Thursday, December 29, 2011

Two days, two walks

Day 1:

Day 2:
Full of life.

It's crazy how my mood can change so fast according to the weather. I actually like photographing nature better in the overcast creates a great mood. But I'm definitely happier and more productive in sunny weather!

Question of the day:

What kind of weather is your favorite?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


What inspires you?

I took this picture a few weeks ago, and forgot about it until now! I love these kinds of days where the sun shines through fluffy clouds!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Drizzly magical Vienna

The rain drizzled onto our hats and coats. Our feet were numb with cold. Our noses were red and our cheeks blushed.

But...somehow it all worked together, because...

The markets sparkled in the glow of the Christmas lights. Starbucks (yes, we went to Starbucks in Vienna...sorry little Viennese coffee shops!) was even cozier as we warmed our hands on steaming hot lattes. And we had such a sweet time together walking around and enjoying the city's charm!

It was a short trip, but very much enjoyed! We came home on Friday night. Just in time for Christmas Eve on Saturday!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Snowflakes that stay...

...on your nose and eyelashes.

These are a few of my favorite things! (Think of Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music)

Ahh...the first snow. I love it! I've been waiting for it for weeks. And now, just in time for Christmas, it is finally here.
I love the first snow so much.

 Now come inside!! It's cold!

Can I go out and play? Oh pleeeease??
Guess who's home??!
Tyler and Lara are back for Christmas! I'm so glad they made it safely!
The fire- love sitting by it, warming up, and catching up with Tyler and Lara.
Question of the day:

What are your favorite winter/Christmas sights? What makes you feel cozy in the winter?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vaclav Havel- a man who changed this country

Vaclav Havel, the former president of Czech, passed away in his sleep on Sunday.

It's hard for me to even take in this sad occasion.

I've learned about Vaclav Havel in school. I've seen him quoted throughout my life. I've heard Czechs talk about him with adoration. I've read about him in history books. He changed the face of the Czech republic, and we can be forever grateful to him for his influence.

Vaclav Havel was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech republic.  He received the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom. His involvement with the human rights manifesto Charter 77 brought him international fame as the leader of the opposition in Czechoslovakia; it also led to his imprisonment. He was the symbol of freedom for Czechs.

A famous Czech novelist said it right: "Vaclav Havel's most important work is his own life."

Thank you Vaclav Havel for everything you did for this country. In part, thanks to you, I can even live here. If it weren't for your involvement, who knows how much longer communism would have lasted. You were an excellent, humble leader.

Here are a few pictures that Caleb captured in Ostrava at the memorial.

Wish I could be in Prague to say farewell with all the Czechs. (Pictures from web)
Go to my Mom's blog too for her touching post.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The end of sparkly teeth!

Today was the day!! Wooohooo!!!

The orthodontist took my braces off today! I can't even express my excitement about this. It's been exactly 3 years, 9 months and 8 days since I got them on. It's such a relief to finally be at the end. Ahh....

When I first got braces... (They were definitely crooked!)

During braces... (today, before I got them off)

After braces...(!!)

My orthodontist was so very sweet throughout this whole process. I'm going to genuinely miss seeing her!

I'm very thankful that I could have braces...and glad that that's done too! Now to get my retainer tomorrow, and that'll be it! (Other than check-ups) Yippee!!

Note: Want to see my first post of when I got braces??

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Busy and yet not

Do you ever have seasons of life that seem so busy you can hardly keep up? And yet somehow you still find time to get on Facebook, Pinterest, skype with a friend, bake or go shopping. So really, we I realize, our lives are really not that busy in the sense of time that is "free".

Then why do we feel so busy?

For me, what I've noticed, is that most of the time, I'm not actually as busy as I feel. I just need to organize my schedule well, and map it all out. Calm down, take a deep breath, and start doing something. As soon as I can't keep track of everything that's going on, that's when I start to feel like I have no time.

I often think about this verse...well I don't think about it often enough, but I'm thinking of it now...

Ephesians 5:15-17
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

 I need to constantly be asking myself: Am I making the best use of my Mark Driscoll (one of my favorite Bible teachers to listen to!!) puts it: to the glory of God and the good of all people?

I'd have to answer honestly right now, that this is not always true.

Lord, help me to be a better steward of my time every single day, no matter how "busy" I feel. You are in control, and you should get all of my attention, and all of the glory. 

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding.
 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
(You know how much I love sunrises. I totally feel like God is giving me a gift with every beautiful sunrise I get to see.)

Question of the day:

When you start feeling busy, what do you do? How do you organize your time better?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas favorites

Whitney from Elm Street Life just posted this fun list of Christmas favorites on her blog. I loved the idea! Here are a few of my own that make me happy...

Smells: Pine. Cinnamon rolls in the oven on Christmas morning. Cloves.

Traditions: There are so many! I love the years when my Dad is asked to speak at the "pulnocni" ("midnight") services in Havirov or Ostrava on Christmas Eve. We all go together to the services that take place on the square of the city. It's chilly, but so many people come to listen from the city. Dad often presents the Gospel and shares about the true meaning of Christmas.

I  also love stockings on Christmas morning- when we were little, that was the only thing we could open before our parents woke up. It was always so exciting to wake up and go down to the Christmas tree with Caleb and Tyler (we'd always wake each other up) and open up our stockings.

Flower: Poinsettia (is that actually a flower??).

Movie: Elf- hilarious and cute. Christmas with the Kranks- a holiday classic for Mom and me. Santa Clause- 1 or 2, I like them both!

Hymn: Angels We Have Heard on High, or O Holy Night. But I love them all.

Memory: I'll always remember the day that my Dad gave me a painting. We had gone to Prague earlier that season, and went into an art gallery. I saw a painting that I absolutely adored, and couldn't stop exclaiming about. I NEVER, ever thought that my Dad might get it for me. My dad told us that we should wait somewhere, while he walked to the car (it was a ways away), so he could pick us up. Little did I know that he was not only being nice, he was also carrying the painting back to the car! When I opened up my present on Christmas morning, I was in shock, and so excited. I will treasure this painting for the rest of my life! 

Easy gift: Scarves, mugs with tea, or something yummy, like these pecans!

Sight: Snow falling under a street lamp at night. It's so peaceful and quiet- perfect! Or lit-up Christmas trees in little towns and villages- so happy.

Food: Cinnamon rolls, Turtle Cookies (Grandma's recipe), Turkey (by far my favorite meat), Mulled cider

Dislikes: The pressure of finding the perfect gift. You want it to be meaningful, so you don't just want to go out and buy what everyone else is buying. But you also only have a limited amount of money. Let's just say, I like making things for Christmas, when I can. But I will say, that if/when you do find the perfect gift, it's a huge LIKE of Christmas- that feeling that you know someone's going to get a lot of joy when they open their gift is so great.

Ok, your turn. Some of your Christmas favorites?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reminded by a red train PART 2

(Go here for part 1)

When we arrived at the Stephens house, with a big plastic bag and a little red advent calendar train inside, I was excited. The thought of Cece's joy when she would open the present made my heart happy.

Mom had to explain to Cece what this train was, and what it meant. You get a piece of candy in each box. Every. Single. Day. Oh my goodness!! What could be more fun for a little kid than the surprise of what might be inside that little numbered box every day. Could it be a gummy, or a lentilky (Czech version of M&M's or Smarties), or a chocolate coin?
No peeking!!
You mean...there will be candy EVERY DAY??!
The first one...
Yess!! Candy!
So great!
This is the joy of giving gifts!

Now for 24 days (only 17 now!), Cece will patiently await Christmas- the day we celebrate Jesus' gift to us. She may not even realize it now, but waiting like this for Christmas is like us waiting for the return of Christ one day. We get some blessings now, and others Jesus is saving for us for another day. (We can't get them all at once!). And then one day, He will come back, and that will be the best day of all. Even better than Christmas.

So even though I sometimes forget the real meaning behind giving Christmas gifts, getting this gift for the Stephens family reminded me of the joy of giving gifts. I want to have just as much joy when I get "gifts" from Jesus this season, as Cece did when she received her gift. And I want to continue to give gifts with joy too, remembering Christ with every gift.
 And now may we patiently await the day we celebrate Christ's birth! Until then...why not start celebrating now! And remember what Christmas is all about... read about this special day in Luke 2. It's a great story, I promise.

One last note: I just have to say, Brian is an awesome dad. :) He got Cece more excited just through his excitement! Made the whole gift ten times better for her. Way to go Brian!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Reminded by a red train

It's starting to be the season of gift-giving again. Christmas: the day where we celebrate the best Gift of all- Jesus Christ. Our tradition of giving gifts at Christmas should remind us of the{Him}Gift, shouldn't it? But sadly, this is not always true. I for sure don't always think about it.

Yesterday though, I was reminded about what gift-giving is all about. And who better to show me this than my Mom, who is one of the best gift-givers I know.

We took a short 15-minute drive to a village near us named Celadna. This village is the "fancy" village of our area, and has an adorable gift store/cafe right on the square, with just the kinds of things that my mom and I love. We walked around the store, finding this and that, until we came upon something that captured the attention of both of us.

Mom: "Claire, isn't that gorgeous?! Someone needs that...don't you think someone needs that?"
Me: "Woow...who could that be for though?"
Mom: "I don't know...I wonder how much it is... Let's take a look at it."

It was a red train with two wagons, on which were boxes - 24 to be exact. Yep, it was an advent calendar. And it was even 40% off! It was one of those one-of-a-kind, tradition-forming things.

Me: Thinking of Michelle (Mom's friend in the States, who is a whizzz shopper, and who's shopping buddy, she says, is Jesus!) "Does Jesus want you to buy it? How about we flip." (We sometimes flip a coin and ask Jesus if we should buy something if we're not may sound weird, but hey, the disciples cast lots in the Bible too! And it makes things a lot easier!)

Mom flipped a coin, and we got heads -- YES (buy it).

We still didn't know who it was for, but Mom put the train on the counter at the registry, and we continued to walk around the store looking at everything they had.


Mom: "Claire! I think I know who it's for. I wouldn't normally give this kind of gift, but this is just special. It's for Aleisha [Amazing mom to Cece, and twins Gabe and Alex]."
Me: "Really?'re right. She's gonna love it!"
Mom: "What if this ended up being a tradition for know, like our advent calendar?"

Our advent calendar before any of the little wooden pictures were put up on the velcro studded tree! We've had it for as long as I can remember. It was a homemade gift from a family friend.
I couldn't stop grinning, knowing that this was who Jesus had in mind when He gave us "heads" on the coin.

We stopped by the little grocery store on the square and picked up some little bags of candy.  Filling each of the little boxes with a candy, I thought about how Cece would smile every time she opened one.

The rest of the story to be continued...including pictures of Cece and the full train too. :)