It’s twice the fun!

One of the things that I love most about the holiday season is attending and organizing parties and events.  Yesterday, my kids got to attend 2 significant cultural events:  A Filipino one and a Czech one.  Our day started off by attending a Filipino party in Prague. It was an event organized by the Filipino community and was open to all Filipinos in the Czech Republic and their families.

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It was a typical Filipino party with lots of food, a load of entertainment and attended by a bunch of loud, happy people.  My husband, who is not used to huge parties, used to shy away from these events.  But after several years of being with me, he now enjoys it immensely.  Even my children love these parties.  And what’s not to love?  There’s always lots of candies and a friend to play with.

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But as much as we wanted to stay the whole night for this year’s Christmas party, we also cannot afford to miss another event that was awaiting us back home .

It was the eve of the feast of St. Nicholas (Svaty Mikuláš).    They got to be visited by 3 interesting characters:  a devil, an angel and Mikuláš.

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My Jakub is at an age where he is still very impressionable, so he excitedly recited a rhyme and even sang a  song for our guests.  Michaela on the otherhand, is now at the stage where she likes to imitate her older brother.  Not to be outdone, she also recited some nursery rhymes that we always do together.

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At the end of the visit, the kids got a bag of goodies and some candies from the angel.  That’s their prize for being good the whole year!

With all the events my kids got to attend yesterday, I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves December.  And because we are a bi-cultural household, it’s always twice the fun!

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Lately

It seems like forever since I wrote my last post. Too many things have happened that I couldn’t seem to put them in order.

Anyhow, we’ve had several visits this summer and early fall. First off, my husband’s cousin and her son from Moravia to spend a weekend with us.  We brought them to Prague and Kutna Hora, since it has been awhile since they visited these  beautiful cities.

Here’s a picture of us in front of one of the most beautiful churches here in the Czech Republic, the St. Barbora Church in Kutna Hora.

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The weather was not in our favor during their visit but we were still able to snap some beautiful pictures of Prague.  It is breathtaking in any weather.

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My friend Melba and her daughter also spent some time with us.  It was nice for the babies to see each other again.  This time, we contacted some alumni from the university where we had our bachelors and had a mini reunion in a cafe in Prague.

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A couple of weeks ago, My friend Mymy also came for a visit with her son.  She lives in Prague and it was her first long out of town drive since she got her license a year ago.  She also has a toddler who is close to Michaela’s age, so it was nice sharing motherhood experiences with her.

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Lastly, my son has started going to a state primary school and my daughter is turning one pretty soon.  How time flies.

Photo credit:  Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)
Photo credit: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

It seems like only yesterday since we made the significant decision to move here in CZ.  Since then, every year is marked with significant milestones.

A Swiss-Filipino Family Came to Town

I didn’t realize that it’s almost been a month since my last post.  Life has been going at full speed and I hardly have time to pen down my thoughts.

Anyhow, we had some guests from Switzerland last week.  It was my friend Mayette, her Swiss husband Thomas, and their very cute daughter, Thomara.

I’ve known Mayette since my university days, and we recently reconnected after knowing that both of us are married to Europeans.

After a long trip to and from Sweden, they decided to swing by Czech Republic.  Jakub had a blast when he got an early Easter bunny, with nothing but the best chocolate – Lindt.

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Their daughter Thomara is only a month older than Michaela, so they are technically batchmates.    It was funny getting the two babies to meet.

Looking eye to eye, they look like they couldn’t believe there’s actually another person the same size as them.

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We finally got them to look at the camera, but were unable to goad them in eliciting a smile.

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There was a little bit of movement, as they got curious about the other.

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But after putting them in the car, they both went down easily.

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My little boy on the other hand, acted like an older brother.

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He was happy to look after the girls while their parents were busy taking pictures.

And here he is happily posing for a photo with our guests.

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We brought them to Kutna Hora and to Prague, but three days was not enough to see everything.

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They did say they were going to come back and we are really looking forward to that.  Otherwise, we will have to visit them in Switzerland.

 

 

M’s first Visit to Grandparents

Last weekend, we visited my in-laws in Moravia.  It was Michaela’s first visit to her grandparents.  The trip took us 2.5 hours one way and  it was her longest car trip yet.  Both her and her brother behaved so well.  She was sleeping most of the time which made it a very smooth one.

When we got there, she immediately warmed up to her grandparents.  Here she is playing with grandpa….

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…and posing for a shot with grandma.

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It was also my father-in-law’s birthday celebration, so the following day most of our family came by.

She was quite apprehensive with Aunt Romana and Grandma Marta (mom-in-law’s sister).

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But she comfortably fell asleep in Aunt Hanka’s arms.

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The boys didn’t care much about the new baby.  They were busy doing their thing — running around.

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This is the usual scene.  The usual suspects in action.  Where am I?  Doing what I like best —taking pictures!

And of course the day is never complete until somebody cries.

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But all in all, the visit went very well.   Our little princess was happy for the most part.

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I hope your weekend was great as well.

My Growing Belly….and Family

I am now on my 35th week of pregnancy and as anxious as ever to give birth.  Albeit, life had never been more hectic lately.  I had been keeping myself busy with arranging my children’s bedrooms and making checklist after checklist of all the things we would need for the baby while at the same time checking my toddler’s needs.    One tricky thing about raising children is that they grow very fast – literally.  With the changing season, I have to constantly check that my son has adequate and appropriate clothing for the day’s weather.  Last season’s pants are now too short, and although he didn’t gain much horizontally, some of his shirts are also getting shorter.  I know that I will not be able to do a lot of shopping when the baby arrives, so I have now stocked up on some fall and winter clothing.  Plus, I made sure that all his vaccinations and doctor and dentist check-ups are up-to-date, and made an effort to schedule some of these appointments ahead of time so I will not have to worry about it when I have another child to take care of.  As you may notice, I am a freak when it comes to organizing things.  I believe that in order to be successful in anything, adequate preparation has to be done and that means everything has to be well-organized.

I have also been reading about how to help older siblings cope with the arrival of a new member of the family.  It is said that since all the attention will now be focused on the baby, it is important for parents to be mindful of the older child.   My husband and I have already talked about it and we have decided to involve Jakub in everything that has to do with his sister — from helping out with diaper changes to being on the lookout for hazards that may be harmful to the baby.  Almost everyday, I remind him that he is going to be a big brother soon and I am happy to note that he exhibits a certain sense of pride in his new role.

Anyway,  we had a maternity photo session last week to document the anticipation of our little one’s arrival.  I am sharing with you some of my favorite shots.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

It is normally difficult to get a toddler’s full attention in this type of activity, but my little boy was surprisingly enjoying it.  He was willing to oblige to every pose and was always excited to check out his own image in the camera after a shot was taken.

Here’s one of my favorite photos.  The big brother communicating with his baby sister.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

She is already loved.

Photo: Jan Strnad
Photo by : Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

My growing belly….and family.

Photo:  Jan Strnad
Photo by: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

We still have about a month to go before we finally meet her.  I feel SO HUGE that it seems like there’s no more room left for growing.  This is the longest month ever.  Although I am suffering from all the discomfort that pregnancy brings, I am happily looking forward to finally hold my little girl in my arms.

One of Us

Due to this bug that have infiltrated my son’s system, we have mostly stayed indoors this past week.  Anyhow, it gave me time to figure out how to decorate the bare walls of our home.

I was browsing through some of the photos that can perhaps be made into a collage.  It is a collection of pictures of some of our most memorable trips in the West Coast.  Here’s some of them.

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During a ski trip at Big Bear Lake, California.

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Posing for posterity at Marina del Rey, California after biking from Will Rogers Beach to Redondo Beach.

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During a short hike at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona…..way back then.

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Posing at one of the rest areas (can’t remember the name) during a wine tasting trip to Solvang, California.

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Posing with our friend Gus during one of the weekend runs with the Finish Line Freaks, our running team.  Boy, do I look freaky!

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A classic pose after climbing the “delicate arch” in Utah.

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At the Monument Valley in Utah.

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Posing after coming back from a short hike down the Bryce Canyon in Utah.

As I was browsing through these pictures, my little boy was with me.  Everytime a picture is shown, he would point  to it and say:  “Tati” or “Mommy.”   But after this last photo, he exclaimed:  “Where’s Jakub?”    It was one of those very simple questions that touched my heart.  He is starting to identify himself as one of us.  He is starting to understand the idea of family.

Looking at those pictures made me miss the past.  But my little boy’s simple question made me appreciate what I have,  enough to get me excited of what’s to come.

Inside Our Passive House – Part One

As promised, here is my first post regarding our experiences living in a passive house. I’m sure most of you are more curious about the technical aspect of the house rather than the interior design, so this post is solely dedicated for that.

Our initial expectation of decreased heater usage was indeed met during our first 2 weeks here.
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A sunny winter day like this is enough to raise the interior temperature to 1C to 2C.  Because of the thick insulation and air tightness, the house has the ability to keep the temperature stable.

Give us 7 sunny days like this and we may not need the heater at all.

But for days when it’s gloomy and Mr. Sun is hidden behind the thick clouds, the house’s integrated heaters are programmed to keep the temperature stable.  Potential “cold spots” within the house are equipped with heaters that look like this.

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This is the biggest one  for the living room, but the smaller ones in the bedroom almost look the same.

The external blinds of the house has a central control unit that can be programmed to open and close at certain times of the day.  In winter, it is useful to open everything during the day to let the sunshine in and heat up the house.  But in summer, there will be a need to keep it closed.  Remote control switches are also available to adjust the amount of opening or amount of light that one would like to have.

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With its air-tight feature, you may be curious about how the house breaths.  Well, this equipment makes it all possible.

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Air vents are strategically located around the house to exchange the air.  There is no need to open the windows.  You are guaranteed to breathe in fresh air.

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We still haven’t done much about the exteriors of the house, so this is pretty much how it looks like from the outside.  Come spring and the landscaping is another major project.

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Anyhow, we are happy with our first few weeks in this house although it is not completely decorated yet.

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Call it crazy, but we are probably one of very few people who are very eager to receive their energy bill.

‘Twas a Merry Christmas

Whew!  It almost seems like such a long time since I have updated this blog.  After moving to our new house 2 weekends ago, most of my time has been spent cleaning and fixing up the new place….and we are not finished yet.  With Christmas just around the corner, I found myself even busier.  Needless to say, life happened.

I will have a separate post regarding the house.  Meanwhile, here’s how we spent our Christmas.

On Christmas day, we drove to my in-laws’ place in Moravia in this weather.

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Just looking at the frozen fog was enough to frighten me a bit, but it really is a way of life over here.  Everything seemed normal.

That same day, my husband’s brother and his family also came.  It  was a time for opening the gifts from Ježíšek (Little Jesus).  Instead of Santa, Czechs believe that Ježíšek is the one bringing gifts.  In our family, the children were asked to go with Grandpa and watch a pohadka (fairytale).

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Meanwhile, the adults prepared the gifts and staged the room to appear like Ježíšek just left.  This was done by opening one window and tolling the bell.  When the children ran to the living room, they found presents under the tree.

Since they were too young to read, the adults helped tell them who the presents were for and they distributed the gifts.

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Everyone was then busy opening their presents.

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My little boy was very happy with the biggest gift he got from Ježíšek (a.k.a. grandma) – a toy digger.

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At around 5pm that same day, we went to my husband’s grandparents to celebrate with the rest of the family.

There was another set of presents to open.  But the best part was just bonding with the family.

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While the kids were busy distributing presents from the tree, the adults were doing their thing.

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The kids got toys, candies and chocolates, the men got wine…..

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…. or slivovice (plum liquor).

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No matter what generation, it is always a hit.

In one corner, I was chatting with my father-in-law and his mother.

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Although there are a lot of nice material gifts, I guess that the best gift of all is family.  Even though, my own Filipino family is too far away and I didn’t get to spend this Christmas with them, my Czech family provided me the necessary “warmth” I needed this winter season.

Almost Done!

I have been keeping mum these past few months about our big family project, but I cannot hold it off any longer.  I am super excited.  Our very own “passive house” is about to be realized!

Aesthetically, it may not look like anything from this perspective, but the main reason why we chose this type of design is its promise of slashing the heating energy consumption by an amazing 90%.   It’s all about functionality!  Not only is it environmentally-friendly, it will also be very pocket-friendly in the long run.

So what is a  “Passive House”?
The passive house design was introduced by a German physicist Wolfgang Feist and Swedish professor Bo Adamson. It In 1996, the Passive House Institute in Germany was founded by Feist.  Here in the Czech Republic, it is starting to gain popularity.  According to Mother Earth News, there are only 15,000 buildings worldwide that are certified to have met passive house standards.  In the US, this type of technology is just beginning to catch on with about a dozen buildings certified as “passive.”
The passive house design goes by the following basic concepts:  Reducing Air Infiltration, Superinsulation, Eliminating Thermal Bridging, High performance (and properly placed) windows and doors, Super-efficient balanced ventilation systems, and Energy efficient design (compact) with healthy building materials and furnishings.
I wouldn’t go into details any further, but if you would like to know more about passive houses, this video presentation may help.  Click here.
I will have to say that all credit relating to this project goes to my dear husband, one of the best engineers in the world.  Long before this concept had been brought into fruition, he had it in his mind all along.  When we decided to settle and build a home, he tirelessly did all the research on the best design that will fit our needs.  The passive house was a clear choice from the very beginning, given all the benefits that this concept has to offer.  We already knew what type of house we wanted to build without even knowing where or how it was going to be built.  All the engineers in the family believe it is a great concept, so here it is.
Our house is situated in a new residential development area within Kolin surrounded by woods and a small body of water.  We chose this location due to its proximity to nature and the neighborhood surrounding it.
This is the “zoomed in” view of our community.
But this is how it really looks like from the highway.
And this is what our “beach” looks like.
Who knows, it may even double as a skating rink during the winter.  That, I have to find out soon.
Right now, we are very busy doing the final stages of the construction.  Well, at least my husband is.  I know it’s going to be a long project, but our goal is to move in before winter settles in.  I am very curious to know if this passive house design will really live up to its concept and save us some money on our heating bills.
Although there is a lot of pressure ahead, I’m excited…..and I’m happy!
One of the most interesting things about a “passive house” is that it recycles all internal heat gains, including body heat from  humans, the appliances, the computer, and the light bulbs!   Needless to say, that during winter time, visitors can actually lower our energy bills.
So, will you come and visit?

Reminiscing

In a few weeks, my parents will becoming to the Czech Republic.  Although we talk on skype almost every other week, it has been 3 years since we last saw each other and it will be the first time when they will meet Jakub.

As I am getting anxious about their arrival, I am also reminiscing the good memories we had when they visited us in the US.

This was 3 years ago, when they initially met with my husband’s parents.  Despite the language barrier, everyone became instant friends.

At Sequoia National Park, my dad and my father-in-law explored Tunnel rock together.

But over here at Mono Lake, you can see the geographical differences in their origins.  It was evident in how they responded to ambient temperature.  It was 23C that day.  The Filipinos got cold while the Czechs were complaining of warmth.

But under the warm California sun, everyone felt good the moment we got to Yosemite.

But San Franciso was still cold….even for the Czechs.

This year, it will be a reunion for this team….. with its newest team member.

I can’t wait!