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Time is Fleeting -or- A Brief Post

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A birthday number I’d rather not disclose came around earlier this month, and the best present I could ask for? A(n all-too-brief) visit from Tom!

And I got to do something he always generously does for me – I picked him up at the airport with goodies! Starbucks and McDonalds kind of goodies. I’m the best, I know.

In addition to eating and drinking constantly, we went for a non-touristy tour of Prague. Starting with breakfast at this wonderful cafe in Karlin, Můj šálek kávy! I’ve written about this place before and if you’ve happened upon this blog looking for Prague tips I cannot recommend this cafe enough! The food is so delicious we decided to order pancakes as dessert. But the best part is how meticulous they are about their coffee and in a later post I’ll go into more detail about their techniques!

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We also took a stroll around one of my favourite spots in Prague: Vyšehrad! My favourite  version of the story of this medieval site is that this princess called Libuše, who may have also married a farmer from a different village, ate some magic mushrooms, looked out across the river, and declared a golden city would arise in that, this, location…

Well, I don’t know about Prague being a golden city, but it is most definitely a very green city! One thing Tom mentioned is how much green space there is within the city centre of Prague, and he lamented that there is just a few small green areas within Manchester. So we were both keen to linger in Vyšehrad’s gardens.

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Thank you for such a nice present boo – for the great company and for helping me say goodbye to Prague through my camera lens!

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And What’s Left

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One common theme to any kind of personal writing I’ve put out there is about my arrival in Prague – one of the most discordant moments of my life – about how I was alone. And about how I had what I kindly call ‘blind courage’ or what I should probably just admit was gross naiveté and an over-inflated ego.

But I definitely credit my success, my staying power in Prague, to that initial attitude. I made it out the other side of challenges before realizing the consequences of failure. And that attitude was the first travel buddy I met as I started my solo journey.

When I went to that creepy little college in Missouri I went along with a girl I had done ballet and gone to high school with. When I transferred back to my state university I joined about half my graduating class from high school and always lived with people I had known back home. The psych classes I took, because my boyfriend was a psych major, would say this is why I finally flung myself into the middle of another continent.

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My sister tells a poignant story of when my family dropped me off at the airport for my flight over to Prague, one involving a 12-hour layover in Newark and another six hours in Warsaw. After I had gone through security, up the escalator out of sight, my parents stood still, watching, and according to my sister, waiting. She had to tell them that I was unlikely to come back down the escalator and go back home with them.

Meanwhile I was almost in a zombie-like state, going through the motions of finding my gate, settling down in a seat, compulsively checking for my boarding pass. I did call my best friend and cry for a minute, but after that I got back into my mantra that it was time to pull myself together and face my new reality.

It was a pep talk I gave myself often throughout the nearly 40 hours it took me to reach my final destination: a terrifyingly communist block house on the outskirts of what was supposed to be a fairytale city.

And while back in the States I had been a shy, quite little person I found that this new need to forge my own relationships, rather than falling back on family and classmates, brought out the extroverted side in me.

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Another topic I’ve written about, and one I certainly think about, is how all the friends I’ve made have literally come and gone. I’m not being hyperbolic here. Mid-way through July my last two real friends left. And a month before that even my husband moved away!

After their time in Prague my friends have gone on to places like Texas, Seattle, Ukraine, Taiwan, Australia, New York…

Prague is a temporary city for almost anyone not born Czech, and they had fulfilled the need that drove them here  to begin with. So they moved on in their lives to learn and grow even more, and delightfully most of them kept a bit of the cheeky, fun spirit of an afternoon spent drinking good beer in a sunny park.

Having always been a wide-eyed observer of life, this progression has been wonderful to watch. But now it is my time to leave.

And I will leave Prague just as I came. Alone.

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I recently got a new tattoo and I will be perfectly honest with you. It is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Tattoo. Why Buffy? Why now? So many answers to both those questions, and some many are the same answers.

I’ll give you one for now. During an early season finale Buffy is fighting to save the world, as is her calling, and the demon she’s fighting asks “Now that’s everything, huh? No weapons… No friends…No hope. Take all that away… and what’s left?”

“Me.”

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Me. I’m left.

And I’m enough to not only get though this tough time of transition, but I’m enough to keep slaying my life!

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The Couple that Moves Together, Grooves Together

There’s a saying I’ve run into a couple times about how traveling together is the true test of a couple’s stay-together-ability, and after multiple ten-hour flights around the world with my husband I can say this is true. Traveling in a pair tests your patience and negotiating skills, and you will have at least one argument per trip. It’s going to happen. But I believe my husband and I have always arrived home a stronger couple.

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However, I would amend that formula to say that moving together is the true test of a relationship.

When I was a child my parents moved us from Utah to Idaho and I did not take it well. I had to say goodbye to my grandparents whose living room had been the stage for my many solo performances. My mother stayed behind with me while my father went ahead to start his job and find a house.

This one-at-a-time approach has also been employed by several friends of mine as they move to and from Prague. From my observations it looked like a fairly chill, logistically easy way to go about it. Especially when you have different nationalities and visa situations going on.

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But what you gain in logistic ease you lose in comfort and stress reduction.

Downloading my day with my cat is just not the same as with my husband. The cat’s not a very attentive listener and he doesn’t know just when to say those bitches!

Surprisingly I find it takes me longer to get ready in the morning without having his sleepy  voice as a sounding board for my outfits, even when I know he’s barely opened one eye at my insistence.

Waking up on a lazy weekend morning is less fun without him.

Deciding what to eat for dinner is way less fun without him.

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Meanwhile he’s had to find and set up our new home all alone, with me passing judgement over WhatsApp texts. Thank god for Evernote – we wouldn’t have been able to stay fairly sane while flat hunting without it.

He’s coordinating the internet, water, electricity, council tax, etc… and I feel both helpless and silly for complaining that I have no one to tell me I look super-fly in the mornings.

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Before he hopped a plane to get our new life started he packed up all his things, leaving me with half-empty wardrobes and a pile of cardboard boxes in my bedroom where he and his things should be. And soon it will finally be time for me to start loading my belongings into boxes as well!

And thank god!

I admit I was looking forward to this time living apart since it is the first, and maybe only, time I’ll ever live ‘alone’. I have tried to make the most of it by trying out some new activities and trying to build healthier habits but boy am I getting impatient to see my husband and my new flat. To decorate the new space and help my cat get familiar and comfortable in his new home.

I am ready to hit the ground running with a mumbled ‘you look super-fly’ from under the blankets each morning.

I also won’t mind having my best drinking buddy back…

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all photos courtesy of my husband

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Moving to Manchester!

Well the title of this post really does sum it up! Me and my guy and my cat – we’re all moving to Manchester!

Tom was offered his dream job in a pretty well-known company and the office is in Manchester, UK. That’s in Lancashire, as in the Lancaster’s that fought the York’s in the War of the Roses.

Oh yeah, did I never mention that I am a HUGE, and I mean GIANT, fan of English history? Remember that giant novel I read over the New Year? I will be unemployed for a bit (fingers crossed it’s just a ‘bit’) after I move and I plan on doing a tour of English history, starting with some standing stones.

Back to the present day – Tom has already packed his bag and gone off to start working and AirBnBing while looking for a more permanent place for the cat and I to join him in the autumn.

The company has been pretty helpful with the move, they even financed most of our weekend trip to try out the city! After we made the decision to move we knew we needed to visit the city and dedicate a day to simply walking around, getting a feel for the different neighborhoods and where we might feel comfortable setting up a home.

We started our wanders around the Northern Quarter, the hipster/party area of central Manchester. We stayed in what looked like a chill hostel only to be woken up at 3 am by a group of French dudes confused about their room number trying to get into ours.

The area was pretty nice, and the kind of ‘dirty’ I like to have in a city quarter, but it was incredibly noisy on the weekend nights so probably not a great place for Tom who is the lightest sleeper ever!

From the Northern Q we wandered down to the Gay Village of Manchester :) The area of Prague we live in is sometimes referred to as the Gaybourhood, which I think rolls off the tongue a bit better, but Gay Village it is!

It was pretty early in the morning, so no clubbing for us. We’re too old anyway.

Did you notice that u I threw into Gaybourhood up there? Gotta throw those u’s in from now on!

Side note: I LOVE those murals of Trump kissing Putin and Boris Johnson!

From the Gay Village Tom led us north – I think? – and over one of those bridges that sways with the weight of the pedestrians and makes me stomach clench.

And then after jostling our way through a street food fair we found ourselves in my dream area to live in: Castlefileds!

Not only are there Roman and Medieval ruins but look! A cat!

He let me take about four photos of him before he hopped off the boat and hid in some bushes. But once I saw him I was sold on living in this area.

When I could no longer follow or see the cat we found a tram and went out to visit the area of Tom’s cool new office in MediaCity.

And with our feet just starting to burn and my hair a complete tangled mess we found a hole-in-the-wall bar close to our hostel where we were the youngest patrons. The best place for a victory beer!

I’m a grab-bag of emotions right now, happy and excited at the new adventure while nervous and sad at leaving this new home I have. But this trip left me feeling pretty great about our decision to move.

Now on to the daunting task of actually moving…

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DIY Cat Tepee

It all started with this sensible chuckle inducing imgur photo:

And I knew my cat also needed his own yurt, or tepee.

My father, incidentally, used to make for real handmade tepees; he does this whole mountain man thing, it’s hardcore and cool. So I figured tepee-making was in my blood. That’s how stuff like this works right?

Thankfully my husband is a 3D artist and he was super helpful in whipping up a pattern for a five-sided tepee with a bottom, including the ideal length of the poles and a gorgeously symmetrical opening. If I had done this myself the results would be a lot different.

After planning out how much fabric I’d need we set out on a hunt for the materials: fabric, wooden dowels, more fabric for the inside, and (I hoped) a new sewing kit to replace my hand-me-down kit I’m currently rocking.

Our first stop was the fabric store. This fabric store to be exact…

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As it turns out, finding a fabric store open on a Saturday is not easy. This one was open and close to home, but closed at 1:00pm so we had to hurry.

Inside the shop was like stepping back in time. I won’t lie in that I felt like a Project Runway designer going to a strange kind of Mood. That was until I watched them cut the fabric, not on a table with a ruler printed on it, but with a rather small wooden ruler that looked to be about a hundred years old.

The ladies were helpful and fun and it was definitely one of those wonderfully surreal expat experiences :)

Fabric in hand it was off the the DIY store for some wooden dowels.

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After wandering around the entire store we eventually found the ideal dowels (never thought I’d say that phrase) but no sewing kit. We visited another large super-store still in search of the kit with no luck. So it was back home to get started on the cutting and sewing!

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Two different colors for the tepee and some super soft fabric for the inner bed. I used an old shirt to cut out tabs for the inside seams to hold the dowels in place.

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I would be lost without my husband. Look at his awesome pattern!

By this time it was about 9:00pm but I couldn’t resist sewing up just one of the seams so I could get an idea of what it would look like before going to bed.

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Six hours later I went to bed with the whole thing nearly sewed up, my eyes blurry, and my fingertips aching.

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I couldn’t resist getting his opinion first thing in the morning. He had been insanely curious throughout the sewing process and he seemed to be happy with what was going on.

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Trying out the opening with just two dowels and he climbed inside immediately.

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Nearly finished!

Not only does the tepee have a bottom but there are also five small dowels lining the outside edge to help it retain it’s structure. Only the best for my cat baby.

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However… once it was finally finished he seemed to be uninterested and laughed at me.

So we took the bedding out of the tepee and put it in our bed for a few nights so it would smell like us and after that…

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He finally gave it a try! Forgive the bit of laundry lining the photo edge.

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Did I spoil the cat by taking a whole weekend to hand-sew him his own tepee? Maybe, but making something was fun and it looks super cool! And if I ever get a sewing machine I could even make one for myself!