Tuesday, November 27, 2007

23 Things To Do Instead of Studying Slovene Today

Clean the dead leaves off your plants.
Walk your dog.
Clean your boots (muddy from dog walk)
Read the news (in native language)
Read the news in Slovene and pretend you're studying even though you're really looking at the pictures and making up your own captions.
Make a sandwich.
Look out the window.
Eat a sandwich.
Mist the plants (Lord knows they don't need watering; you did that yesterday instead of studying)
Clean out your schoolbag.
Look at pictures.
Browse the internet.
Put up some holiday decorations.
Do class prep.
Check the weather and move plants inside or outside accordingly.
Re-organize bookshelf.
Brush the dog's teeth.
Clean the sink.
Play with the cat.
Put away some laundry.
Think about vacation.
Update your blog.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A holiday I miss

Thanksgiving is one holiday that I really miss. It welcomes (nay, encourages!) our unabashed love for food and family, and --like so many other holidays now-- does this without at all recognizing its humble beginnings. So, put down that turkey leg, wipe that gravy off the front of your shirt, and reflect with me for a moment....

(if this were TV there would be one of those spirally things at about this point that lets you know we are going to have a flashback....)

A long long time ago in a land far far away from the Americas, some sure-fire reality TV-show candidates took off on an epic and somewhat misguided journey over the sea. I`m talking about that plucky young group of adventurers that arrived via the Mayflower of course. Knowing they`d never return home they took with them all of the most important things they would need to secure their future, things like the clothes on their backs, drinking water, and some soon-to-be mouldy grains and seeds. I understand they originally had two ships but had to ditch one of them because it leaked very badly (which is not something one wants in a ship) so perhaps they did start off with a lot more. But I digress.

The crossing itself was very stormy. At one point, the ship’s main beam cracked and had to be repaired using a large iron screw, which marked the coining of the oft-used phrase, ˝We are so screwed!˝. When the passengers sighted Cape Cod, they realized that they had failed to reach Virginia, where they actually had permission to settle, which marked the coining of Homer Simpson`s oft-used phrase, ˝D´oh!˝

But of course, in spite of the lack of amenities such as roads, buildings, or bathrooms, and nary a Wal-Mart in sight, they decided to stay and began the long, arduous process of starving to death. Fortunately they had some good neighbors--namely, the native Americans-- who took pity on them and brought them casseroles until they could get on their feet. Well, actually I think they showed them how to grow corn and catch fish, but I`m sure it all ended up in a hotdish of some sort. The pilgrims were thankful for this kind help, and the ones that survived the winter had a big bash following the next year`s harvest. They invited the native Americans and everyone partied for three days. This expression of gratitude continued through the generations, first in the form of trading beads, muskets, and snug blankets in a wool/smallpox blend (dry clean only), finally metamorphosizing into the celebration we have today.

So, be thankful for food, for health, for family and friends, and for the native Americans for not grudging anyone a plate of maize gruel, or whatever it was that sustained those first pilgrims -- guaranteed to be a step below what you`re enjoying today! Oh, and thank the turkey, too. And the farmer that dispatched him. Lord knows if most of us really had to wring the neck of their own Thanksgiving turkey, we´d all be eating a lot more pasta.

Lastly, almost everyone learns from their mistakes and the pilgrims were no different. Here is a list prepared a short while after the initial Mayflower landing. Hindsight is 20/20, you know.

"Certain Useful Directions for Such as Intend a Voyage into Those Parts"
By Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow

as published in Mourt's Relation : A relation or journal of the beginning and proceedings of the English Plantation settled at Plimoth in New England, London, 1622

"Now because I expect your coming unto us, with other of our friends, whose company we much desire, I thought good to advertise you of a few things needful.

"Be careful to have a very good bread-room to put your biscuits in. Let your cask for beer and water be iron-bound, for the first tier, if not more. Let not your meat be dry-salted; none can better do it than the sailors. Let your meal be so hard trod in your cask that you shall need an adz or hatchet to work it out with. Trust not too much on us for corn at this time, for by reason of this last company that came, depending wholly upon us, we shall have little enough till harvest. Be careful to come by some of your meal to spend by the way; it will much refresh you. Build your cabins as open as you can, and bring good store of clothes and bedding with you. Bring every man a musket or fowling-piece. Let your piece be long in the barrel, and fear not the weight of it, for most of our shooting is from stands. Bring juice of lemons, and take it fasting; it is of good use. For hot water, aniseed water is the best, but use it sparingly. If you bring anything for comfort in the country, butter or salad oil, or both, is very good. Our Indian corn, even the coarsest, maketh as pleasant meat as rice; therefore spare that, unless to spend by the way. Bring paper and linseed oil for your windows, with cotton yarn for your lamps. Let your shot be most for big fowls, and bring store of powder and shot. I forbear further to write for the present, hoping to see you by the next return. So I take my leave, commending you to the Lord for a safe conduct unto us."

Love and hugs from SLO

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Trgatev* etc

I will post some pictures later, but I thought I would steal this blog post from one of Joe`s emails. This saves me some writing, and gives him a chance to get his two cents in.

...Last weekend we participated in our first grape harvest.
It was lots of fun. We got to the vineyard around 8:00 in the
morning and started off with a couple ceremonial schnapps. Blueberry,
pear, and a bitter herbal one- all homemade of course. Then when the
group was assembled we headed into the vineyards to pick. First we
picked white and red varieties that we did not separate. These are
crushed together to made a sort of late harvest rose. Then we picked
pinot noir and riesling grapes, keeping them separate. It was a
beautiful sunny morning. It was glorious. As you pick, people are
coming around with wine to keep you refreshed. After picking, which
lasted about 5 hours, we gathered for another ceremonial toast in the
vineyard. We then had an incredible lunch. Started with a pork soup
and went on to various grilled meats, incredible salads, and desserts.
The wine maker then invited us into his cellar and that's when the
fun really began. I was gonzo by the time we were done tasting. I
went back up and had more soup, which helped me get my head
together...and allowed me to drink more wine!

We have two days off this week: 10/31 and 11/1 for
all souls day and the day of the dead. They take that stuff pretty
seriously here. The graveyards are a sight to see as they are completely decked
out with flower arrangements and thousands of candles.

So now you know that we are kicking back and relaxing for the next two days, and maybe --if it ever stops raining-- we will go for a hike somewhere. Lucy`s got some `gastrointestinal distress` at the moment so it`s fortunate that we`re home to give her frequent outings in the yard..


* PS: TRGATEV is the Slovene word for `grape harvest`

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Things

Well, since I last posted we`ve gone on vacation to ZDA (Združene države Amerike) and come back to Slovenia. Already. It went very quickly. Thanks very much to everyone we got to visit with, allowed us to impose upon them, shared their time (and their cars!) with us, and who made our trip such a fun time. We`re sorry we didn`t get to see absolutely everyone we wanted to, but the time flew, and before we knew it, we had to also.
While we were gone we didn`t miss much in the way of work, since school is not very busy in the beginning of September. We did however miss the grape harvest, which was a little bit early this year. This was kind of a bummer, but it turns out we have a second chance to get in on the action. We are going this weekend to our friend`s family home located in Rogaška Slatina, which is a town situated in the eastern part of the country. This town is generally known for its thermal spa, but they also grow grapes there. They do three grape harvests in this area: an early Autumn harvest (the one we missed); a second, late-autumn harvest (this is the one we are going to - these grapes are used to make a sweeter wine); and a third harvest, which takes place well after the frost (these grapes are used to make ice wine). It`s a beautiful, sunny day today, but I hear we could get our first snow showers this weekend. I hope you can pick grapes while wearing gloves. (˝It`s a fine late-harvest vintage, slightly sweet, with lovely acidity, and...is that a hint of...wool?˝) Here is a lovely synopsis of Slovene wine varietals.

After we`re done picking we will all have a big lunch together, and beyond that we don`t know what to expect but I`ll fill you in when we get back. On Sunday we`re going mushroom picking. Jurčki (large boletus mushrooms) are in season now, as are lisičke (chanterelles) You can click the embedded links for pictures and Slovene practice.
And don`t worry: we`re going with an expert. If I don`t update this blog for a while it won`t be because we`ve ingested some fatal funghi.

Michele has been involved again in the Walk to Cure Diabetes. Here is an excerpt from her email:

I am participating in the Walk to Cure Diabetes again this year. Many thanks to those of you who have faithfully supported me over the past nine years. Covance is again supporting the Walk at a Presenting Sponsor level. Over the past nine years, Covance and our employees have contributed / raised over $250,000 for research to find a cure for Type I diabetes and its related complications such as blindness, kidney failure and limb amputations. My goal this year is to raise $50,000, although I lost one of my very significant sponsors last year, so $50,000 is a very optimistic goal.

For any of you that aren't familiar with my fund raising efforts, I am very actively involved in raising funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and I also serve on the Board of Directors of the Central Jersey Chapter of JDRF. Finding a cure for Type I diabetes is very personal as I was diagnosed with the disease at age 12. I want to see the day when children are no longer diagnosed with a life sentence of insulin injections and blood sugar monitoring and the ever present fear of developing further disabling complications such as blindness, kindney failure and limb amputations. We've made great strides in the management of diabetes since my diagnosis 27 years ago, but we still do not have a cure, and someone still dies every two minutes from diabetes and its related complications.

The Walk is Sunday, October 7th, but I can accept donations until the end of October.
You can make a donation online by following this link:

(In case the link fails, this is the address: https://walk.jdrf.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=walk.supportwalker&walkerid=86778209)


Here is a link to an interesting blog, which has recently become a book. People have been illustrating their secrets on postcards for some time now, and sending them to this site, where they are posted every Sunday. It`s definitely worth a look.


I started flamenco lessons with the group LunaGitana here in Ljubljana. I was worried about the language being a problem, but it turns out that coordination will be the more troublesome obstacle. ;-) It turns out that I am not alone in this, though. I`ve also met some interesting people in the class, one of whom is going to help me with my Slovene in exchange for my helping her with English.


And now I`ll leave you with a link to a really funny mime. Yes, I DID intentionally put FUNNY and MIME in the same sentence. Click here to judge for yourself. PS: It helps if you remember the song, too.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Limber up those fingers

Lj., tea shop
Originally uploaded by 2Americans
Kick back, relax, make yourself a cuppawhatever and look at the 400+ photos I posted to Flickr. Yes, you and I both thought pigs would fly before I got through labeling all of those, but NO! I have surprised even myself. And so here they are, a little older now, but then again so are we. I believe if you just click on the teapot here on this page, it will take you directly to Flickr. These new photos are in the set labeled Brian's visit.

Enjoy! S&J

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

And that's about all I have to say about that.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hot enough for ya?

In case you were wondering, no one asks you that here. But (in case you were also wondering) it IS hot enough for me here, thanks very much. It`s been 95-100 during the day for at least the past week. At night it cools off nicely, maybe to somewhere around 75 or so, which is perfect, so we open the windows and let the house cool down. During the day we just keep everything closed, which works well enough, I guess.. I mean, hot is hot but it helps to be out of the direct sun, and inside it`s generally around 85 during the day.

Slovene is coming along. I have a new teacher and I`m trying to see her twice a week.

Work is still fairly busy but we`re hoping it will slow down even more for August (or maybe not -- at least it`s air-conditioned!). We hear that the beginning of September is very quiet so that`s when we`re planning a visit to the NJ area.

The image above is from our brief escape last weekend for some sun and swimming. We went to the small town of Baška on the island of Krk, which is about a 2-1/2 hour drive from here. It was crowded, but the beaches and water were clean, and the water was warm. We did a lot of napping and swimming (perhaps `floating` would be more accurate-- we`re lazy swimmers). On Saturday we went to a different beach which is only accessible by boat -or- by a 3 hour hike over a giant, rocky hill and through a canyon and back up and down another hill....Which route do you think we took -- the boat or the hike? It wasn`t crowded at all, and we loved it. Most of the beaches here are not sand, but instead are covered with small, smooth stones. Now that we`ve spent some time at the beach, we`ve decided we prefer the stones to sand. They`re lovely and warm when you lie on them, they`re easier to anchor an umbrella in, and they`re much tidier (they don`t blow around in the breeze and they don`t creep up the back of your swimsuit!)

The area surrounding Baška is a strange looking place -- imagine some enterprising individual established a resort nestled in a valley on the moon, added some salt water, and several thousand scantily-clad people. And lots of gelato stands. Really, it looks just like that.

Today I`m catching up on some paperwork and maybe we`ll take a drive this afternoon to a moderately-sized lake in a nearby town, Cerkno. The lake, Cerniško Jezero, is mysterious: it`s known as The Disappearing Lake. Due to some strange karstic phenomenon, one day it`s there, and the next it`s not. And then one day it`s back again... You get the idea, I`m sure. So we`ll go, but we`ll prepare ourselves for disappointment just in case it`s the Cerkniško Puddle today.

Have a nice day, and a fun weekend!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Yep, it`s time to get this monkey off my back! I`m just doing a super-short, speedy update just to let you know that we`re still alive and well and still digging life here in Ljubljana. Sorry for not updating sooner, but first Brian came to visit (04 May) and we went on vacation together. Up until then we had been working a grazillion hours and so I just had no time. Then, when we got back (15 May or so), our internet connection was kaput. To make a long story short, we had to sign up for new service and that took another month to get set up. This brings us to almost the end of June. And then my FlickR photo hosting service expired. And then I was thinking about the 9,187,004 photos that Brian and we took since the last time I updated, and that was enough to make me head for bed, crawl under the covers, resume fetal position, et al....

But now I`ve renewed my FlickR account, and I am someday going to label and post those pictures, abeit slowly*. *in between working and completing/submitting all of the crazy paperwork you have to complete if you are a foreigner living and working and owning a company here. And we plan to take some little bit of vacation time here too, of course, although the idea of taking more pictures makes me shudder (pun intended - that one is for you, Bri).

So, patience is a virtue, good things come to those who wait, blah blah blah and so forth. Hope you`re all doing well and enjoying the summer.



Sunday, April 01, 2007

Too pretty to eat?

This is a Romanesque broccoli-cauliflower cross, or, as it's translated here "yellow cauliflower". I've also seen it called other names, but most are similar to 'roman cauliflower', 'mediterranean cabbage', etc...

I'm not exactly sure what it should be called since it's a hybrid, but unless you'll be standing at your local grocer or seed distributor demanding access to this green goblin, the name's not so important. In this picture it looks like a conch shell, and it REALLY does look like that in actuality. It looks like a vegetable that deserves undue attention, such as a song about it, or at the very least, a blog mention.

When we first saw it at the market I genuinely thought it was too pretty to eat. We passed by it for a while, pointed at it, made admiring sounds and nodded approvingly, but didn't buy any right away.

We got over that.

We bought some a while back and cooked it up; it was very good -- more flavorful than cauliflower but without the tell-tale broccoli taste (I find that broccoli can sometimes taste like cabbage, especially if it's old).

When raw, this remarkable veggie's chartreuse green color is arresting, and the whorl pattern is hypnotic. Unfortunately this color fades to a light yellowish green when it's been cooked, but that doesn't make it any less desireable.

I hope it makes its way to the U.S. at some point. Or maybe not, so then you'll have to come here and find other astonishing things, in addition to odd edibles.

You can go HERE to read a good article on the fractal nature of this vegetable. I thought it was interesting.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Now playing at the Theatre of Pompey, "The Liberators"

It was a day of sweaty palms and throat-clearing if you happened to be a particular Roman ruler in 44 BCE. Yes my friends, today is the famed Ides of March. This is lucky for me, as I had absolutely nothing to blog about today. Nothing at all to give me an excuse to fill you in on our sometimes hum-drum lives, and then I looked at the calendar. I realized I had a bill to pay, AND that it was a day of somewhat historical significance.

Weather here is spring-like, as it is all over most of this part of Europe right now. On Sunday we went to the coast and were treated to one of the last gasps of this year's burja (sp?). The burja is the chilly wind that blows out of the north, across the Adriatic, and up under your jacket.

It was a sunny afternoon, and we did eat lunch outside, but the wind made it noticeably cooler. After hanging out and having lunch in Piran we headed slightly south and then east, along the Slovene side of the Slovenia/Croatia border. Our destination was this little village of Krkavce. Krkavce is a medieval village, as are many of the hilltop villages in this area. Many of the buildings date from the 1600s, including this great place where we stopped to taste some olive oil. We passed quite a few farms that produce their own olive oil, but (don't ask me why) we only stopped at this one. It was not a huge operation, but they have been producing olive oil there since the mid 1600s. They do not necessarily have the original trees from the 1600s, since a killing freeze comes along every 30 years or so, but the building where the production is handled is original. The equipment, of course, is considerably more modern -- or at least I assume it is since it is all shiny stainless steel. The olive oil is produced by the family Carcauec, and it (the oil, not the family) has a nutty sort of a zing to the finish. It's very nice. And so was the family. They also shared some of their homemade sparkling wine, Malvazia, with us. It was also yummy. After buying a bottle of oil, we drove on to Krkavce, which was just a few kilometers away.

In Krkavce there is a baroque church which contains a baptismal font from (let me make sure I get the date exactly right here...) oh yes, sometime in the previous millenium. The font is sculpted from one solid piece of marble, and has the head of Medusa in the center, although I must say it's an extraordinarily flattering portrait of her since she looks rather like a folk-art depiction of the sun, and not at all like the serpent-headed monster we usually imagine.

We also visited a carving of a man; this carving is reputedly from the 1st or 2nd century. You would normally be impressed by its age (or not, you jaded bunch of stinkers), or at least I was. But this impact is somehow diminished by three things:
(1) The carving itself is pretty funny. It looks like a man wearing a feather headdress -- it looks very Mayan, and not at all like a depiction you would expect to find in this area. And it's funny looking.
(2) It's just standing out there on the side of a path. It's large, about 1 meter tall, but it's completely unprotected from the elements, theives, bird poop, dog urine, you name it.
(3) The small directional sign for the carving says "KAMEN". This means "ROCK" in Slovene. No special description, just "ROCK, 300 meters --->". They do everything except post an additonal sign to say, "but don't trouble yourself too much; after all, it's just a rock."

We were all thinking, if it really IS that old, it should be in a museum somewhere, right? It was puzzling.

You can read more about Krkavce here.

One thing that's not included on that webpage is the fact that there is a "living house" (sort of like a living museum) there. Oddly enough we didn't see another living soul during the time we were there, but there were LOTS of plants including massive trees of bay laurel and rosemary. There was also a cold, delicious natural spring, and some astonishingly large cacti. They must have been very old, too, but in a place that won't even acknowledge a carving from almost 1000 years ago, what would they have to say about a measly cactus? A dinosaur could have stubbed a toe on one of these very same plants, and there would just be a sign that said "CACTUS. 300 meters--->"

Well, that's all for now. I've got some prep to do before my next class, which is in two hours.

Hugs, - S

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Smarna Gora


Today was a nice sunny day, which was a welcome change after rain for most of the week. We went to the farm market in the morning and bought some veggies, fresh yogurt, and a chicken. In the afternoon we took Lucy to Smarna Gora. (there's actually a Sloevene character to be used in place of the "s", but the blog won't display Slovene fonts correctly. It's pronounced like "Shmarna Gora"). Anyway, it's a good steep hike (669 meters) up a trail comprised mainly of tree roots which form natural steps. At the top there is the obligatory small restaurant/bar/cafe and also an old (13th century) chapel. It's the reputed site of a pilgrimage by Mary, and also another saint whose name escapes me at the moment... This website will tell you more about it. You also see people somewhat more, err.... "motivated" (read "masochistic") than us RUNNING up and down the mountain. Apparently there is an annual race for this so presumably they were training. A video clip from one of the races is also available on this page.

click HERE to view the page about smarna gora

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Kurentovanje - part 2

As stated earlier, we arrived SUPER early for the festivities, but this ensured us a good spot along the parade route. We were patient, there were things/people to look at, and eventually it started to get pretty crowded. A little witch (not in costume only) elbowed her way in next to me along with her mother, and continued to prod with said elbows for the next 30+ minutes or so. Now I wasn’t minding the crowd because a bit of body warmth was welcome, but the mother-daughter tag-team next to me was out to inflict internal injuries.

Then the parade began and except for the occasional toe-crunch, I was able to forget about them for the most part.

The highlight of Kurentovanje is the presence of the Kurentov. The creature in the picture posted here is a “Kurent” or “Korant” - the main carnival figure. (Kurentov is the plural form in Slovene for “Kurent”, or at least I think it is. I'm sure if more Slovenes read this blog there would be a correction posted in comments before you could even finish reading this sentence.) You can click HERE after you finish reading and see more pictures of the parade.

The carnival in Ptuj is the largest and oldest carnival in Slovenia, and it is named after the Kurent. It’s also a traditional carnival figure in other neighboring parts of Slovenia, and we also saw some similar figures from other countries, too.

Although the costumes vary slightly from one group to another, the general costume is made up of a massive sheepskin coat, and around the waist there is a chain with huge (and LOUD!) bells. They also wear heavy boots, and sometimes wear furry sheepskin gaiters (think Ugg boots), and their head is covered by a giant mask. The mask is also made of sheepskin and is about two feet tall, at least. Many of the masks have horns on top, some real and some made of long twigs decorated with colored streamers – when the Kurentov dance in the parade they will sometimes run towards the people in the crowd (imagine a bull charging) and then the streamers fall all over you. They also have a large beak-like nose, complete with sheep’s wool nose hair (!) and tusks, which I thought made them look a bit like an Alaskan totem. They also carry a wooden club in their left hand. When they dance, the sound from the bells is deafening! The “purpose” of all this showing off is for the creature to chase away winter.

Traditionally, the Kurent's outfit used to be restricted only to unmarried men, but we even saw entire families of Kurentov, including lots of little boys (so cute in their furry costumes!) and even several women. I asked a woman how much her costume weighed and she confirmed it weighed 30 kilos (about 65 pounds), and I can’t imagine how hot it must be inside all of that sheepskin! Many pictures you’ll see of them dancing will show them without their heads, which makes them look even funnier –- kind of like oddly shaped chickens. Click HERE to see a short video -- I hope it will remain posted for a while. In case you don't see the 'play' button you should click on the word 'predvajaj' to play the video.

While we were in the castle we saw another tour group. They were speaking French but we did not know where they were from. Some of them were wearing Carnival costumes and were obviously here for The Event. We later saw them in the parade and noticed their banner advertised they were from Brussels, from some international carnival committee. Many of their group were dressed as red-and-white jesters, and the seeming-head of the group was an older gent wearing a cape and a hat with two extreeeeeeeeeeemely looooooooong pheasant (?) feathers. He was accompanied by a very robust-looking fellow dressed as a sort of a nobleman/king (picture Henry the 8th, but without the big turkey drumstick you’ll inevitably picture him holding.) He was was escorting two younger women, who inexplicably looked like they'd have preferred he brought the drumstick instead.

There were lots of other characters, too: There were wagons of people dressed as gypsies, with all of them drinking and smoking and holding ‘babies’ (even the ‘babies’ were smoking! No worries about political correctness here!). There were these incredibly frightening devils from Austria, with red faces contorted into gruesome gestures, giant horns and long black outfits, writhing their way along the parade route. There was a kurent group from Bulgaria with towering headpieces, MASSIVE bells, and large tusks. There were groups of young men dressed in black pants covered by a long white tunic, and over their shoulders were several plaid, paisley, or floral scarves – on their heads they wore large, triangular hats covered with flowers. Together they pulled a wooden plow, also decorated with flowers, and at the back of the plow there was a figure of a bride and groom, which would rotate as they walked. Women sowing seeds sometimes accompanied groups pf them, and they were occasionally chased by men cracking long rope whips, who would perform a sort of a dance. The *crack!* *crack!* sounded like a fireworks display, it was so loud! There were also people in various costumes (clowns, medieval costumes, etc).

There were also some people dressed as animals (cows, goats) The animals had a large cylindrical body, usually with two people inside, and (of course) a head and a tail. One animal -- a goat-- approached us, and my friends with the sharp elbows petted it for a minute, after which time it turned promptly round 180 degrees and peed on them! Right in their faces! And I saw the whole thing (including their priceless reactions). Granted, it was only water, and the mother was a good sport about it eventually, but the 10-or-11-year old witch girl was obviously MORTIFIED. And I laughed and laughed and laughed…

And I kept a wary eye on the cows when they came past later on.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Kurentovanje - part 1

On 18 Feb we went to our first Carnival celebration here. It was NOT disappointing! It seems to be a mixture of the typical Carnival pre-lenten hullabaloo mixed with a healthy dose of pagan celebrating designed to scare off winter. And anything that’s designed to scare off winter is a helluva good thing, of course. Well, now that you mention it, you’re correct in a meteorological sense when you say that we haven’t exactly HAD a winter this year, but let’s not split hairs. After standing parade-side for three-plus hours in 30-something degrees, our extremities were well-frozen and that’s close enough to winter for me (laugh away, cold-weather friends – our blood is thin again and you are clearly envious).

We arrived a bit too early for the parade, thanks to our largely ineffective translation of the festival event schedule, but at least this meant we got a very good parking spot. We also had a chance to tour the castle. The castle was well done, although not depicted as being as old as it actually is -- construction began in the early 1100’s but most of the rooms were represented as they would have been decorated during the seventeenth century. Besides the furnishings, also worth mentioning are the large ceramic stoves in every room. You can still see many of these stoves in homes today, usually covered with flat or very simply decorated ceramic tiles, but the tiles in the castle, and the stoves themselves, boasted very ornate decorations and were designed to complement the rooms.

The plaster carvings on the ceilings were fantastic and in great condition. There were loads of paintings, and although they weren’t done by any world-renown artists (unless you count the somewhat prolific ‘painter unknown’, who received most of the credit) they gave a visitor a wonderful idea of what people were wearing at the time, or at least what they thought was fashionable. In one building there were even pictures depicting people in their Carnival costumes; worth mentioning is the surprising fact that the native American costume enjoyed as much popularity back in the 1700s as it did at this year’s parties.

The tapestries were also well done, and given the chill of the day, a person could gain a real appreciation for such cozy wallpaper. Since it was an active residence fairly recently, the tapestries gave way to painted canvases and printed linen wall coverings in the other rooms. There was a lot of Asian influence in several of the rooms. In the room exhibiting the serving plates et al there were several very nice Chinese serving pieces, and even an impossibly small silk slipper. Yes, it WAS a strange juxtaposition next to the dinner plates, but even imagining a foot that small (4 inches at most) is strange enough, so why not?

I’ve posted some pictures from the museum, so you can check those out HEREwhile I find a bit of free time to work on my post about the parade and upload those pictures as well.

Take care ~S

Sunday, February 18, 2007


..Today we're off to Ptuj. It IS pronounced just as you think it is, and although we enjoy going there just so we can tell people where we've been, this time we're going for carnivale. In case you're unfamiliar with it, carnivale is the Euro version of the Minneapolis winter carnival, which I'm sure was the inspriation for ALL other pre-lenten festivals great and small, right? (Minneapolis friends are nodding vigorously at this point).

Carnivale in Slovenia is called 'Maska', which is short for 'Maskarade'. In Ptuj, the oldest city in Slovenia, they celebrate in their own way and their festival is called 'kurentovanje'. Follow the link to learn about/gape at the kurentov. I've been told that their costumes weigh more than 60 lbs/30 kilos, so we're off to verify ;-)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The best part of waking up...

...is a mass of coffee sludge in the bottom of your cup. Really. Read on.

Sure, we have them new-fangled cofee makers here, too, but almost everyone drinks turkish coffee. HERE is a great post describing the method. We've been known to take some liberties and so we always don't follow these steps exactly, but you get the idea. But be 100% sure to follow the last step. Leaving your Turkish unattended will mean you'll need to use that caffeine-fueled cleaning spurt scrubbing your stovetop. Don't say you haven't been warned.

Monday, February 12, 2007


I conducted a transaction at the post office ENTIRELY in Slovene today. I had to buy postage in the name of our company (and have them enter our company in their system)
pick up a package that was addressed only to Joe (he was not with me). And I did it! I used no English! Woo hoo!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

January showers bring flowers too!



We’ve seemingly slipped from an Autumnal sort of winter right into an autumnal sort of spring. We’re all confused, even the plants. We have lots of flowers making an appearance: the Primrose (Primula Vulgaris - top right picture) is in bloom everywhere, even under the shady pines, and there are crocus and snowdrops, too. The Forsythia shrubs are blooming in the sunny areas, but they are a bit show-off-y (I think I just made up a word there) anyway, having also bloomed back in early December. In the fields, the Dead Red Nettle (Lamium Purpureum - picture top left) and Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium) never stopped blooming, but they look a bit weary. The slopes in the woods are covered with a more recent arrival: hundreds upon hundreds of Helleborus Niger (picture bottom left), with the Winter Heath (Erica Carnea - picture bottom right) keeping it company. In people’s gardens the irises are well up and so are the daffodils; the pansies also hung right in there since the autumn and are still flowering.

As I started typing this update, we were having a thunderstorm. It’s a far cry from a Minnesota winter, that’s for sure! Right after the thunderstorm it turned colder for a few days and we finally saw some snow. It was one of those clingy snows that sticks to all of the branches. It only accumulated on the grassy areas and it was gone by the end of the day, but further northwest of us they got quite a bit more. We went up that way, to the little town of Planica, last weekend for some sledding (for the Minnesotans: ‘sledding’ = ‘sliding’ in your parlance . There are no snowmobiles involved.) Planica is the site of the world’s largest ski jump, but I am just mentioning that by way of information – we didn’t do anything crazy involving our toboggans and the ski jump. At Planica there's a few feet of snow on the ground. We walked for about an hour up a hill to a small gostilna where we had lunch. Then we sledded down the hill. It was fun, and Lucy had a blast running around in the snow and chasing the sled.

Now the temps are in the mid 40s during the day, and the sun is very warm. We went for a walk today and I think it was about 50 degrees or so; you just needed a light sweater. This is not typical, but the whole of western Europe is experiencing some unseasonably warm, or at least strange, weather this year. I understand El Nino is to blame (oh sure, always blame the foreigners) I think it’s affecting U.S. weather too, but you, my tens of readers, would know this better than me. In London a few weeks ago they had some very heavy rain and high winds. The wind knocked down walls and trees, and some people were killed. On the news they showed people hanging onto lampposts so they wouldn’t be blown away. We haven’t seen those here, thank goodness!

Hopefully our good weather will hold at least for a few more days. On Thursday we have a public holiday and it would be nice to go somewhere for the day and soak up some sunshine. 08 Feb 1849 is the date of the death of Slovenia’s national poet, France Preseren. While he was alive, Preseren was in love with a woman named Julija Primic. She never returned his love, even though he was not a bad-looking fella, not to mention he wrote her some kick-ass sonnets. Preseren Square in Ljubljana contains a statue of him which forever gazes on a bas-relief of Julija high on the wall of a building across the square. The seventh stanza of Preseren's poem “Zdravljica” (“A Toast”) has been the Slovenian national anthem since 1991.

God's blessing on all nations,
Who long and work for that bright day,
When o'er earth's habitations
No war, no strife shall hold its sway;
Who long to see
That all men free
No more shall foes, but neighbours be!

Not many exciting things happened over the holiday season. Here, the month of December is “Happy December” and there are Christmas markets and mulled wine to enjoy. We were battling some never-ending colds/viruses all through the holidays, and right through New Year, so we were not your usual party-loving couple. We dragged ourselves down to the castle for New Year’s fireworks (which were worth the effort) and then back home shortly thereafter. We’re feeling much better now, thanks to massive doses of vitamins and the large quantities of oranges and clementines we’ve been eating. It’s my New Year’s resolution: I Will Not Get Sick in 2007.

We have recently gotten a new neighbor. They are two roommates and they both are members of the orchestra. The boy (age 17 or 18) is from Romania or Lithuania...I’m not sure exactly -- someplace small with an ‘ia’ on the end. He plays the violin. He practices here at the house sometimes although we haven’t heard him much since we don’t always have the windows open. Joe met him the other day. He speaks English well and studied in Michigan for a while. The other roommate plays the viola, or at least I think that’s what she plays – she hasn’t been practicing here since she doesn’t carry her instrument back and forth. She’s 18 or 19 years old and is from Russia. I haven’t met either of them yet but I think I saw them at the bus stop at the corner. The boy was young, wearing very pointy cowboy boots and carrying a violin, so I guessed that was probably him. I based this on the violin he was toting -- the cowboy boots could mean anything. The girl wasn’t carrying anything outwardly musical but they were obviously together, and they were paying with bus tokens (a sure sign of a recently arrived foreigner). I would have introduced myself but the bus was just pulling up as I arrived.

Speaking of the bus, let me just say that there are few sights more depressing than that of your bus pulling away from the stop as you run down the street. On most days I take the bus four times a day. The least number of times I’ll take it is twice, and the most is six. One ill-fated day I missed the bus five times out of five. The only reason I didn’t miss it six times that day is because Joe gave me a ride for trip #6. Some days are like that. On the other hand, some days I stroll to the bus stop taking my own sweet time, lah-tee-dah, and there it is, just down the street and I only need to wait half a minute or so. I love those days. The bus at our stop is a bit capricious. In spite of the encouraging timetable posted at the bus stop, there doesn’t seem to be an actual schedule..it seems to show up whenever it pleases and you just thank your lucky stars if you were fortunate enough to be there when it did. In its defense, it does show up every 15 minutes or so, but I’ve been left staring at the back end of it often enough that I feel entitled to complain a bit. (sigh) I feel better now.

Work is still busy, so that’s good. Our school hired a new batch of teachers to replace some of the ones that moved on. We were the last group of non-EU citizens to be hired, so it’s a good thing we made the move when we did. All of the teachers now must be from within the EU, so all of the native English speakers will be from Great Britain.

I’ve got to do some class prep now, so I’ll end here. I’ll try to update more frequently, even if it’s just a few words.