hardcore things like build houses in Morocco:
Dad was hardcore!

He loves animals, including Farad:
Daddy bonds with Farad

And Daddy really loves Mommy:

Thanks for being so terrific, Dad! Love you!

P.S. Dad and Mom signed up to walk the Seattle Half Marathon in November, the day before their 30th wedding anniversary! They were inspired by the expo last year, when they realized this race has entire official walking divisions for the half and full. They're training seriously and doing fantastically! :D

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dobrý den, Praha! Wien und Praha, Part X

We're finally moving on to the Prague part of my big European adventure in April!

April 11, 2011

After spending a day in Bratislava, I left my wonderful Viennese home (Hotel Alexander), U- and S-Bahned to Wien Miedling, and waited.

Leaving Vienna

My trusty travel packs

I settled into my seat, where I napped, read, listened to music, drank coffee, and enjoyed the view for the next five hours.
I'm back on a train!

For the first few hours, I shared my compartment with a young, overly-affectionate Czech couple. Note to young couples: people stuck in a small room with you for three hours do NOT need to see demonstrations of your love for each other. Ever.

They left in Brno, though! Welcome to the Czech Republic! :D
Pretty cathedral

Like when we crossed into Slovakia, I was thrilled when signs switched from German to Czech. :)

Soon, we arrived in Prague! I admit, I was a little apprehensive. Mostly excited, but a bit nervous. Again, the language question bothered me, but then every single travel guide or website about Prague emphasized over and over: The Pickpockets. The cleanliness and shininess of the interior of the Praha hlavní nádraží (main train station) was a good sign.


The crowded of smoking young folk around the exterior was not. But whatever. By the time I got outside into the sunshine, my practically-unquenchable excitement for New Places displaced the concerns. Prague was toasty-warm. After removing layers of clothing, adjusting my bags, and orienting myself to the map and surroundings, I trudged off in search of my next home-away-from-home.

My first attempt at crossing the busy Wilsonova and Legerova streets was not the most efficient, but I eventually found a pedestrian tunnel. In about ten minutes I arrived at the Náměstí Míru (Peace Square), with a charming Easter Market, and then it was a short couple-minute walk to Americká street (easy to remember!) for my hotel.

The family-run Holiday Home Pension, Vinohrady, looked like a nice, old-ish apartment building. The reception office was completely dark, but the door was open. English instructions on the door said to ring the buzzer on the door, but this just made the phone in the reception office ring, as far as I could see. A few minutes later, someone ran down from upstairs and breathlessly asked how I got in. "The door was open..." "...oh." She took my pile of Czech Korunas (not Coronas), told me about included breakfast and airport shuttles, and showed me to my room. For one person, the room was quite large. I had access to a kitchenette, but never used it. The closet was spacious and had safe. The bathroom was TINY, but had all the conveniences I needed. The bed (two twins shoved together) was comfy. (My only real complaint: the towels were so SCRATCHY.) I'd stay here again: I felt quite safe and was not worried about my possessions at anytime. For the price, the comfort was perfect. :)

After a brief rest, I explored the neighborhood of Vinohrady. First, I stopped at the Easter Market in the Náměstí Míru and ate a sweet pastry Edmund and Amber recommended: a Trdelník. They wrap pastry dough around metal cylinders, bake them, and dip them in sugar, cinnamon, almonds, whatever. So good, and I lost count of how many I ate. (Five in 2.5 days, possibly. They were really, really cheap. And good.)
Settled in my hotel and found tasties at the easter market
Cathedral in Námestí Míru

I set out on a Lonely Planet guidebook-suggested walk around Vinohrady. From the square, I headed down Americká, past my hotel and through pretty shops, until it turned into Kopernikova and hit a big park. Amid much construction, I couldn't find an entrance to the park, so I walked back up Rybalkova and up to Hradešinská.

Sights along the way:
Pretty building
I walked through a lovely neighborhood
Narrow, pothole-y streets with lots of cars
Green trees
Gate and view

And what?!

Suddenly, amid the yellow-ish brick and cement of the shops and homes, the Žižkov TV Tower loomed over the landscape:
First view of the TV Tower!

The Soviets built and left this for Prague. It's quite out of place--one might call it even an eyesore--but the giant creepy babies crawling up the side (by David Černý) turn it into art. Strange, media-loving, zombie-baby art.

More beautiful examples of spring in Europe:

Getting closer to giant crawling infants:
More of Zizkov's TV Tower

On Vinohradská, I passed the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord:
Crazy church building.

I ended back near my hotel and had dinner just off of the square. The restaurant had free wifi, good red wine, and delicious cheese. I ordered a fried cheese appetizer and a Greek salad...which had a ton of cheese. I left so full of cheese. Mmmmm.

Tired from travel, I called it an early night. :)

See the creepy babies crawling up the tower?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Baby Shower!!

I'll get back to Wien und Praha soon, but for now, let me tell you about the first baby shower I've ever hosted! My classmate, Craig, and his wife, Melissa, are expecting their first child in July. Meg and I threw them a shower on Saturday, June 4th.

My patio was the perfect setting, especially as it was a warm (if mostly overcast) summer afternoon.
My festive patio!

Meg made an amazing fruit punch from a frozen mold of strawberries, kiwi, and orange slices in a bowl of pineapple juice and sparkling cider, and I made iced coffee:
My iced coffee and Meg's punch!

We totally took over the lawn and set up a BBQ station (thanks, Josh, for the grill, and Luc, for the grilling!)
Taking over the lawn
Manning the grill

Here are the guests of honor and my co-hostess; Craig, Meg, and Melissa:
Craig, my co-hostess Meg, Wally, Melissa!

Melissa's coworkers came and enjoyed the expansive array of appetizers Meg and I made:
Melissa's coworkers

Our classmates joined us, too, including Erik and his adorable pregnant wife, Andrea!
Andrea and Melissa!

After eating (a lot), we played lawn games--several rounds of Ladderball and one game of croquet (which I totally won, if you follow my family's rules). Then, the parents-to-be opened gifts!
So many gifts!

I gave them an ALMOST-finished stuffed dragon. Heh. I was so close.
My almost-finished dragon. Hahaha.

They gave it back so I could sew on his other leg, wings, and face. ;)

Erik and Andrea's little boy, Caleb, was GREAT entertainment:
Caleb, the little life of the party!

Our only "real" shower activity (Meg and I loathe typical shower games) was decorating onesies with fabric markers:
Go, Dan and Amanda, go!

People actually enjoyed it! I was so happy. The designs were mostly a mixture of 20-something male humor and graduate student geekiness (we were all physicists, chemists, chemical engineers, or microbiologists, besides one lovely psychologist).

Naturally, I had to make the cake! Craig and Melissa (and Meg, Luc, and Josh) play D&D, so the cake had to be a wee bit geeky:

And the Stork DM rolled a B...

Marzipan stork and die

Marzipan cake

They're having a boy!

D&D cake

It tasted pretty good, too!

I finished the dragon over the weekend and delivered him to father-to-be at lab:

He was so hard to give away! Sooo friendly!
Loved knitting his spine, too.


We had a delightful time blessing our friends, and can't wait to meet their little baby boy!