Friday, May 31, 2013

School: Tablo

Two hours from now I will officially be a Beskydy Mountain Academy Graduate. Our graduation ceremony is at 2:30, and I can't believe I'm finally here.

Do you remember me talking about our class' tablo? I realized I never showed you pictures, so in honor of this last day of being a BMA student, here are at least a couple iPhone pictures I took of the day we put the tablo up. I'm happy with how it turned out. It captures our class' spirit - homemade, but classy, sweet and creative.

Today is also the last day I will ever see my whole class together. I am sad about that. But what a celebration it will still be that we finished. Soon we all start a new chapter in our lives. Yes, it's exciting, but there's always a sad part about moving on as well.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Czech soup: Zelnacka

Zelňačka = Sauerkraut soup. It's not just any sauerkraut soup though! This is my favorite Czech soup ever.

I have eaten this soup so many times at restaurants, camps, and events. I have never actually made it though! Today, I am glad to say, I finally know how.

Martina's (a BMA student) mom is such a good cook, so Hayley and I asked her if we could have some of her mom's recipes. Instead of just recipes though, we decided to have a cooking day. She  wanted to learn how to make some American food, and we, of course, wanted to cook Czech food. We made a swap!

Not that this really qualifies as American food, but we taught Martina, and another BMA friend, Terka, how to make guacamole and salsa. They had never eaten either homemade, so that was fun! We snacked on chips and dip all afternoon, while they taught us how to make Zelňačka.

I am going to share Martina's mom's soup recipe. This is really a true gem! Martina hand-wrote it as her mom and her cooked it together. I have never had anything so classically Czech-tasting come out of my kitchen before. It makes me so happy. I'm hoping that when I'm in the States this Fall, I can make it there, and have a sweet reminder of home.

Martina and Terka (and Hayley!) -- thank you for coming over! I loved hanging out with all of you. You are wonderful!

Now on to the recipe... I'm going to put a lot of instructions on there, so that hopefully you can make it just like we did today. It may seem complicated, but it isn't! If you have any questions, feel free to comment and ask me.

Czech Sauerkraut Soup (a.k.a. Zelňačka)

Eastern European


Lard (Yes, lard. I really think this gives it that authentic taste!), about as much as if you were using oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped bacon (the thicker kind, with less "meat", something like this)
1 sausage (kielbasa)
1 package sauerkraut (Kysane zeli)
3 potatoes, peeled, chopped
1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp Caraway seeds (or less)
1/2 cup heavy cream 
1/8 cup flour (or gluten-free flour), or about two large spoons
2 tsp sugar 
3 whole allspice berries
1 bouillon cube
1 bay leaf
Salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste

Melt lard in a large pot on medium heat. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a small pot, add chopped potatoes, 1/4 tsp caraway seeds and a dash of salt (cook until potatoes are soft). Add chopped onion, and bacon to lard. Sautée until onions are translucent, but not brown. Add kielbasa and cook for a couple minutes.

Rinse sauerkraut in a sieve and drain well. Cut through sauerkraut a little, to separate any longer pieces. Add sauerkraut to pot and sautée lightly. Add water, so that it reaches an inch above the sauerkraut mixture. Add sugar,  pepper, allspice, bay leaf, 1/4 tsp caraway, and bouillon. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, and cook for at least 15 minutes. Add cooked potato, including the "potato" water . Reduce heat to low.

In a small bowl mix cream and flour until smooth. If the mixture is thick (doughy), add a splash of water, until it is the consistency of yogurt. Pour into the soup and stir until combined.

Add water, if needed, and salt to taste. Remove bay leaf.

Taste and add anything, if it feels it's missing something! Martina suggests mixing in some Vegeta (a different type of bouillon, that you can find here in Czech).


Ah yes, an Eastern European soup. It was good. And it was worth having that little bit of milk! Someday I'll try it with soy cream, but I needed to have it in the true version first. Now it's time to experiment a little. Hope you enjoy it too!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On rubber bands

A tip for keeping a clean(er) kitchen while cooking:

Imagine that everything in your kitchen is on a rubber band. That means that anything you pull out should bounce right back to its place when you're done with it.

I'm not sure when my mom first told me this little piece of advice, but it has changed my kitchen habits forever. I literally think about rubber bands almost every time I bake. It's just stuck in my head. My mom read this tip in a cookbook years ago (the OCSC cookbook, if that rings a bell with anyone), and happened to mention it to me one day while we were cooking. I don't remember why, or how we started talking about it, but it's something I've never forgotten.

What was I cooking and baking today that required lots of rubber bands (figuratively speaking)?

Oatmeal cookies.

Yes, again. They are my favorite! I was too anxious to eat them to think of some creative way to stack or plate them... They are that good. The recipe originally calls for wheat flour, but I substitute gluten-free flour. I also decrease the sugar some, and add a little bit more oil (to make up for the gf flour). I also use cranberries instead of raisins and add chocolate, because who doesn't like chocolate?!


Triple Cranberry Chicken Lettuce Wraps.

Seriously, these are delicious. They are the perfect balance of rich yet refreshing flavors. I love this recipe! We didn't even have time to cook the chicken today (in the oven, I mean), so Mom bought a roasted one from Albert, and we used that. It turned out just as good as ever!

These past few days have been restful. I am thankful for that. Walks with Mom and Kaylee, picking flowers, baking, cooking, watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries (if you have time, watch a few episodes HERE), and being with friends is a breath of fresh air.

P.S. Michelle, thank you for the amazing spatula!! I feel so cool using it, since it's so pretty. You know me and my mom well!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Back to Baking: Banana Muffins

Since I have more time on my hands now, I am back to baking. Sure, I baked these past few weeks, but not as much as I would have liked to. But now! Oh, now I can bake as long as there are people who want to eat all the cookies, muffins and cakes!

Today I baked a tried-and-true recipe for banana muffins. They are the kind that are fluffy, but flavorful; they are sweet, but subtle. This is the recipe that I had been searching for! I also brought these to our class' "maturitak" (our last get-together before our official graduation ceremony next Friday). People were asking for the recipe, and that's the biggest compliment I could get.

 I adapted them a bit from I hope you like them as much as we do!

Gluten-free Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cups gluten-free all purpose flour (such as GF flour from Marks&Spencer's)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 large, ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup sugar*
1/2 cup oil (I use grapeseed)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate (I use Orion "na vaření"), or chocolate chips
1 egg white, whipped to stiff peaks 

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mash bananas in a separate bowl and add sugar, oil, and vanilla, whisk until well combined. Whip egg white in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Pour wet ingredients (the bowl with the bananas) into dry, and mix very gently. Do not over-mix! Fold in chocolate chips, and then very gently fold in egg whites. Pour batter into muffin pan (use muffin paper cups, or grease pan), and bake for approximately 25-30 muffins, or until tops are golden.

(*sometimes I do more, sometimes less... occasionally I use half agave or honey too. If you like sweeter things, you might want to use 1 cup of sugar.)

Claire Patty

Lasts about Maturita

I promise, this is the last time I will mention Maturita. It's over, it's behind me. But I don't want to forget one thing about this: the studying.

Claire Patty

Studying in Hvar, at school, at Starbucks, on a hill, in my dad's office, at another coffee shop, at home, at McDonald's, and so many other places! I can't study in one place. I can't concentrate when I study in the same environment all the time.

Here are a few more random study tips that I need to file away for big exams. I hope some of them can be helpful to you some day too!

Make time for rest. (Turn "off" your brain for a bit every day)
Don't study at night...get some sleep! (If you tend to study better at night, try closing your curtains during the day, and turning on some lamps to simulate night...I actually did this once and it helped!)
Work hard all year.
Say things out loud.
Draw pictures. Use color.
Drink water.
Don't let your mind rabbit-trail on "what-ifs", don't freak yourself out.
Ask teachers for help.
Don't just stare at your notes - copy them, sing them, make up motions for them.

Here's the question I ended up pulling out of the hat for maturita. I was so thankful I picked out one that I had drawn! God planned that out!

It's weird to think that the next time I'll study, I will be at Moody Bible Institute. I'm really excited, and nervous all at the same time! I'm ready for it though!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Maturita: DONE!

I am officially done with Czech high-school!!!

I don't think I will ever forget this day. Today I passed my Maturita exams!

It's hard to really even comprehend what this means. I've been studying and working towards this for months. Now it's over! Maturita is behind me! I don't even know if I've fully soaked in this truth yet. It seems surreal. It does feel so amazing though!

I left home this morning at 7:40, with knots in my stomach and thoughts running through my head a mile a minute. You know that feeling when you have too much information in your head that you can't focus at all? That's how I felt. Three of my friends were doing Maturita today too, so it was comforting seeing their faces once I  got to school, though they were just as nervous as me. Then at 8:00, it all started.

Four hours later, and four subjects later, I stood before my teachers and waited to hear my results along with my three classmates. Then I breathed a sigh of relief. I finished well.

Tyler and Lara (who just arrived yesterday) were waiting outside the classroom for me, and captured these moments. Every teacher shook my hand and congratulated me. And that was the end of Maturita.

These are just a few of the teachers that were here at school today, my principal and the government examiner. They were kind, calm and supportive all day!

Three more students were taking Maturita in the afternoon, including my buddy Magda! We got a normal picture too, but this one just makes me laugh, because that's my (American) English teacher in the background! He's actually a family friend of ours, and Magda babysits his son, so this is typical!

I am so thankful for all my teachers at BMA. Mrs. Barankova, my psychology teacher, was especially encouraging this past year. She taught me so much not only about the subject, but about what a good teacher looks like as well! She challenged me to think, to create, and to interact with the material. I enjoyed studying for Psychology the most!

Then, out the doors I went!


Claire Patty

We celebrated by going into the mall for dinner and a movie. I still feel a little uptight, but I'm slowly letting down. It'll take a few days to feel "normal" again!

I am incredibly happy that it's over though, and will continue to praise God for His faithfulness during this whole time, and really, for His faithfulness these past 13 years of Czech school. God is good!

Monday, May 20, 2013

They're ENGAGED!!

Maturita is tomorrow, but I just can't wait to share some fantastic news...


Caleb proposed to the wonderful Haley Chase over the weekend. I am so excited!!

Our families (the Chases and the Patty's) have known each other for a long time. However, it wasn't until 5 years ago that us kids actually met each other. I vividly remember going over to their house that afternoon. And I also remember Caleb talking about Haley after that very first visit! Yes, I guess you could call it "love at first sight"! They were friends for four years, and started dating last spring.

Haley is lovely. She has been a sweet friend to me too in these past years, but best of all, she brings out all the best in Caleb. She is kind, gentle, caring, generous, patient and joyful. I can't imagine anyone better for Caleb than her! Seeing them together makes me happy.

For more on the back-story, go to my Mom's blog: HERE.

Tyler -thank you for the pictures!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

In the middle

It's day 4 out of 8 of "svaťák", and today is definitely the hardest day so far. It's not because I am stressed, or even tired. It's because the goal is fuzzy and a little intangible. Maturita seems almost "not real" today, even though I'm studying. I have to press through this day though, because I know from here, I'll go over the middle-of-the-week point, and before I know it, maturita will be behind me. How I look forward to that day next Tuesday!!

On a more positive note, I got my results back from my written tests, and I'm happy with them! That was nice news today.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The peanut butter question

Store-bought or homemade?

My mom knows I have a thing for peanut butter. Randomly throughout the week I'll get cravings for it! My favorite brand these days is an organic one from Albert. It has no added sugar, and actually tastes like plain, delicious peanuts.

I was at the store today and remembered we were out of my favorite snack. But then I saw the price for the little jar and decided I had to try something different. Yes, it's extra good, but was it worth that much? Not today. Time to try something new!

Homemade peanut butter is so easy to make. Plus, it's about a 1/3 of the price. It tastes a little different than my favorite brand, but I'm sure if I got used to it I would love it even more. Yay for peanut butter!


Homemade peanut butter 

500 grams roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 tbsp oil (I used grapeseed)
Salt to taste
Sweetener to taste (I used 1tbsp honey), optional

Using a high-powered food processor, blend all ingredients together. Mix until the peanuts release their natural oils and turn into peanut butter loveliness, about 10-15 minutes. Add salt and sweetener, and blend for another minute until smooth. Store in a jar in the refrigerator.

What is your favorite nut butter? What would you add to this recipe for fun?

Here are some ideas:
- cinnamon
- vanilla
- chocolate (the peanut-butter is hot while blending, so if you added chocolate, it would melt beautifully into it...delicious!)
- almonds/pecans/cashews
- brown sugar
- toast peanuts in oven for a few minutes for extra flavor

Hope you like it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

JV Family

I have grown up in Josiah Venture my whole life. I have been a part of its growth from 2 couples, to now over 240 staff. It's amazing to be a part of this amazing group of people!

One of the things I love most about being in JV is being a JV Kid. JV Kids are my brothers, my sisters, my cousins, my friends. They have walked through life with me since the beginning. Even though I only get to see some of them once a year, they are still completely like family.

These are just the older kids (14 and up). I will hopefully have a full JVK picture soon! 

As I leave for the States, I am glad to know that no matter what, JVK will always be family. They are pretty special, just sayin'. It's a privilege to know them, learn with them, play Star Wars mafia with them (yep, it's a tradition now!), and laugh with them.

JVK-- you guys are awesome! I'm going to miss you so much!

(When we were younger we were split up into age groups. The picture above is of "Akiko", our group. We are the last ones in Akiko after all these years. Thankful for them!)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Getting there

In the midst of another great Josiah Venture conference, I still have to study. My exams are definitely on my mind all the time, since they are in less than two weeks!

I have been preparing for these all year, and I hope it pays off on the day of Maturita (21st). I'm thankful for a little breather of being with friends and family at conference, but I need to take at least a couple of hours at home every day to study as well. Phew, it's going to feel great to have this all over with in a little bit here!

Learning about learning ("učení", for maturita in Psychology) is kind of fitting, isn't it? It's a long process, but there are interesting parts to it!

To make it more interesting though, of course, you know I have to use lots of color.

Soon it will all be over, and I won't ever have to think about it again. Until then, I'll try my best to be fully engaged both in conference (and other social things), and in studying. It's harder than I thought it would be! I'm learning. My dad always said that learning how to learn is the most important thing though about school. So, I'm getting there.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

1st part: done!

Well, my Czech tests are over!! I still don't know the results, but it feels good to have that part of maturita behind me.

The day started at 8:00 and ended at 1:30, but that meant we had an hour and half to wait between our standardized test and our essay. To lighten the mood, Magda (my classmate) and I watched YouTube videos and laughed ourselves silly. It was the perfect way to enjoy that time, and ease nerves for the essay. I am convinced that I went into that essay happier and more comfortable thanks to that time, and God's grace! Hopefully it went ok!

This video in particular made us laugh. I don't know if we thought it was so funny just because we were both feeling a bit stressed, but I have to share it, at least to remember that morning!

After the tests were done, I went downstairs in our school, and two of my friends from first year at BMA were waiting to give me this:

A picture of a panda! (And some chocolate) They surprised me, and it pretty much made my day to see their smiling faces and the sweet panda picture. It's those little things that are so sweet and encouraging after a long day.

It's these things I want to remember about Friday. Yes, the tests were hard, but YouTube videos, pandas, and (most of all) friends, put a smile on my face.

Next up are the oral tests on the 21st of May. After that, I'm done!!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Maturita and the Loys

I have butterflies in my stomach as I write this. Not quite the "happy" excited ones, more the nervous ones.

Today we had the first of our maturita exams. So far it was easy (writing two English essays), but tomorrow will be more difficult. Tomorrow we write the Czech exam. It consists of a standardized grammar test, and an essay/story/article/other form of writing. We've practiced for this, so there shouldn't be anything unexpected, but you just hope for good questions and writing topics. And I can't believe it's already tomorrow! After these tests we have two weeks to prepare for our oral exams.

On a happier note though, yesterday I had the privilege of taking family pictures for the Loys. Mr. Loy teaches English at our school, and they all go to our church. Their family is wonderful! Photographing them was so easy, since they look great no matter what! The kids had such good attitudes, and smiled most of the time, which is definitely not always a given! I was impressed with those kids!

I edited them in color and in black&white, but just for a change, decided to share the b&w versions.  Love how classic b&w can be!

I have only photographed family portraits three times, but have loved it every time. I think it's hilarious watching kids goof off and do their own thing, and see family dynamics. I vividly remember taking countless family pictures (to send to the States), so it also brings back childhood memories!

If you ever needed some family pictures taken, let me know! I'd be happy to help you! Just e-mail me, or comment on my blog, and we can figure out how, when and where.

And just for a little splash of color...

Ok, now back to work to go over some last Czech grammar rules for tomorrow!