Friday, February 28, 2014

Grocery Shopping

You don't quite realize how normal activities can actually be splendid ones, until life changes.

Mom's creativity comes in different shapes and forms than you would expect. She is a master at colors. She can pick out the best carpets, curtains, or couches for any room. She can spin words to tell an intriguing and captivating story, both in conversation and in writing.

Mom's creative in the kitchen, and an expert grocery shopper.

She may not say so, but she really is. She always finds recipes, but then completely changes them to fit her tastes.

Anyway, we used to go to the store after school almost every day. It was sort of tradition. This wasn't because we needed a ton of groceries, but because Mom liked to decide what she was in the mood to eat on that given day. Needing something sweet? Breakfast for dinner. Needing a comfort meal? Stew. Have a taste for something exotic? Ethnic food. In a time-crunch? Tuna noodle.

We strolled through the only two aisles we ever shopped on in at our grocery store, picking up what we needed for the day. It became comforting, and it was a great time to debrief the first half of our days, sharing stories and news with each other.

I don't have these regular shopping trips with Mom anymore, and I miss them. I miss leisurely weighing the bananas and sticking the price tag on them. I miss finding the perfectly ripe avocado for the night's guacamole. I miss giggling about the fact that the cashier we saw everyday never talked to us much and barely smiled when we saw her. I miss chatting casually about the day.

I got to go on a shopping trip with my dear sister-in-law, Lara, today!

It was a taste of normalness. Her boss (she's a nanny in the city) let her use her car for the weekend, so we got to drive to the store, which feels like a huge luxury. We took our time wandering through Target. We basked in the beauty of Wholefoods, finding just what we needed. Of course, we laughed and talked the whole time too, and stopped at Intelligentsia for coffee together, and to see Tyler.

It was good to do something "normal", yet something that is sweet. I'm in a new life stage, but still the same things make me happy.

(Mom, I still miss those shopping trips with you! Lara and I were definitely thinking of you today! Can't wait to grocery shop again together soon over Spring Break.) 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The more the less

Since coming to Moody, I've come to this odd feeling.

The more I learn, the less I feel I know.

Sounds like something Socrates would like, right? But the problem is, I don't like it all that much. It's humbling, it's intimidating, it's disorientating. Professors are challenging us to really think, to not take our beliefs lightly (I mean that in the best way), to defend our faith accurately, and to understand the Word more deeply. By asking questions though, it makes me realize I know less answers.

Yes, I grew up in a Christian family. I've been going to church since I was little. I've heard sermons, read my Bible, and memorized verses for kids camps. But as I delve into knowing the Lord and His Word, I realize the vastness of who He is.

He is Holy.

Whew. It makes me feel insufficient. If God is so GREAT, what I am doing thinking I can understand? But then I realize that that's just it. The fact that I can't understand completely shows that He is God. With a capital "G". He created the world, the laws of how the earth works, he created my mind, and he knows infinitely more than I do or could ever.

Aren't I blessed to serve such a God?

Aren't I blessed to get the opportunity to learn from Him?

Isn't it amazing that I can actually have a relationship with Him?

So yes, right now, the more I learn, the less I feel like I know. From what I've heard, as I've talked to upper-classmen, this is normal. They say that as you begin to settle into classes more, things start falling into place in your head and heart.

I'm reminded that God does call us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
 - Romans 12:2

If you asked me a theology question right now, I may just say, "let me go look that up," or "I need to look into that more". The truth of the Bible, God's deity, goodness, love, grace, and mercy are still completely sure in my heart, but I have a hard time articulating "why" or "how".

I'm learning to ask questions, or trying to.

He is renewing my mind. He is shaking up all that I knew, so that He can put it back together. So that I can discern his will, and what is good. I will patiently wait for Him to put the pieces where He wants them, and in the meantime, all I can do is be in awe of Him.

He is worthy of all our praise.

One last thing: God is love. If all else seems complicated, this doesn't. But more on that another day. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


A perk of living in the city: perfect scenery for testing out fun bokeh at night!

It was chilly, but my roommate and I decided to go onto the Houghton dorm roof spontaneously one night, and it was absolutely worth it! How fun to see the city, literally, through a different lens.

Sometimes you have to un-focus your gaze, so that you can see beauty more clearly! Just by changing the focus on my camera lens, a whole new world of the city was unveiled. Couldn't that be true in our life as well? When you stop trying to see everything clearly, with every detail, you actually start to see something wonderful and new. 

Monday, February 24, 2014


Yesterday was the annual Culture Fair, hosted by the International Student Fellowship group on campus. 28 tables were setup in the Fellowship Hall of Moody, with beautiful spreads of ethnic foods and delicacies. Students from all over the world served up their favorite dishes - all homemade of course!

Pavel and I represented Czech, and were proud to have our Czech flag displayed. I made a classic Czech Babovka topped with fruit and a Czech flag on a toothpick. Thank you Miriam for the recipe!! It turned out wonderfully, and was such a fun taste of home for me. I think others liked it too!

300+ people came to the event to sample food, and enjoy different cultures. In all the busyness, I didn't even think to get any pictures! I can't believe I forgot... so hopefully someone else got a picture at some point of the babovka. If not, it'll just have to be a memory. And a fun memory it is. It made me happy to be able to share a bit of the Czech culture with people, and let them try one of my favorite treats.

Babovka is a sort of "pound cake", but made with potato starch as the flour and lots of eggs. It's naturally gluten-free (yessssssss). This is the recipe that dear Miriam gave me last year:

"You will need:
- 5 eggs
- 1 cup sugar (Czech cup is 250ml)
- 1 cup oil
- 1 cup of Solamyl (potato starch)
- 2 packets of vanilla pudding powder (which is cornstarch)
- 1/2 packet of baking powder, 1/2 a packet is 6 grams (maybe a little over 1.5 teaspoon?)
- a little bit of lemon zest (I just used a little bit of lemon)
- vanilla or vanilla sugar (vanilkový cukr :) )
- pinch of salt

It's a typical Czech recipe in the sense that you separate the eggs.

You first beat the egg yolks and sugar and oil. Then you add Solamyl, pudding powder, baking powder, lemon, vanilla, salt. The dough will be really stiff at the point but that's how it's supposed to be. You then beat the egg whites until stiff and add them to your dough slowly. And that's it :)

Bake in a greased and floured mold for about 45 minutes (at 180C)

And then enjoy your GF Czech bábovka."

I hope to make it again soon, so maybe next time I'll get pictures. :)

Here's a little bit of Czech culture for you too! This is my favorite Czech classical piece. It's inspired by our longest Czech river, Vltava. The music exquisite.

Thank you Nok for all the photos!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Family in all ways

This weekend has been full of good memories with the Patty family, Smith 4 sisters, and church family.

Us "Chicago Patty's" finally tried the local neighborhood's Middle-Eastern/Israeli restaurant near where Tyler and Lara live. The food was so great! Seriously, I think Israeli food is some of my all-time favorite, and has been since my 16th birthday when I had it for the first time in Vienna. Delicious.

It felt so "normal" to go out for a family dinner, and yet, it's special too. This is a unique season of life.

Yesterday Lara invited me and a few friends from my floor over for an afternoon of snacks, and relaxing. That was another sweet family time - family, in a different sense! Time with my sisters in Christ and my sister-in-law.

After church today I went over to the Russell's house, because they recorded some Olympics for me. I am a huge fan of the Olympics, but it's really difficult to find a place or time to watch it at Moody. They were so kind to record it, and I fully soaked in watching the opening ceremonies (even though the Olympics are ending now), catching up with the Russells, and petting sweet "Wick", the dog they're taking care of for the weekend.

This has been a refreshing weekend. I am thankful.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Ukraine: Closer

Usually when I read the headlines of news sites, I don't understand what's being talked about. I feel for other countries experiencing turmoil, but when I don't have connections there, or haven't experienced the culture and known the people, it's hard to feel it, and grasp the meaning of it, even when I would like to.

Ukraine is different.

Image from HERE
It truly breaks my heart.

I've been to Ukraine. I know people who are currently in Ukraine. It is a country that is so near to my home. They are the kind of people that I know - Eastern Europeans. They are suffering; yet they are standing up for their country, praying for freedom, and uniting together.

In 1989, Czech students gathered peacefully on the square and streets of Prague. The Velvet Revolution transformed the country, and led Czech into a new era of freedom. Communism fell, and slowly, yet surely, they began recovering. My home is not the same place as it was 20+ years ago. I know it is a very different situation in Ukraine now, but the protests are essentially for the same purpose: freedom.

Ukraine is making history right now. I pray they are making it towards something better.

It's hard to know how to pray when I don't know what's best. So I pray for the Lord to comfort, for Him to draw people to Himself through this, for people to see Him and turn to Him. I pray for spiritual protection. I pray for our JV missionaries there (who, thankfully, are not in Kiev, the capital), for the ministries that are in the midst of what's happening. I pray for wisdom for the church, and for believers, and for the protestors and the government.

I trust that though my prayers feel small, God is big. I don't know what this all will lead to in Ukraine, but I can pray that it leads to many hearts believing in Christ as their Savior. And I can ask God for peace. I can always ask.

For more updates, and prayer requests, go to the Williams' blog (JV missionaries in Ukraine). 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Honey, I love you

This Summer, one of the things I planned on stocking up on to bring to college was...

Czech honey.

I still have some, and I cherish it! I hardly ever put it in anything, because I love it straight off the spoon. What can I say? I get my love for honey from my dad - he kept bees as a kid!

Tastes of home bring back memories, and it's important to have those memories easily accessible. Look at photos, eat familiar food, write to friends, tell stories. That's how this transition has been working itself out.

It feels good to be at Moody. I know my way around, and it feels familiar here now. I love what I'm learning, and I love the people I've met here. I miss Czech though sometimes, and on those days, I'll grab a spoon of golden honey, make some tea, and slow down. I'll take time to remember, and then continue on in my day, thanking God for the blessings of both places.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just Hockey?

Today is a day where I can't decide how to feel. Many of my friends are celebrating America's victory in Olympic hockey... over Czech. The headlines on the NBC Olympics page says "Czech-mate". Oh yes, there are so many good puns for Czech. But part of me isn't sure whether I like that kind of pun!

Two things help on a day like today:

1. Seeing a Czech friend from church post this as his status on Facebook today: "Congratulations USA, you were much better today. Good luck, hope you get gold!" I am proud to see such humility concerning sports from a Czech. So that makes me feel like I can cheer for the States now. :)

2. Knowing that I can support both, without betraying either! I am both fully American, and fully Czech. My passport says I'm American, but I wasn't born here, and this is the first time I've lived in the States. I'm from Czech and America, if that's possible.

I'll celebrate both countries, and cultures, because that's who I am. 

Monday, February 17, 2014


It kind of sounds like the name of a superhero, right?


Well, no, this superhero was more of a reality in Chiberia today.

Why thundersnow, you ask?

Have you EVER experienced lighting and thunder during a snowstorm?? Seriously, is this a normal thing?! The first time I saw a flash of almost purple-tinted light from my window, I thought I was making things up. But the second time, while I was outside, I saw it again, and then heard a huge rumble of thunder. I wasn't the only one who saw it and heard it this time, so it was real!

Never, have I ever experienced a case of thundersnow (but apparently it's a "thing"!). It was actually pretty awesome.

God is great and powerful, and I love displays of that!

I had PCM today, so had to brave the blizzard, and walk to the bus stop. I had to consciously decide if it was going to be fun and adventurous, and miserable. I chose the former. It ended up being kind of hilarious.

We made it there and back safe and sound. The city gets a little wild in extreme conditions, but it's also endearing to see everyone out shoveling sidewalks, and shielding their heads from the snow. It brings us together, in some ways. Everyone feels cold and is slipping through the snow, which, if you look at it the right way, can be humorous and/or comforting to know you're not alone. Sometimes you just laugh, and go with it.

Yes, this is Chiberia.

In other news, the best part of my day was receiving the sweetest Valentine's package from Mom and Dad (and Michelle too!). It had the most random things in it, which brightened my snowy day. I was especially excited about the coloring book and crayons, just sayin'. Coloring is still fun, and quite therapeutic too. Thank you for the gifts!

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Yesterday consisted of sharing photography tips, trudging through snow, exploring around an abandoned house, and capturing beauty.

Emily, it was fun getting to take photos with you (and a couple of you too. teehee). And thank you Hannah and Forrest for being lovely in front of the camera - you're both beautiful! Here's just a taste of yesterday...

Here's to enjoying the winter, and to exploring! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day sounds like it's the holiday for couples. It's not, entirely! I don't have anything against Valentine's Day at all. I enjoy celebrating the day with my friends and family. It may be a "made up" (as some say) and cheesy holiday; one that is somewhat looked down upon among my peers, but there's always been something sweet about it for me.

When I was little, Grandma would send us little Valentine's Day packages. It was a taste of America. They didn't really celebrate this holiday in Czech, so it felt distinctly American to have conversation heart candies, chocolate marshmallows, and Hallmark cards on February 14th. We decorated cookies, and cut out hearts from pink construction paper, writing "I love you Mom/Dad" on them.

Even as we got older, we would exchange cards, messages, and treats in our family. Mom hung up pink and red balloons, and set out candy for us before school. The day was a perk to an otherwise dreary and grey February.

The good memories of Valentine's Day continue.

Because our floor's mascot is Abraham Lincoln (Our "Smith 4 Father". Pun intended.), we like to celebrate Lincoln's birthday "instead" of the "love" holiday. But in the end, we celebrate both, and it's just too much fun.

We received our Smith 4 sweatshirts today in the mail - a just in time for our mascot's birthday this week! Beth and I figured it was time for a roommate photo. A bookshelf works instead of a tripod, right?

And this random cardboard cutout joined our day too... long story behind that one.

Our "brother floor" sent us Valentine's, which were thoughtfully put in front of every girl's door (from the guys, but someone else put them there... guys aren't allowed on our floor except for during Open Halls). It was a throwback to childhood to receive Wonka candy, and hand-made Valentine's cards.

I also picked up the sweetest package in the post office from a family friend. Candice makes gluten-free, vegan, soy-free, nut-free, refined sugar-free power bars that are sooooo good. Seriously, they sustain me during a long day of classes and other activities. There is absolutely nothing bad for you in them, and Candice makes sure that each one is not only nutritious, but delectable as well. This package means a lot to me! (I think snail-mail is one of my love-languages... both in letter and package form...teeehee) Thank you Candice!!

To top off an already splendid day, Kelley and Michelle invited me to a coffee date. Friend dates are wonderful. They're even more wonderful when they're at Intelligentsia. I got to see Tyler, who works there. It's still crazy to me that my brother works at a prestigious coffee shop in downtown Chicago. He's pretty cool.

And look who else we bumped into at Intelligentsia, by chance?

Caleb and Haley, and some friends who were here for Josiah Venture orientation out in Wheaton, and are visiting downtown for the weekend. We've known Hudson since we were JV Kids together! Now Hudson and Kari are joining JV themselves, and moving to Slovakia in the near future. (It was tricky getting a photo since there wasn't much space, but at least we got one!)

What more could I want from Valentine's day? Sure I may be quote-quote "single", but I sure don't feel it. Love from friends, and from family made my day so very special. I like these days.

Happy Valentine's Day! To all the couples, and singles. ;) 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tea and Chocolate Tasting

Yesterday will definitely be up there among my best memories in the city. It was such a "Claire-tailored" experience, that it made me beam from ear to ear the whole time.

Adagio Teas (one of my favorite loose leaf tea shops in the city) hosted a Tea and Chocolate Tasting at their store downtown, which just happens to be a 12 minute walk from campus. They opened the store after hours, and opened it up to anyone who wanted to come. Oh, and I forgot to mention, it was free. 

I begged my friends to come with me (didn't take a lot of convincing though...) , so that I could go to the event (can't walk down there alone in the dark). The five of us made our way down to Adagio, and were greeted warmly by a small gathering of people sampling what was offered, friendly employees, and warm teas and unique chocolates to taste.

They had three teas that they paired specifically with different chocolates. The Indian Assam black tea was paired with a deep dark chocolate, to complement the bold flavors of a rich tea. Semi-dark chocolate was balanced by an aged tea, Pu Erh Dante, which has an earthy, and thoroughly smooth taste. Finally, a green Sencha Overture tasted divine with a little piece of milk chocolate, not to overpower the crisp and delicate tea.

Apart from those three pairings, there was also a sampling of tea-infused handmade chocolate truffles, seasonal Valentine's teas, and a selection of other teas picked to go along with the night.

Does it make sense why I loved last night so much?? Tea, chocolate, friends, and beauty, all in one? What could be better?

I highly recommend Adagio teas. Every time I walk into their store, they are so helpful, and want to make your experience the best possible. When I step into that shop, I feel a sense of calmness, and, of course, joy.

This is one of my happy places in Chicago.