Monday, January 12, 2009

Love, I know.

It is good to be home, back with those I love. So far, this interim has been restful and cold. The snow doesn't seem to stop falling, which is beautiful, but makes our house a frigid icebox. Laughing and dancing and cooking with these friends again is such a perfect start to the year. This homecoming has not been hard or shocking. 

Although you people laugh at my choice to fill my last PE and take ice-skating, the first two classes have proven most challenging, and certainly hard on the palms of my hands. My supreme lack of skill or coordination or whatever guarantees belly-laughs if you care to come observe me on the rink. I wiggle when I try to skate backward, wobble when I git low to lunge, and body slam the ice when I attempt a spin. Shoot.

Last night was our first Sunday night family dinner of the new year. We gathered round our bright, retro kitchen table and huddled close to the stove for warmth. Quality $3 Crane Lake, sweet potato quesadillas, and good convo filled us up. We laughed hard. I am trying to cherish Annaliese's last weeks in this house before she heads to Chicago for her last semester, but I am looking forward to living with Katrena in February. Will be good.

So, hello, Hampton. I've missed you.

Here are some photos from house dinner last night, my lovely friends, and Jamie's new sprout apparatus. 

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sunny Christmastime

Here are some photos from a lovely family Christmas spent in the Dominican Republic warmth. It was great to see the Braunings again and lay in the sunshine and travel with my family. Lots of reading, lounging, eating and drinking, cards, beautiful teal water, family goodness....overall, it didn't really feel like Christmas, but it was a wonderful trip.

Could be a coconut.

Annika Lynn.

This man made me giggle every time I saw his feet walking down the beach.

Our beach.

My  bro. and my auntie's hat.

Part of the hermit crab collection.

Sean, Dad, and I played some cards and drank Presidente during some rain one afternoon.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kellemes Karácsonyt!

Merry Christmas!...well Happy Advent actually. Part of the Hungarian preparation is the Christmas markets that pop up all around the city at the end of November, the largest being right near fashion street and Vaci Út in Vörösmarty ter. The square is filled with rows of decorated wooden cabins selling handmade treats--ceramics, felted ornaments, knitted socks and mittens, jewelry, instruments, baskets, beeswax candles, gingerbread, tapestries, embroidered clothing, on and on.

Look at these lil guys! Lots of felted things like this.

The food! is another important aspect of these markets and the Hungarian Christmas traditions.  Massive pans of stuffed cabbage rolls, sausages, kebabs, and pompos (a type of soft bread from a wood fired oven served wtih sour cream and cheese and other usual healthy Hungarian toppings) are served all day. We chatted with a dude the other day who worked at a bank nearby and was just on lunch break eating at the market. 

No matter when you're shopping, you should probably have a mug of hot mulled wine to keep you warm. It's tasty stuff, but I think it might be a Hungarian excuse to drink while shopping midday. By now we have scoped out the various hot wine stands, and discovered the sweet one, the spiced one, and most importantly, the strong one. The hot chocolate is deeevine as well.

One of my favorite treats is this rolled dough stuff that is toasted over hot coals and dipped in whichever topping you choose--cinnamon sugar, crushed walnuts, vanilla sugar, or coconut. The walnut one is the best.

There is a lopsided XL Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the center, testifying to the imperfect, unpretentious nature of it all. Most of the goods are made from natural materials, full of individuality, and handmade. Its about eating seasonal Hungarian food and exploring the goods and drinking da WIIINE.

This is a bit difficult to see in this photo, but at advent the famous Gerbeaud Cafe transforms 24 of its windows into a giant advent calendar. Every day at 5pm a window is opened as trumpeters play, revealing a work of art by a different modern Hungarian artist. It's a pretty neat tradition to publicly celebrate advent in this way. There is often live music performances on the weekends, too. It's a party, one of my favorite things right now.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Some lasts

Two days ago some of us chicks went to the applied arts museum, something I have been meaning to do for the past few months. The massive building, with its lovely green and gold tiled roof, is right at the stop where I transfer to the metro to go to school so I see it often, but had never been inside. The craft and design exhibit was so wonderful--lots of ceramics, interesting sculptures, unusual quilts, furniture. Lydia got good ideas for her quilting class this interim and I took some nice photos for myself. 

Here is a not-great photo of the museum at night, but you get the idea.

Our farewell dinner was only a block away from the museum so we walked our way over there to eat more heavy Hungarian food and reflect on the semester as a group. It was good to hear people's final thoughts about what they appreciate about this place and about our time together. Corwin got slightly emotional.

Some of us still had finals the next day. Lydia, Claire, and I went to one of our favorite teahouses to sit yogi style on beanbags and sip delicious treats, which we will all miss so much--rich hot chocolate of every variety and sweet oriental spice tea with cream are only a few.

My days are expectedly very full right now (lots of shopping!) and I will hopefully post some more goody photos and stories soon. We are going to the Nutcracker tonight at the opera house on Andrassy, which is magnificently lit up with white lights now. I always love walking around this city and I am looking forward to the ballet.


Monday, December 8, 2008

City Park Flea Market

The sun was shining, but it was actually cold and windy. I didn't wear a coat so was stinking freezing by the end of our outing to the City Park flea market. Bradley, you would have loved this place. It was packed and enormous--tons of Hungarian books, old cameras, communist passports, jewelry, toys, traditional nesting dolls, tapestries, just everything! I felt overwhelmed most of the time, but enjoyed exploring the tables, trying to find cheap treasures. I did not purchase anything for myself, but we might try to make it back there next weekend before we head home on Monday. 

We only have one week left, and are frantically finishing schoolwork to be able to squeeze in last Budapest outings. Tonight we are going to our usual Monday night bar, and tomorrow is for class, the applied arts museum, goodbye dinner, and ice-skating on top of the WestEnd mall. Full days and all these "lasts" are making my time flash by so close to the end. 

I couldn't help these few pastoral pics; it was so nice to see the sun. And look at my friends! They look good!

Friday, December 5, 2008

More Croatia Photos

We had a photographer dude with us on our Croatia trip. He sent a link of his photos if you want to see some more pics of the trip.

Back to my take-home final for Corwin. Love.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving in Prague

Ali's family and Dave came for a visit this past week to experience all the goodness of Budapest and Praha. It snowed for the first time the night the Winters arrived from 80 degree southern California on Saturday. It was cold and slushy, but we warmed the foreigners with welcome shots of silva palinka. Dave arrived on Sunday afternoon and we all went to a trendy dinner at Menza in Lizst Ferenc tér, complete with grog and chicken-stuffed doughnuts, which were actually not delicious. 

Monday and Tuesday were filled with city-seeing and lots of touristy Budapest activities--the thermal baths, walking across the Chain Bridge, Parliament at night, traditional meals, tram riding, the Christmas market, Hero's Square, unicum, Castle Hill, hot chocolate and eszpresszo in cafes. The afternoon we went to the baths it was dark and snowing, and thick steam clouds hovered over the hot outdoor baths as snow flakes fell into the water. Such an odd sensation and "neat" sight, but the usual potbellied, speedo-wearing Hungarian men brought me back to normality. 

After a full two days in Budapest, we all ('cept lovely Lydia) hopped a train to Prague, Czech Republic. We slammed snacks, played some Boggle, ate dinner in the dining car, and suddenly we were maneuvering the tram system to find our way to our apartment in Praha. 

Czech out these guys (lots of that joke goin on):

The River Vltava:

With the help of Rick Steves, we did a self-guided walk around the Jewish quarter, which included the Old New Synagogue and the Jewish cemetery. Only given a small square of land to to bury their loved ones, the Jewish cemetery holds piles of graves with tombstones stacked and falling over one another. The Jewish community was forced to bury their people in layers, overlapping the graves that now look like rubble piled behind the metal fence.

Loitering in a cobblestone courtyard trying to choose a restaurant for lunch:

St. Nicholas Church in the Old Town Square:

Wenceslas Square:

That night we heard a lovely viola concerto at Prague's Municipal House before going home to a fine Thanksgiving meal. The dudes picked up greasy Chinese takeout while Nancy made cornbread stuffing that she imported from California. Complete with edes Hungarian champagne and Ukrainian white wine, our American Thanksgiving in the Czech Republic was something of a cultural compilation with all wonderful people.

The next day we walked up to the castle district, saw a magnificent cathedral, wandered the beautiful streets, ate traditional Czech food at a mini, local bar, and visited the Lennon wall.

The Lennon Wall has been around since the 1980's. It's layered with graffiti, mostly Beatles lyrics, and was whitewashed many times during Soviet rule, but now stands a symbol of hippie peace and continues to accumulate layers of paint.

"Dave visits Hungs 08"

We drank lots of beer.

St. Vitus Cathedral blew us all away.


Walking across the Charles Bridge:

Friday night we went to dinner at Clear Head, a trendy veggie restaurant with lots of art, lighted table, stenciled walls, and sculptured on the ceilings. The food was amazing and the hot spiced apple juice was like the cider I've been missing from MI. After our couscous patties, spinach quesadillas, and veggie kabobs, we walked around the Old Town Square, sipped some thick, dark hot chocolate, and admired the giant wire angels and flashy tree.

We walked back to the apartment along the river and saw Prague's castle, which is actually the largest ancient castle in the world, glowing at night. It felt like a fairy tale.

Early Saturday morning, we went to the Prague Christmas market in Old Town Square before catching our train back to Budapest. Since it was the first day it was open, the market was still mainly food booths and some souvenir stands so we snacked on crepes and sausages, but didn't buy many cool Czech gifts.

After we arrived back in Budapest, we decided to spend another hour at the Christmas market before it closed for the evening. Dave and I ate stuffed cabbage rolls and walked around the booths looking for pottery and mittens. 

We dropped our stuff at the dorms and went to Szimpla where the Winters and Dave got to experience the outrageous, open-courtyard bar filled with plants, crazy furniture, trendy tweens, all kinds of lamps, film-screens, and tons of random stuff on the walls. We had hot wine and beers and cheesy baguette pizza. It's one of our favorite late night places. 

It was wonderful to share some of our life here with friends and family from home and explore a new city together, too. Stan and Nancy were so very good to us. It felt like a little taste of home, and I am excited to be with my people for Christmas, yet I am beginning to feel sad and a little panicked as the end approaches. Two weeks left.