How is it already January? Anyone else feel like the winter Olympics were last month (probably just me)?
November and December have been absolutely crazy months for us. We were in six different countries (seven if you count a week in the UK during mid-October) including about a month away from home. I’m REALLY far behind on updating everyone on the amazing places we’ve been this year, along with the continuous atrociousness that is USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and the USOC (spoiler alert: it’s even worse if that’s possible, but I’m sure you already guessed that).
Because we’re in a new year and I love making lists, this post will include 2018’s #allthethings : life things, my favorite things, traveling things, food things. You know, my usual rambling.
Here’s the Thing: Sometimes Life is Good and Bad.
Like most things, 2018 was both wonderful and terrible. This year I was forced to really start to put a lot of my own experiences in perspective; a combination of the #metoo movement, Nassar victim impact statements, and constant discussion of abuse made avoiding my own history inescapable. I learned that I need to start taking my emotional and mental health more seriously rather than continue my usual tactic of ignore, ignore, ignore.
I learned that I’m not alone.
This year I laughed until my stomach hurt, sat at the edge of the world, and ate an obscene amount of sweets with my coffee. I was able to see my family, my friends, and experience new places with the people I love. I had carrot cake cheesecake for my birthday, walked Prague with two of my favorite boys (Ike and Chris), won a fantasy football true crime league, and hosted more get-togethers than I can count.
Looking back, my heart is both broken and full. I’m so incredibly thankful for everything I have and accomplished this year.
There is pressure during the new year to make a fresh start. In a lot of ways a new beginning sounds great, but in a lot ways it doesn’t. I’m in a sort of weird in-between limbo right now. And you know what? That’s fucking okay. I am striving to just be content with where I’m at rather than put pressure on myself to move too quickly (one of my intentions for 2019).
Before I start my lists, I want to take a moment to speak on one the hardest months of my life. In January Ike was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given weeks to live. We were completely devastated. At only eight years old and in great health, the diagnosis came as a complete shock.
Ike came from a longggggg line of Boston Terriers; we adopted his grandad Skittles when I was in middle school. He (and Porkchop) have always been such a constant in my life that letting him go was one of the absolute most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.
Thankfully the diagnosis proved to be incorrect in that the masses on his liver and pancreas weren’t in fact cancer. That news however, was coupled with the fact that the small mass in his chest (right between his lungs and heart) could prove to be fatal.
After two months of chemotherapy, I had high hopes that he could recover. Ike was a tough and stubborn dog; his abdominal masses were shrinking and he was doing great. When he started having issues breathing I hoped it might just be due to the change in the weather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The mass in his chest was growing. And there was nothing we could do to stop it.
The vet told me this was a difficult way to pass away… and we would know when the end was here. We didn’t want our best boy to suffer. Even now, I can’t even talk about that day and the morning I had to make that decision, never knowing if it was right. I’m just so incredibly thankful to Chris, my friends here in Papa and far away, my family, and of course, Porkchop and Arya.
I still expect him to grumpily come inside out of the rain or itch his face on the covers every morning. Chris still looks for him when he comes back from traveling for work. Arya and Porkchop were both really confused at first, but I think are doing better. PC really misses his little brother. We all miss this little guy.
I don’t really know how to end this except to say how heartbroken I still am. Some days are easier. Other days are really hard. If you’re reading this and are working through something difficult that happened to you this year, just know that you’re not alone. And its 100% okay to feel sad or guilty or angry or a combination of any and all the emotions.
Best Places of 2018:
This year we saw incredible new places and had the opportunity to visit old favorites.
Places we visited in 2018:
Belfast (and the coast), Northern Ireland
Prague, Czech Republic
San Francisco, USA
I’m extremely thankful to have the chance to visit a couple of our favorite spots with friends and family who made the leap over the ocean to spend time with us in Europe.
Choosing my absolute favorite places is virtually impossible. Taking into account a number of factors, here are my picks for 2018 (in no particular order):
Honorable mentions go to Budapest because of so many reasons, but specifically the Budapest Beer Week that was absolutely awesome.
Favorite Concerts of 2018:
This year was THE year of shows for us. We saw a ton of our usual musicians (Pokey LaFarge) and a couple of new ones (FINALLY Flight of the Conchords went on tour). Here’s a list of everyone we saw live in 2018:
A Perfect Circle
Flight of the Conchords
Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three
They Might be Giants
My favorite shows of 2018:
Special shout-out to Jane Goodall, who spoke in Budapest this year. Technically not a band, but it was truly a dream come true to see her in real life.
Favorite Books of 2018:
This year I surpassed my goal and read 41 books! 2018 was definitely a year of nerding out both in fiction and non-fiction. I joined a couple of book clubs (one here in Papa that connects readers from all over the world, Now Read This!A NYT/NPR collaboration, and of course Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf). My favorites are definitely influenced by a lot of the personal struggles I had this year. Here are my top books published in 2018:
#8. Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out (Erin E. Moulton): An anthology of stories of sexual assault, Things We Haven’t Said is a powerful book on why survivors struggle with speaking out on their experiences through providing an outlet to victims who typically don’t have one.
#7. Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Kate Manne): A professor of philosophy at Cornell University, Manne states that misogyny is “a social and political phenomenon with psychological, structural, and institutional manifestations” that enforce gender roles that continue to influence society today. Detailing the impact of these ideas both culturally and institutionally, Manne’s book provides context on why we expect (and allow, and in some ways, forgive) actions of one group of people over another.
#6. Heart Berries: A Memoir (Terese Marie Mailhot): Mailhot’s memoir is raw and at times difficult to read. A Native author, this beautifully written book details her life in crisis: poverty, overcoming multiple disorders, losing custody of her child, growing up with an absent mother, and life on the Seabrid Island First Nation Indian reservation in British Columbia.
#5. A Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law (Sherrilyn Ifill, Loretta Lynch, Bryan Stevenson, and Anthony C. Thompson): This slim book (128 tiny pages) is a discussion on race in America by the leading civil rights leaders in the field. Their conversation on inequality and changing culture and institutions was one of my favorites this year.
#4. Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens): Owens’ first novel, Where the Crawdads Sing is a gorgeously written story of a girl growing up alone in the marshes of North Carolina. I adored not only the descriptions (it reminded me so much of Charleston) but also Kya’s story of persevering on her own and in her own way.
#3. Educated (Tara Westover): I finished Tara Westover’s memoir in two absolutely brutal days. Educated tells the remarkable story of Westover’s life from being born (sometime, her actual date of birth is unknown) to survivalist parents. Their mistrust of medicine and education meant that she had very little experience of the outside world. Her desire and determination to leave home for education (eventually a PhD and at the disapproval of her family) is one of the most incredible (and impressive) stories I’ve read all year.
#2. One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying our Democracy (Carol Anderson): Anderson discusses the implications of the 2016 election–the first in fifty years to be held without the complete protections of the Voting Rights Act–and how voter suppression systematically blocks the ability of many Americans to submit their ballots. Her work details the impact of Jim Crow and voter requirement laws implemented after the abolishment of slavery, the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters leading up to the Civil Rights Act, and the continuous suppression through various laws and redistricting today.
#1. I’ll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (Michelle McNamara): My favorite book of 2018 is McNamara’s account of her obsession to help catch one the of the most horrifying rapists and murderers in United States history, the Golden State Killer (a name she coined). I’ll be Gone in the Dark is so well-written that you feel her passion and dedication to find the man who assaulted more than fifty woman and killed ten people on each page. The chilling final chapter–McNamara is speaking directly to GTK–and her prediction of how he might be caught is eerily similar to way it actually happened in reality, although she passed away unexpectedly before he was arrested.
There are also a ton of great books I read this year that were published before 2018 including Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram W. Kendi and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
Favorite Brunches of 2018:
It’s no surprise that brunch is my absolute favorite meal. Here are my favorites from 2018:
Favorite Podcasts of 2018:
I love podcasts. Sometimes I don’t turn on our TV for what feels like weeks because (nerd alert) I’ve discovered a new show and binged all the episodes in a few days. Similar to my book choices, my favorite podcasts are heavily influenced by a lot of my personal struggles and growth this year. Here are my favorite podcasts published in 2018:
#8. Believed (National Public Radio): The goal of Believed is to answer the question so many people have asked: How did Larry Nassar get away with decades of abuse to hundreds of girls and women? Their interviews with survivors and parents can be an extremely difficult listen, but necessary if we want to learn how to change the system that allowed for this abuse to occur for so long.
#7. Keep It! (Crooked Media): Keep It! is my weekly guilty pleasure podcast. Hosted by Ira Madison III, Kara Brown, and Louis Virtel, they hilariously discuss the intersection of pop culture and politics. Kara also has my favorite frustrated statement of 2018: “people just need to read!”
#6. Uncivil (Gimlit Media): The only reason Uncivil isn’t number one on my list is because most of their episodes were published in 2017 and therefore didn’t qualify as a “2018” show. Discovered late this year, this was one of my binges of 2018. Each episode “ransacks America’s past” and tells an untold story related to the Civil War.
#5. My Favorite Murder (Exactly Right): My favorite true crime podcast, MFM is hosted by Karen Kilgarariff and Georgia Hardstark. Each week they share stories of murder, cults, and hometown stories from listeners. Not only discussing true crime, Karen and Georgia are also super open about their own struggles with mental health, finding time for self-care, and sparked a million taglines including the famous “stay sexy and don’t get murdered”, “you’re in a cult, call your dad”, and my personal favorite: “can’t you see from my really thick black eyeliner that I’m no one’s mother?”
#4. R U Talkin’ REM: Re: ME? (Earwolf): As stated by Scott Aukerman, it truly is the year of R U Talkin’ REM Re: Me. Hosted by the superfan Adam Scott Aukerman (Adam Scott [Parks & Rec] and Aukerman [the hugely underrated Comedy Bang Bang!]), this podcast discusses the impact of R.E.M.’s music album by album. Their banter is hilarious and each episode is filled with smaller episodes (“Is this an episode of ‘I Love Films?'”) that Chris and I always played during our hours on the road this year.
#3. GymCastic: The Gymnastics Podcast (Gymcastic): Definitely a niche podcast for fans of the sport, Gymcastic makes the top of my list not only because of their analysis of the sport (and mostly hilarious takes on competition, scoring, and love for the athletes) but their unrelenting dedication to discussing the Larry Nassar abuse that finally began to garner mainstream media coverage this year. Each week hosts Jessica and Spencer held MSU, USA Gymnastics, and the USOC accountable and provided an outlet to athletes and survivors. Their coverage of not just the abuse, but of the cover-up and mismanagement makes Gymcastic one of the my favorites this year.
#2. Serial Season Three: The Cleveland Court System (This American Life): Rather than focus on one particular story (unlike seasons one and two) season three instead tells the “extraordinary stories of ordinary stories” taking place at a courthouse in Cleveland. These largely untold narratives of people working through the complicated (and convoluted) justice system was one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking podcasts I listened to in 2018.
#1. Scene on Radio Season Three: Men (The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University): I loved season two (“Seeing White” featuring Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, host of Uncivil) so I was really looking forward to season three of Duke University’s podcast. With the goal of discussing “How did we get sexism, patriarchy, misogyny in the first place? How can we get better at seeing it, and what can we do about it?” hosts Jown Biewen and Celeste Headlee tackle a topic each week and provide feedback on how we can combat these systems. The episode “Himpathy” was the most difficult and impactful for me; it featured input from Kate Manne on not only why survivors of abuse feel sympathy for their abusers, but also how society does as well.
Extra love to Pardon My Take and Fantasy Football Focus, which I binged throughout the entire NFL season.
Favorite TV Shows of 2018:
This year I hardly watched any new shows (too much reading and podcasting I suppose) so my list is embarrassingly small. But here are the shows you absolutely need to watch:
Here’s to 2019!
Currently Reading: My Sister, the Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite)
A very belated part 2 of our visit to Prague! You can read part 1 here.
Where are we?
This blog post I’m concentrating on our time in Old Town, on the right side of the river.
Old Town (or Staré Město) dates all the way back to 1100 AD when the settlement was known for trade, particularly markets held on Saturdays. After the traders gained wealth, King Wenceslaus I of Bohemia granted them the privileges of township and Město pražské was formed; originally the town was surrounded by a moat and 13 gates.
Restaurants & Pubs:
We stopped by Sisters for sandwiches and the restaurant is a great place for a quick snack. Opened by two sisters, the shop specializes in “chlebicek” or open faced sandwiches. There were a ton of varieties but I couldn’t say no to the beet puree.
Fat Catis the perfect place for burgers and sides. The burgers were YYYUUUUUGGGEEE and they had a ton of options for all types of eaters. They also had a number of beers on tap. I forgot to take a picture because I was so overwhelmed by how amazing and how much food we ordered. We had an awesome time with friends.
Prague Beer Museum:
With over thirty beers on tap and one of the best places to try Czech brews, the Prague Beer Museum was our favorite pub. Prague is the beer capital of Eastern Europe and the selection at Prague Beer Museum definitely represented that title.
Joystick Arcade Bar:
An AMAZING find, the Joystick Arcade Baris one of the underground gems of Prague. Filled with old school video games (include Sonic the Hedgehog and Jurassic Park Pinball!!!!!) we had a blast playing games while enjoying a few beers with friends. Okay, so I probably played Jurassic Park Pinball for at least an hour….
Klášterní Pivovar Strahov:
Records of this small microbrewery in Old Town show that the operation was around as early as the 13th century. Today Klášterní Pivovar Strahov includes a courtyard, restaurant, and three beers on tap. Highly recommend for a good local beer while visiting Old Town.
Special Mention Bric a Brack Antiques:
Bric a Brack Antiques was one of the coolest shops in Old Town. We stumbled onto the shop by accident and I could have stayed there the entire day looking at treasures.
This March we spent a few days in Prague, Czech Republic and we had such a great time (read: I took too many pictures) that I thought it might be best to split this adventure up into two separate posts. We spent our first day in Malá Strana and wandering around the left side of the Vltava River.
Where are we?
The capital and largest city in the Czech Republic, Prague is about a four and a half hour drive for us. Having been in existence for over a thousand years, the city is known for its many historical and cultural sites, as well as an expanding food and beer scene. Germanic tribes replaced the Celtics living in modern-day Prague around 100 BC. In 400 AD the fall of the Roman Empire caused most of these Germanic peoples to move west to Germany; Slavic tribes from Russia and Asia replaced them by the end of the sixth century.
Prague was officially founded by Princess Libuše, an ancestor of the Přemyslid dynasty and the Czech people. The youngest and wisest of three sisters, she became queen after their father died. She held the gift of foreseeing the future, legend states that upon seeing the Vltava River from a cliff, Libuše prophesied:
“I see a great city whose glory will touch the stars.”
She then ordered the castle to be built overlooking the river. Construction started in the late 8th century and you can still read some of the masonry under the castle dating back to 885. Another fun Libuše legend I wanted to share: When the male leaders of her tribe were unhappy with a woman ruling, they demanded she marry. Libuše, already in love with a plowman named Přemysl, claimed to have a vision of a farmer with one broken sandal plowing a field. The councilmen found Přemysl in nearby Stadice just as she said; the two were married and had three sons.
The city is divided by the Vlata River. This first post I’ll just concentrate on our time in Malá Strana and the left bank of the river.
After wandering around Malá Strana looking for a couple of bars that were only open in the summer (damn seasonality!) we found Malostranská Pivnice on our way back to the apartment. Apparently the pub is located on a former hangman’s house built in 1664 and was opened as a bar in 2002.
I wish I had taken more photos but I was wayyyyy too distracted by the amazing accordion player who was taking folk requests from a group of Russians in the pub. I uploaded these amazing jams hereand here.
Cafe Lounge had an amazing breakfast and coffee menu. The restaurant had a really cool art-deco Great Gatsby vibe that was super cute.
I was overenthusiastic about sitting outside (in March) and the barista kindly reminded us that no normal person wants to enjoy their brunch outdoors during this time of the year. Inside it is!
The Farm Letna: Urban Kitchen & Coffee:
Breakfast all day, changing menu each week, and bike rentals, what else do you need in life? We had lunch at Farm Letna our last morning in Prague.
The restaurant concentrates on using locally sourced produce, meat, and coffee. Shockingly, I chose lunch over breakfast (I know!) because that day they had a soup special that sounded great.
I had the best beet-based veggie burger of my life and Chris had the club sandwich, which was a perfect opportunity to state all of the Lion King “cub” sandwich puns from the elephant graveyard scene.
Up Next: Prague Part 2 including Old Town, Beer Museums, and the quest for Jurassic Park arcade games.