Saturday, December 5, 2009

Deck the Halls in Old Twon Square!

Here it is... the giant, Christmas tree, grown in the mountains of the Czech Republic, and now towering, beautifully in Old Town Square. The tree is decked to the max with so many lights that if you get too close or stare too long you risk blindness!
Nearly all the trees that surround Old Town are decorated with lights for the holidays. The square has transformed into a magical place- inviting you to stroll along the market booths, enjoy the jolly atmosphere, and eat and drink your way through the soon-to-be-bitter cold.
The market stands are filled with typical Czech food and gifts for purchase. The vendors bargaining with potential buyers, keep warm with a small glass of Gluhwein (hot, mulled wine) in their hands. Below is a photo of a tasty Trdelnik stand- a soft pastry drizzled with a thin, buttery, caramel and then spun over coals and finally dusted with powdered sugar and served warm- MELT IN YOUR MOUTH GOODNESS!
A parent in my classroom told me that I had to try these tasty pastries, that I would enjoy the market more with one in hand and that I would probably get mad at her later for introducing me to this "little slice of heaven"- warning me that they are so irresistible you can't help but eat one every time you see a stand! Well, she was right and I think my response after the first bite was something like, "Oh great, now I am going to dream of these everyday... ". Thank goodness for willpower right!
Two nights ago, I met a friend in the Mala Strana area and as we walked back to Stareometska over the Charles Bridge, I looked over my shoulder and Prague Castle was just sitting there- beaming in light against the darkness- much like the Christmas tree pictured above. In the mundane of daily life, I so often forget where I am. The surroundings become familiar and I go about my daily routines as if I was here my whole life. I don't remember that I live in a foreign country where I cannot understand the language or where the ambiance of the city is so magical and inviting. I just live and breath and go about my life as usual.

On nights like last night, wandering around Old Town square in the darkness with the buildings of Prague a beautiful, pristine backdrop for the happenings of the holiday season, I am struck- like a tons of bricks- that I DO live in this place. I am awed and joyful that I am here in this particular moment experiencing such incredible beauty... relishing the fact that Christmas is about the birth of our Savior whom I love and know deeply. As I stood and admired the extravagant display of Christmas spirit, I was reminded that I might be the only one standing there thankful for the love of Christ because I live in a country that professes 94% to be atheist and is one of the largest prostitution rings in Europe... maybe the reason for the season this year is that I followed the call of the Lord, who led me to Prague to be reminded that as beautiful and magical as the surroundings are I am a light in the darkness too, and my purpose remains that His will be done... not my own.

"You are my hiding place, my safe refuge, my treasure, Lord you are. My friend and king, anointed one, most holy... because you're with me I will not fear."
- lyrics from I Will Exalt You by Hillsong

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A little taste of Christmas in Vienna...

Here we are, in Vienna, Austria. Yesterday after school, Allison and myself taxied to Holosevice train station and 4.5 hours later we were in Vienna. It was dark so there was not too much to see, but after finishing my book and napping we had a good conversation with a guy from Australia who has been traveling through Europe for 20 days... cool!
The famous and biggest Christmas Market in Vienna- Christkindle Market in front of Vienna City Hall. There was sooo much to see- rows and rows of vendors, their booths filled with ornaments, cookies, candy, jewelery, candles, knick-knacks, and yummy food! After strolling for a while, Ali and I snacked on a Bratwurst with mustard- ah, Viennese mustard is so much better than Praha mustard! We also tried hot rum punch! YUCK! I sipped on it, dumped it out and saved the mug!
After walking through the first market, we decided to take the U (metro) to the Schonbrunn Palace. This is an incredible place. I have been to this palace before- it is still huge! I toured the entire grounds- inside and out with my Crusade buddies after summer project in 2004. It was a great way to debrief after our 2 week ministry in Moldova! Today, the palace courtyard was filled with what I think was the most eclectic market we visited.
There were so many vendors with hand painted ornaments, fresh beeswax candles, and many varieties of beautiful glass and pottery. I loved stopping by the toy booths all the cool, wooden, hand painted toys. I bought my parents the coolest gift at this market! I cannot tell you about it now because they read my blog and I don't want to spoil it... I promise to post a picture on Christmas Day!

After walking through 4 markets, we relaxed our cold, tired feet in our hotel room for an hour. Then we bundled up, grabbed our mugs and headed out to see the city at night! We walked around two more markets. The first was in the Museum Quarter. Below is a short video of this fun interactive holiday scene. I love the little skiers going up and down the slopes...

The last market we browsed was Spittelberg Christmas Market. It is Vienna's most historic market- and it was alive and buzzing! We filled up our mugs a few more times, me with hot, mulled wine and Ali tried various flavors of hot punch. Everything is so beautiful here. the markets are decorated with green garlands, ornaments, and bows. The buildings are tall and luminous.. people describe Vienna as a "Wedding Cake"- perfect and pristine! No joke, the buildings are incredibly well taken care of and the streets are clean. Vienna is a mix of modern and historic. Tomorrow, we plan to enjoy a local breakfast cafe, shop on Mariahilfer strasse, (Vienna's biggest shopping district... one long street); We will take in one last Christmas market and then train home in the late afternoon.

With the gratefulness of Thanksgiving still lingering and Christmas just around the corner, I am thankful for a job, free weekends, and finances to travel to places such as Vienna. Being here, browsing the multitudes of glass angels and wooden nativity scenes prepares my heart for the upcoming celebration of Jesus' birth- the "reason for the season" - a reason to be joyful...
Ciao- Nikki

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Celebrating 20 Years of Freedom

Today marks 20 years from the fall of Communism in the Czech Republic. On November 17, 1989 the Czech Republic ended it's struggle for freedom and began crawling out from under the iron curtain! All over town, in and out of the various town squares and near the national museum, were many parades and Freedom day activities, dancing in the streets, and the clanking of glasses as people celebrated the day in remembrance of the past and a continued future of freedom. Below is a photo of myself and three friends/ISP teachers as we were taking in the early evening concert in the street. It was fun wandering around the town together, weaving in and out of the activity on the streets- full of life and celebration.
In a small room off the side of the concert was a memorial. The plaque on the wall says the date 17.11.1989- to be remembered. And as the evening went on people came to place a lighted candle at the memorial. The floor was covered in wax, flowers, candles, special momentos- it was stunning. It was exciting to be a part of "Struggle for Freedom" day!
Before wandering the town... I joined a big group of ISP teachers for a hockey game. It was a Sparta vs Plzen game- two big Czech teams, and it was exciting. The arena was full of energy- buzzing with cheering, chanting, rock and roll, and the slap-stick on ice! The game ended at 2-2 and remained so through a 5 minute over time! The game went into a Sudden Death... 1st round: Plzen 0, Sparta 0; Second round: Plzen 1, Sparta 1, Third round: Plzen 1, Sparta 1, Fourth round: Plzen shot on goal, bounces off inner rim... refs look it over call it no goal! Sparta... takes it all the way into the goal and WINS THE GAME! Take a look for yourself... below is a video I took of the last shot on goal and captured the crowd as they went into an uproar! Today was worth celebrating.. and that is just what I did. Ciao- Nikki

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Let's go on a pottery run to POLAND!

Welcome to Poland- Bolestaweic, Poland to be exact. Where the ceramika flows freely like the water at Multnomah Falls. Myself and 9 other co-workers road-tripped to Poland early Saturday morning to purchase some of the best pottery in Europe. (And I do mean early-- we left town at 7am!)
We made a weekend of it and stayed at the Villa Ambasada hotel. So far, it was the most gorgeous hotel I have stayed at in Europe. Between the ten of us we rented an entire floor of rooms and were able to secure a cheaper than average rate! Each room with a king-sized bed, heated bathroom floor, vintage-antique decorations, cushy, captains chairs, and flat screen TVs (with a few English channels) was worth the 55 Euro per night. (55 Euro for this quality of accomodation is dirt cheap as far as European hotels go...). The in-hotel restaurant was wonderful... great food and the company I was with couldn't have been better! We ate, drank wine, shared supberb desserts and talked for hours into the evening... But the hotel was only the beginning of the exquisite weekend.
The above pottery pieces were from the actual factory that makes the pottery. But you can find these large decorations all throughout the town...
Here is a sampling of the pottery pieces I purchased for myself. I was really excited to find these small bowls and olive plates for serving dips, oil & vinegar, or Tamari for sushi dipping! You wouldn't believe the designs they have... I am of course attracted to the floral prints. And all the blues match my kitchen really well. Not pictured above, I also purchased a large mug for tea and hot chocolate- very important now that the winter is settling in. My second favorite purchase was two soup bowls that can be heated in the oven- perfect for French Onion soup with melted Swiss to warm up a cold evening or also useful for a steamy bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar and bananas! Yum!
This is my favorite piece though. It is a deep casserole dish- perfect for enchiladas or roasting a chicken and vegetables. I love the combination of the blue roses across the bottom and the red flowers on the side.

All the Pottery is of a quality rated 1-6. Quality 1 & 2 can be heated in the oven. In fact, you can put the pottery cold from the fridge straight into the oven and it is not supposed to crack. Quality 3 & 4 is durable, kitchen-ware but not to be heated. (I bought a small cheese and cracker tray that is quality 4, as well as a large salad bowl.) Quality 5 & 6 is decorative ware and although not useful it is incredibly beautiful. Depending on the store you are browsing (and there are like 10-15 individual stores in this town) you can find certain patterns, sets, mis-matched pieces and some stores even have rooms with pottery that is 30-40% off... This is where I found my new butter dish! The best part about this pottery run is that the Polish zloty is 4.1 to 1 euro... so everything you buy is super inexpensive for incredibly beautiful pottery! I am increasingly amazed at how every countries currency and exchange rate is so different.

It was both an adventure and a relaxing weekend in Poland. After only a few wrong turns on crazy Polish highways we made it to Poland and in plenty of time for shopping. Today, on our return drive, we drove through Poland to Dresden, Germany then through Northern Czech Republic to Prague. It was a beautiful drive- sun shining, blue skies, with lots of fall colors through three very different country-sides. I am grateful to have these opportunities to travel outside the Czech Republic and experience new things. Next up, (before I fly home in December) is a weekend to Austria for the Vienna Christmas Markets... looking forward to it!
Love you all-- Nikki

Friday, October 30, 2009

We All Made Friends...

This week at school was Culture Week. The week was full of excitement. On Monday, PK3 through 5th grade gathered in the theater to listen to a Czech Folk band sing, dance and play different instruments. In my classroom, my 3 year olds shared their family boards, decorated flags from their countries, baked apple strudel, and made a friends/world collage. To end the week, this afternoon all the Elementary children, teachers, and many parents gathered again in the theater to listen to a Gypsy band play and dance. Many of the children and teachers (including me in my Louisville Slugger baseball shirt and converse) wore clothing that was significant and/or related to their cultures. When the band began to play, the children spontaneously waved their country flags in the air and swayed and moved their bodies to the music. As I looked around, I saw a sea of faces and a variety of color- a connection among the ocean of difference! It was beautiful. It is very different celebrating culture from an international school perspective. In the states, we view ourselves as a "melting pot" with an "open door" policy. In the past few years teaching, I would say that even in 4 and 5 year olds, I see this ideal fading away. On Monday, one of my 3 year olds asked, "Miss Nikki, what is culture?" To which another child responded, "It's who you are." Wow! This week, my faith in children as the hope for our future was redeemed. We read the book, "What a Wonderful World," a picture book with colorful illustrations to Louis Armstrong's song. When I asked the children what made the world wonderful many of them responded, "people". On my classroom web page I have a quote spoken by Carla Rinaldi, from Reggio Emilia, Italy which says, "When you have quality of life for children then you seek to have quality of life for humanity." There is no greater reason to teach than to seek a life for children that is better tomorrow because of what you teach them today...
"I hear babies cry, I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than I'll ever know, and I think to myself what a wonderful world..."
-- Nikki

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Vatican expereince!

Michelangelo's "Judgment Day" fresco on the wall of the Sistine Chapel. (It is a bit blurry because I had to be sneaky to take the photo... not supposed to... oops!) Standing in the chapel, I was amazed at how I felt. I didn't come to Italy- home of the church, the Pope, Roman Catholicism, and think that I could be effected by the paintings on the wall. But I was. I stood there and reflected on the meaning behind each biblical representation- Adam and Eve, Daniel, Jacob, the disciples, the last supper, and so on and so on. Over 40 years, Michelangelo worked on this ceiling, painting each fresco with detail, and as I stood there I wondered if and how each of these pieces of Christian history effected his life?
After about 30 minutes standing and scanning the room, I managed to find a seat along the side of the chapel. I thought about the words to the song Here in Your Presence by New Life Worship: "The heaven is trembling in awe of your wonder, the kings and the kingdoms are standing amazed... here in your presence we are undone; here in your presence heaven and earth become one; here in your presence all things are new; here in your presence everything bows before you..." I pulled out my iPod and listened to the song and got tears in my eyes... I realize that not everyone who walks into this chapel and stands there staring up at the incredible artwork is going to see things the way I do, but God totally used Michelangelo to tell his story on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel... Millions of people know and read about it; it is part of history books. Thousands upon thousands visit and see it with their own eyes- and maybe some of those thousands will simply admire it while others will know what I am talking about. But today, I sat there praying that people would be changed upon entering this place, that they would view Christ's story on that ceiling with fresh eyes- and walk away renewed.
There is so much Christian history within the walls of the Vatican Museum. The photo above is a faded bronze sculpture of the Ark- little pairs of animals, Noah and his family carved into the sides. Another reminder to me of the renewal Christ privides. I spent 4 hours in the Vatican Museums. I soaked up so much history it is bound to come pouring out of me at the first chance I have to explain what I saw here. The extent of the collections here are incredible and showy- which seems to go against the nature of living simply. But each piece tells the story of faith, belief, and change throughout time. Today was truly an incredible and meaningful experience for me.
Mom and Dad, this photo is for you. A statue of a goat in the Animal Hall. Apparently, this goat was a big deal... P.S. How is landscaping goa-ting? Ha Ha Ha That cracks me up!
Finally, "The Sphere within sphere" sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro... rain or sun this sculpture shines boldly! Maybe that is it's purpose... to shine no matter what it is weathering. All in all, the museum was a fantastic experience- worth the 40 minute wait in the pouring rain! Tomorrow I head back to Prague. I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and seeing my friends. I am grateful that I have had this downtime and explored another part of the world! Where will you find "Nikki-Waldo" next... wait and see! Ciao! -- Nikki

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Roma- Day 3!

The famous Trevi Fountain. Remember yesterday I went and couldn't stand the crowds... well, I read in the Lonely Planet ITALY guide that going in the morning allows you to better enjoy the fountain before the crowds overtake it. True! It was lovely. I sat there for about 10 minutes admiring the stone work and listening to the water flow. I threw a euro in and instead of wishing for something random and whimsical, I said a prayer for others who are less fortunate than myself- who cannot eat, who live in poverty let alone take trips to Rome.
I moved on from the fountain to the Pantheon. The columns are massive and the dome ceiling is super cool! The inside of the Pantheon is really detailed with marble and sculptures all around.
Before I went to the Spanish Steps, I happened to walk too far toward the river and ended up at Castel de St Angelo. I planned to come here tomorrow along with my visit to the Vatican which is about 1/2 mile up the road. I walked around the structure and along the bridge and it was just beautiful. It isn't a traditional castle with turrets and arches and all details on the outside of the building. Instead, it is solid stone and rather ugly, but located along the river and with the sculptures along the bridge it brings a different beauty to this structure.
And here they are, the Spanish Steps... well they are under all the people! I walked to the top of them and sat down to rest my feet and look at he view. It was busy busy here, and full of beautiful people shopping on Via de Condotti- Prada, Hermes, Gucci, Cavalli, Burberry, etc., - you want designer this is your district. For me, it is just enough to walk down that street, because fortunately for my bank account (and whoever marries me) I am not a designer type of girl! The rest of the day, I spent walking around Rome, wandering in and out of shops, buying Italian leather boots (oh baby!), eating pizza and gelatto, and just soaking up the sunshine- t-shirt weather people and I should have brought my sunscreen!
Piazza de St. Peter and St Peter Basilica. I will venture closer to the other side of this square to what is referred to as Vatican City. But today, since I was so close, I decided to walk over and experience the buzz of the masses (no pun intended) while the sun was shining. Tomorrows weather looks like rain so I plan to be inside the Vatican Museums with guided audio tour in hand (and ear)... until I can't take it anymore! For now, I am on to my regular evening ritual which includes a good Italian meal, a glass of wine to un-wine-d (get it!) and then to my bed to relax my achey bones from all the walking! I bought a book yesterday at the Colosseum called "The Christians and the Fall of Rome"- so far it is a very interesting read! Hope you are all well and enjoying the updates. I wish you were here- all of you, and if you come visit me in Prague, we may just have to make a weekend trip to Rome! Ciao-- Nikki

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Roma- Day 2!

The inside of the Colosseum was amazing. It is incredibly huge. I bought a guide book for 5 Euro and it show pictures of the Colosseum before it began crumbling. It was beautiful back in the old Roman Gladiator days.
It was a beautiful day to visit the Colosseum. The sun was shining on the architecture and really brought out every detail of the structure. I wandered around and around and around, stopping to read about certain parts of the Colosseum. For me, a lover of history, being inside the Roman Colosseum was seriously exciting!
Instead of following the crowds along the main tourist route, I decided to take the long walk along the back side the Colosseum and Palatino. This turned out to be a bit longer than I expected, BUT totally worth it because I ended up at the top end of the Roman Forum. I was standing above looking toward the Colosseum and down on the entire Forum arena...
If you have never seen pictures of the Forum in history books, it would be hard to imagine what it looked like when it was a true Roman "shopping mall". But I am sure it was bustling with people just as it was today.
After the Colosseum and Forum, I just wandered around Rome for hours! I walked to the National Museum (which I might go to tomorrow), down to the Piazza Venezia where I stopped on the street just in time to see the Police Brigade on horses salute, surround and guide the prime minister to some important date I am sure. It was totally cool to run into this... very Italian patriotic. After that I wandered over to the Trevi Fountain. It was the most crowded I have ever seen a place.. much like the Charles Bridge in Prague. I could only handle the crowd for about 10 minutes then had to head to San Crispino, a gelatto place near the fountain that a friend from Portland told me to try. She was right, the gelatto was incredibly creamy and rich. I tried the Caramel and the Honey flavors- good combo! After about 6 hours walking around the city, I came back to my hotel to rest my legs, feet and take a short rest before heading out to eat an Italian dinner. I will turn in early tonight. Tomorrow I am planning to take in another Museum or two, visit the Spanish Steps and Piazza Spagna for some designer store looking (even my Euro wont go far there...), then on to the Pantheon and Piazza Navona for some real Italian shopping. Thursday I will spend the day in Vatican City where I plan to pay the extra 5 euro to walk to the top of the Sistine Chapel... that too will be an exciting history nerd thing to do! and who knows, maybe i will run into the Pope... ha ha ha
Love you all. Ciao-- Nikki

Monday, October 19, 2009

Welcome to Roma!

Arch of Constantine
The Colosseum and the sunset!
WOW! I cannot believe that I am seeing this!
Well, I made it to Rome! Upon arriving to the Fiuminco/Roma airport, my plane taxied into the runway then we waited forever to deplane. I then took a shuttle bus to the main terminal where we waited an hour (no joke) for luggage- just standing at Carousel 10 waiting, waiting, FINALLY luggage! Welcome to Italy where everything is on someone else's time schedule! This airport is a 30 minute train ride from the center of Rome. It is a beautiful ride through the countryside to the center of the city... and when you step out of the train station instantly you are out of the country and onto the tight streets of Rome, covered with people, cars, scooters and lined with shops, hotels and restaurants galore! After wandering around the streets of Rome for an hour (with my backpack on and turning my map around and around), I finally oriented myself and made it to the Saint Maria Maggorie Basilicia- the neighborhood where my hotel is. Thankfully, I found an information booth and the nice, good looking Italian guy pointed me in the right direction- only two blocks away- to my hotel. I was so close to finding it on my own- Rome is so confusing! My hotel is typical Italian decor and the single room is super tiny, but it is perfect for just me. After settling in, I decided to walk around my area and get oriented. I walked all the way to the Colosseum. When I turned the corner and saw the massive structure before me I nearly lost my breath. My steps grew quicker and I had this goofy smile plastered on my face. I am such a typical tourist, and I immediately started snapping photos! I walked all the way around it and over to the Arch of Constantine... both are such amazing structures and still standing after all these years! After my journey to the the Colosseum I ate Roman Pizza (sooo tasty) and now I am relaxing in my hotel until tomorrow. I have a busy three days ahead of me as I take in as much Roman history as I can stand and of course, do some shopping... (not too much mom, don't worry!) Ciao friends! -- Nikki

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Taco Salad-- My grandma sent me packets of Taco seasoning in the mail... something I miss, something that you cannot get in Prague. I used one package the other day and made a yummy Taco Salad!
One of my favorite things to do on Saturday or Sunday afternoon is go to PAUL bakery. It is a French chain, but the first time in Prague, and it has INCREDIBLE breads and pastries. I usually take Tram 20 from Dejvice to Andel (about a 15 minutes tram ride), where I enjoy superb espresso and buy bread for the week. I often buy the Muesli bread- a wheat bread with oats and grains, but the Olive bread -with big green and black olives, is my favorite. Today, I decided to try the Raisin bread because a co-worker swears it is one of the best loaves in the bakery. She wasn't kidding- I toasted it, slapped some Peanut Butter on top and it was delightful! This might have trumped the olive bread as my favorite!
On Monday, I leave for Rome. I am staying at a hotel not far from many of Rome's main attractions... I am excited and only slightly apprehensive about traveling on my own- the benefits include being on my own agenda, taking as much or as little time in a museum as I want, eating when and where I want, and reading an entire book at numerous cafes over many cappuccinos. I usually travel with people because I like to have the security of "being in it together". This trip to Rome, alone, without my friends is a journey I feel ready to take-- I need the experience at least once- I have to bust out of my introverted shell and meet some people on my own! I just hope my trusty map of Rome, which happens to be in Czech, does what it needs to and gets me around with some adventure!
Ciao Friends...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Mala Strana and Hradcanska- the Castle District. This afternoon, after work, Cody, Carrie and myself took a walk from the top of the castle down into Mala Strana.
We walked through the a garden area at the top of the Castle and the base of Petrin Park. The weather today really felt like fall- brisk, sunny, slight wind! The leaves are changing colors, the sun was shining, and it was perfect for a late afternoon walk.
Before heading further down the hill to a cafe, this was the view we stopped to admire. In front of us was the Vlatva River with Mala Strana on the left side and Stareomesto and Nove Mesto on the right. The lamp post was in my way, but I took the photo anyhow.
This is a better shot I took from the mid garden and it shows the trees, the hills, the castle, and the city below it. Just lovely!
Carrie, Cody and I enjoyed a few beers and appetizers at a small cafe that Cody and her husband, Michael found a few weeks ago. I love trying new places and this was a quaint cafe that I would return to. The prices were great, the people were friendly, and the food was delicious. We shared Venison Pate (mom, tell dad it was INCREDIBLE), Beer cheese which is a semi-soft cheese that you mix together with paprika, fresh onion, ground pepper, and a tablespoon of beer... then spread it on bread. It is actually very tasty! We also shared a plate of this other Czech cheese that I cannot remember the name of but is very good also and served with a tangy cabbage slaw. It was a light meal, good conversation and a relaxing way to spend the evening.

It has been a long, long week for me. In addition to my regular workload, I had an unexpected parent meeting, an all staff professional development afternoon, a three hour planning meeting with my PK team, a meeting with my bank manager, a two personal meetings with an administrator and the school business office. My vocal chords were exhausted by the end of today and I think that my single beer this evening was well earned! I am looking forward to resting this weekend. I tried to find tickets online to a World Cup qualifying match tomorrow evening. The Czech takes on Poland in what should be a very good game. I have yet to succeed in this and My plan is to try getting tickets tomorrow morning right from the stadium.. wish me luck and I will keep you posted! Love you all -- Nikki

Monday, September 28, 2009

Czech Holiday-Day Off Work-Brunch at Nikki's-Perfect!

I love lazy mornings- sleeping in, coffee in the french press, and knowing there is no rush to the days activities. Today we have a day off for Czech Holiday- St. Wenceslas Day / Czech Statehood Day. This holiday is for commemorating St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of Czech people and the Czech Republic, who was killed in September of 929 or 935. Czech statehood is also celebrated on this date. The city is very quiet because the weather is lovely and so many Czechs are away at their country houses for the long weekend. This makes it feel even more like a mini-vacation from the business of life. This morning, I invited a few friends to my flat for brunch. I had Mimosa's, french press coffee, and tea ready for them when they walked in the door. It was fun to finally have people in my flat for a gathering!
I made a flaky, crust egg, ham, and cheese pastry. It is so easy to make, and I have an incredible German-made oven that cooks things perfectly! Summer, this is your recipe, and everyone loved it!!
I also made fresh strawberry-walnut pastries. I bought a chilled, pre-made dough which I sprinkled with vanilla sugar, added fresh slices of strawberry and small pieces of walnut and rolled up. They baked up nicely and tasted really good. In the summer, I would make these again but I would add Rhubarb. YUMMY! (Even I was impressed with myself!)
I put my table together just last night. I have had it sitting in the corner of my house, in the box, since I bought and had it delivered on August 7. I decided to plan a brunch so that I HAD to put it together. Living in this flat alone, you don't really need a kitchen table because I can eat at my desk or on the couch. But it feels like my flat is complete- the dining area is homey- with my IKEA brand kitchen table and chairs, and the cute old country style table cloth I brought from Portland. (Looks good, huh mom?)
It seems I am an ok carpenter too- I put together every chair by myself and no one got hurt! ha ha IKEA really forces you to believe in yourself- "I can put this together, I can put this together". If IKEA was like Karate I would be a green belt going on brown. Put together a simple bookshelf, white belt; dresser and desk, yellow belt; kitchen table and chairs, green belt. Next up, I will order and put together the couch/bed for my spare room (brown belt) and finally, if you were to order and put together a Wardrobe you would be considered a black belt! I will never have to do this, nor would I want to... those wardrobes are huge! I think IKEA set itself up the way it does to purposefully drain your body of energy so that when you step out of the line with all the "over" purchases you made you immediately go to the hot dog stand to replenish yourself... that is strategic marketing! None the less, I will visit IKEA once a month when needed because it really is the cheapest place to get household goods in Czech Republic.
Last night, I went to church for the first time in a couple weeks. I had made a play list on my iPod earlier in the day called "Prepare Your Heart", with 6 worship songs that really speak to me and I think it really did prepare me to receive from the Lord. In the middle of the worship set at church, I found myself kneeling on the floor, head bowed and tears streaming down my face. I felt completely broken before the Lord. I was affected by the words we sang, "Lord, I give you my heart, I give you my soul, I live for you alone. Every breath that I take, every moment I'm awake, Lord have your way in me." I realized as I knelt before the Lord crying that I was in need of repair- my soul needed to be refreshed and I needed the Lord to know that despite my iniquities and selfishness, that I truly do love him and want to serve Him- with every breath I take. Since I moved to Prague, I couldn't help feeling like I just uprooted my life and re-planted it here. Sure I made new friends in a new city living on my own for the first time, but my spiritual life was beginning to collect dust. Last night, I was reminded by the Lord that I am not here simply to enjoy and re-start my life but I am here to serve him. I am going to get involved in a home group with some girls from the church, and I really want to get more involved in ministry opportunities here in Prague. I am not interested in holding back or wasting my life, I need to be involved in Kingdom work. It is moments of weakness like yesterday when I miss Portland and the community of believers I was a part of of. Please pray with me that I continue to rely on the Lord for guidance and trust that he moves me in the direction he wants me to go. Pray also for new doors of fellowship to open and relationships with believers to begin. I love you all, and keep you close to my hearts as always. -- Nikki

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rain, rain stay away...

(Top Left) The view from Cowboys, a rooftop restaurant in the castle district. The food was lovely and the view at dusk was incredible! I ate at this restaurant a week ago with friends. It was a great way to see the city from a different perspective and to relax and unwind with friends after a busy day at work. (Below Left) Ana and I pose for the camera at an Art House we visited with friends last weekend. It was a groovy place with an artist exhibit, a musician playing, and a woman selling her hand-made recycled-stuff jewelry. Prague is both interesting and fun!
The weather is changing and we have had typical fall weather- cool mornings and warm, sunny afternoons. With the "Indian Summer" type weather there are occasionally a random day of crazy rain storms- lightening, thunder and all! It can be pretty to cool to watch, but only if you are indoors! Check it out. Despite the occasional crazy rainstorms, this is my favorite time of year- Autumn. I love to experience the colors change and watching the leaves fall. I love the smell of the air and wearing jeans and sweatshirt all day long. The days are growing shorter as the sun rises later and sets earlier, but it all makes me feel at home. And the beauty of it all, reminds me how much I am grateful for the Lord's love... he has created beautiful things for us to enjoy and to remind us that he loves us. I hope that you are all settling into Autumn as well. Take some time to appreciate the season! I miss you and love you all! -- Nikki