09 December 2013

That time of year again...

May your holidays be filled with hot chocolate and marshmallows (or as they call them here, munchmellows)!

24 November 2013

I'm ba-a-a-ck

Whew!  I really needed that breather to get on top of things again.  I'm working on a rather ambitious project that has been eating up lots of my time and energy...but I'm not done yet and can't talk about it yet.  So bear with me as I sort out just a few more details.

There will be a new chapter ahead for me.  Still in Croatia, still mangling the language (on a positive note, a local told me that  I speak bad Croatian better than anyone she knows) and to quote Paul Simon:  "Still crazy, after all these years."

19 September 2013

Taking a breather....

Croatia is the type of place that is filled with millions of carrots dangling in front of us outsiders, and always just a bit out of reach, causing us to push ourselves forward.  Inch by inch, we keep reaching towards those carrots, and are forced to stretch ourselves in ways we never thought possible.  But those ethereal carrots keep moving just slightly out of reach.  And after several years, the constant effort of stretching and stretching coupled with the constantly moving carrot can deplete the energy stores of even the most enthusiastic and energy-filled person.

This constant stretching didn't just make my arms sore....they fell off! (metaphorically speaking)

So I need some time to hunker down, analyze, lick a few wounds, charge up my batteries, and then get back on the horse with some sort of plan that does not involve carrots (or any other vegetable dangled in front of me).   For the first time in my life, I have absolutely no idea what to do next.

I'll still be here in a sort of zombie-like form.    But I'm gonna need some time to think 'bout all this.  So I know y'all will understand if I take a bit of time off from updating this blog. I'm as interested as you are in what new ideas I come up with.

Until then, send me some positive energy, if you have some to spare...and if you don't, then let me send some your way right now.

As someone said once:  onwards and upwards.

08 August 2013

And in weather news.....it's a scorcher

Okay, so it looks like maybe this entire year will be the year of only weather-related posts.  Seriously, the weather is just so bizarre.  First we had that cold, wet, snowy winter.  Followed by a very cold, wet and grey spring.  And now, it seems to be the summer of outrageous temperatures.

Last summer we had a drought and yes, it was dry, dry, dry.  But this summer, along with a drought, we've got hot temperatures.  Like 42C hot (that's 107F).  It has been over 39C for about 2 weeks now (maybe longer, can't tell, my wrist watch melted).  And it doesn't get much cooler at night, so it feels like being in an over.  There's been this light dry wind blowing too, so it is like being in a convection oven.  Humidity is down around 30%.  Like the desert or something.

When it is this hot, there's not much to do but sit still and eat lots of fresh, cold, juicy watermelon.  And that's all I've been doing.

And an update on getting into the EU.  Well, the tv commercials promised no borders and no border stops and free movement across borders.  But at the last minute, lots of political stuff happened, and to make a convoluted story short, there are still border checks going into and out of Croatia.  If you are an EU citizen, or a Croatian citizen, then you can go into the EU lineup, and just show them your ID card or passport and they'll wave you right through.  HOWEVER if you are not from an EU country (um, like Canada) then you've got to go into the non-EU lineup (which is always longer) and they need to scrutinize and stamp your passport going out of Croatia and getting back in.

So not exactly free movement across borders.  Yet.  Apparently in 2015 the borders will come down and things will be faster and smoother.  The shopping across borders is seamless and free-moving though.  So we are allowed to shop till we drop all day long.  But funny thing, now that there are no shopping restrictions, it somehow took the specialness out of buying something over-the-border.

And now, back to more watermelon.  Can't get enough of the stuff.  Yum.

28 June 2013

More crazy weather

Since the last time I posted, we had a sweltering heatwave that lasted 2 weeks!  It was hotter than I can remember in June.  Then, suddenly, it cooled down again with vicious rain/hail/thunderstorms.  Lots of clouds.  Some funnel clouds spotted.  And getting kind of cold at night.  Like 12C!  It is kind of neutral right now.  But very very changeable.  I'm not sure what's causing this, or what the rest of the summer holds in store for us.  For now, I'm just going to think positive and hope for the best.

The next time I write...we'll officially be part of the Eurpean Union (July 1, 2013).  It is so cool to be here during this historical event.

31 May 2013

Hello, Springtime?

Yes, another posting about the bad weather.  I'm Canadian, and we love to talk about the weather.  And weather (well, good weather) was instrumental in luring me to Croatia.  Beautiful blue skies, sunny days, long summers, gorgeous springtime, lovely autumns, and mild winters all took my breath away.

But this year, the clouds just don't want to leave.  The temperatures are cool during the day and downright cold at night sometimes.  And the sun has been pretty scarce since about last September.  Each week the weather forecast paints a gloomy few days with the promise of sunshine and warm temperatures in the next ten days or so.  But as the week progresses, the forecast changes and there's always just a few more days of cold/wet/cloudy weather expected. 

Fingers crossed that it gets better.  Soon.  And that my next posting is about how summertime has arrived with great gusto. 

Hope it is nice in your part of the world.....

11 April 2013

Blue skies have arrived along with some slithery critters...

It looks like Spring might actually be here.  The skies are mostly sunny, and the temperatures are inching (or centimetering) their way up slowly.  We're seeing 13C, 15C some days.  And we're supposed to hit that magic 20C next week.

The fruit trees are still staying dormant though.  There's the odd flower here and there, but it looks like the trees are staying put for a wee bit more time. 

With the warmer weather, the wild asparagus has started to poke up through the long grasses, and I often see people out searching through the underbrush, along walls, and near the roadsides for some tasty bounty.

A word of warning though:  the asparagus starts to grow at the same time that snakes awake from their winter slumber.  And those snakes can be stiff and slow because the temperatures are not quite hot enough for them.  So what locals do when searching for asparagus is they bring a long stick with them.  When they spot asparagus, they first tap the stick all around the asparagus to scare away any snakes, or at least to be alerted to any slow-moving snakes who might be within biting distance. 

If you think people are a bit too cautious about this whole business....think again.  There is one particular snake in Croatia that everyone needs to be aware of.  I won't go into detail here...but you can search the internet for Poskuk. 

I heard about these snakes, and heard lots of stories about them.  But I didn't really think much about it.  I mean, how often does someone actually come across these things?  Until last spring, when out walking in the countryside along a rocky path, I almost stepped on one (I was standing with my foot approximately 5cm away from it).  I spooked it though and it slithered off crazily faster than lightning and just about scared the living daylights out of me (and the 7 other people in our walking party).  It was dark grey and white with a diamond pattern.  And about 90cm long. 

Now, if I'm out walking near anything resembling a blade of grass, I'm carrying a long stick. 

03 April 2013

Waiting for blue skies to arrive...

I've been waiting to write a post here all about the springtime weather, the sunshine, apple blossoms, etc, etc.  But as the days and then weeks went on, I realized that Spring was going to be a bit late this year.

I'm sorry to report that there are no blue skies or sunshine in the weather forecast for at least another week or two.  And if the temperature manages to get near or above 10C, we will all be overjoyed.  For now, we are all waiting for the endless rain and cloudy skies and cold temperatures to finish their unwelcome stay. 

It seems that the strangely wet, cloudy and cold (and also snowy) weather started up sometime in October....and never left.  That just ain't right.  And for the first time in a very long time, there were no tender new wild asparagus spears to feast on at Easter.  Not because someone went out and scooped them...but because the wild asparagus is still dormant (like everything else.)

So fingers crossed that the lovely sunshine and warm temperatures and apple blossoms find their way to us soon.

11 March 2013

More word fun!

There are words in the Croatian language that'll trip you up, no matter what. I don't even know what to call these language speedbumps...but they are sure to cause confusion whenever an English-speaking foreigner encounters them:

Smoking:  this is not a verb.  This is a noun.  It has nothing to do with lighting up and taking a puff.  A 'smoking' is the word for a tuxedo jacket.  Yup.  A guy wears a 'smoking' at his wedding.  Nobody can tell me where this word came from...but I am guessing that in lots of old British and American movies, the guys in tuxedos were usually smoking...and then somehow in a roundabout way, it made sense.  Somehow.

Keks:  sounds like cakes.  It refers to cookies (the kind you dunk in coffee, not the kind that live on your computer).  If someone asks you to bring keks to a party and you show up with a cake instead of a platter of cookies...there'll be raised eyebrows.

Torta:  no, it isn't a thin pie-like dessert item.  Torta is the word for cake.  If someone asks you to bring the torta for a birthday party...you'd better be bringing a birthday cake.  Otherwise, there'll be some really raised eyebrows.

Pita:  no, it isn't a type of Greek flat-bread that you fill with falafel and other yummies.  Pita is anything (sweet or salty) that involves a filling being rolled in a phyllo-type dough and then baked (sort of like apple strudel).  If someone asks you to bring pita to a party, and you show up with falafels....there's just going to be complete and utter silence.  And raised eyebrows.

Hulahopke:  okay, a while back, I told everyone how Croatians refer to the '@' sign as the monkey sign (for real).  And I mentioned how it always makes me laugh when I have to say it out loud when giving someone my email address.  Well, this next one is even funnier:  hulahopke is the Croatian word for that piece of ladies hosiery known as nylons or pantyhose.  I know, you are thinking to yourself:  so what, hulahopke, pantyhose, that ain't funny at all.  But wait, hulahopke is a Croatian word taken phonetically from the English word for hula-hoops!  Yup, nylons are known as hula-hoops!  So when you go to the ladies hosiery department and the saleslady asks how she can help you, you've got to tell her that you're looking for some hula-hoops!  And it cracks me up each and every time.  The best part, is that nobody can tell me WHY they are called hula-hoops.  I can only imagine that the motion one has to go through to get the things put on looks a lot like a woman doing the hula, or working a hula-hoop. 

That's all I got today.  I'll have more soon.

24 February 2013

Yup, it snows here.

Here's a shot taken just YESTERDAY.  That's snow on the ground.  Lots and lots and lots of it (we ended up with about 25cm).  This zima has been particularly cold, grey, rainy, and snowy.  What you can't see in the picture are the 35kph bura winds.  Brrrrrr.

A word to the wise:  if you are thinking of moving here, make sure your accommodations have really good heating for the winter months.  And if you've got a car....get snow tires.  You'll seriously be glad that you did.

And now, time for some nice hot kavu by the fire. 

10 February 2013

Mmmm, tastes like chicken.

Our little Peeper is almost 10 months old and growing like a weed.  Her most favourite thing in the entire world is plush stuffed doggy toys.  She LOVES them in a way that is almost supernatural.

Above is a picture with her latest acquisition:  Mr. Chicken.  He's got squeaky things in his feet, his head and a special one in his tummy.  Peeper goes insane with joy when she gets Mr. Chicken to squeak.  Mr. Chicken joins her corral of other toys:  Boo-berry, Mr. Ropey, Witchy, Piggy, Donut and Squirrel.

While she goes through yet another teething period, I make sure she's got lots and lots of things to chew on so she'll never need to chew on our shoes (which BTW sit about a meter from her bed and she never touches them!)

08 February 2013

Sorry Mrs. L

Sometimes language difficulties are funny.  Sometimes, not so much.  Recently, I had one of those not-so-much events.

First off, a bit of language explanation.  The words for hot and cold in Croatian are:  toplo (hot), hladno (cold).  I don't have trouble remembering toplo because they have these toplo springs here (hot springs) and the word toplo just naturally sticks in my brain as hot/warm.

But hladno is another story.  In my brain, I associate hladno with hot.  No matter what, there it is.  I think it is because in English, we don't have too many words starting with the letter 'h' and hot is one of those words.  Also, whenever you see a water tap in English, they'll have an 'h' for hot, and a 'c' for cold.  So again the 'h' means hot for me.

So, a few weeks ago, my kindly, nicest, friendliest neighbour, Mrs. L, came by for a quick visit and I made us some coffee.  I personally like to drink my espresso with a little extra hot water and I always ask people if they want extra water in their coffee.  Mrs. L said she'd love some, please...but some hladno water.  So, I went off and poured extra boiling water in her coffee.  And she, thinking I had added extra cold water to cool the coffee,  took a huge slurp.  And just about had a heart attack.

I was mortified to my soul.  Poor Mrs. L was very gracious about it, but it was just one of those moments that drives home how very important it is to learn, understand, and be aware of this language in a more fluent way.  I'm getting there (not as fast as I'd like, but I'm going in the right direction). 

I just gotta figure out how to remember that hladno is cold.  Somehow.

04 February 2013

Orange. Crunchy. Loved by rabbits.

The Croatian language has lots of words that are identical except for one letter.   For example:

ljudi (people)  /   ludi (crazy)  This one gets me into trouble quite a bit.

pisati (to write)   /   piĊĦati  (to, um, urinate)  This one also gets me into trouble every time.

mrtva (dead)   /   mrkva  (carrot)

This last one made for an awkward moment when I was talking to someone about the economy.  I thought I was sounding pretty intelligent, saying that the economy around the world was dead but I believed that it would recover soon.  But turns out I was saying that the economy was a carrot.


It did give me a great idea for a new invention for expats with language issues:  a remote control device that can be carried in a pocket on a key chain.  When a major language boo-boo occurs, the expat can press the remote control, triggering a tiny wormhole to open up, transporting said expat back 26 seconds and allowing the expat enough time to use the proper word in the conversation or avoid the word altogether.

Hey, a girl can dream  ;-)

07 January 2013

YouTube Haircut

I decide to make 2013 the year of bold firsts.  And I have already accomplished my first bold move by giving myself a haircut after watching a few how-to videos on YouTube.  For real.  I think I mentioned it before, but I have very curly hair that is rather unruly and I haven't been able to find a hairdresser in Croatia who specializes in cutting curly hair.  And it is a specialty.  All you other curly-haired folks out there are nodding your heads in agreement right now...because you know exactly what I mean.

So my hair had gotten rather tumble-weed-ish, and I decided that it really couldn't be that hard to cut.  I checked out a bunch of videos on YouTube, took out my trusty scissors, and about 20 minutes later, I had a pretty passable layered curly cut.  Not bad for my first try.

It has given me confidence to try some more new things this year.  Who knows what'll be next...