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

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lipno Point!

A Weekend Retreat at Lipno Point!!
(left) Ana and I posing for a beautiful photo!
(Below) Saturday Pig Roast... (Mom- Tell Dad it was some of the best pork I have EVER had! )

This weekend, I joined about 50 ISP faculty (and some of their families) for a Faculty Retreat at Lipno Point. This is a resort in Southern Bohemia in the Czech Republic. Lipno is about 30 minutes North of the Austrian Border and 30 minutes south of Cesky Krumlov- a very beautiful and well known Czech Republic town. As you can see from the photos, the weekend was lovely. We stayed in resort rooms that had balconies overlooking Lipno lake. The lake is about 9km from one end to the other... and incredibly beautiful with the hills and trees surrounding the water! The resort has row boats which many took out on the lake for adventures while others were brave and swam in the cold water! BRRR! On Saturday, the weather was overcast, windy and quite like a November weekend at the Oregon Coast! People spent the weekend doing many activities- indoor tennis, racqetball, squash, visiting the spa/jacuzzi, bowling, rowing on the lake, walking into the neighboring village/Marina, biking, playing cards, napping, reading and a few did an hour or two of work... typical fall weather activities. Many of us even bundled up in warm clothes and blankets and sat sipping espresso and hot cocoa on the deck while watching the sail boats. Mom and Dad-- you would love this place- it reminds me a lot of Crescent Lake Lodge. I ran both Saturday and Sunday morning for 30 minutes from the resort to the point near the dam. It was a nice long run along the water and a great way to de-stress after a busy week at work! Sunday the weather cleared up and that made sitting on the deck really enjoyable... Ana and I even jumped on the trampoline for a spontaneous photo op! The cost of the weekend was only $2350 koruna (about $135) which included a bed for two nights and three excellent meals a day. That is a pretty good price for a weekend of food, wine, friends, and beautiful location.
On another note, while relaxing over the weekend, I had some time to decided what I wanted to do over fall break in October. I had many conversations with other teachers who have traveled more than myself and it came down to a decision between Paris or Rome. After researching ticket/hotel prices... I booked my first travels tonight... from October 19-23 I will be in ROME! I love Italy, but I have never been further south than Florence... I am excited for my first trip while living abroad and to see Roma... the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, St. Peter's Basillica in the Vatican City, The Roman Forum, Fountain of Trevi, and the Sistine Chapel. There is so much Christian history in Rome, it will be great exploring more in depth about it the next few weeks as I prepare my "While in Rome" itinerary. I found a great ticket price (only 106 euro) and since I booked the hotel within 30 days I got a 10% discount... so in total including, airfare, hotel, and a spending budget for food, museums, and fun... I am proud to say that I will travel to Rome for 5 days, 4 nights for approximately 620 euro ($900)... considering some of my friends are traveling for 1000 euros or more.. I think I did pretty good!

I hope you are all well. Lots of Love-- Nikki

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Autumn is a time for vino...

As the weather changes from summer to fall, it is still very pleasant to be outdoors in the evenings. The above is a photo of Prauge Castle taken from the balcony of the riverfront hotel. When Marsha and her sister, Carol were her last weekend they had an incredible view of the city from their riverfront hotel. We even watched fireworks one night!
This is a photo of the sunset I see every night from my terrace. With the weather changing the sunsets have been lovely.
It is Burcak (pronounced bur-chalk) time of the year! Burcak is a sweet, sweet fermented wine that is locally made and very popular in the Czech Republic during the beginning of Autumn.
On Friday, myself and 6 other teachers went to the vineyard in Vinoharady, also known as the neighborhood of Prauge 2. It is stunning. The grapes are plentiful as you can see in the abover photo and the terrace is lovely for sitting outdoors, drinking wine right from the vineyard, and enjoying a view of the countryside (as shown below).
However, our search for Burcak ended when we arrived to the vineyard terrace and there was a private party using the seating area for a wedding reception. We were kicked out and walked through the park to a few local pubs who were not serving Burcak in their restaurants yet. Bummer. We were so excited... But we did take seats at a nice pub, visiting, drinking Gin and eating cheese. It was a great way to end a long week. On Saturday, I bought my new guitar. I paid quite a bit for it, but I also upgraded from my previous guitar (which I left in the states). It has great sound quality and I am so happy to have a guitar in my hands again.
On Saturday evening, I went to yet another wine tasting in the house of an ISP teacher. He is very knowledgeable in wines, grapes, etc and has an INCREDIBLE collection of wines. It was a treat... and I think my mother would be jealous! (Don't worry mom, he said you are welcome to come drink his wine when you visit...) There were many ISP teachers there and it was fun to let loose and chit chat with everyone outside of school. After Wayne's fiesta, Ana and I took her friends from Thailand out on the town. We met up with another elementary teacher friend of mine at a club where she got us all on a guest list. That was a blast... we danced until 4:30am. We listened to 4 DJ's spin and it was great. It was our first night out on the town to experience Prauge's nightlife. Of course I am the only one who wasn't drinking, but that didnt matter because I love to dance and the music was perfect... I don't know how I mustered the energy to stay awake that long but i did. Today, I met up with Ana and Carrie and a few other teachers in the city for lunch then I did all my shopping for the week. It is surprising how small Prauge really is. Both yesterday and today, I ran into multiple groups of teachers out and about having coffee, shopping, on the tram/metro, etc. You really do see plenty of people you know despite the masses of tourists. Well, that is all I have for now. I finally have internet at home, so I should be able to blog more frequently... stay in touch. - Nikki