I guess I should start by saying that Barnum is my car. It's a 2001 PT Cruiser with manual transmission in frosted taupe with leather interior...the Limited Edition.
Anyway, when we went to see the Matrix last Friday in Dallas, Stepan discovered that my blinker wasn't working. If you flipped the switch you would sometimes hear a whirring noise, but mostly it was just dead. Since then it has worked off and on very randomly. I've been intending to take the car in for it's 30,000 mile tune-up at the dealership for sometime now (about 5,260 miles ago); this electrical problem was just the kick in the pants I needed to make an appointment. This is also the perfect opportunity to take care of the 6 recall notices I've accumulated since I got the car 3 years ago.
I dropped the car off yesterday and if I had known it was so easy to get it serviced I wouldn't have procrastinated so long. The dealership is right next to the Capital Metro Park and Ride so getting to/from there from either work or home wouldn't be too much of a hassle. They also have a shuttle service that will take you where ever you need to go after you drop your car off. My wonderful husband agreed to take me to work yesterday though so I didn't need to wait for either the bus or the shuttle.
In any event, to make a short story long, I still don't have my car. I spoke with the service rep a couple of time yesterday afternoon; he was trying to find out when the blinker problem started and if anything had precipitated it and if the car had ever been in a wreck. Hopefully, they'll figure it out today cause being without Barnum for one day isn't a big deal, but going without for 2 days in a row is kinda hassle...I do have Christmas shopping to do afterall!
We went to our first Christmas party today. It was at the Burgess home...an absolutely gorgeous place out in Driftwood. They are a wonderful family who graced us with their presence this year at our pumpkin carving party. Stepan took some great pictures of the baby and the oldest boy then.
We've been to their annual Christmas party for serveral years now, but I think I had the most fun today. I think it probaby has a lot to do with the wonderful weather we had. It was cool, maybe even nippy, but it wasn't cold. The food was wonderful..especially the traditional chili; this year available in spicy, regular, or vegetarian. And our gingerbread cookies didn't last too long on the dessert table. Stepan took tons of pictures for the host...I'm not sure how many he'll post since most of them are strangers to us. There was a fire pit outside where we roasted marshmellows for s'mores and cooked hot dogs on the ends of wire hangers. A duo singing Christmas songs by the pool. And more people from more varied backgrounds than I ever hope to attract to one of my house parties!
Very much fun. And a great way to start out the party circuit for the year.
We just returned from my office Christmas party. It was at Castle Hill Cafe this year. I really liked the space. It was more intimate than the room we had been getting at the Headliner's Club and the food was fabulous.
I work with a great group of people. It's especially nice to meet with them socially. Their interests are so varied and interesting we didn't once revert to talking about work. We had a number of people there this year that are celebrating their first Christmas at WHM. As Stepan mentioned, it gave the whole affair an energy that was perceptibly different from previous holiday parties. All in all, a very festive occassion.
I have finally found a moment to update my blog. I am sitting in my sister-in-law's dining room after helping make a traditional Czech Christmas cookie called beehives, but I'm getting ahead of myself...
Christmas Party #3 was a roaring success. My cousin, Elizabeth hosted a family gathering to celebrate Christmas and my cousins', Matt and Courtney, birthday. Wonderful gifts were exchanged, fabulous food was consumed, and a beautisimas time was had by all (yes, I realize I probably just made up a word). Gifts I received included a James Avery snowflake necklace from the Churchetts, a marcacite art nuveau necklace from Mom, an atomic alarm clock from Stepan, a bar of hand lotion from the Lingers, and a big Christmas ornament candy dish filled with peppermint candies from the TFC Karls. As always, Elizabeth's house was nicely decorated and very festive.
Christmas Party #4 was our book group party hosted by Lynn. She had taken a decorating tip from Castle Hill and hung Christmas ornaments on pretty ribbon from her ceiling fans. Everybody in the group provided an appetizer and a wrapped book for the "white elephant" book exchange. The exchange was very lively this year with books getting "stolen" fairly quickly and many were exchanged multiple times. I don´t remember the book I ended up with, but I was very happy that Stepan ended up with The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay; that's a book I suggested to the group a couple of years ago and I've been wanting to read it since. For my book, I took After You'd Gone, a book I read a couple of months ago and enjoyed tremendously.
Otherwise, leading up to our trip, I've been insanely busy at work. My last day was Wednesday, yet I still managed to bill close to 40 hours for the week. When I wasn't working, I would be trying frantically to finish my shopping for the trip which included gift shopping and winter clothes shopping for myself, wrapping gifts, doing laundry, and telling Homer how much I was going to miss him every chance I got. The book group party was the day before we left so that night we didn't get to bed until 2:30am, but everything was done by the time Elizabeth came to take us to the airport...including dropping Homer off at the O'Reilly's for his 2 week vacation with Gracy and Samantha.
Well, I think I've monopolized Martina & Urs's computer enough for one evening. Next time I get a chance I'll write more about what it's been like in Switzerland. Though I will say that we are all having a wonderful time. Stepan's family are all very gracious hosts and lots of fun. My only wishes are that I spoke more Czech (or German) and that my niece and nephews didn't like my mom more than they like me...though I do run a very close 2nd.
I think we´re going to have a white Christmas here in Swityerland. (I've decided that I'm going to ignore the z,y problem with the kezboard, just like mz mom).
We've had a great time so far. We've had verz little time for shopping though Stepan would tell zou differentlz. Our dazs have been spent in Mörshwil (with Tina and her familz), Speicher (with the in-laws), and San Gallen (window shopping and sight-seeing). Our niece and nephews are wonderful. I just wish I could understand them! Little Moritz keeps talking to me, but I don't think he understands that I don't understand him. The older one, Rafael, beats the pants off of me in fooz-ball. And Aline reminds me of us when we where her age...alwazs performing for the adults. It's verz wonderful to see how well Aline and Moritz get along...though I was just told that thez all had a big fight when we were out todaz.
We spent todaz in Luzern. A beautiful citz that, of course, we didn't have enough time in. We saw the highlights though which include the Chapel Bridge and the Lion Monument. We also spent a good portion of the daz in the Glacier Park which had a wonderful hall of mirrors. Lucern has a stunning view of the Alps.
Mz prazers are all dedicated to Grandma Karl todaz. We got word this morning that she suffered a minor stroke. From all accounts she is fine. We've spoken with Meredith and she had spoken with Grandma. We're much relieved that everzthing seems to be fine in WFs, though I think I'll go up for a visit the weekend after I get back home (Eliyabeth, would zou like to go?).
Well, that's about it for todaz. I must be social with mz hosts. I will close with letting zou know that though I was layz with the zs and ys, I wasn't layz with the puncutation. For example, "ä" is where the apostophe is suppose to be.
I'm enjoying Christmas this year more than I did last time we came to Switzerland for the holidays. I'm not sure if that's because Mom is with me this time or because these people are in fact my family here. I don't think I'll ever enjoy Christmas here as much as I do with the Lucio's or Karl's, but I would think that is to be expected.
The tradition here is to fast on Christmas Eve. That's the modern Catholic version of fasting (no meat). The family gathers at lunchtime for vánočka, a Czech sweetbread, and hot chocolate. Before eating we sang "Happy Birthday" to Baby Jesus. The evening meal is fried carp (which is very good) and potato salad. This year, Martina made some cinnamon ice cream for dessert which I will try very hard to get the recipe for.
After dinner, the children are sent upstairs to play while the adults light the candles on the Christmas tree, get all the presents out of hiding, and place a plate of Christmas cookies on the coffee table (Martina made 7 kinds of cookies this year). Once all is ready a bell is rung and the children come racing into the living room. Moritz went straight to the plate of cookies and had a great time eating one right after another. Before opening gifts, we admired the Christmas tree and sang Christmas carols, alternating between Czech, German, and English language songs. This is one of the traditions that I enjoy the most. I would now like to get Christmas songbooks in all three languages so that next time it will be easier for everyone to sing more songs. The gifts were open slowly since the children were handing them out and every time they came to one for themselves they would stop to open it and play with it for a bit before going to the next gift. Stepan got me an iPod (yeah, Stepan!); Mom got me some comfortable pajamas; Dominik got me and Mom a children's "My First Words" book in German; and Aline made a ring for me. Stepan and I got two tickets to Die Fledermaus which we will see in Prague and a bat sun catcher from (and made by) his mom. We also got a handmade candle from Rafael and a homemade ornament from Moritz. And better yet, I think all of our gifts to the children were appropriate and appreciated - it was hard to tell when we were buying them since we rarely see them and Martina couldn't provide very many suggestions.
Well, that's all I have time for at the moment. Hopefully I won't forget what we did on Christmas Day....Happy St. Stephen's Day!
Well, I knew I wouldn't be able to do a complete entry for the remainder of my time in Switzerland if I didn't do it right away. I'm now is Prague at an internet cafe (logging in for about $3/hour)...so I'll try to hit the highlights and hope I still have time to cover what's been going on here in the Czech Republic.
On Christmas Day, we went to church with Helena and Vladamir where Dominik was playing piano for the service with another friend who was playing the cello. Stepan's brother is very musically talented...as is most of his family. The Christmas tree at the altar was roughly 20' high and lit with real candles. After mass, I lit a candle for my grandmothers by the nativity.
The main Christmas meal was cooked by Helena and served at noon. Between church and lunch, we (me, Step, Mom, and Vladya) went sledding...something Mom and I had never done before. Mom did great...especially considering that her experienced driver (Vladya) couldn't give her instructions in English and she couldn't understand the instructions he was giving her in Czech...they ran into the snow bank a couple of times. I'm looking forward to those pictures...I think I took a couple of really nice ones of Stepan with his Dad. One of the most fun parts for me was driving one of the sleds on my own and following Stepan into the really deep snow. I'm just glad I thought to take dry jeans to change into before lunch...the jeans I had on got quite soaked!
After lunch, Step, his parents, Mom and I went for a short hike to Egli with Čoky (my dog-in-law). It was nice, but Mom was in here mules and not all of the hike was on a discernable path. We also went to Appenzell and saw a couple of nativity sets. One of which was in the cathedral in San Gallen. It's a wonderful example of a ornate, traditional, baroque cathedral. We were lucky enough to hear part of a Christmas concert that was starting shortly after we went in. The bishop was also in attendance and we got to watch his procession.
Time's up. Hope all is well with all my readers. I'm keeping a notebook now of my time in Prague so if I don't get another chance to sign on, I'll at least know what I've done.