Celebrations: Americana style, Netherlands style

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The wonderful and well-traveled Natasja came to Nashville to stay with me for the first week of July 2014.  Natasja and I met in S. Africa in 2008, we hit it off so we adjusted our travels to scuba and surf together.

673_101479000787_9697_n 1898_105077040787_3025_n In September 2013, Mom, Dad & I spent 3 days with her in Prague!

wpid-Photo-Oct-1-2013-406-AM.jpgShe came to Nashville via New York, where she had spent 4 weeks at a yoga farm in Woodstock, learning how to teach Sivanada yoga.

10502149_10152269070983877_2373131883078282818_nI went to pick her up at the airport on Sunday night and Monday we had breakfast at Sky Blue Cafe.  Across the street there was an adorable house with a white picket fence and an insane amount of flowers!

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Then we hit up Kroger and headed out to Opry Mills Mall.  We bought $15 Gap jeans, shoes and matching $3 patriotic Flag shirts.

That night we tried to eat at the vegetarian restaurant, Wild Cow, but got there just before they closed.  We went across the street to Rosepepper and Natasja got a vegan burrito and was super happy.

July 1st: (Happy Birthday Jessie!)  Today we went to a little boutique called, OMG with 300 lbs of gold glitter lacquered into their floor.  Then we mailed Jessie’s birthday package and headed down to Hillsboro Village.  We went to Pangea and bought cat postcards and to BookManBookWoman and bought nothing.  At 4pm we saw our first movie at the Belcourt!  It opened in 1925 to show silent movies, then was briefly the home of the Grand Ole Opry!  Afterwards, we head to Wild Cow again… and it was closed on Tuesday.  Pfft.  Calypso Cafe was a great replacement!

20140702_122946_Richtone(HDR)July 2nd: THE BEST DAY EVER!  We canoed the Piney with Paul and Laura!  N & I stopped at Mitchell’s Deli and bought everyone a yummy sandwich.  (They were as delicious as Zingerman’s but half the price!)  Then we picked up Laura and Paul and headed East.  It’s still amazes me that 45 minutes outside of Nashville, everything is all backwoods and pick-up trucks.

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20140702_171325 Our canoe outfitters were great: Pinewood Camp & Canoe.  The gave us this cool canoe with a toking rabbit.

20140702_123219_Richtone(HDR)It was a perfect paddle: quiet river, all to ourselves.  A green heron followed us along the river.  It was 83 degrees and we stopped to swim. Ahhhhhh.

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We had gotten dropped off and paddled back to camp- when we got there we found a rope swing!  Paul and I went off of it 4 times.  Super fun!

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We stopped at M.L.Rose for veggie burgers (& 2 for 1 beers!) after our paddle and met this awesome person: our waitress, Meridyth!  She spent 3 months in Cambodia and was hilarious.  Obviously, we’re buds now.

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Since none of us wanted this super day to end, we walked Paul’s dog, Neepa and got shakes at Bobby’s.  It was 10pm before we headed home.  Best Tuesday on record.

July 3rd: We made oatmeal & headed out to Sri Ganesha- a Hindu temple that I drive by on my way to work.

IMG_7639We arrived while the priests were doing a ceremony.  We took our shoes off, entered the temple and inside there was a giant room with many small shrines to Hindu gods along the wall.  In the center, there was a 10×20 room with a giant statues of Ganesha.  The priests chanted as they made offerings of fruit to the elephant-headed god.  They rang bells for a long time and wafted incense over the offerings.  When the short ceremony was over, they passed the plate around and brought you back fruit from the altar commensurate with your donation.  Natasja and I each got a banana.

There were ladies sitting on the floor, threading fresh flowers into leis to purchase for the statues in the shrines.  There were little kids running around and fliers for senior’s activities.  The temple had a very family-oriented vibe, like church.  We thanked them and headed off.
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Next, we headed to Warner Parks so Natasja could see where I had been spending the summer.  We met the lovely ladies at the Nature Center, prepped some crafts at the Field Station and walked around a bit.  Then it was time to find dinner!  Paul had a fantastic vegetarian suggestion, Woodlands Indian Restaurant!

Natasja was thrilled that Woodlands was all vegetarians, since it’s pretty hard to tell if ‘stews’ contain meat until it’s too late. We shared Thali- Chai tea & rice pudding.10527305_10152276429838877_296938232793117789_n

Then we raced off to the Ryman for one of the Bluegrass nights: Yonder Mountain String Band!  They had 2 special guests: Sam Bush and Alli Krall.  Alli sang ‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton and RAGED on the fiddle.  I wanted her to play Dolly’s songs all night.  Yonder was great but they were prone to long ‘solos’ for each player… during EVERY SONG.  Natasja discovered that she’s not really into ‘jam bands’.10450530_10152276857968877_1084731628425221884_nWhile we were listening to Yonder at the Mother Church of Bluegrass, MOM & DAD arrived and made themselves at home.  We cruised Honky Tonk row after the show, so they were asleep by the time we got home.

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You may notice the police officers in the background… Natasja was entertained by their golf carts.  They must have been bored, later they were shining their flashlights on Natasja & giggling when I took her photo.

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July 4th: HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, AMERICA!  I had planned a day jam-packed with patriotism, so we made breakfast and headed down to a little neighborhood that has been putting on a 4th of July celebration for 38 years!  They start with a what they called a ‘children’s parade’, even though each child had at least 2 adult escorts… so it was more like a ‘parent’s parade’.


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We took our dish-to-pass to the food tent & found our seats for the reading of the Declaration of Independence!

Can’t you just hear this couple’s conversation?

“Alan!  Alan!?!  You’re going to miss the symphony, Alan!” “Martha… I’m right behind you.”IMG_7668

Dad is looking super-happy because of all the free hot dogs.10478149_10152278330468877_5500900182724045057_n

After the symphony finished their Sousa marches, it was time for the pot-luck!  YUMMMMM!!!
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This is the most patriotic pie I’ve ever seen!  And it was Natasja’s favorite: Rhubarb-Strawberry!

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After we pulled ourselves away from the festivities, we stopped at Centennial park. Did you know that the largest train fatality in the US happened in Nashville in 1918 on “Dutchman’s Curve”?!?!

Well, now you do.

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IMG_7756Then we head to Hillsboro to have Las Paletas popsicles- they are handmade in 30+ flavors!  Mom & I had Mexican Caramel, made with goat’s milk!  Dad had lime.  N had banana, dipped in Olive & Sinclair chocolate.  We were all tuckered out from the festivities and head back home to nap.  We had dinner at Tenn16 (Dad wondered why his chicken & waffles had so much syrup on the chicken…)  Mom & I shared some awesome meatloaf.  We couldn’t linger, we had to make it downtown for the fireworks!  Luckily, Laura & Won had been holding some prime viewing real-estate for us!  We were still wearing our patriotic matching outfits!

10486781_10152278330678877_305175584603433856_nThe 10 minute drive to downtown took 45 minutes… but when we got there- it was totally worth it!

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The show was the 2nd, only to NYC’s this year!  The thing that made it really over the top was the Nashville symphony- they were playing music, synchronized with the blasts!  Too bad they didn’t have louder speakers.  While we waited for the traffic to clear, we checked out Won’s house, that used to be a bank.  He turned his 3 story vault into a library, using shelves from the bankrupt Border’s Books.

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This is where you make deposits! And photobombs!IMG_7856

There is a theatre upstairs!  And a ballroom!IMG_7868

Laura's bank house

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July 5th: Breakfast at home, then off to Olive & Sinclair for a chocolate tour!IMG_7880Mom and Natasja look fabulous in their hairnets!   Roasting Beans. Even the chocolate grinder is patriotic.

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IMG_7886IMG_7874Then, off for burgers and Mint-Oreo shakes at Bobby’s and a stop at Antique Archeology, which is the shop from the History Channel show, American Pickers.  There was a long line and it was boring.  Don’t bother.

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It was WORLD CUP time!  Off to a patio pub to watch the Netherlands vs. Costa Rica!

10487308_10152279967668877_9124329047859517929_nIt was 0-0 at the end of the game… so on to penalty kicks!  HUP, Holland, HUP!  AND THEY WON!!!

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To celebrate the end of a successful visit, we toast with tiny mustache glasses full of Limoncello, sent as a gift by Natasja’s handsome Italian cousin, Silvio.  It’s too bad this epic week is over!  I miss you, Natasja!  Ciao, Bella!IMG_7925IMG_7926

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July 6th: Mom and Dad headed home after breakfast, taking their, “newest & tallest daughter” with them.IMG_7933

I was sad to see them go, but N got to see the new house in progress AND my baby photos.  So it was worth it.  Natasja-  I can’t wait to figure out where in the world we will meet up next!!!

 

Camp Warner Park

Since my move in April, I’ve been a busy little bee, setting up summer camp in a 3,000 acre park in Nashville, Tennessee!  Well, June 9-13th it all came together!  This past week was rainy and cool and full of amazing experiences with awesome staff and happy kids. 8 weeks ago, I couldn’t have imagined things would go SO well.  I did all my blogging on CampWarnerPark.com, so you’ll have to head over there to see the rest of the photos.  Here are some highlights!

Our home base- the Bob Brown Field Station!

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 Sidewalk chalk!

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Our youngest group, the DUCKLINGS!IMG_6138

The Tadpoles, searching for critters in the river.IMG_6142Catch and release salamanders.IMG_5610

Lunchtime at the pavilion.

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The Metro Park Police came by to meet the campers!  This is Echo and Officer Owens.
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Officer Johnny shows us Burt’s teeth!IMG_5831

Long hike to the quarry!

IMG_6037Searching for fossils at the quarry.
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Then we head to the Little Harpeth River for some ‘research’.IMG_6097

Rhett shows the campers some stonefly larvae.IMG_6121

River FUN!

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Corn Snake, thinks its a tie.IMG_6085

This week was SO fun that there were some tears when it was time to go home!IMG_6199Its good to have feelings.

Mom and Dad visit Music City!

Hooray! After a month of getting used to this new place, I was ready to show off Nashville to my parents! They drove down 9 hours from Michigan on the first Friday in May. The weekend was packed with eating, and exploring. Here are the highlights!

Saturday May 3rd

The next morning we head out for a busy day of exploring the city. At Yeast Nashville my biscuit breakfast sandwich was tasty and large.

Then, we went to check out the downtown Farm Market. It was right next to the Bicentennial Mall; at one end is the capital and it’s made to mimic the National Mall in DC. There were towers with bells at the other end, quite the carillon!

After we were done learning about Tennessee’s history (16th state in the Union!) and headed down to see Warner Park, where I’ll be holding camp this summer!

Mom and I, enjoying the Little Harpeth River.

We had a lovely little wander, then headed to Harding Academy to meet Jessie & Ron’s friend Barrett at the art show. Barrett spends a LOT of time outdoors, waiting for wildlife to photograph. He captures some really stunning photos and even won a National Geographic contest for this photo of a Grizzly, charging after salmon in a stream.

Dad was feeling nappish after that, so Mom & I dropped him off at home and went to split a salad at Calypso Cafe and take a brisk walk in Shelby Bottoms Park, my favorite spot to run with the Indigo Buntings.

Hours later, we roust Dad and head to 5 Points Pizza to grab a few slices to go. Dad gets pepperoni and we get prosciutto and basil. YUM!!! We eat it on a bus stop bench and head off to explore downtown Nashville.

We park on the north side of the river and take the pedestrian bridge across because it has the best views. This is Dad’s cool abstract-reflection-of-the-bridge photo.

Reflection Bridge

There were about 9 different groups of red-carpet-ready teens getting their prom photos on the bridge. Here’s the prom pix of Mom and Me!

mom and A on bridge

Dad found a rooftop wedding to photograph.

Rooftop Wedding

I spotted a horse-drawn carriage!

Finally, across the Cumberland River and into town! We stop to admire the fountains.

And explore Broadway- with all the Honky Tonk bars. But of course, we’re only there for ice cream.

Broadway

After grabbing ice cream, staring at all the gaggles of ladies in cowboy hats and walking past the buskers – we got sleepy and hiked back over the bridge.

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Sunday, May 4th

In stereotypical ‘Adrienne’ style, we spent Saturday running all over town and Sunday we were tuckered out!  So, we were going to try to take it a bit easier…

So, we went to church at the cute little Episcopal church in my neighborhood, then met up with Laura and Won at the Gerst Haus for lunch. Oops, no photos. Then, we went to meet the cousins, Rachelle and Steve Sipkovsky at Radnor Lake!

Cousin Sips

We hiked around the lake, spotting big turtles with Brayden, Bryce, Brenden and Ellie.  We were careful to follow ALL the POSTED RULES… no running on the trails, no dogs, do not sit on the scopes.  Lots of rules.

Silly Rules

It was a lovely little gem of a lake – nothing remarkable by Michigan standards, but since there aren’t any natural lakes around here, it’s pretty unique. In fact, this lake was created to supply steam engines with water as they passed through Nashville, an overland transportation hub.

Turtles

We hiked until 5pm, then Mom and I were hungry, so we headed to Calypso Cafe! Mom and I got salads (again! SO good!) and dad? Well, he got a warm mint brownie with whipped cream. He loved it.

We were tuckered out and headed home, where we spent 45 minutes watching YouTube videos like this one about the “Flippy, floppy spider of the Sea” (aka. Octopus). Do yourself a favor and watch it.

Monday, May 5th

Mom and Dad head out early, and stop by Louisville to see Father Roger and Andrew. They got home pretty late, but it was worth it! They’re making plans to come back for another visit this summer when we go to Mammoth Caves! BYE MOM! BYE DAD! I LOVE YOU!!!

Mom in the Van

 

Moving to Nashville is like going to college.

I started off my last post by talking about my standard 2-4 week ‘settling in’ period marked with location-based frustration and uncomfortable-in-a-new-place grouchiness.  (My local CVS had NINE gun magazines on display.)1Home defense

Hooray! The transition is over!   Here’s a recap of my gradual acclimation to NashVegas.

I took a weekend trip down to Atlanta, GA to spend the weekend with Barb Knust & family!  Atlanta itself was hot and ‘concretey’ but Barb & Jaime’s neighborhood was designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted who also designed Central park!  It was shady and the winding streets were lined with gorgeous flowing trees!

PeneSabina

 

 

 

 

Barb Sabina

 

 

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On the way back to Nashville, I stopped in Chattanooga to see Sara Breese Apgar and meet the Cheetah Brothers, Simon and Owen Wilder.   Chattanooga  instantly felt more like ‘home’ than Atlanta did – there were water features for the kids to play in, bridges to stroll on and handmade pasta to enjoy.  FOuntains

CHeetah Bros
Back in the Nash, I began feeling more like a local when I had my first celebrity sighting!   I was at the little organic grocery store, the Turnip Truck and saw Hayden Panettiere, star of the TV show Nashville!  She was just buying some organic produce and wearing this cool leather jacket.

 Hayden Panettiere

That weekend Laura and I set up a Camp Warner Park booth at the Earth Day festival in Centennial Park.  For those of you not familiar with Nashville, Centennial Park central feature is the Parthenon which was constructed for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial & World’s Fair.  Memphis built a pyramid.  This is an awesome Wikipedia photo of the celebration.Parthanon

Our booth was near the Children’s stage and we got to watch a number of ‘global dance’ performances.

Indian Dancers

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The stage drew quite a crowd and we had a fun craft project for the kids to do in between acts.  We colored 200 bird necklaces with kids that day!

 

Laura

 

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Then I got to go to a Bird Banding event at Warner Park Nature Center!  I wrote a whole blog post about it, click HERE to read it.

This past weekend I got to meet some great new people and one of them told me that moving to Nashville was like going to college.  (I bet you’ve forgotten the title of this post already.)  There are lots of fun, young people but no one is really ‘from’ here, so you get to have 100 conversations that revolve around where people ARE from and why they moved to Nashville.  Then you hang out around a bonfire and someone plays guitar.

Nolan and Nicole  These adorable folks are Nolan and Nicole Rossi!  Nicole and I worked together for the YMCA of Metro Detroit, back in 2007?!  They have been in East Nashville for 4 years and had a backyard BBQ to celebrate their new privacy fence.  (Which is a MUST in a city.  Our own ‘backyard’ is not a relaxing locale due to the 2 smelly, barky dogs on chains next-door.)  I got to meet their awesome friends and hope to see them much more often now!  Hooray for old friends!

And for cousins!

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And for NEW friends that are old friends of your other COUSIN!
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And finally, hooray for Dogwoods- they are the prettiest trees!  Dogwoods

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nashville makes me feel like an elderly person. But I’ll get over it.

Disclaimer:  I KNOW that I need to grant myself a ‘settling in’ time so I feel comfortable in a new place.  This has happened before.  It usually takes 2-4 weeks and then I’m zipping around like a local and going to shows with my new friends!  BUT when I’m in it, this is how I feel… like an old lady who has NO idea how to do anything.  (Luckily, my new boss Laura is a patient and kind guide!) Just to give you a picture, these are random thoughts that floated through my head this past week:  Why can’t I figure out how to type my sister’s name into my Contacts list on this Android smart phone?!?  It keeps auto-correcting “Jessie” to ‘JESUS’!  Why do I have to drive on the highway just to get to the grocery store?  Why did my TWEET just post to my personal FB page and not the CampWarnerPark FB page?  If I’ve never used the handbrake on my car, will it be stuck forever?  If I don’t use the handbrake on my car, will it roll down the driveway and into my housemate’s car?  I think I need an APP to work the thermostat… it’s 62 degrees in here.  Brr. OK. OK. OK!  Enough of THAT!  Here’s a pix of a cherry tree!  They are blooming EVERYWHERE in Nashville!NasCherryBlossom This is what I’ve been up to lately:  I’ve spent this first week getting things set up for camp (Insurance, marketing, etc) and also getting to EXPLORE the 3,000 acres of Warner Park!!!  What a fun day at work!  Hiking and seeing Blue birds and OWLS!  And that counts as work!  Because of Laura’s vision, our new camp has access to this whole area;  forest, streams and field!  PLUS, Warner Park has a really amazing Nature Center  where they keep bees, a pond full of chirping toads, an organic garden AND a staff of naturalists who are going to lead activities with our kids!  Jackpot! Here are some photos from Warner Park.

River

Daffodils

Even the bathrooms are CUTE and naturey!

Bathroom

 

So camp is going to be great- I just need to get the word out and sign up about… 400+ more kids!

Yesterday, I drove to Columbia, TN, where Laura is the new Exec of a Community YMCA.  Their town is ‘famous’ for MULES.  (That’s right, the horse/donkey hybrid)  and they celebrate with a week-long festival called… Mule Days.  Saturday was the parade and BOY O BOY was it entertaining!

Check it out! 1- Horses in overalls  2- Lil’ Miss Paternity Testing  3- Cool old car  4- Giant Radio Flyer Horses in OverallsLil miss paternity   Blue Car ParadeWagon Car

And the fun doesn’t stop there! Horses with stars and guys yelling, “I say, WAFFLE!  You say, HOUSE!  WAFFLE!  HOUSE!”  Star HorseWaffle! House!

And don’t miss out on the Mule Train! 3 Mule team Mule Train The Saturday of FUN doesn’t stop there!  That afternoon I stopped by Laura’s house (in an old bank) to pick up some things and I got the grand tour!  The bank had to be majorly remodeled over the past decade to make it livable- and it’s awesome inside!  I don’ t have a pix of the 2 story vault that is now a library with a rolling ladder.

But I DO have a picture of me, riding on a cowboy fish in the ballroom.  Yup.
Laura's bank houseBallroom
Cowboy Fish
To cap off a great day, Laura fed me handmade Korean pork dumplings and took me to see some art.  OF course the ones made of crayons were my favorite.  I’m so sophisticated!
Crayon Deer
This arcade does an art crawl every 1st Saturday of the month.
Art

Remember when I used to write blog posts?


The last time I wrote a blog post, it was about our trip to Slovakia… we flew back into D.C. the day the gov’t shut down… October 2013.  Since then, I haven’t been overly inspired to do much more than post photos to FaceBook.  Lame, I know.  Here’s my attempt to get you all updated before I start posting about Nashville and how slowly people walk there (I’ve been warned!)

FALL 2013- WINTER 2014 UPDATE

This Fall was split between applying for Event Planner jobs, teaching swim lessons at the YMCA and helping my dad build a house.  (In the photo I am DRYING a house, but I did get real handy with an impact driver and did some actual work!)

Adrienne Dries the Wall

 

Then Cory came home for a wedding, the beginning of November and helped us out at the house.

November Cory

Then it got insanely SNOWY and FREEZING!  Dad and I had some very leisurely mornings, making eggs and watching Kelly & Michael on TV while the wind chill hovered around -18.  (Dad went through a lot of Hot Hands this winter…)  In late November, Mom and I went Silver Bells in the City- in Lansing. Freezing, but a fun time!

Silver Bells

When it was warm enough to breathe outside (without your nose hairs freezing) Mom and I would take walks and have adventures.  THEN, just before Christmas, we had a crazy storm that knocked out our power for 3 days.  I slept over at Uncle Pete & Aunt Kathy’s.  They had a FULL house and threatened to go to a hotel.  Family Rocks!

Icy Tree

 

We managed to cut a tree and put it up for Christmas.  It was decorated with 30+ year old salt dough ornaments that were G’ma Smith’s.  So adorable.  I miss her.  Merry Christmas!

Saltdough ornaments

 

Then we headed back to Pete & Kathy’s for Christmas Day.  It’s always nice to hang out with the Smith crew.

Mom, Emma Betty Jane Christmas

What a bunch of cuties!  Above: Betty Jane, Emma and Mom.  Below: Uncle Petey & Callie, getting along just fine.

Pete and CallieI rang in the New Year with the best bunch of college roomies a girl could as for!  1234 White Street may have been  such a generic name that they refused to deliver pizza to us, but we know how to have FUN!  So happy to have spent the evening with this crew!  Also, Cards Against Humanity?  You should buy it.  Tentacles.  That is all.

White Street NYE

In January Mom, Dad and I drove out to Colorado to spend a week with my siblings.  It DUMPED down snow on our ski day at Beaver Creek and the powder was almost to our knees.  It snowed all day and the hill was so empty that we could ski RIGHT back on the lift, no wait at all.  The NEXT day, there was a snow day and everyone flocked to the slopes.  People were waiting 1.5 hours IN LINE for the LIFT!  You could see the lines at the Vail lifts from satellite images.

Vail Daily

Then, 4 of us spent 2 hours shoveling 2-3 feet of snow off of Cory & Maria’s roof.  You do the math.  Epic snow.

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Jessie and I, doing a dance in our matching Patagonia jackets.  We’re so spoiled!

Sister PatagucchiSipFamily Christmas

It was also Dad’s birthday before we left for Colorado, then it was Mom’s birthday when we got back!  There was much celebrating!

mom and dad celebrate

Let’s just skip February… and now it’s MARCH!  My Aussie friend from YMCA Camp Jewell is doing a tour of the USA with his friends and invites me to meet them in Chicago for St. Paddy’s Day!  What fun!

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Troy & I, waiting for my favorite Irish Band, One of the Girls, to go on!

Chicago River Green

Chicago sure knows how to do a solid dye job!

Adrienne & TroyTroy wore that Kermit head all day.  Seriously, for about 14 hours.  Drunks LOVE Kermit!  (We have no idea who these girls are, but we will claim Sebastian- in the sunglasses.  Surprisingly, he’s not drunk- he’s just Argentinian!)

And we’re all caught up to present day!  Here is my motto for 2014…

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It seems to have worked, I’m moving to Nashville, as we speak and developing/running a nature day camp in a 3,000 acre city park!  Should be an interesting summer!

 

 

Meeting G’ma Sip’s Cousins

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

We woke up in Klato and Elena made us omelets + liquor for breakfast, toured a neighbor’s garden and had mushroom soup (made by Michael’s mother, Hana).   Mushroom Soup

Every time we left a relative’s house, we got presents- usually it included alcohol!  (See below: my bell + apron!)

Elena's kitchen

On our way out of town, we stopped in Nedanovce (a tiny town a few miles away from Klato) to plan a visit for the following week with another set of relatives.

Zdenka

(Zdenka & Marie: The sisters are 80 & 85 year old cousins of his mother!)  It was a pretty old-timey way to set up appointments.  They sure were surprised to see us!

Hana’s summer cottage is in Neda Nofsa and she took us over to the cemetery to visit dead relatives.

CemeteryLovas Grave IMG_0794

We headed back to our Slovak ‘home base’- NITRA- It’s a mid-sized college town where dad is friends with a Lutheran priest called Pastor Ivan.  We settled in at the Penzion Vila Aria and made plans to drive across the country the next day.  Luckily, in Slovakia it will only take us 4-5 hours.  :)

PenzionAria

September 23

In the morning, a tiny, hummingbird of a woman, Anka, made us omelets for breakfast and forced me to take a pile of salami for the road.  She didn’t speak any English, but she was very concerned that I might go hungry.  This often happened to me in Slovakia… I guess I just have that look about me. ; )

ANKE at the Aira

Before we begin our cross-country trip we pop over set up a visit with “Young Jan” who also lives in Nitra.  Dad knew where Jan lived, so we stopped over- but no one was home.  We called Jan’s cell phone and he answered but the connection was bad… until he stepped out onto the front porch!  HEY!!!!

After setting up a visit for the 30th, we start our journey to Poprad, at the foothills of the Tatra Mountains.

tatras

The Agricultural Fair in Klato Nova Ves

Michael cheers DadWhen I last left you, we were just leaving the VINOTEKA – where we tasted BURCIAK (wine’s sweeter/younger/cloudier cousin) and gave the chandelier the ‘Ultimate Test’.  We headed towards Alena’s school through the grounds of an abandoned mansion- the family had collected ‘exotic’ trees that we recognized from Michigan!  Species like Black Walnut, Ponderosa Pines and Sycamore trees!Klato MansionThe Mansion was owned by the mayor and in 1901 his wife started a school in a spare room.  Now, Alena is the principal of that school, on the same property.  Today is the Agricultural fair and all the kids have brought their biggest vegetables/fruits to school to win ribbons.

Outside of the school, Veronica was gathering seeds for her garden.Nika picks seedsInside the school, the ballroom was lined with folding tables heaped full of the bounty of the backyard gardens of  the town of Klato Nova Ves.  It was pretty impressive!

The spoils of Nature

The school kids recreated the town with cardboard box houses, decorated with seeds  and leaves.

Klato recreated

This is the cutest Leaf-Fox I’ve ever seen.  Good job, Anetka!Leaf Fox

Mom found a BIG pumpkin and a basket of gourds!

Big PumpkinThere was also an entertaining table of door prizes – our favorite was a gift basket of wine, paired with a first-aid kit!  Just incase you injure yourself in a drunken stupor.  We headed out an hour later and stopped to admire the fountain in the ‘Nameste’ (Town square).

Klato fountain

Then, we head back to Alena’s house for leftovers! We’d spent 1/2 the day, wandering through this tiny town!  As we made our way home, these hearty geese chased us across their yard… eventually, I should post videos- these guys were SO NOISY!

Klato Geese

Slepacia, Slivovecia and wood-fired pork knee! Oh my!

Klato

We arrive at Alena's house just before noon and lunch smells fantastic!

Arrival

Meals are long and boozy when we are hosted by our Slovakian relatives. Every course begins with a shot of local liqueur called Slivovica, served in a fancy cut glass. Whoa! Mom & I play along- knocking back our shots and shouting, “Nastrovia!!!” Dad has learned that he can opt out of most celebratory drinking with a single word, “Chauffeur”, since the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.0%. Slovakians take drunk driving very seriously… probably because they take their drinking very seriously!

Nastrovia

*Upon closer review of this photo- this is breakfast. Omelets and shots = Yowza!

The first course is always Slepacia. Homemade, delicious chicken soup with delicate handmade noodle (if you're lucky). Alena had ordered focaccia with bacon from the bakery and I had to pace myself- everything was so delicious but there was more to follow.

Then, the pork knee arrived at the table, wood fired and full of flavor. (Did we have veggies?) There is a little plate of cut veggies & pickles- just like at G'mas house.

 

We sat for a while after dinner- Michael in the center of multiple conversations- and then dessert arrives on the table. Kolache! Dad's favorite kind of Slovak cake is a roll with walnut paste inside. There is also a poppy seed version that is very popular. G'ma Sip used to make both varieties. Two & 1/2 hours after lunch began & its time for a walk… Or a nap. We opt for the guided tour of Klato.

In such a small village, the principal attracts attention wherever she goes. We stop to talk to kids & parents as we head up the hill to the cemetery.Alena and her students

One of the older women we pass offers us handfuls of walnuts that she has collected.Walnuts

In the cemetery, we visit Alena's mother's grave, Stephania who passed away 3 months ago and clear the leaves off her grave and light a candle for her. In Slovakia, everyone takes care of their own family's grave – one family was there doing some landscaping with white quartz rocks.

Stephania

The town of Klato is so small that they do not have a church- the chapel in the cemetery holds services on Saturdays, when the priest from the next-town-over is available.

Klato chapel

We stopped in side to ogle the paintings on the ceiling and making sure our number wasn't up…

Now serving

Jesus is now serving number 888.

After leaving the cemetery, we make the logical next stop… the VINOTEKA!!!

On Tap

Slovakians grows lots of grapes and many of them make their own wine. This guy built a bar in his basement and it's awesome! He is also a metalsmith and really went all-out decorating the bar in a manly fashion.

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The owner really wanted to put up this sweet chandelier and then his wife pointed out that tipsy patrons may try to swing on it. So, he re-installed it to support up to 250 lbs. In the photo, Veronica + Michael are giving it 'the ultimate test'. It seems to be holding up!

Burchiok

Did you notice the pitcher of cloudy 'wine' in the photo of all the taps on the wall? No? Well, it may have been your introduction to BURCIAK- its midway between grape juice and wine. A lot of the sugar hasn't fermented into alcohol yet, so it's sweet yet gives you a buzz. And since we had WALKED there, Dad's usual excuse did not apply. This photo cracks me up!

The tour of Klato wasn't over, next we head over to Alena's school to check out the Agricultural Fair! We'll save that excitement for next time!

 

Sloooovakia! Leaving the fast-paced life behind.

September 19th, Thursday

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(Photo by Mom)

When we last left the story, we had escaped the frantic pace of Prague and we were cruising the back-country lanes of Slovakia. We arrived in Martin in the late afternoon and got settled at the St. Martin Hotel. Their aren’t really ‘hotels’ in Slovakia… we stay in places that are more like a cross between a motel and a Bed & Breakfast.

There were always comforters with duvet covers, folded sideways on the beds. Quaint and adorable.

We hopped back in the car and headed off to find Dad’s favorite spot for dinner, the Chopper Club. (Yup, it’s a Harley restaurant!)

CHopper Club

Dad has eaten there 3 times and always orders the Flintstone Platter; a sizzling slab of rock with a chunk of meat cooking on top!

With full tummies, we headed back to the pension and off to bed. The first day in Slovakia was a SUCCESS!

September 20th, Friday

After an (almost) uneventful breakfast (Dad’s ‘French Toast’ was covered in salty sheep cheese!) we hit the road. Heading to Banska Bystrica to cruise the pedestrian walkway and explore the gorgeous downtown.

Banksa BystriccaIMG_0587

There were clarinet-playing buskers serenading us with Stevie Wonder songs, a HUGE rock fountain and a whole slew of lovely saints, carved out of marble.

Virgin Mary

(Hmmm… taking a second look at this next one, I think her dress is telling me that she’s no saint!)

Banksa B

We strolled through the cemetery and then went in search of lunch. We found a lunch special at a cute little restaurant in the lower level of an alley but had a bit of trouble with the menu.

When the waiter came over we just pointed to the #1 and hoped for the best. Dad may look a bit skeptical, but we ended up ordering a 2nd plate! (It turned out to be fried PORK NECK with boiled potatoes & cabbage. YUM!)

Slovak lunch

After lunch we headed out of town and headed to Hronsek, to see a 300 year old wooden church. Slovakia is famous for their wooden churches, many with onion domes. Their interesting designs stem from a 1681 set of restrictive laws that were placed on the building of Protestant churches.

What kind of church would you build if it had to be built with the following restrictions: 1) No metal nails may be used. 2) Construction must be completed in 365 days. 3) Church may not have a steeple/ bell tower. 4) The front door may not be directly on the street. PFFT!  That sound difficult!

Hronsek Wooden Church

The Hronsek church is what they came up with in 1726. I’m pretty shocked that an uncoordinated altar boy didn’t accidentally burn it down, considering they must have held candle-lit services for many of those years.

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Next, we head to Nitra- Dad’s favorite Slovakian town! We stay Friday night at the Pension Zorboska.

Slovak Window

Slovak Window

This window at our Pension has many ‘Slovak’ details: 1) Lace curtains. (Every house in every Slovak village has lace curtains. Seriously. Every. Single. One!)

2) Geraniums in the window box! 3) No screens! Plus, cool windows that can be opened from one side or tilted in from the top so the blinds can still be drawn.

We walked into downtown Nitra for dinner. On the way we passed a new art installation honoring Cyril & Methodious – Slovakia’s patron saints who brought Christianity and written language to the Slavic people.

Even half-way around the world, Mom & Dad show their Spartan Pride!

We keep walking through town, til we get to one of Dad’s favorite parts of Nitra- the ‘Nameste’- or central square. It’s got a fancy fountain with color-changing lights!

Our hunger forced us to move on… until Dad found an Italian restaurant and we had a great dinner. Yum- lasagna and arugula pizza! Dad also drank three glasses of ‘apéritif’… which Mom described as ‘cough syrup with bubbles’. Blech.

Full & happy we walk Back to the Zoborska to bed down for the night!