In the last month, winter came and we've been bustling along after it.
Lots of cozy mornings.
And the realization that pre-warming clothes on the radiator makes all the difference.
Yes, it has been all kinds of snowy, then slushy, then rainy this December. Running from tram to tram in the city, I'm thankful that they have switched the heaters on onboard. The best days are when you not only get a seat on the tram and don't have to stand, but you unknowingly select one of the seats with a heater below it. Almost makes you want to ride on past your stop. And watch from the windows as the city is transformed for the holidays. So cozy!
Holidays are a bit different here. They celebrate Mikoláš day on December 6, when St. Mikoláš, an angel, and a devil walk around asking kids if they've been good or not. The get candy if they have been, and coal or a potato if they haven't. The devil also threatens to haul naughty children off to Hell in his big sack. When we visited the festivities downtown on this evening there were lots of costumes and lots of screaming children- the devil can be pretty creepy, and the whole "being dragged off the Hell" thing doesn't help I'm sure.
Fortunately, the trio that visited our class was less menacing.
Scott and Mariana are friends from class.
The weekend after, we took a trip with my class to Šumava, the mountainous region in the south of the country. The parents of our school secretary owns a small hotel and invited our 2 teachers and classmates.
As we drove, the landscape quickly transformed into Narnia and we were quite happy.
The place we stayed had a tiny ski slope behind it so I practiced my downhill skiing (you have to specify 'downhill' here, as cross country skiing is just as popular). Clay meanwhile helped the others maneuver their skis.
Most of the class had never skied before so it was fun to be a part of that experience. Lots of laughter!
This mini ski lift cracked me up, especially when my entire class was lined up on it. And sledding was a big hit.
It is low tourist season so we had the village to ourselves. This Christmas tree is supposed to be the tallest at the highest altitude in the CZ. I liked the fact that it was a live tree. Kvilda is a sweet little town.
And I bet they were happy when we left, ha! Lots of late night snowball fights and snowman making.
We had a blast.
We were the only people in the restaurant one night and we got to know the owner. He sang songs for us and played his accordion. Such a fun night.
And then he took Clay back to his beer-making room for a little tour. So interesting!
And if you're wondering, this is what the beer looked like during its fermentation… kind of gross. And the smell was pretty intense too. But yes, interesting.
We left one morning and enjoyed the pretty winter countryside.
Clay was a happy man, driving through Narnia and eating a fresh pastry from the one bakery in town.
Then we left the simple beauty of Šumava for the busy brilliance of Ikea.
You truly can purchase everything there.
And we have.
This is decidedly less involved than the way we purchased our tree in Belgium.
Christmas tree with Christmas kitty asleep underneath.
I invited Luke over for some Nativity building. He had the genius idea to add a lamp behind the stable and to suspend the angel overhead.
He also managed to fit perfectly under this crazy huge lamp I scored for free online. I have some fun plans for this lamp, but for now it just cracks us up when we see it.
It really is giant. And fabulous.
Clay's been helping a Czech named David with his English every week and last week he and his wife Eva invited us over for goulash. And potato pancakes.
Clay was very happy :)
Our own kitchen has been pretty busy getting ready for the holidays. Clay's latest discovery is homemade beef jerky in our dehydrator.
Baking classes continue with this month's focus being Christmas desserts. They make these cookies and then sandwich them together with jam in between. Topped with powdered sugar.
We also made Vánočka, a braided sweet bread topped with almonds.
This class had been so much fun, a great way to learn Czech, and a cool way to learn about Czech culture. We love it.
On Friday we had a Christmas-themed class.
Eva and Maruška brought all the typical treats, cookies to decorate in the Czech style, and shared a lot of different traditions with us.
Most of them geared towards telling people's fortunes for the next year.
Like floating walnut shell boats with candles in them to determine if you will stray far from home or remain there in the coming year. And slicing apples, hoping to see a lucky 5 point star.
And tossing shoes towards the door to see if you will get married.
Or turning over cups to reveal an item underneath that tells you your fortune- wealth, sadness, babies, money, etc.
We did secret Santa, although it isn't Santa who brings gifts in the Czech Republic, it is Ješíšek (Little Baby Jesus) who magically delivers children their presents every year.
(I didn't get the memo about fancy wrapping jobs for the presents, so mine are the ones wrapped in a reusable grocery bag and a hat :)
We also all chipped in for gifts for our 2 teachers, Eva and Maruška. They truly are some of the best teachers ever.
The trip to Šumava wasn't a part of our semester- they totally just jumped on board and made it happen for our class. They truly care for us and enjoy us. We have so much fun together.
We gave them a clock frame with pictures from our trip on it, and they got emotional opening it. It was a sweet time for our class.
The next day, we had a traditional Czech Christmas lunch at Marek and Ewelina's. They fried carp (and steamed some for me!), the traditional Christmas meal served with potato salad. And Ewelina made sauerkraut dumplings to give the meal some Polish flair.
Afterwards we raced home to head out to my class party. It was a great night of laughing, reminiscing over our past semester, and translating to and from all the different languages that are represented.
I love these people.
Now we have a 15lb. turkey in our fridge, goodies to bake, and more lights to hang. Christmas Eve with the Kellers tonight and a big Christmas lunch planned for tomorrow!
Love and Merry Christmas to all of you, wherever in this world you may be!