Sunday, March 31, 2013

Surprise from...

What's the surprise?

Snow on Easter!!

Who sent us the surprise?

Yep, Jesus did!

"He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes."
Psalm 147:16 

I was thinking of all the ways I could use the snow as a symbol for today (trying to make sense of why having snow on Easter is ok). There are lots! But then I realized that the biggest, most important thing I could "learn" from this, is to once again remember what Christ did. He cleansed me from all the darkness, sin, pain and punishment that I should have received. He did this by dying on the cross for me, and by replacing my darkness with His light. I didn't deserve it. I still don't deserve it. But He offers it, because He loves us.

And just as the snow came suddenly (it all fell in one night and during this day), so it works with Jesus too. He offers us this Great Gift, and all we do is accept it...accept Him, and He washes it all away and makes us white as snow. That's pretty amazing. 
"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Isaiah 1:18

It's even more amazing when God reminds you of this truth all day through His creation. I have never had an Easter like this in my life! The snow was wonderful, magical, deep, and completely transformed this valley. It's beautiful. God's love is beautiful!

And Hayley came over today! Had to share this picture, because she was my snow buddy. I miss Caleb on days like these (we used to always play in the snow after blizzards), but I am thankful for her excitement and joy over the snow too! Yes Hayley, even you pushing me in the snow was funny, I have to admit.

Happy Easter to you!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

School: What a day

Whew! Tuesday = big day!

In Czech, "tablo" is an important part of your last year of high school. What is a tablo?

Every year the graduating classes from the two high schools in town (and in every town across the country) prepare something that features, represents, or tells a story about the students who are graduating. The whole town, in that little way, celebrates the senior classes.

Of course, every class has to choose what they will feature on their tablo, and where they will get their pictures taken. To give a little background on our class, I have to say, we are very frugal (lightly put). Cheap might be a better word. In Hayley's words: "Our class likes cheap, but cheaper is better." If, say, $10 is already a great price, then they/we would want to only pay $8. That's just how we work.

When tablo planning came along, there was a huge dilemma! How much to pay for our photos?? At first we found a photographer who had pretty good prices. But that wasn't good enough for our class. So, in the end, we rented a studio in Ostrava, and took our own pictures. I know, slightly ridiculous funny, but yes, creative!

Two other girls and I took everyone's pictures. We now have to edit them and print them. It's a lot of work! But I do have to say, we all had a lot of fun together from taking the train at 6:40 AM to goofing off in the afternoon. Though the pictures are far from perfect, we made memories that we'll never forget. We stayed true to ourselves. We used our own abilities to try to put something together, and learned about photography in the process.

I, personally, have never ever photographed in a studio, so I was clueless as to how to work the lights, etc.! I just had to laugh. If it hadn't been for our class' frugal and adventurous spirit, I would have never gotten to experiment with taking pictures in a studio. I now know a little bit more, though would love for someone to teach me the actual "rules" and tricks of that kind of photography some day! It's a whole other level. (*Hats off to the pros out there!)

The photos in this post are the ones I took. I'm sure a professional would have lots to say about them from a technical standpoint, but I'm happy with how they turned out. I don't care as much about the quality or lighting, but the faces are priceless. These are the people I have been with for four years now. We all were relaxed because it was just us. Together. For one of the last times before we graduate.

Actually, it wasn't until the very end that I felt comfortable even taking the pictures. By that time, half the people had already left, which is why these girls are mostly in my pictures!

 Lessons learned? Don't be afraid to try. Do some research. Bring a second lens. Shoot in RAW next time. A tripod was super helpful. Click, click, click.

In a couple weeks (hopefully) I will post pictures of the finished product/design of our tablo! Coming to a storefront soon!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekend reading

Finally, I had a completely free Saturday. No intense studying needed, no stressful thoughts, not even crummy weather! Just a lovely, lazy Saturday. Oh, how I treasure days like these. There aren't many like it!

I did get SOME work done. I have to read a certain number of books for maturita, including some Czech classics. This one is "Hordubal" by Karel Capek. I finished it this weekend! Reading Czech books is not always easy for me, so to check another one off my list feels good!

And guess which buddy sat with me while I read?

Yep, you guessed it! She crawled up onto my lap all on her own. Cutie.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Easiest hard-boiled eggs

As a ten-year-old, I wanted to know how to make at least three substantial meals. My mom taught me to make french toast, tuna noodle, and egg salad. Looking back now, I think it's funny how accomplished I felt. But hey, you gotta start somewhere!

I'm sure most of you already know how to make hard-boiled eggs, but everyone has a different method. I figured I might as well share ours!

This is the easiest, most fail-proof way to hard-boil an egg.


Place eggs in a medium to large pot, and cover with cold water (there should be at least and inch of water above them). Bring water with eggs to a boil. Turn off heat, but leave the pot on the warm stove. Do not move the pot at this point! Put lid on, and set the timer for 12-15 minutes. Once the timer goes off, remove pot from the stove, and rinse eggs in cold water. Peel, and enjoy!

Notes: This method will not work on a gas stove. Sorry!

Also, just as an interesting tidbit, we hardly ever find white eggs here in Czech grocery stores. All of our eggs are brown! When I was younger, it was always quite the hunt to find white eggs to dye for Easter. I wonder what the difference is... why don't they have brown eggs everywhere in the States and vice versa?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Thank you little birdie

This little bird made my day. I happened to glance out of my window to see him perched on our roof. He stayed there barely long enough for me to snap a picture. Then he was gone.

He reminded me of how often I miss moments like these. I am thankful for little lovelies like this bird! I know it may be such an "insignificant" small part of my day, but it made me happy nonetheless.

Stop and notice something beautiful today.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Songs in my head

Sometimes even small things lift my spirits.

Today, listening to Chris Tomlin was encouraging. Those kinds of songs help redirect my thoughts to what is really important and true. I definitely recommend checking out his music, if you haven't already!

I listened to this song "in my head" all day. Do you do this too? When I have a song stuck in my head it plays on "repeat". Nonstop. That's why it really matters what kind of music I listen to. (Gangnam Style is catchy and all, but I really don't want that in my head for days!!)

School is challenging, as always, but there are good things in every day. Today, this song was one of those good things.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Smoothie

One of my favorite places at the mall in Ostrava is "Fruitisimo". They sell fresh juices, fruit ice-cream, and anything else fruity that you could want. When I was there the other day, I chose a smoothie called "ME2D", and fell in love with it.

I knew I needed to figure out how to make it myself! The ingredients are on the website, so I tried it, and yes, it worked! It tasted just like the Fruitisimo drink. Ohhh, it's good. So refreshing, and pretty too!

Here you go...

"ME2D" a.k.a. Orange Spring Smoothie

1 orange, peeled
10 strawberries, frozen
1 small banana
1/2 large carrot (or one small one), peeled and chopped into smaller chunks
1 tbsp honey
Apple juice

Place fruit, carrot, and honey in a high-powered blender. Pour in apple juice until it covers fruit half-way. Add about an inch more of water. Blend at high speed. If needed, add more liquid.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Baking day

 These three lovely girls came to my house on Friday.

We had our first Fusion Baking Workshop! Fusion has all sorts of workshops throughout the year (choir directing, guitar, piano etc.), so why not do a baking one? Food is also an important part of Fusion, as any student would tell you.

I'm sure these girls could've made these goodies on their own too, but it was a lot of fun doing it together. We listened to music, drank tea, measured, mixed and chatted. What a perfect way to spend a Friday afternoon. Girls- thanks for coming!

The finished products: Cranberry white chocolate oatmeal cookies, Chocolate cupcakes, and Fudgy brownies. I'm sure you're wondering what we did with all this food...We took it to youth group for everyone to enjoy. The girls did a fantastic job!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

School: Pirate Day

Yes, we have a Pirate Day at our school. And yes, I did dress up for it!

Our teachers are extremely creative. Here and there we have events like this one that are purely just for fun. We missed the official "Talk Like a Pirate" day, but we still got to celebrate it anyway. At least 30 people from the school (keep in mind that our school is small) dressed up. It was pretty awesome and hilarious walking out into the hallway and seeing swords, eye patches and bandanas. It made my day.

A couple Instagrams, and the group picture...

Sadly, some people left before this picture was taken. There were more pirates at school than just this!
It was a great day! It's nice to mix things up every now and then and have something to giggle about at school.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Solid Rock

I have been loving a little book called "Streams in the Desert" that my mom gave me for my last birthday. It's a daily Bible study, written by L. B. Cowman in the early 1900's. What comfort it brings to me as she uncovers solid Biblical truths! I hope that this quote from the book will encourage you too.

(Created with the app "Over", edited with "Afterlight")

Saturday, March 9, 2013

French Toast with Apples

It's a foggy, cozy Saturday morning.

When I was little, there was something magical about the smell of french toast coming from the kitchen on a day like today. It's a rich, cinnamon-y smell that makes its way through the whole house. When I take a deep breath, even now, the aroma still lingers in the air after today's breakfast.

French toast was one of the very first things I learned how to make. The first was cinnamon toast (toast, butter, cinnamon, broiled in the oven...easy enough!). The second was this. I was eight when I started writing down favorite recipes that I could make all by myself. Mom bought me a little turquoise book, which I labeled (with a label-maker, yes!) - "Claire's Recipes". And so my love for cooking began!

I remember feeling so proud of this book. Sitting at our kitchen table, I diligently wrote down the exact words my mom told me to write, making sure I made no mistakes. I especially love the last instruction on this recipe though: "Do not leave the frying pan." Because as an 8-year-old, it is definitely possible I would have left and completely forgotten about the french toast! Ha! Good thing I wrote that down!

French Toast is super easy. I mean, really, if I could make it when I was eight, then that proves it is simple. Today, now that we're gluten free, I use Schar Gluten-free bread (found at DM, or Billa, it's the best gluten-free bread I know).  To give it some extra pizzazz, Mom and I also stewed some apple slices-- a yummy addition to this classic!

I hope you enjoy this staple breakfast item as much as we do. It's delicious served with anything!

French Toast 
(Mostly copied from my little cookbook, because I don't ever use measurements anymore for this recipe...if you feel like it needs anything else, feel free to play with the recipe!)

4 eggs
1 cup of milk (I used almond milk)
8-10 slices of bread
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
Butter (or butter substitute) for frying

Beat eggs with milk in a medium sized bowl (wide enough to fully dip your bread in). Add cinnamon and vanilla, mix thoroughly. Over medium heat, melt about 1 tbsp butter in a skillet. Dip bread slices into mixture, allow to soak for a couple seconds, then transfer the bread to your hot skillet. Cook on one side until the top is no longer wet looking, then flip and cook for another minute or so, until brown.

Topping ideas:
- peanut butter and maple syrup
- butter and powdered sugar (we did this when we were kids!)
- berry sauce
- honey and blueberries
- applesauce and cinnamon

Stewed apple slices

1 apple, thinly sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Put apple slices, sugar and cinnamon into to a small pan, stir, add 1/2 inch of water, and bring to a boil. Cook until apples are soft, but not mushy.

Have a peaceful, joy-filled Saturday!

To Kris, from Oregon-- thank you for the lovely embroidered towel! I am loving it!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tea Time

I have always loved tea.

In preschool, instead of water at lunch, they serve warm sweetened fruit tea. At restaurants, you can always find tea on the menu. Tea is sold everywhere here. I think the tea aisle is even bigger than the chip aisle in grocery stores. No wonder tea is special to me!

I love that certain teas are connected with memories. (Yep, it's kind of like comfort food to me)

When we were in Croatia, we found a little organic shop in the back streets of Hvar that sold loose-leaf teas. Oh my, what a find! We bought a bag of wonderful smelling mint tea, and didn't open it until we got home. I never thought I was much of a "mint tea kind of girl" (growing up on fruit tea and all), but this one is exquisite.

The company actually bases in Serbia. You can find their website here: Agristar. They state on there that you can find their products in other countries too, so if you stumble upon this some day, do buy it! You'll be happy you did. And if you're ever at my house, feel free to request it!

There's nothing like a calming cup of tea to round off your busy day. It's good to simply sit, sip, contemplate, and enjoy. Tea is just that way. It doesn't need to be anything special, or fancy, but it's still so comforting.

Monday, March 4, 2013

School: Psychology

In exactly 8 weeks I will be taking my maturita exams. What??! That's so soon! I'm excited for it to just come already, even though I still have much work to do.

One of the subjects I will be doing maturita in is psychology. I am blessed by an incredible teacher, but it's still a lot of information to learn (25 questions/topics, and each are 4-6 pages long). These past six months I've been trying to figure out how best to study for this exam, and I think I may have finally figured out a good system... and it includes drawing!

I don't think my psychology "information collages" would make sense to anyone else, but they are the perfect way for me to learn. It's hands-on work, it uses the creative side of my brain (instead of just analytical), and it's colorful. The advantage is that I often remember most of the things that I draw. The disadvantage is that it takes me a long time to figure out how to put it all together on paper, so that it makes sense, and sometimes I forget what I meant with the symbols! Ah well!

A work in progress (above) and the completed collage (below). 

My dad always tells me that these years of school are not about what I learn, but about how I learn. He tells me that what's important is that I "learn how to learn". That is a skill I will need for the rest of my life! I may not need to know what "out-group homogenity effect" is in the future, but I will need to be constantly learning, growing, and being challenged. 

I trust that my studying for maturita is not just about what I learn, but about the process as well! Drawing these pictures is part of figuring out how I study well, and how to enjoy it too. 

Question of the day:

Do you have any good studying tips? What type of a learner are you? Do you remember things best by hearing, seeing, doing, speaking?