Thursday, February 28, 2013

I can drive!

This is now going to be my view. Crazy!!

I am officially a driver!! Yesterday I picked up my driver's license at the town hall. Woohoo! I'm so happy.

The process of getting a driver's license is a long one here in Czech. Firstly, you have to be 18 to drive. Secondly, it takes 7 one and a half hour classroom sessions, one 2 hour first-aid class, and 28 driving sessions of 45 minutes each (I would drive for an hour and a half with my instructor, so all together, I went driving 14 times). After finishing my test (in January), I then had to wait for three weeks before I could get my license! Whew. But that's all over, and today I have a pretty blue and red plastic card that says I can drive. 

You're probably wondering how it feels to drive now... I'm still getting used to my mom's car, so I get a little nervous. I still drive slowly. I don't particularly like our little country roads. I haven't driven completely alone yet. I sometimes forget to turn my lights on (they have to be on all the time here). I fumble with the garage door opener.

But the good things? I feel so accomplished and grown-up. I love to shift. The more I drive, the more comfortable I feel. My mom is patient when she rides with me and offers tips kindly. I think it's fun. Mostly, it's just great knowing that I'm capable of driving!

Soon driving will be an absolutely normal thing, that I won't even have to think twice about. To get there, I have to practice, practice, practice, every day. It won't be long before I'll be used to it! I look forward to that day. Until then, drivers in Frydlant, please be gracious to me...I'm still fairly new on the roads!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I made friends

I made friends last week.

Don't ask me why, but I was completely charmed by dogs on the streets last week in Hvar. For some reason, they were all so sweet. Even though they would come up uninvited (most of the time) to greet me and Kaylee, I didn't mind. And this didn't happen just once or twice. Dogs greeted us so many times!

I had to laugh by the end, because this just never happens at home. People keep their dogs behind fences, on leashes, and I guard my own dog, because she gets scared easily. Somehow though, these dogs never once caused any trouble. They were free to roam, and I loved it.

This may seem silly to you, but it really did make me happy last week. Who would'a thought I'd make so many friends in Hvar? Kaylee is a good buddy to have around.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Those Blue Bowls

As I have said before, and as so many people say, it's all about the little things. I'm not just saying really is true!

The apartment we're staying in this week in Hvar is small, with worn wooden doors and windows, mismatched decorations and a quaint view out to the sea. It's not much, but it's grown on us. When we arrived, we weren't sure exactly how cooking would work in the little kitchen, but Kik (a discount store) came to the rescue! You never know what treasures you will find there, and this time, we found a much needed can-opener, a cutting board, plastic plates, and cereal bowls.

This is a very, very small detail, but one of the things my mom and I love in the morning is cereal in deep round bowls with sliced bananas on top. Europeans don't really use these kinds of bowls though, so it wasn't surprising that they didn't have any stocked in the kitchen here.

Mom cares about the details that make memories special, so when we found cheap, pretty, light blue round bowls (whew, those were a lot of adjectives!!) in Kik, she decided to just go ahead and get them. You actually wouldn't imagine what a difference it's made in how we enjoy our mornings. It's those little things that I'm going to remember about being here.

The light blue bowls. The wind. The funny light-switches in the rooms (funny, as in, mismatched). The dogs who come to say 'hello' to Kaylee in town. Lunches from the grocery store. Gluten-free crackers.

P.S. As you can see, Kaylee is my little buddy these days! It's not quite the same without having brothers around, but I am thankful for her. She's great about sticking close and, of course, posing for the camera too. Teehee. I'm sure if you have a dog, you understand that they just become a part of your life!

Friday, February 22, 2013


I love where I live in's beautiful! But I often find that I stop appreciating the "normal" beauty around me when I'm at home. It's good to go away and get perspective, experience a contrast, so that when I come home I can enjoy everything all over again. My parents have always said that it's about having contrast. They are right! It definitely helps us all get out of ruts and dissatisfaction.

I hope you can find some contrast this week! It doesn't even have to mean going somewhere pretty. It could be the opposite- doing something uncomfortable, helping someone out, taking a walk in the cold. Or you could go out for coffee to a place you don't usually go to (if it's bad, at least you'll appreciate your everyday coffee more).

Perspective often makes life happier.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

And so it begins

It always starts here.

I walk down our driveway, my little buddy trotting beside me. We head to the left or right, and off we go exploring. It's not like I don't know my neighborhood, but I love looking for the changes in seasons, for the little nuances of the place I live in. What makes it unique, what stands out, what makes me smile?

This is the ONLY sign of anything green I found!

And since it's winter, these lovely walks always end with this...

A bath. Kaylee tolerates them. I wouldn't say she loves them, but she is patient with us. (Plus, I just think she's adorable all wet....I'm such a softie when it comes to my dog!)

Also, this marks the beginning of my Spring Break! For most people here in Czech, Spring Break is the time to go skiing. Not for our family! We leave for Croatia tomorrow to get a little time in the sun. It's not hot there (it's in the 50's), but it'll be good for us to breath sea air, and soak in some Vitamin D. I'm thankful, and excited!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Mousse

When we were in the States last summer, I had the best mousse I've ever eaten.

While staying with some friends, a chef (R.) cooked our meals, and she was amazing. She was so creative with all of her food, precise and thoughtful. She was friendly, and told the best stories. When she made this mousse, I couldn't stop sighing with contentment, and telling her how amazing it was.

R. was kind enough to tell me her recipe. I can just hear her saying, nonchalantly, "oh it's easy, you just...". I immediately pulled out my phone and started typing out the recipe that she was telling me. Yes, it was "easy", but I knew I would forget it! I am so glad I kept that note on my phone this whole time, and it's sad that it took me so long to finally make it! (Honestly, I was afraid it wouldn't work because of the way I wrote the recipe- it was vague and definitely not detailed)

It worked! The mousse turned out beautiful. I'm not sure it would stand up to the chef R's mousse if we did a taste comparison, but it's good enough for me. Oh yes, it is decadent. Rich. Smooth. It contains no heavy cream. It's as chocolatey as anything could possibly get. Perfect.

And did I tell you, along with brownies, chocolate mousse is my favorite dessert? Just thought I'd mention that. Imagine how excited I am about this recipe.

Mom helped me take pictures of the whole process for you, to simplify everything. Because the recipe is not super clear, hopefully the pictures will help. The recipe is just my paraphrasing, not anything professional! I've looked on the internet for this same recipe, and couldn't find even one like it! I'm sure there's one out there, but I just haven't found it yet.

R., if you're ever reading this, I want to tell you "thank you" for teaching so much even in such a short time. You would be amazed at how many times I think about you as I'm cooking. You're an inspiration to me!

And for the rest of  you, here you go...enjoy! Happy Valentine's Day!

Chocolate Mousse
-8 oz dark chocolate (use a very good dark chocolate! The quality of the chocolate makes all the difference)
-4 oz butter (melt these two together on low temp in the microwave, stirring twice)
-4 egg yolks with a tbsp of sugar. Simmer about an inch of water on medium heat. Place a bowl on top, so that the water doesn't touch the bowl. Whisk egg yolks and sugar constantly in the bowl, until it becomes light yellow, and slightly thick. (careful not to over cook it- the mousse will be grainier if you do)
-Beat 5 egg whites with a tbsp of sugar until it becomes meringue. (Whip egg whites to soft peaks, then add sugar)
Fold chocolate mixture (should be lukewarm) into yolks until smooth. Gradually fold whites into mixture (do not to over mix or the meringue will "deflate", as I like to say). Transfer to small bowls, and refrigerate for 45 min - 2 hours. I don't know how long it lasts in the fridge exactly.
Top with berries, whipped cream, and eat with a small spoon.

Quick note:
In the pictures above, I halved this recipe. Since it's only Mom and me at home, we didn't need any more. In fact, we couldn't even eat our shares of the mousse, it was so rich! My guess is that the full recipe could feed 6-7 people, depending on your portion sizes. I wanted to caution you, that the ingredients in the pictures are only half of what's in the recipe!
(Before I put it in the fridge)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

School: English Class

Thankfully, my English classes are taught by Americans. Most Czech schools don't have this privilege! I have actually learned a lot in and through my English classes.

English Class
 If I think about it, the only things I know about American history, I know from movies, my Uncle (he likes to "enlighten" me about my "homeland"), from listening to random conversations, and from my English classes in Czech school. It's sad how little I know about American history! Ask me about the Premyslovci, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or Communism, and I (hopefully) will have something to say. But ask me about the Alamo or the Civil War, and I won't be very helpful.

Like I said though, thankfully, I have American teachers! Part of Maturita is an oral exam in English. We have to talk about all sorts of topics, including some about American culture and history. So I am learning, alongside my Czech classmates! (You should be proud, Uncle Mike!)

Some people might be concerned that I don't know a lot (don't worry, I've visited many times, and have internet, so I know some!) about my own country. But truth be told, I can't say that American history feels like my history. On the other hand, Czech history doesn't feel like my personal history either.

I brought this dilemma up with my Dad after seeing the movie Lincoln a little while back. Dad is also a former Missionary Kid, so understood how I felt! What he told me in response totally altered my thinking about "my" history. He reminded me that my lineage is in Christ. I may not belong fully to one culture or another, but I DO belong to God, and am a part of His family!

In talking about this, Dad referenced Israel. He's right, when I was there, I felt this truth- my heritage is here! I walked around with such excitement and anticipation, knowing that THIS is where God's work began. This is where the first Christians were born!

When I realized all these things, I felt so much better. We all love to "belong" somewhere, and as a Missionary Kid, sometimes it's hard figuring out where you belong! But knowing that my citizenship is in heaven, and that that is my eternal home, is so comforting.

I'm thankful my English classes don't only consist of history, grammar and conversation exercises, but that we also have Bible class once a week.* I love learning about all those other things, but what I love most is learning about God's history, and understanding who I am through Him.

"But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior." 
- Philippians 3:20 (NLT)

Our classroom
*Side note: BMA is a Christian school, but you don't have to be a Christian to attend. Its' high quality language education is what students mostly come here for. If you want to learn more about this, go to BMA's website!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Soup and Cornbread

On any given evening at the Patty house: Mom makes the main course, and I usually take care of the side dish/salad/dessert (one of the three). That's just how we've been doing things lately. I love to make dinner with Mom-- I learn so much about cooking, get to be a taste-tester, and enjoy some of the sweetest conversation as we chop, simmer, mix and bake.

Anyway....on to soup...

There are few things more comforting than soup on a chilly day. Mom knows that well! She found a delicious recipe for a red lentil soup online. Success! We loved it...which is why I wanted to share it with you.

Here's the link to the recipe: Lentil and Potato Soup. We omitted the kale, cilantro and file powder, just because we didn't have it on hand. I'm sure it'd be great included too.

And now for cornbread. Ah, how I forget how much I love cornbread! Warm, crumbly goodness, with honey drizzled on top. I need to make this recipe again soon. It's a healthier version, and is naturally gluten-free. I think next time I would use less sugar, but otherwise it was perfect.

Click here for the recipe: Southern Style Cornbread. (from Chocolate Covered Katie)

I hope you're having a joyful week!

Monday, February 11, 2013

I need to be reminded

May this be a sweet reminder to you too, of God's love and faithfulness! Focus on Truth.

\\2 Timothy 1:7\\

Friday, February 8, 2013

Movie Theatre and Peanut Butter

A couple wonderful things this week:

1. These Peanut Butter Cookies:

I tried a new recipe (a classic Betty Crocker one), and adapted it to be gluten-free. They were delicious! They were perfectly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, with enough peanut-buttery flavor in them. I used Silvana's gf flour blend, reduced the sugar a bit, and used "Vive Bio" margarine.

2. This amazing movie:

Mom and I had a girls night tonight (Dad is in the U.S.), and went to see The Impossible. The plot revolves around a family that experienced the tsunami in Thailand (in 2004). What a moving and powerful film!! It helped me understand what people really go through during disasters. I was really impressed by the filming and acting as well. I highly recommend going to see it!

P.S. I think my physics test may have gone well! We'll see, but mostly, I'm glad it's over! 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

School: Physics

To all of you who love and study/ied physics, chemistry or other such subjects, I want to say 'thank you', because my brain does not understand those things. I am thankful your brain does!

Yes, I have to be honest, I have spent the last week preparing for a physics test we're taking tomorrow. I don't think I was made for thinking about these kinds of things! But alas, I've had to battle with physics class since 6th grade, and I am still alive. I have endured passed 7 years of physics classes, so I will finish this last year too!

I am trying to practice thankfulness, not letting myself get annoyed. I shouldn't be upset about my physics class, or at my lack of understanding of quantum mechanics, fotons, or spectroscopy. I am thankful for the complicated world that God created! I am thankful that I can't understand everything, because it just makes me be in even greater awe of our Creator. I am thankful for people who do care about physics, because thanks to them I could have eye surgery when I was little, I can fly to the States to visit family, I can watch dvd's, and be writing this on the computer right now.

Ok, physics: I don't understand you, but I'm willing to at least appreciate you.

This video was actually really helpful today! Just the kind of explanation I needed for my test.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Almond Milk

My Mom and I like the "hunt" for unusual foods here in Czech. It's one of the fun parts, actually, of shopping here! You never know what you'll find, and there are always surprises in unexpected places.

We were shopping at Tesco in Frydek-Mistek the other day and I saw an Alpro (usually soy products) display. Lo-and-behold, there were beautiful cartons of almond milk sitting on the shelf! So exciting!!

I am milk-intolerant, as you may know. I had to get used to soy milk, but it's never been my favorite. But almond milk!! Now that's something I actually enjoy. I haven't been able to find it in Czech until now. I made my own (almond milk) in the past, but it is just so time consuming and messy. It's nice to have this as an alternative for cereal or in my coffee. It makes me happy.

So I just needed to share this piece of news. Yes, it is a little strange to shout for joy and do a little happy dance in a grocery store because of milk, but that is just part of the adventure of being a Missionary Kid!

Oh yes, the little joys are what make life colorful.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzard

Ok, ok...I know what you might be thinking..."Claire, now why are you making ice-cream in the winter?"

Because this recipe is THAT good. That's why. 

You might also be thinking this picture doesn't look like doesn't look like perfect ice-cream. You are right about that... I am not an expert ice-cream maker, and I didn't even try to scoop this into the glass, because I wanted to eat it as soon as possible. Mmmm.

But really, here's the love story between me and Blizzards...

When I was little, we only got to visit our grandparents once a year or so, sometimes not even that often. When we did get to visit them in Eugene, Oregon, they were always the best at providing "American goodies". Grandma and Bapa's treat to us were always Dairy Queen Blizzards.

There was a Dairy Queen near their house, so we'd walk down there, and they'd let us choose whichever one we wanted. Heavenly! I can't remember which one was my favorite when I was little, but I'm sure it involved big chunks of something, and most likely included something chocolatey. Hence the love for this particular recipe for a Cookie Dough Blizzard.

Ah, good times! Anyway, back to the recipe. This Blizzard is vegan, coconut-free, and gluten-free. It is flavorful and creamy. It's wonderfully delicious, and I think you'll love it.

Click here for the recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzard.

As always, I made some little changes:

- I added a swirl of peanut butter into the ice-cream...couldn't resist
- I used Silvana's all purpose gluten-free flour mix instead of regular wheat flour
- I stirred in the cookie dough instead of blending it, because I wanted chunks of cookie dough instead of it being all blended in
- Oh, and guess what I just realized...I didn't just use 2 tbsp of the cookie dough in the ice-cream. I put it all in!!! Yum! Hehe...didn't even notice that I did that. But definitely keep it that way. It's so good!
- I let mine sit in the freezer for about 20 minutes, so that it was just a little icier.

That's it! Deliciousness!

Question of the day:

What is your special treat when you visit your grandparents? Pie? Koláče? Coke? Candies?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Lemon risotto

This is all it takes to make your day ten times better...

Simple looking, right? But don't let that fool you one bit!

This is the most wonderful thing you will ever taste. It's the kind of meal where you sit silently and savor every single warm bite. I wouldn't say it's the kind of meal you should feed your whole family with on a Tuesday night, but for a special occasion, for lunch, a girls' night, or whatever, this is perfect.

Have I convinced you to make this delicacy yet? Well here's one more reason to cook some of this up: you don't need to be an expert to make it. Risotto sounds difficult, but it really isn't. All it takes is some patience, lots of stirring, and a good mood. It's worth your time. You need to try this.

The recipe comes from a lovely Italian cookbook, called Patirica Wells' Trattoria. I found the same recipe online, so I'm posting a link to it here, so you can make it too: Lemon Risotto.

I made a few changes...
- I doubled the recipe- leftovers? Yes please!
- Omitted the herbs, because I like a slightly cleaner taste, not a complicated one. I'm sure it'd be delicious either way though!
- Only used about a 1/4 cup parmesan, and that was plenty! I don't like the parmesan to overpower the delicate lemony taste. Not to mention, I don't think my tummy likes too much milk...but a little not and then is ok! This is worth it!
- Used green onions instead of shallots, but I can't really tell the difference between the two in this recipe. I've made it both ways.