‘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.

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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!

The Festival of The Royal Silvering of Kutná Hora

These past few days, we had nothing but blue skies and bright days.  Summer is indeed here.

This morning, since we didn’t go out of town, my husband and I decided to take a short trip to Kutna Hora, a neighboring town, for a picnic at one of the famous parks there.  Because we didn’t check the event calendar for the park, we ended up running on to the “Festival of the Royal Silvering of Kutna Hora.”

Performers dancing a traditional medieval dance
Young girls dancing as part of a short stage play.

The event was held at the Italian Court, the central mint of the Kingdom of Bohemia and former residence  of the king in the 15th century.

The Italian Court overlooking the Park where the festival was held.

It was an awesome event filled with music, dancing, jousts, and the fictitious arrival of King Wenceslaus and Queen Sofia of Bavaria.

Drummers announcing the arrival of the king and queen.
The knights’ parade
The king and queen arrives.
The king’s court

Being in the event made me feel like I was transported back in time when Kutna Hora was at its prime.  Back then, Kutna Hora was a famous silver mining town which was the second most important town in the kingdom of Bohemia after Prague.  The costumes that were worn signified wealth and prosperity in the town.

One of my favorite parts of the show was a sword fight performed by actors.

Another favorite was the performance of a band that specializes in Medieval music.

It was also fun to watch people dress up for the event.  Kids in costumes always have a soft spot in my heart.

But I wasn’t the only one who was totally entertained.  Guess who were at the front row?

I am really glad that we accidentally attended this event in Kutna Hora.  I will mark it in my calendar next year, so it will be one of those weekend events that we will go to.

More information about this event can be found here.

When the “Baby” Looks After the Sitter

This past weekend, we visited my husband’s brother in Brno, the second biggest city next to Prague.  It was the birthday celebration of my nephews, so we decided to spend the whole weekend there.  However, the weather was not cooperating.   So we were limited to doing activities indoors.
Saturday morning, we awoke to a beautiful sunrise.  Unfortunately, that was the best part of the day because it rained to whole day.  We were supposed to bring the kids to a steam engine exhibit but it got cancelled due to the rain.  So we proceeded to Plan B — go to an indoor play area.

We went to Bongo, a family amusement park.  There were a lot of attractions for both young and old, and I can tell the boys had a lot of fun.  While their fathers took the little ones in the bump cars, my 4 year old nephew begged me to come with him to the big slide.

I have a fear of heights. This fear started way back in my early twenties when I rode a roller coaster in South Korea.  As I grew older, the fear intensified. Now that I am a mother, it seems like I will be forced to conquer this fear.

Off we go!

I didn’t want to disappoint my little nephew so I went with him on the slide.  But when I got to the top, the nerves got me.   I almost didn’t go but it was too late.  My poor nephew was a little but surprised on why I was too slow.  Truth is, I was hanging on to the side rail.

Finally

Until finally, I found the courage to just let go and was able to catch up with him.  It was very ironic.   Instead of me keeping an eye on him, he kept an eye on me.  Oh well, I know this will not be the first time.    When Jakub will be old enough to go on great heights, I wonder what else I will get myself into.