Farewell Praha

Sunday brought a three and a half hour drive and the acknowledgment that it was in fact our last day of this fairytale holiday.  In order to maximize our hours remaining we rose early and hit the road.  Another beautiful day before us and the open road left us ample time to talk, sing to 80's music and make up words for the German  music on the radio.  Good times.

 Church of Our Lady of Tyn with a gold statue of Lady Madonna 

Once we returned to Prague we quickly parked the car  and prepared ourselves for a day of soaking in this magical city.  We took a route suggested to us by our concierge and happened upon a local restaurant of sorts.  Husband Jared and I found a high table, made ourselves comfortable and begin playing cards and people watching.  Perfect.  After we enjoyed our plate of ham, cabbage pancakes and potato soup we decided to stretch our legs and peruse the city blocks we missed the first go around.  And there we saw it, a cigar shop.  Husband Jared ventured in and found exactly what he was looking for.

An espresso, a cigar and a happy Husband

The crowning moment of the day was by far the sunset view on the Charles Bridge.  With the castle and Little Quarter on one side, the sun slowly creeping into the horizon and a view of the steeples of Old Town behind us we could not have asked for a more spectacular show.  We dined on a river boat and sat in amazement at the display before us.

And that my friends is the end of our fairytale holiday in Praha. 


Road Trip in Central Europe

Even as I am writing this post it seems somewhat surreal.  Husband Jared and I hired a car and set out for Vienna, Austria this morning from Prague.  Nothing but a GPS with only Czech maps, a bottle of water and some music that neither of us could understand and we were off.  The open road awaited.

 Husband Jared driving us to Vienna

The scenery was picturesque.  Rolling hills, quaint villages flanking the road, religious statues marking the entrances to a new village and occasionally a pit stop at a petro station.  Three and a half hours later, including a slight detour trying to find our hotel and we arrived.  Upon checking in we were told our reservation had been cancelled.  As we patiently, or not,  waited to find out if there was vacancy we were called to the check in desk only to be told we were upgraded to a pent house apartment.  Excuse me?  Of course we, meaning I, squealed with glee and as soon as we were outside our room, I posed Vanna style next to the plaque claiming our status.  Mind you, we both know this is not our style but when in Rome, or Vienna in this case!
 Need I say more?

Knowing we had only a short amount of time here we hit the city centre immediately.  There was an art exhibit we had to see, Gustav Klimt's work was being shown at the Leopold Museum.  On our walk to the museum quarter we passed Hofburg square and intricate statues decorating each and every building.  The display at the museum was worth every Euro.  Stories were told of each painting and the relative history to Vienna.  It was captivating.  Outside the museum there were tents with signs reading, "Tour of Italy".  Why yes, thank you.  We popped in for a delicious anitpasti plate and a breather before we hit the streets on our sight seeing expedition.  On our route we passed Parliament, the Burg theatre and the National Library.  Every which way we turned there was another remarkable piece of architecture awaiting.  By the end of the afternoon our necks were aching from constantly looking up to take in the phenomenal surroundings. 

 Entrance into the Museum Quarter
 Standing in front of one of several fountains throughout the city 

There is a much different vibe here than in Prague and we were looking forward to experiencing the nightlife here.  On the agenda, wienerschnitzel and apple streudel.    Yes please.  After some diligent research while we rested up in our Penthouse apartment, enjoying the view, and found a historical cafe to partake in some fine Austrian cuisine.  A family run establishment with weinerschnitzel as large as my face.  Potato salad and baby spinach.  Wow.  I might have been drooling. 

And that my friends concludes our day spent in Vienna and what a day it was.

Prague, Day 2

On the top of the agenda today, if you can believe we had one while on holiday, was walking.  Touring the city.  A plan of the sights we wanted to see.  Our intent was to experience the real Prague, not tourist traps or shiny places.  Although there were a few shiny places on the list as well.

We woke early, exercised, grabbed breakfast at a cafe and made our way into the Old Town square.  First stop, the Astronomical clock.  Offering a breathtaking view of the city is the tower, we climbed our way to the top and had a view of Prague in it's entirety.  Wow.  Steeples rose above Baroque styled buildings high into the sky.  As if each one was trying to reach higher.  Gold filigree littered the facades, glowing in the sunlight.  And beneath it all cobblestone streets with scads of people taking it all in.  Every which way you turned a different language being spoken and church bells ringing.

 Astronomical Clock 
From the clock we made our way to the St. Charles bridge which crosses the Vlatava River.  Bedecking each side of the bridge our statues honoring patron saints, important events and the history of the city.  Even a crucifixion cross with Hebrew writing strewn around.  Interestingly enough, a Jewish citizen from was forced to pay for this piece as his punishment for blasphemy.

 A view of the city
The bridge lead us into the Little Quarter where we stopped to rest our weary legs and enjoyed a warming cup of hot wine.  There were windy streets leading up to the castle entrance and we climbed each one of them in hopes of the beauty that awaited us.  After climbing umpteen stairs two guards stood stone faced at the entrance and I decided to pose with one. Not quite as entertaining as I had anticipated.  We wandered through the castle grounds until we found St. Vitus Cathedral.  There is a rose shaped stained glass window surrounded by gothic ceilings and intricate carvings in each and every niche.

 Inside the castle walls, Little Quarter below us (self portrait)
 Inside the castle walls
 St. Vitus Cathedral
Leaving the castle walls took us once again through Little Quarter and into yet another authentic Czech dining establishment.  Actually, I think it was a "biker" eatery.  Nonetheless, the food was fantastic and the beer cold.  There were picnic benches lining the walls and we played cards and watched the locals.  Husband Jared took a business call and then we were on our way once again.

This time we traveled over a different bridge into the Jewish quarter.  Our destination was the Jewish cemetery.  This particular site was founded in 1478 and has been added to over the years.  There are currently about 12,000 tombstones but it is said that the number buried here is much larger than that and the bodies are many layers deep.  It was quite an eery feeling walking through the graveyard.

Logging more kilometers we meandered over to Wencenslas square, the sight of the beginning to the Velvet revolution in 1989 and ending at the National Museum.  What a sight.  While the square wasn't quite what I expected to say that some history was lived there would be an understatement.  The street which is not really a square is lined with retail shops and hotels, leaving the consumer lacking for nothing.  Wow, I might have been reading too many guide books lately.  My apologies for the shift in writing styles.  Back to myself now.

A day of touring left both Husband Jared and I famished, so a hearty dinner was what we were looking for.  Little did we know we would cross paths with a Hard Rock and surprisingly enough we were both wanting to dine there.  To boot there was a benefit concert for the victims in Japan and we willingly paid our fees.  A British cover band played on stage with a playlist that simulated "Guitar Hero".  Too loud, and us too particular about our music we left with one place in mind.  The Golden Tiger.  The Golden Tiger is a pub, or rather Czech beer hall.  They serve only Pilsner Urquell, which translates to the original pilsner.  Literally.  They mark your consumption on a white card and when you are finished you pay up.  You sit with strangers.  There is smoking allowed and all around us were locals.  Perfect.  This was just what we were looking for.  After we soaked up the atmosphere we headed in the direction of our hotel only to stop for a quick coffee and dessert and more people  watching.  My favorite.

The night ended like a fairytale just as our day was.

Day 1 Prague

Today started off with breakfast with the Things, school plans, scheduling, goodbyes a quick science lesson and lots of hugs and kisses.  And then we were off.  Izmir to Istanbul, Istanbul to Prague.  We landed, took in the airport and made our way to Old Town Prague.  The drive was amazing in and of itself.  We were gawking at the architecture, the cobblestone roads and the people.  What an eclectic mix.  Of course if you know me, you know how I love to people watch.  This is the place to do so.

After checking in we freshened up and headed out for dinner at a local Czech restaurant.  Just around the corner from where we were staying was a quaint neighborhood place.  We walked in, were seated, ordered our pilsner and any dish we could find whose main ingredient was pork.  Yes people you heard me, PORK.  There we spent a few hours taking in the scenery, watching romantic reunions and decompressing.  More so we sat in disbelief that we were actually in Prague, together.  Really.

Here is a photo of me at dinner.  And one of Husband Jared and I with Old Town Prague in the background.



St.Patrick's Day

Last weekend, in an effort to celebrate St. Patrick's Day we attended a festive gathering at our friends' home.  Children and adults alike partook in an Irish feast, yorkshire pudding with sausages, onion gravy, beef stew and corned beef and cabbage, not to mention the shamrock cookies and baileys cupcakes.  Yum!
We listened to Irish music, bands from Ireland and our dear friend's marvelous voice as he sang along.  There was of course a geography lesson on Ireland and a rather healthy dose of good cheer.
A sweet leprechaun sharing her gold coins

Why?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12639279

Why the blog hasn't been updated regularly.  Why there are no "Thankful Thursdays" right now.  Why I can't just log on my blog and post random thoughts or photos.  Click on the link above and read the "why". 

Tourist Attraction

I was going to title this post simply, "Animal Park" or "Field Trip with the Things", but that didn't seem to fit.  So aptly enough the title will be understood as I explain what our Wednesday was like this last week.


The Things and I try to plan a field trip once a week.  A day away from text books and these four walls.  When we heard that there was a baby elephant at the animal park we knew that was where we were headed.  In fact it is the first elephant born in Turkey, EVER.  And let me tell you it was every bit as cute as we thought it would be.  We oohed and aahed ourselves silly.  Not caring who heard us.  The Things wanted to take him home with us.  As adorable as he was I might have complied.  And then we moved on, wanting to make sure we walked every meter of the place.

 Mama and Baby Elephant

As we were on our way I heard someone shouting, "dur, yabanci".  Which translated means, "stop foreigner".  It seems we weren't the only "school" with a field trip in mind for the day.  A group of about 25 kindergartners and their teacher approached us speaking Turkish.  She was asking all manner of questions, name, if all four of the children were mine, if we were tourists.  I obliged and answered all her questions in my broken Turkish only to find out she actually spoke English.  Hello!  Anyhow, the Things were put on display and all the little children came running over to see the "tourists".   After an onslaught of staring and gawking we had enough and went on our way.  The Things had their feathers ruffled and did their best to avoid the gaggles of children that littered the zoo the rest of the  morning.

In and of itself this occurrence is not unusual.  We are stared at, asked questions and known where ever we travel as "yabanci".  This time was different.  The Things were put on exhibit.  Needless to say it became uncomfortable.  It was a learning experience and I am grateful the Things remained composed and polite and when the opportunity presented itself we made a tactful get away.

On our way  from the elephants we visited the other animals and even saw the grandest peacock display ever.  Thing 1 and Thing 2 had been hoping to see the peacock's mighty  feathers fanned out last time we were at the animal park, this time there were a dozen sightings.  They were thrilled and I was thankful.  We even captured a photo of one of the male peacocks  showing off and dancing for all the ladies.  It must be Spring!

Among this we also photographed a few of our other favorites.

 Guinea hens roam the grounds of the zoo and this one posed for me!

 This majestic creature is lovingly called the "burnt giraffe" by the Things

 And here we have a camel, foam and all

Despite the fact that we were the "tourist attraction" the animal park was a fantastic field trip.  The animals, the sunshine, the exercise.  It was good for the soul.  And as we rounded the hill on our way home this lovely gift was waiting for us, a seaside sunset.

.  Life is good.  Amen.




Teos

An impromptu drive found us in the quaint seaside town of Teos.  Home to castle remains from the 16th century.  Yes, more ruins.  The Things saw the block tower and I immediately heard the groans, "Ugh, Mom, do we have to look through ruins, again?".  Why yes, Things you do.  Lo and behold, before long they were running ahead of Husband Jared and I, climbing the rock walls and exploring as inquisitive children do.


 Harbor view to the left of the castle walls
View from within the castle walls, a tiny window I peeked out of with the camera

It was a gorgeous day and the sun was shining.  We stumbled upon the castle quite by accident.  Our intent was to drive to the marina out the Seferihisar Road and do some looking around.  A new place.  Somewhere we hadn't seen before.  There wasn't much time so it was a quick trip, convenient and close to home.  We came to learn that the castle had been built enclosing within it's walls a mosque, hamam and individual houses.  It has been used as a fortress, a naval command center, even a customs building.  What's left isn't much, walls made from adobe and stair cases constructed of wood.  It did provide an amazing view of the harbor and a perfect place to climb and run and imagine.

We plan on heading back when the weather warms and learning about the beaches.  I am looking forward to that field trip.

Catch up

Whew!  It has already been 2 weeks that we have been back in Turkey.  Our home.  For now.  We came home to dear friends and birthday gifts waiting on our table.  Wow. What a beautiful surprise! 

And then in a blink of an eye we were back in the throws of life.  Well that and catching up on our sleep, dealing with our jet lag and unpacking the 9 suit cases that came home with us.  We actually had a stranger in the Nashville airport ask us if we were moving to Europe.  Really?  As a matter of fact we are a family of 6 that was on holiday in the states from Turkey.  We needed a few things back at home.  Hence the luggage.  Not to mention our girls know how to shop.  And did they ever!  Anywhoo.  Where was I? 

Yes, life over the last few weeks.  We are definitely back to our routine.  School, football, friends, etc.  I am savoring every moment.  Or at least trying to.  Really putting forth my best effort to be present.  In the moment.  Whether it be as the Things' teacher, Husband Jared's wife, the cook, cleaner, laundry maid, whatever the hat I need to be wearing I want to be ALL there. 

We have had a mini field trip, rather impromptu I might add and a few dinners with friends.  I decided to cook a proper TN bbq for a few families, ribs, baked beans, corn bread and slaw.  So yummy!  During the week we managed to entertain yet another family with chili on a blustery cold day here in Urla.  Then this past weekend we had a spur of the moment family get together and devoured pide while playing cards and teaching friends how to win at Texas Hold 'em.  Husband Jared even joined the men on a fishing trip on our dear friend's boat.  Don't faint.  More than that he had fun and even more importantly he caught a fish.  He aslo caught some sun and a case of sea legs but don't tell him I told you that.  Good times. 

Speaking of the present, we received word that the Hanson Six will be leaving Turkey within the next few months.  By June to be precise.  Or at least as exact as one can be living in the retail world.  My heart is sad. Needless to say the urgency we feel to make the most of our time here dominates our thoughts.  There is all sort of planning happening around us.  So much we would like to see and experience before we leave this beautiful country.  We will do our best.  And while being HERE each and every moment we will be grateful for that opportunity and the gift that it is. 

Tennessee Week 2

What went down in week 2?  It has been almost 2 weeks and I may have forgotten a few things, I will do my best to jog the memory. 

Oh, I had a birthday and the family celebrated.  Yeah!  Had a haircut, had a girly day with my buddies, a dinner date with Husband Jared and lunch with the Adams, also a Target trip with Ms. Rhonda to boot.  And that was just the first few days. 
 Birthday Dinner, lasagna (home made by Mema), salad and icecream cake courtesy of Baskin Robbins
A memorable Turkish dinner was cooked for the family, photos were shared, all the grandparents managed to get some lovin' from the Things, even Grammy and Pappo, bowling was accomplished and a bitter sweet goodbye dinner at Loveless rounded out the week.  Thing 4 also had his stitches taken out and Thing 3 managed to squeeze in a motorcycle ride before heading to the airport.  Not too many photos to post but lots of memories to carry with us.
 Turkish Mezes: Olives, Shepherd's salad, yogurt with red peppers
Ms. Autumn enjoyed our Turkish dinner too
 
The Things enjoying slushies and popcorn courtesy of Uncle Jeff, spoiled much?

The Horel Family at the bowling alley

Auntie Leanna and Autumn

The family at Loveless

The biscuits, need I say more?

Grandpa and Thing 3 on the motorcycle
Husband Jared carefully extracting stitches, he's become quite the professional


And Now, a Tennessee Recap... The First Week

On Valentine's Day the six of us flew to Nashville, where family and barbeque and the good 'ol South awaited us, Mema, Aunt Natalie and Cousin Autumn too!  First stop, the Shroom, or for those not in the know, Mellow Mushroom.  Our favorite pizza joint, no pun intended, and where we would meet up with Uncle Jeff and Grandpa Ron.  Delish is all I have to say about that.

Our  first week in TN was spent running from doctor's office to dentist's office, appointment to appointment.  Fairview to Franklin and then back again.  I lost count of how many times we maneuvered that drive.  Might be able to do it with my eyes closed now.  The Things squeezed in time with their neighborhood buddies in Clairmonte and Husband Jared and I managed to catch up with a few friends.  That weekend we had a family Saturday, went out to one of our favorite Franklin restaurants with some close friends and caught up, just like old times, Sunday was church and lunch at Pueblo with more incredible friends.  How blessed we were.

And then we were already into week 2, more on that later.  Stay tuned.

Haircuts, more photos, a birthday and back to Arizona

Our morning began with a full blown breakfast feast, Stucks, Chamberlains and Hanson families, all gathered around the table.  What a sight.  I loved every minute of it.  The kiddos laughing and eating and telling stories and hugging and loving their cousins.  So sweet.  Then it was time for some personal grooming.  The family expert, Aunt Tree saved the day.  Things 2, 3 and 4 all received the best hair cuts ever.  Thank you, by the way.  And then photos with the family were taken on the lawn of J and Corynn's house.  I was still in my pajamas, which explains why you only see my head in most of the shots.  What a great looking bunch of Things!
The Chamberlain boys, the Things and Poppi
2 Chamberlains and the Hanson 6
Poppi, Nani and the Hanson 6
The Things and Uncle J and Aunt Corynn
The Things and Cousin Tyler
Our last day in Cali was difficult.  Goodbyes were inevitable.  They are my least favorite.  The Chamberlains were on their way to baseball games, Poppi loaded the truck and all the while the Things squeezed and kissed and said good bye, or more appropriately, see you later, even to their soon to be baby cousin.  Brother Jason and Sister Corynn and I, however, waited until the last possible moment.  After our hugs which were muffled with tears I ran to the truck and escaped.  What an example.  It was really just being so close, spending morning, noon and night together.  Living life and sharing laughs.  That's what I miss.  Proximity.  


We did in fact have some good times in Cali. 

When we returned to AZ we celebrated Aunt Tina's birthday and had some more cousin time with Kaya and Eden.  We had a special red velvet birthday cake and sang our best for the birthday girl.  Really the cousins just got silly and made the most of their last night together. 
Thing 2, Thing 1, Eden, Thing 4, Kaya and Thing 3
Good times in AZ too!

Family Visits

They came from near and far, and just to see us.  My how fortunate we six Hansons are.  While at the Stuck's house in California we had family visitors from Friday night through Saturday evening.  So blessed. 

To begin with, Uncle Tony and Tucker spent a few hours with us.  Sharing enchiladas, crazy magic tricks by Thing 4 and even frozen yogurt.  A night to remember.


And then Saturday morning we were graced with the Strand family.  What a delight.  The nine of us walked to the park and spent the morning playing, racing, jumping and laughing.  We rounded out the afternoon with some cow gazing, holee board and more laughing.  Good cousin time.

 Thing 2 and Emme on the slide
 Husband Jared and me, Uncle Aaron, Aunt Maggie and Baby Boy Strand, waiting to make his appearance!
 Holee Board, family challenge

Cousins
Soon after the Strand family's departure we were overwhelmed with more Uncles, Aunts and Cousins.  Wow.  Round two was kicked off with a lively "Just Dance" routine.  For the first time ever I participated and showcased my lack of dance floor smoothness.  No surprise there.  Although the laughs and work out gained trumped the embarrassment factor.  Uncle J grilled burgers and brats for the gang, football and basketball were played, more holee board, Turkey slide show, more laughing and just plain fun.
 Let's dance!
 More dancing
 Great Grandparents and the Hansons
Aunties and Nieces