Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Czeck-ing out Prague

My affinity for puns is made even worse by humorously named cities and even countries.  I sincerely apologize.  Actually, no I don't.  Puns rule.  Get on board.

So, like the assholes that we are for living in Europe, we put four cities on a list and then elected an official (how thoughtful that everyone, except my husband, voted for me!  Y'all shouldn't have.  No seriously, you shouldn't have, I rule with an iron fist) and that lovely, talented, intelligent, and witty (stop it, I'm blushing) who picked from the list.  And you know what won?  PRAGUE!  Or Praha, as they call it there.  I find that the number of cities with double names is growing.  Paris/Parigi.  London/Londra.  Chania/Xania (crazy Greeks and your X's...).  Prague/Praha.  Anywho, we went to this city with double names and man oh man, was it lovely.

Prague looks like Harry Potter's Diagon Alley every once in a while.  (I just want to continue my magical theme from last week)  And then Old Town Square with its magnificently beautiful spires and the clock tower right in the heart, it just felt like being in this magical little town.  It was one of my favorite spots that we've been to so far in Europe, it was just so incredibly beautiful!  But let's be honest, no one reads this blog to hear me say things were pretty.

That said, when did things get weird??

1. Medieval Themed Bar.
Nothing says Eastern Europe like a medieval themed bars.  No seriously, it's totally a thing.  We (Kim and I) wanted to go to this bar the moment we saw a guy in a jester costume, complete with shoes with bells on the tips.  Seriously, when are we going back?  Once inside, we heard the faint sound of "Eye of the Tiger" playing downstairs and lots of lighter fluid.  Something great was about to begin.  The show included a fire breather, a belly dancer (who also brought in fire to her act) and a guy laying on a bed of nails.  Nathan was probably a foot taller than most everyone in the bar and for some reason, was picked to stand on top of the guy laying on the bed of nails.  With both feet on the guy's chest, Nathan claims to have shifted his weight a bit.  Well the guy screamed.  And Nathan practically jumped off of him only to discover that there was quite the blood trail dripping down his back.  Whoops!  I mean really, what do you expect when you are laying on a bed of nails???

 2. Pork Knee
I saw on Anthony Bourdain's " show No Reservations" about 2 years ago the time that he had a pork knee.  I've wanted one ever since.  My travels through Berlin with a vegetarian didn't seem promising.  But Prague, it turns out, has pork knee on like every menu.  It's incredibly fatty and tastes like regular spiral cut ham, but hacking the hell out of this things with a tiny little knife and my slightly intoxicated husband was great fun!

3. Hot Wine
You want to know Europe's best kept secret?  Lean in really close.  No, closer.  Here goes... Hot Wine.  Mmmm....  It's the sweet nectar of the Gods.  Start with red wine.  Add magic, Brandy, spices, and a bit more magic.  Simmer in a crock pot for an extended period of time.  Serve to cold tourists.  It was SO delicious!  I know, it was like 70 degrees outside.  But I didn't care.  I had a scarf on!  Totally counts! 

Prague gets my vote for prettiest city we've yet seen in Europe.  It was amazing! But what really sold us was the foodie walking tour that we did through Taste of Prague.  I cannot recommend it highly enough!  Totally amazing and we got to eat and drink to our heart's content!

Ciao for now!

North Carolina After Party: Rockin the Suburbs, 1st Grade Style

The wedding weekend and insanity ended.  Lauri, my sister, and John, my now brother-in-law, full of love and wedding loot headed back to Chicago to begin a life of wedded bliss.  The hubs drove north for a work conference and I stayed at my parent's house to get some dental work done by my childhood dentist, whom I haven't seen in 6+ years.  You know, since graduating from college, getting a job, having my own insurance, getting married, and now living abroad.  Yeah, I'm not the bottom feeding little brat who was here last complaining about my econ final.  Now I'm complaining about my Master's level econ final.  Totally different!!

But I digress...  Left behind by those who moved on with their week, I was carted around in the passenger seat of my mom's SUV feeling the odd familiarity of being home.  Sometimes when I step inside my parents' house, I'm automatically 15 again.  The fact that they won't let me drive their cars just solidified the feeling.

Blah blah blah, fast forward a few days and I came down to see my sister in NC.  You know what's awesome about America?  American TV.  Bravo, in particular.  Competitive cooking shows.  Oh sweet sassy molassey!  I watched Bravo, unbathed and unashamed for HOURS!   My sister at work, her husband at work, I sipped pumpkin beer alone during the day and watched other people work hard and have their dreams shattered.  Damn, it felt good. 

But then I had to clean up my act.  Litterally, I had to bathe.  I finally introduced myself to hygene long enough to go visit Christy's 1st grade class.  I spent a day in a room with 22 first graders.  Holy smokes, it was different.  No breaks to check People magazine and judge Anjolina's outfits (I always vote against her "Looks from Last Night" on principal.  Home wrecker.).  Talk about exhausting!  Through hours of teaching kids to read (sheesh!) and realizing that I have no idea what a baby giraffe is called (it's a calf, by the way.  Can't believe you didn't know that!), we finally got to my 30 minute lesson in Italy.  I blabbed on and on about Rome and things being old, showed them pictures of castles, taught them the 6 Italian words that I know and then dazzled them, I mean it, with European plugs.  Should you ever be forced to talk in front of first graders, always bring funny outlet adapters.  They.  Loved.  It!  I killed it with plug adapters.  I'm not even kidding.  I got the biggest laughs and the most questions about how to plug in my Nintendo DS (which I don't have) and how to make that plug fit into the American outlet.

Here's the video my sister made about the day I spent in her class.  It's so awesome!!  Brava, Christy!
We're capping off the trip to NC with the purchase of a dress for the upcoming Navy Ball and as much Thai and Mexican cuisine and possibly one sushi pit stop before I dash back across the pond on the morrow.  I won't lie that I am not very excited to be leaving.  I've missed my homeland.  I've missed my family.  Eavedropping in my native tongue.  I've missed feeling super fancy when I casually say "Oh, I live in Italy."  I've missed the comfort of a Southern drawl, the endless hours of entertainment that my 1 year old niece can provide and the familiarity of my sister's hugs.  But most of all, I've missed being back where I know how things are done.  We've spent now just over one year in Italy where I have mangled an unknown number of bathrooms, butchered thousands of Italian words and most definitely offended someone on a nearly daily basis.  The entire thing sometimes leaves me exhausted.  I must admit, and you can judge me if you wish, that I am not anxious to go back right now.  I want to stay here, away from my job, my inconsistent shower temperature and my cat's litter box just a little longer.  But I know that I can't.  It's the journey that makes us the strongest.  I sometimes wish I could just fast-forward to that part where I have a house in the suburbs and a yard full of impecably dressed, well-behaved, brilliant children, and pictures on my walls of the next two years.  But I know that I must face each day, each long distance phone call and let's be honest, each additional broken car window, with my own courage behind me.  I feel bad when I complain about the distance or the lonely nights or how much I miss my old friends.  I feel so incredibly guilty when I complain.  I wish I loved everything about Italy and Naples and living abroad.  But when I come home, I have to really force myself to remember that going back is what I have to do.  Put on your big girls pants, Lynne.  It's time to leave your American dreams on the shelf for a few more years and be that international lady of mystery that you someday will become.  Or at least, the one woman whirling durbish of crazy that you already are. 

Love and hugs from this weary traveler,

Monday, September 24, 2012

All American!

And we're back on American soil!  My lovely sister, Lauri, got married last weekend at the Norfolk (Virginia, USA!!) Botanical Gardens.  And good gracious me, was it a beautiful day.  Our family isn't as Southern as we'd like to be, but we make a wedding rise to the challenge set forth by our foremothers in Steal Magnolias.  Sigh... I love that movie.  And I sob, SOB, every time.  "HERE!  HIT WEEZER!"  [Insert quiet sobs, my husband handing me the 14th box of tissues in the house and me muttering "You'll just never understand..." about 100 times]

But marriage is exciting!  I flew in from Bella Napoli to my hometown of Virginia Beach on Wednesday night and the minute I hit  American soil, there were events planned.  My mom can make any event worthy of 3 or more sub-events with careful thought, 10+ Tupperware containers and a cleverly placed cooler.  My mom LOVES three-ring binders.  Loves them.  It has become a cult following to see just how large of a notebook my mom can make for any given event.  For each of our weddings, the official wedding notebook began at 1" each time and gradually ballooned to 3" and even more!  We took the task of marrying off my sister VERY seriously. 

Well wed they did!  It was a seriously GORGEOUS ceremony.  Lauri looked more beautiful than I've ever seen her.  Seriously, if I weren't already married and it wasn't illegal, I'd contemplate marrying her!  But alas, John got there first.  Queue the white dress, a rendition of "Bless the Broken Road" that brought nearly every person to tears, and a supposed bald eagle sighting (Come on, really, Kara???  I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, but it seemed a bit too good to be true) and you had the makings of a great wedding.  And then came the reception. 

My mom had booked the same wedding photographer that did Team Keenan's Wedding, Andi Grant (HEART!) and with her came a photo booth.  Now, no photo booth is worth its salt if there are not two critical ingredients: 1) sparkly hats 2) a rubber chicken.  People underestimate the value of a good rubber chicken.  Those people are fools.  And I don't even want to socialize with them.  For those of you who haven't scoffed at the rubber chicken, go buy one.  You'll find that it comes in handy in SOOOOO many situations.  Dinner parties, Mexican dinner nights, laying it casually on a really well decorated bookshelf.  Seriously, I could go on and on.  But those would be $7 very well invested.  Leave Pier 1, go get your rubber chicken.

A wedding brought me to America.  My family was so awesome, I extended my trip right before flying out and stayed.  Stay tuned for next week's exciting conclusion: America, the NC after party!!!