One of the things I have learned about blogging over the past years, is that the very thing that you most want to write about generally keeps you from writing. That thing is called life. When I get busy, I … Continue reading
Scott left for Uganda yesterday on his first mission trip, ever. He will be gone for 10 days and is part of an all male (testosterone rich) group of coaches and active guys. He was excited, nervous, and really just ready to get going by the time we got to the church yesterday morning. So far, he has made it to Amsterdam and should be in Uganda very soon (after a brief stop in Rwanda for refueling). Here is the photo of the rowdy group:
The soccer ball is more than just for effect. They are going over to Buloba on this trip primarily to conduct a soccer camp with the kids. They will also be helping with installing rain catches on houses and various other tasks that they are led to do while there. One never really knows what our mission teams will actually get themselves into until they are there and see the need. If you would like to read more about their trip as they progress through the week, or would like to see Scott’s awesome photos, please visit his site here. He is also still accepting donations to pay for his part of the trip, as everyone has to raise their own money in order to go. If interested, you can make a donation right on his site as well. Every amount helps!
Back at home, I actually finished a Christmas present this past week!
These gloves are “Strata” from the book “Knitting New Mittens & Gloves.” They are actually two pair of gloves, one fingered, and one fingerless. They can be worn together or separately. The person they are for lives where it snows, so hopefully they will be well loved. The brown yarn is Knitpicks Gloss Fingering and the pink is Knitpicks Stroll.
These were a quick knit (about three weeks) and it was a very basic pattern. The book has a few more patterns that I would like to try. I would recommend the book if you don’t already have it. I have several more projects nearing completion and with Scott gone all week, I should have a few of them to post about for this upcoming week. Stay tuned.
Quote of the week: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
The National Polka Festival (NPF) in Ennis, Texas has been in existence for as long as I have, 45 years. This has always made the event seem even more special to me and has been one of the many reasons I have tried so hard to return to the festival of the celebration of my heritage every year. Slowly, over time, the many reasons for making the trek back to Dallas have dwindled down to just a handful. I still love the music of my childhood and don’t think I will ever tire of dancing and singing the Czech tunes.
This year, the visit to Dallas was different in a lot of ways. For the first time, I took a good look at the reasons for visiting this particular festival. When I was growing up, we went to the NPF to visit with family and friends. As any good Czech, Catholic family would be, my extended family was (is) huge. I can remember many cousins, god-parents, grand-parents, aunts and uncles, all visiting and enjoying the atmosphere that felt so familiar complete with the food, beer, music, and dancing. As time has gone by, many of the cousins have moved on. Some of my grand-parents have passed away and some of them don’t care to come anymore. My mother, the 100% Czech part of the family, has passed on and my God-mother, who was always the anchor of the dancing part of my family had a stroke a few years back and is in a home, not doing well, from what I’ve been told.
This year, the festival was fun, as it always is. However, that is the interesting thing, this year, Scott and I realized that the NPF is always the same. We always arrive the same day, go to the same venues, see the same art vendors downtown and the same bands in the halls. The parade never changes and the menu at the dance-halls, although contains some authentic Czech fare, has not changed in at least 10 years. Seriously, the menu consists of Barbeque Beef & Klobase, Parsley Potatoes, Green Beans (not sure what is Czech about that), Sauerkraut (German?), and Czech Pastries (Kolaches). If you stay until Sunday, you get Pork Roast and Dumplings (Knedliky). The tunes played are now 50% Czech and 50% Country and Western. The one new thing the festival did this year was bring in a magician, yes, that is right, a magician, to entertain. I think it was this last development that actually sealed our decision (see below). Although we had a good time, we will not be attending the NPF for several years to come. Perhaps absence will make the heart grow fonder.
Don’t get me wrong here, I am actually impressed and pleased that the folks in Ennis can still keep a folk festival alive in today’s culture and society. I know it is insanely difficult to reach the younger generation and I applaud them for trying to do things each year that will draw the younger crowd. See this post for more information on how the NPF folks could better reach the younger crowd. The beef I have with the management of this festival is that the young are being reached at the expense of the purity of the culture. My question is this: WHAT IS CZECH ABOUT A MAGICIAN??
My reasons for taking my money and time elsewhere are not only due to the festival changing, but due to out growing this festival and a desire to see how other Czechs hold their festivals in other parts of this country and beyond. Therefore, next year we will be heading for the Wilber Czech Festival in Wilber, Nebraska. In an effort to start a new tradition with the younger folks in our family and to try to carry on the Czech heritage, we have asked our kids and grand-kids to join us in Wilber, as well as my parents. All have agreed to wear costumes for the event. I will be making those and posting progress photos throughout the next year on this blog. It is nice to be excited again about attending a Czech festival. I am sure the festival in Wilber has many of the same issues, namely, familiarity to those who attend every year, but it will be new to us and we are looking forward to it.
Finally, I leave you with photos from this year’s festival. I do have a video of Scott and I dancing, but am working out a deal for cash to keep it from being posted. HaHa! As I said, we did have a good time, but also a reflective one. Enjoy ~ až později
The trip to the festival:
The King and Queen Competition:
Czech Musicians (one of these is my cousin:
Random photos of fun:
It means that it is time to prepare and go to the annual National Polka Festival, of course. This year I decided not to make new costumes. I will be doing that next year, hopefully for the whole family.
This year I decided to spruce up and adjust some of the current costume components. Starting with my red skirt that I made for the festival two years ago. This skirt had four huge bias panels in it and was ridiculously heavy to wear. After about 2 hours work, one of the panels is now removed and it is much lighter. When I made it I was unsure if there would be enough “swing” and so I put in the four panels. After wearing it at the 2009 festival, I realized that three would have still provided plenty of swing without weighing me down quite as much as I moved. So, the adjustment has been made. I’ll be adding a little bling here and there to the red and the purple costumes, ironing, and fluffing, etc. Then we pack them up and head out for the Memorial Day Weekend festivities in Ennis, TX. If you actually read this blog and are anywhere in the area (and are not a stalker) come to the festival and see if you can find us. Sort of a modern day “where’s Waldo”…
Quote of the week: “This is Serious!!” Harrison Ford, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
What did you do to celebrate American Labor Day, September 4-6, 2006? This year we trailered the bikes to Hot Springs, Arkansas. Apparently, Hot Springs is a Mecca of sorts for motorcyclists. It is one of the more beautiful places to ride and there are several long, winding roads in the area that we had read about. These roads were supposed to be fantastic for motorcycling. They were touted as having some beautiful curves and vistas (See below). We were not disappointed.
We did a little geocaching on the way there and back, as well as during our motorcycle rides. We dropped off several travel bugs and picked up a few more to bring back to Alabama. One thing we enjoy about geocaching is that it takes us to places we never would have ventured into. We crossed the bridge in the below photo on our bikes several times, but it wasn’t until we went to find the cache down below by the river that we were treated to this view.
Headed for a cache just off the Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi
One of the bridges we crossed on one of our bike excursions.
Found this one in Memphis, TN on what appeared to be an abandoned golf course.
While we were out caching on our bikes I came across this little guy and decided to go back and save him from squashing. Doesn’t it look like I am giving him a lecture about the benefits of staying out of the road? Even though he wouldn’t come out of his shell, I think he listened to me and will stay in the woods from now on.
The rides we took each day were tons of fun, with lots of winding curves, switchbacks, and mountain vistas. Once I got up next to the sign I couldn’t believe how big it really was. These signs were one after another up and down the mountains. What a blast!
There he goes….
Here he comes…
There he goes again…
As I said this place is no secret to motorcyclists so the roads were filled with them every where we went. We had loads of opportunities to see all kinds of different bikes (and riders). Everything from trike riders with female drivers and male passengers to a man with his dog, front paws perched on the handlebars balancing nicely. We really didn’t know that there would be so many bikes there. It really was a treat.
Two of the many riders we met along the way.
We stopped by Wal-Mart and bought a disposable camera for our rides after we realized that it might be fun to take pictures of each other and anything else while riding. Be sure to check out the last photo in this set. That is Scott in the back of that 1/4 mile long group of motorcycles roaring down the road. I was actually the last rider in the line and it was so much more fun to ride in a pack than I thought it would be. Some of the photos are a little blurry, but hey, try taking photos with one hand and cranking the throttle and steering with the other. YES, mother, we were being careful…
Everyone has to eat and of course we found some of the coolest local places to go. Dwayne’s Bar-B-Q and Grill is located in Dover and their parking lot was full of bikes when we passed by. Since Dover was at the end of our route for the day, about a half an hour later on our way back we decided to check it out. We have learned to never underestimate the ability of bikers to find great food at fantastic prices. The food was abundant and excellent and we got out of there for under $20.
Our hotel was located on Lake Hamilton and there were a couple of resturants on the lake to choose from. Fisherman’s Wharf was located one bridge over from our hotel and we decided to eat there, overlooking the water and the city’s fireworks display on Labor Day evening. There was so much boat traffic going across the lake for the fireworks it was great fun to watch them all. Dinner was so good and the people/boat/firework watching was so much fun that we ended up staying long enough to watch the boat traffic returning from whence they came after the fireworks were over.
At the end of each day we made time to come into town and actually enjoy walking the city of Hot Springs and the National Park that is the heart of down town. I had been here many times before, but Scott had not. So, as we walked the streets I explained how the city had fountains that were piped from the springs and the water that came out of them was super hot, 115 degrees. The citizens of the city and anyone who cares to is able to go to these fountains and fill their containers (containers vary as much as individuals) with all the water they want, i.e. can carry. The water is pure spring water and tastes great once it cools off. He was a little skeptical so we visited one of the more famous fountains so we could fill up a few water bottles we had saved. The water is very hot and under quite a bit of pressure so when you open the spigot the water flows out very fast. It takes some practice to get it in the bottle and not all over yourself. We both got soaking wet, but it was a lot of fun anyway.
The bath houses here are all undergoing intensive remodeling, thanks to the federal government and are slowly reopening to the public. They are quite majestic and were very popular in their day. If you walk up to the windows of the bath houses they have displays behind the windows explaining the history of the houses and the redevelopment plan.
About a month ago, August 18-20, we rode our bikes down to Panama City Beach for the weekend. We were originally going to ride down with a group of riders from Hog Heaven, in Columbus, GA for the Ride to the Beach, an annual bikers trip to raise money for the March of Dimes. We found out about the ride a little to late to garner sponsors this year so we just decided to make the trip ourselves for the fun and sun.
Along the way we took time to do a little geocaching.
We arrived at our hotel just as it began to rain. Since afternoon showers are common here we hung around in the room enjoying the view for a while until the storm subsided.
Once there was a break in the storm we headed out to dinner and to observe the nightlife of Panama City Beach. We decided to eat at a place called Pineapple Willy’s. This place is supposedly famous for it’s ribs that were featured in a Visa commercial some time back. The ribs were average, but the dinner was quite memorable. We arrived at Pineapple Willy’s just before it started to storm again. We were seated out on the far end of the gazebo pier and enjoyed our dinner while it rained heavily, complete with simultaneous lightning and thunder. Apparently we are braver than most because all the other tables in the gazebo cleared out as people finished their dinners and no one else wanted to sit out there in the storms. Eventually we had the entire end of the pier to ourselves. Magnificant!!
Saturday we spent the day exploring the city, marinas, and geocaching. We had lunch at a great little spot called Lime’s that was tucked away and was a bit of a challenge to find. Dinner that night was even more fabulous as we enjoyed the boat traffic and the sunset from the upstairs open air dining area of a place called the Boatyard.
We made our way back home on Sunday taking a few detours here and there to investigate some of the backroads of Alabama. Although the trip was very short it was a lot of fun and we were able to get a feel for how far we can travel comfortably on our bikes in one day (and how much stuff we can take along).
Scott and I decided to take our motorcycles to Savannah for a weekend of geocaching (more about this later), people watching and good food. Savannah is one of many places we like to go and relax. The streets, buildings, and especially the cemeteries are full of history and beauty. It is a wonderful place to just wander around on foot or bicycle. If you go to Savannah, here are a few of the dining places on the river that we recommend.
Scott and I found several caches in Savannah. Many times caches are hidden in cemeteries and that makes Savannah a great place for the game.
One of the beautiful places geocaching took us this time.
Have you ever been Geocaching? Geocaching is a world wide game that is played by using your GPS unit to locate a specific point on the globe where something is hidden. It is a lot of fun and can be done anywhere you travel. A typical (traditional) geocache is hidden in an ammo box or rubbermaid type container to keep the contents from the elements. They can be hidden anywhere and pretty much are everywhere. Here are a few examples.
Typical hiding place for a traditional cache.
I found it, finally.
We found several geocaches in Savannah and the fun didn’t stop in there. When we got back home we found a few more within 5 miles of our house. During one of our hikes looking for a cache in a state park right down the road we were treated to a beautiful set of waterfalls that we never knew were there. After we did a little rock climbing to get to the cache we climbed back down to the falls and since the temperature was 100+ this 40 year old grandmother didn’t hesitate to take a dip. The wet clothing made for a fabulous ride home on the bike.
My partner in crime and geocaching.
Another thing that Scott and I like to do is go to sporting events. These include, but are not limited to, all major league sports, minor league baseball, and college sports of all kinds. We planned this trip so that we could catch a Florida Marlins vs. Houston Astros game in formerly “Joe Robbie” stadium. This is a stadium that I have always wanted to visit. It was so hot during the game (mid-day game) that we left after about the 5th inning. You can see from the photo that 90% of the stadium was empty right from the beginning of the game. Heat and a “not so good team” were probably the main reasons for this, but we enjoyed the game none the less.
After we left the game and went back to the hotel to freshen up we found a little place on the ocean to eat dinner called O’Mallys Ocean Pub. The dining was outside, with a live band and the tables were about 50′ from the crashing waves. Magnificent!
While we were on our trip to the keys we decided to get serious about finding Scott a bike so we could ride together. We decided to take the “scenic” route home to Alabama through Daytona in order to pick up new bike bells for each other. There is a legend that goes with these bells and they are supposed to be given to a rider by a friend. We picked out our bells in Daytona at a place called “Hot Leathers” (hmmmm) and purchased them for each other, had a spectacular lunch at Johnny Rockets overlooking the ocean (one last time) and then it was back on the road for home.
After arriving home we wasted no time in finding a bike on eBay for Scott. We picked it up the next weekend and have been riding together almost every day since. Here are some photos of the proud new owner of a Honda Nighthawk 750 in the rare blue color.
The trip to Dry Tortugas National Park
Scott and I love to snorkel and there is a wonderful place to do this in the Keys called Dry Tortugas National Park . Our day began early with a half day trip out to the park for some snorkeling and sun. The last time we went out to the park we took the Fast Cat boat. This time we decided to take the Seaplane through Seaplanes of Key West. This turned out to be a great decision. We were treated to an aerial view of Key West and other keys as well. On the way to Dry Tortugas and back we spotted sharks, sea turtles, shipwrecks and even passed a biplane with rider. If you ever have the chance to go the seaplane is our recommended mode of transportation to get there.
Our plane on the right. (yes, the little one)
Aerial view of Key West
Dry Tortugas National Park
The outermost wall that surrounds the moat is where most of the snorkeling is done. You are allowed to snorkel outside this wall about 200 ft out into the ocean. There is no snorkeling within the moat, but there are some very happy, super large fish that live there. When you are at the fort you can also take a tour of the fort itself. We have taken the tour before so this time the trip was all about the water.
Aren’t we cute?
Sea Turtle close up (Yes, we were that close and he was that BIG!
Scott, having a discussion with a Grouper
Tony & Maria Valles (our seaplane companions)
Here we are, sunburned and smiling.
Dry Tortugas Lighthouse
As we took off from the park to head back to Key West our pilot informed us that there was enough time for us to do a fly by of the light house which is out on a separate island. When we flew by the pilot noticed a boat (if you can call it that) on the shore that he hadn’t seen the day before. We circled around again and the pilot told us all to be on the look out for any people waving from the island. We were able to see several men waving shirts at us and after a few more passes we were able to count at least 6 Cuban refugees. Since this island is located so close to Cuba many refugees end up on this uninhabited little island and have to be picked up by the US government.
The pilot made one last pass over the island after calling in the situation on the radio to the proper authorities, waggled the wings of the plane back and forth as if to wave at the men and then we were off headed back to Key West.
This experience especially touched Scott and I because we once again realized how amazing it is that we live in the country that we do and how privileged a life we actually live here.
Biplane with rider
We arrived back at the hotel for some quick showers and a little rest then it was off to Duval street for some food and fun. Our dining experience for the evening was at a place called the Tree Top Cafe. The food was fabulous and the restaurant is indeed upstairs and nestled among the tree tops of Duval street. We ate a rather early dinner and had the entire place to ourselves. Shopping was next on the agenda and so we were off to walk the length of Duval street going in and out of shops, not looking to buy anything in particular, but mostly just taking in the different characters we met along the way (and there were many). Our evening was topped off by sharing a piece of Key Lime pie at Margaritaville , Jimmy’s place.