qotd, on writing + shameless promo

"Ultimately literature is nothing but carpentry. Both are very hard work. Writing something is almost as hard as making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques. Basically very little magic and a lot of hard work involved."

-- Gabriel García Márquez from The Writer's Almanac.

And my weekly wrap-up about my half-marathon training is alive over at another mother runner. This one involves refrigerator magnets and unflattering pictures.

not up with figs + henry

Before you do anything else, please read Doula K's post on one of our meanderings, which involved a homemade skirt, a homemade sign, a heart full of love and a church.

Everything else I have today is less profound. Please feel free to stop reading. 

To those still left, Up with Figs was due to come back today. Lisa and I misunderestimated a couple of things about the fluid nature of time and promise it will be back next Wednesday. Sorry for the inconvenience.

I did manage to unpack some of the swag we hauled back.


The stuffed animal is the little mole Krtek, whose life and times are explained here. We loves him.

Artists set up booths on the Charles Bridge. Some of the art is more like "art" but some of it is truly remarkable. The  black and white etching is more detailed than this picture shows. I couldn't resist it, if only because it manages to capture one of the ineffable feelings Prague gave me. You can hope to see it best in small, almost wee sections. Well, that and that Prague is pointy.

The ribbon and green glass buttons are from Mar-Len. My plan is to knit a sweater (Rogue, maybe?) around them.

The other beads, including the yellowy green that I love and Doula K loathed, are from Star Beads. I have no idea what I'll do with them but I like having them around.

The tram matchbox simply amused me, as such things do.

There are a few other tchtockies hanging around the place. They, however, have other homes to go to and I know their future owners read the blog.

And, now, back to the snow day. It's still coming down here, in great white sheets. 


* Also, for the grandparents, etc, she got a couple of great pictures of the kids.

shameless self-promotion, 343 in a series + an apology

From the local almost-daily: pictures and memory.

The apology - 

There will be more about the trip, mostly about swag picked up along the way, coming soon. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on how you feel about such things. That is not why I'm apologizing.

No, the apology is that I am sorry that it's going to take a couple of days before I can deal with it. When we got home, late (late (late)) on Thursday night, I wasn't feeling all that well, which I chalked up to the rigors of trans-Atlantic travel.* I figured I'd jump out of bed on Friday feeling OK. 

Readers, that is not what happened. Long story short, the last 72 hours have passed in a feverish blur, coupled with a cough and phlegm and exhaustion and shivers. I'm thinking it is the flu, some dread German/Czech flu that my body could have easily shaken off under ordinary circumstance but that gained a foothold because of all of the planes, trains and automobiles. 

Given that, I'd still do it all again in a heartbeat.** But I'm moving slowly now, trying to recollect where I left the horse I rode in on, how to lure the horse back (I'm thinking peppermint candies) and if that's really the horse for me, given how it abandoned me when I was down. 

The kids, by the way, are just fine. 

We hit Dulles to wait out a 5 hour layover and they promptly passed out, because they are sensible and limber.


The Diva fell asleep on the floor, on top of Scott's coat and covered with her own coat.


The Boy folded himself into an airport seat and was out.

And unconsciousness is calling my name right now as well...


* I don't know how anyone survives trans-Pacific travel without dying. Which doesn't mean I don't want the opportunity to find out for myself someday.

** For Carol: we went because good friends are doing a sabbatic year in Prague and had space for us to crash. It was an opportunity that couldn't be denied. They intend to go back in seven years. We intend to intrude again. The Germany trip was to see a member of Scott's extended family. Visiting her was like being embraced in a warm hug for 24 hours. Can't wait to go back there, either.

yes, there is yarn in Prague

Doula K and I went out for some shopping. We ditched the kids. 

There were two yarn shops, picked from All Tangled Up's list. For what it's worth, Prague is not the best place to buy yarn. It is, however, a great place to buy beads and buttons, which is what I did. Pictures of the actual purchases will come out eventually. Now, however, the husband has packed them and I don't want to mess up his system.


This is Mar-Len. If you need any sewing notions and/or fabric and/or trim, this place is amazing. 


Seriously. Amazing.


We found a tea shop, too.


And a David Černý sculpture, which is a take off on the famous monument in Wenceslas square. I want to build an entire tour of the city just based on his work.



We also found the Hooters, just in case.


And the Spanish synagog, just in case.


And their gate. 

There's more about our wanderings, but I"ll leave that bit to Doula K. 

With that, we are out of here. I'm looking forward to being home but I also want to come back as soon as possible. When I get to Prague, can I stay with you?



and now for the packing

We're winding down on the Prague posts, because we are winding down on Prague. 


What I can't express in words or pictures is how beautiful this city is. You'll just be walking around then see something like this. 


This is the view from the Kampa playground. A playground with a view of several centuries worth of architecture. U.S. playgrounds must be a serious let-down.


Manhole cover.


Angry swan that wanted to eat Maddy.


Artsy shot of the statues on Charles Bridge.




Ditto, again.

And a random bit about the Boy, whose eye looks great now.


The house brand at the local grocery is Clever. Clever products are all over the apartment: Clever matches, Clever sour cream, Clever sugar. The Boy, when we walked in the door after our road trip, asked for some "Clever milk" before bed. He's going to be all kinds of disappointed when we return home and our products cease being Clever.

more Germany

And so, a quick tour of Mannheim, which a brief diversion into stories about an eyeball.


Schiller. You can tell which buildings were destroyed during the war. The ones that look new are.


The ones that look old are. This is the big Baroque Catholic church. 


They like their gold and silver.


Actually, a fair amount of this church was destroyed. Mannheim was a manufacturing center - still, is, really - and took a pounding.


This was the winter palace. It goes on for, oh, a half mile or so. It's good to be the King. Although this wasn't the King's. But you know what I mean.


I could do nothing but take pictures of doorknobs.


This is St. Hedwig's women's hospital. I took this picture for two reasons: 1) I like the name Hedwig and 2) they have a BabyKorb.


If you are a new mom and you've decided you can't handle the baby thing, you can leave your baby in the Korb and the good sisters of St. Hedwig's will take care of it for you. Which just seems humane. 

Speaking of hospitals, etc., the Boy woke up in the morning with a swollen, sticky eye. Our German friend called her doctor and she was kind enough to squeeze him in. It was all very exciting. He's fine now.

What was great about the whole situation was that we got to talk to other folks in the waiting room. There's just something about kids that make strangers want to talk to you about what it was like with their kids or what it was like when they were kids or how good the kids are being. We talked in a mix of English and German and, because I mentioned that I took a semester of it in college, Latin. We all agreed that it just goes so fast.

While I was in with the Boy and the doctor, who I want as my doctor, language barrier be dammed, Scott and an older man got to talking about the War. Scott and I kept wanting to apologize to everyone we saw in this part of the country, particularly when they would start to talk about what it looked like before we bombed the heck out of it. I mean, I'm glad the war was fought and that Hitler was stopped but I'm really sorry we had to destroy your stuff to do it.

Call it white liberal American guilt.

Anyway, the older man said to Scott, "We're glad you won the war." Which was one of those interesting and wonderful moments that you have when you're traveling.


going for a ride in the car-car

Yesterday, we drove to Mannhein, Germany to visit an old friend of Scott's family. We had a lovely visit and learned a few things along the way. 

Thing 1:


(click to make big)

Some signs are difficult to figure out just by the picture alone. Yes, we are to be cautious of something. Got it. But what? Bears leaping onto the road? Hoards of angry bees? What, for Pete's sake?!

Also, if the car rental place assures you that there is a GPS in the car, don't believe them. I had to stop to buy a few maps. It all worked out without it but it would have been easier if we'd known beforehand that we'd need to go old school.

Thing 2:


Sometimes, you just have to go to McDonalds. Given how rudimentary my German is - I have just enough to work on the blunt force and ignorance principle but can achieve minor victories without hurting anyone's feelings - I thought I could handle either a German menu or ordering in German but not both. Ergo, McD's. The only challenge was getting the Diva's burger without bread, because the word for without (ohne) sounds similar to "only." You can see all of the places this can go. 

Thing 3: 

The Germans built some mighty fine castles. 


Heidelberg by night, with a Christmas market and skating rink in the foreground.

At some point during the next few years, I really want to come back to see Heidelberg, both castle and city, by day. It really is lovely. I wonder how many cities were also this lovely before WWII. Heidelberg escaped the destruction mostly unscathed.

Here's another picture of another stunning building, which I add here because it's handy:


Thing 3.5:

I love it when folks point out a building here and call it new. "That's only been here 400 years. It's new."


Thing 4: 

The friend in question and her husband are warm and generous and amazing.


Here she is, playing a round of Mensch ärgere Dich nicht, which is like the U.S. Sorry!, with our two.

She let the Diva play with a new favorite toy:


Made raclette, which is yum all over.


How can one go wrong with melted cheese and meat and pickles? One can't.

There's more, of course, but it will have to wait until tomorrow because I need to go convince the kids to go to sleep. Remind me to tell you who picked up pink eye. Turns out "conjunctivitis" is the same thing in German and in English.

zoo, etc.

A brief conversation between the Boy and I, written here so that I remember it later:

Me, to Cory, day before yesterday, after he made it pretty clear that he thought we were just in another part of the U.S.: So where do you think we are?

Cory, to me, as if I were a lunatic: Um, here.

Which is our Zen moment of the day.

Today, we went to the Zoo, where they let you get very, very close to the animals. 


This is a vulture of some sort. I would tell you what sort but the sign looked like this:


Which makes total sense but isn't much use to me personally. But I know it's a vulture.

It's an amazing zoo, by the way. There are lots of great places for kids to play.


Plus, Brad and Angelina have been there, so you know it's good.



You can also bring your dog to the zoo, which I find both amusing and ironic.


Some pavilions do not allow dogs, however, and then the dogs look very sad.


They do have their own water fountains, too. All of Prague is like that, kids and dogs everywhere. It's the way it should be, imo.


The view from the top of the zoo.


There's something wrong with seeing snow and flamingos.


But they do let you get very, very close to the animals. 


Even these.