Monthly Archives: February 2012

Home again, home again.

Time to return to the US.  On our way, we had a layover in Toronto on December 30th.  Two days shy of Max’s 19th birthday.  Sad – he was once again too young to hit the pubs.

Rachel's back in North America!

Happy birthday, Max!

We spent some nice days back (Happy birthday, Max!  19!!!) at home before Max headed back to WSU.  Shortly after he left, Rachel, Chris, and I visited him.  Well, Rachel stayed with Max (and his roomie Adam) and Chris and I bunked at a local Pullman hotel.   A fun time was had by all.

We drove home and enjoyed a quiet night at home.  And the snow started.  Yay snow!  In Seattle terms, we had a lot of snow.  Luckilly, Chris was able to make his flight and safely depart for Nashville.

Rachel and I had some fun girl-time planned.  And the snow kept falling.  Then the ice came.  And that, unfortunately, led to a power outage.  Rachel and I piled on the layers, broke out the candles, and settled in.  Little did we know that we would be out of power for days… and that the house temp would drop to 46 degrees.  Ug!

Snow and ice

Our pine tree before the top broke off from the weight of the ice. It landed right next to the fence (not on our neighbor's house or our house, not even on the fence).

Luckily, we have wonderful friends and neighbors who checked on us, brought us to their house when their generator ran their furnace, charged our cell phones for us, made us tea and soup, …   And Rachel and I actually did have some fun.  And then it was time to take her to the airport.  Friday ended up being quite a full day.  Rachel and I got to the airport early; we weren’t sure how icy the roads would be.  We made it to the airport in fine time, so that left lots of time for us to share a HOT latte.  In the warm airport.  Aaahhh. It was relaxing.  And oh so warm.  Rachel headed off to security;  I hung out a bit, giving her a little wave and staying warm.  She chose what seemed like a fast moving, short security line.  There were just two people in front of her.  So I thought.  Suddenly, their two(?) year old son ran over (from where??) and they could not get their sh#t together to get through the scanner.  Holy moly – what a production.  I stood there, watching this whole situation unfold.  They had jackets, computers, shoes, carry on luggage, a purse, toiletries,…  They had 13 tubs on the conveyer belt.  THIRTEEN!!!  Yes, I counted.  I had to giggle upon making eye contact with Rachel.  Thirteen!!  And they were completely disorganized as well.  Oh well, Rachel finally made it through the scanner and headed off to Oxy.

Since we still did not have power at home, I had planned to hang out at the airport, stay warm, and wait for Chris to return from Nashville later in the day.  But, as we walked in to the airport, I received a phone call from a classmate.  Even though school was closed due to the ice, we still had to make a wedding cake that day.  Our instructor was already at school and he asked the two of us to come in and help with the cake.  So I did.  It was great fun.  The cake turned out quite nicely.  I felt sorry for the bride – trying to have her wedding amid the ice and outages, but I was glad that I didn’t have to drive the delivery van with a wedding cake on the icy roads!

Once the cake was done, I headed off on some errands.  I checked in with our next door neighbor and learned that we had power!  Yay.  Or not.  When I drove home, I saw that our neighborhood had power.  Well, part of the neighborhood had power.  Chuck and Liz’s house was the last with power and ours was the first without.  Waaah.  Puget  Sound Energy comforted me by telling me I would have power by 7pm.  Okay!

I picked up Chris from the airport and came home with high hopes of high indoor temps.  But no.  Our part of the neighborhood still had no power.  Waah.  PSE assured me that we would have power by 1am.  Although I had planned to go to a hotel rather than spend one more night in the cold house, Chris and I figured that we would go to sleep in the cold and wake up with power.  I could brave that.  Except … still no power on Saturday.

Chris and I made the most of the day.  We cut up the fallen tree limbs and emptied the fridge and freezer.  By the end of the day, the fridge was beautifully clean and empty while the garbage  and yard waste bins quite full.  And then…about three pm… POWER!!  Glorious electricity!!  Tuesday to Saturday without power (but we did have hot water).  And now we had the power!!

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Homework: Amazing desserts and other restaurant experiences

Along the way, my three Baers helped with my schoolwork.  Remember, I must get out and about, experience bakeries, sample baked goods, and summarize my experiences in essays for school.  This is homework.  And being the good students we Baers are, we take this homework stuff VERY seriously.

In Vienna, we researched baked goods at a number of places.  Vienna does do pastries well!  As you know, we checked out Cafe Diglas.  Forget about the bathroom  – the foodie experience was fabulous!  We walked into a very crowded restaurant and were immediately swept up in the hustle and bustle.  We were seated at a ‘four top’ which probably should have been a table for two, or even one!  We were surrounded by other tables in a small corner of the restaurant.  It was cozy (squished) and hectic and loud and fun!  Really fun!  We sampled some tasty local treats and found that Max’s soup was the best choice.  But, I ended up with the primo seat at the table.  I had a perfect view of the pastry display and of the video.  Yes, video.  They showed the bakers making their desserts.  Oh my gosh – it was perfect for Karen-the-baking-student.

Delivery from the central bakery to Cafe Diglas in Josephstadt (sorry to capture the delivery man)

Baked apples

You know Vienna does good pastries (understatement!), but Vienna also does a fabulous job on their shop windows.  Check out the displays we spied.

A wonderful window display at a local bakery.

Hilarious! Check out the dinner guests. Some have passed out!

Jagermeister, wine, barf bucket… must have been some party!

Also – one evening during dinner at Yam, our waitress took a moment to teach us a little German.  When she taught us to say thank you, she (of course) said ‘danke’.  We, being language-mangling Americans, thought this word was pronounced ‘Don – kah’: first syllable sounding like want without the T and the second syllable sounding like the name of the snake in “Bear Necessities”.  I know you know what I mean.  Anyway, Max observed that our waitress (and everybody else in Vienna) said danke made the word sound like Schreck calling his four-legged companion Donkey.  It was like ‘don-keh’.  And with that observation, we chuckled every time someone said danke.  Oh, and we made all sorts of Schreck references, too.    Go to 40seconds to hear Donkey/danke.

Oh, and one thing upon which I just must reflect:  we were in Prague for five days.  Five days and never once did we see the Festrunck brothers, Yortuk and Georg.  You know, the two swinging brothers from Czechoslovakia?  Two wild and crazy guys on Saturday Night Live. I guess we didn’t see them in Prague because they already moved to the United States. Our loss.  Seriously.

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WC

We landed upon Cafe Diglas – a true gem.  I promise to write more about our wonderful dining experience in a future post because that, my friends, is not the point of this post.  What would my blog be without a good bathroom story?  You know you’ve been waiting for another one.  Here it is.

Rachel left our lunch table, wove her way through the very crowded restaurant, and headed to the bathroom.  She made her way back  to our table as I walked to the bathroom.  She grabbed my arm when we passed and whispered, ‘Don’t worry about the bathroom, Mom.  Just remember to lock the door.’  And she walked off.

Say what?!?  I looked around the VERY crowded restaurant as I tried to make sense of her comment. Confused, I opened the bathroom door and immediately understood.  This is what I saw as I entered the bathroom and realized the entire restaurant could see in the open door behind me.

Really? This is the stall? Um. I don't think so. I can hold it. Really, I can hold it forever.

Um.  No.  I don’t think so!  But wait, Rachel told me to be sure to lock the door.  That must mean that she actually used this bathroom!  Well, I didn’t really know anybody out in the restaurant that would be able to see in, and I did have to go to the bathroom (that’s why I was in there, after all), so I forged on.  Guess what!  I locked the door and it looked like this from the outside:

Oh! This is the stall when the door is locked.

How cool is that? Privacy!  The door became opaque when locked.  Not such a big deal after all.  But it had me worried for a minute!  And in the end, I had another bathroom story for the blog.  At least this experience wasn’t as alarming as my bathroom break in the Västerås bus station!

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On to Vienna!

Our time in Prague ended and we boarded the bus to Vienna.  For a baking student, Vienna is the motherland (just giving you fair warning that there WILL be foodie photos).  But first, another transportation tale.  This time luckily, we did not meet up with the transit authority.  No, this time, we met up with (cue the scary music)… the map.

We had a basic map provided by the hotel.  We exited our bus at the proper station and consulted the metro’s detailed map.  We figured out that we needed to take three different train lines to get close to our hotel.  Then, we walked about twenty blocks (toting our luggage) and found our hotel.  It was a schlep, true, but what else could we do?  At least that’s what we thought until we came out of our hotel the next morning, walked ONE BLOCK in the other direction, and found a station for the first line we rode the night before.  Oh ho!  Our first train would have gotten us within one block of our hotel.  If only we had known!  It left us wondering why the hotel’s map did not show that line or station.  Anyway, that just provided us with a good tale; no harm done.

Vienna.

In a word: Beautiful

In a song: Vienna Waits for You

In an emotion: sigh. Vienna’s architecture is breathtaking, its desserts delicious, and all four Baers together.  Deep, contented sigh.  🙂

Rathaus in the flurries

life imitating art

Hofburg Palace

And on to The Summer Palace:

In the gardens at The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace in December

Meanwhile, back at the hotel:

Max and Rachel try on their new matching outfits (a la 'Sound of Music').

One thing that had us laughing at the Summer Palace was Max’s photo bomb.  He took it to a new level.  As you know, photo bombers sneak into your photos and make a face or a gesture behind you as someone takes your photo.  You don’t know you have been photo bombed until later, when you check out your photos.  Well, Max’s take on it was a bit more upfront.  He just walked right up to people as they posed for a photo and posed with them.  I mean right in with the group, big smile and all.  It was hilarious!

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survival

You have to eat and drink to survive, right?  Well, here is a pictorial summary of  our survival in Prague.

Lattes and the best chocolate chip brioche ever (er, I mean school research).

Schoolwork takes commitment and dedication. I am so lucky to have their support!

Making the trdelnik (which are super yummy!)

The rods used in making trdelnik

About to power through our giraffe of beer at Pivovarsky Dum.

Na zdraví!

At the Strahov Monastic Brewery

Momma says, 'yeast is not for bread alone'.

Rachel took us down, down, down into what felt like a cave… for the best ever hot chocolate.

Being goofy at McDonalds (for dessert). Seriously - McDonalds McCafe. Their dessert presentation was beautiful, and the desserts were quite tasty. Really! Again, Chris, Rachel, and Max are only doing this to help me with my schoolwork! Another plus for the McCafe - free wifi!

I snapped this photo because Max requested I ‘get a photo of that girl and her wiener’.  There you have it.  Giggle.  Snort.

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But really officer….

So, we had that one little mishap on the train in Berlin.  After that, our use of public transportation was uneventful.  We got a kick out of the super long escalators that took us down to  (or up from) the Prague subway trains.  They were so long and so steep that it looked like you were leaning instead of standing up straight.  Odd sensation.

One time, we exited one train and headed to a different part of the station to catch our next train.  The Prague stations are similar to others around the world – lots of people, lots of hustle and bustle.  Well, the four of us ended up walking kind of single file at one point.  I was directly behind Max; Rachel and Chris were a little bit ahead if us and we momentarily lost sight of them.

Suddenly, some man approached Max and said something in Czech (which we obviously didn’t understand).  He held out his hand and showed Max a small colored disc.  It resembled a large bottle cap or round brooch.  Max didn’t even break stride.  He looked at the man, put up his own hand, said ‘No thanks. I’m good’ and kept walking.

Yeah, that would have been fine if the man was a solicitor like Max thought.  But no.  He was a transit officer looking for Max’s valid train ticket.  Turns outs they had already stopped Chris and Rachel; we just hadn’t seen them.  The look on the transit officer’s face was priceless.  It only took a moment for me to realize what was happening and we all called to Max to return.  All ended well AND we had a good laugh.

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Czeching out Rachel’s Town

Rachel gave us a preliminary tour of some of her favorite places.  It was wonderful to see the sights she described all semester.  We also enjoyed a tour with our personal guide, Tereza.  She walked us all around Prague and gave us a thorough, yet abbreviated, history of Prague and The Czech Republic, its people and buildings.  We learned and saw so much.

On the Charles Bridge

Newlyweds lock in their love on the Bridge of Locks

We stopped along the Lennon wall

Max, Rachel, and Tereza (our tour guide) at the castle

Flags at half staff for Vaclav Havel

Remembering Vaclav Havel

“Hope is a feeling that life and work have meaning. You either have it or you don’t, regardless of the state of the world that surrounds you.”

~Vaclav Havel

The country's love for Vaclav Havel was evident everywhere we went.

Astronomical Clock

The Golem is rumored to live in the attic of this Prague temple.

Max at 'The Dark Dick of Doom' (really - that is what it was called in the guide book!)

Rachel at the entry to her Prague home

Prague

We met Tereza a second day and she led us on a tour of Terezin.  The village’s history became all that more real when Tereza explained that her grandmother was forced to live there during part of the war.  We toured the museum, but I did not take any photos.

An unoccupied building in Terezin. To my surprise, many of the buildings are occupied, the village is home to a small population.

Memorial at the Terezin cemetery.

I took a few photos, but they really don’t do justice to the experience.  More info on Terezin (Teresienstadt) is available on line.

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