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Category Archives: Organization/Company Review

Christmas Craft Along – Week 4

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This week I want to talk about where to buy handmade gifts here in Prague.  One of the things I like about living here is that there are still numerous tiny, privately owned shops that sell things you can’t get in big chain stores.

First of all, in Prague 2, is a place called Momo that specializes in little handmade things, mostly fabric based and earrings.  The proceeds from this shop go to help local orphanages, so not only are you supporting local craftsmen, you are also helping children.

Not far from Momo is Cafe Rozmar.  Cafe Rozmar is actually a nice cafe/restaurant, with food ranging from decent to excellent at reasonable prices.  I mention Rozmar here because they are a charity cafe and proceeds from the cafe go to supporting their work with children transitioning from the orphanages to independent life.  They also employ some of the people they are helping. So, if you are looking to give someone a gift certificate, while not completely handmade, I do recommend one from Rozmar.

Scattered around Prague are also a number of festivals and markets which sell handmade goods, and getting stuff at these is just a matter of being at the right place with enough pocket money.  I have yet to find where all these markets are listed, as they range from farmer markets to holiday markets to festival markets, so I tend to stumble upon them quite by accident.  However, I always manage to pick up a little something, whether woodwork, beadwork, lace, or other needlework.

Another place to find handmade gifts in Prague is in the Catholic churches with monasteries and cloisters attached to them.  For instance, St. Thomas on Mala Strana sells its own beer (proceeds go to repairing the roof) and at least twice a year hosts a bazaar where a local group of nuns sells their traditional Czech handcrafts. Other churches have similar bazaars, but, like the festivals and markets above, it is a matter of stumbling upon them with enough pocket money, as they are not centrally listed somewhere.

I cannot blog about handmade gifts in Prague without mentioning Charles Bridge.  There are numerous artists and vendors on Charles Bridge, selling woodwork, paintings, music, glassware, and other things.  Some of the vendors are actually the artists, others are not.  I have a love/hate relationship with Charles Bridge, like most people who actually have to live here in Prague.  There are so many tourists there, even in the dismal winter, and the prices are always way more than similar things off the bridge.  That being said, Husband is getting a cd of this band, who really are great fun to watch and listen to.

Finally, I would also like to mention Manufaktura, but with some reservation.  The good things about Manufaktura are that they sell a lot of traditional things handmade by Czech artists (handprinted cloth anyone? how about a straw nativity scene? wooden toys?)  and there is also a certain level of quality control involved, so you are relatively guaranteed that you are buying something well made.  On the other hand, Manufaktura is jaw-droppingly expensive for Czech, so it is only tourists that really shop there.  It follows that I can’t speak to how much of the price actually goes back to the artists, but at least there are a number of Manufaktura stores around Prague that take debit/credit cards, so you don’t have to stumble upon them with a pocket full of cash.

Prague offers a number of places to buy handmade gifts and items for the home and life, which is one of the more endearing aspects of living here.  Though I do miss my charity shops in Britain, I do value being able to support local shop owners and artists.

This year’s Lambeth Country Show

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I’m up to my eyeballs in writing my dissertation, but I wanted to share the link to the programme for this year’s Lambeth Country Show.  It’s this weekend, and you can find information about it here.

If you get a chance, it is good fun.

Purlbee

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On Mondays, I try to post some kind of a Mend and Make Do item, but I don’t really have any finished products to show off this week.   Thanks to a neighbor, though, I have come across a website that has become an inspiration for a number of future products.

Purlbee is a fantastic resource for those who do needlework and/or sew.  It has loads of patterns and instructions for just about anything decorative you could need around the house or on your body.  I was looking for a few ideas for upcoming wedding presents and whatnot, and have come away inspired.  Sister-in-law has also become addicted to Purlbee’s patterns and ideas, and started a few over the weekend.

The only thing I can see that is going to be a problem is materials.  Purlbee has very specific recommendations for organic yarns that might be difficult to replace with something more affordable, especially in some of the larger items.  Still, this website is a great place for knitting, sewing, and crochet ideas, plus she provides well-explained patterns and tutorials, so it really is a goldmine of information.

Have fun browsing, and please let me know what you think.  Do you think these things are doable?  Or are they a bit out in la-la land, like some of Martha Stewart’s stuff?

A day at the Borough Market

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I don’t want to keep plugging things to do in London, because I know most people won’t get a chance to be here.  On the other hand, if you do ever get to London, then here is another place that you should definitely visit.  The Borough Market, located next to Southwark Cathedral near London Bridge, has been continually ranked as the top outdoor food market in London.  The food here is outstanding, and surprisingly affordable.  The market has a number of butchers, fish mongers, fruit and veg dealers, olives and cheese, cheese, cheese.  Also, several of the traders offer GF breads and cakes.  Many will also be able to tell you if their goods are GF.  It is only open on Fridays and Saturdays, where Friday is usually much calmer with fewer vendors and visitors.  Saturday, on the other hand, is chock full of both visitors and vendors, and you can sample your way around quite easily before finally deciding on a purchase.

Hands down, some of the best food I’ve had in London has come from Borough Market.  Sillfield Farm’s bacon and chicken, Monmouth’s coffee, Neal’s Yard Dairy cheeses, that Welsh guy’s cheese, the yogurt vendor who only comes on Saturday, Borough Market Olives, the place that sells artesian cider, Konditor and Cook,  oak-smoked dried tomatoes, I am going to have to stop typing to wipe the drool off of my mouth. 

There are people in green at the various entrances to help you find your way, and one of the nice things about Borough Market is the sense of community between the shoppers and the vendors.  It’s nice to go to a place where people are quite passionate about making your life taste better, especially if it’s a GF life.

Oh yeah, and what has got to be the ultimate GF answer to a greasy burger on the street, that odd potato, pickle and cheese concoction made by Kappacasein, really does taste as good as it smells.

A really cool WWII day out

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We had been meaning to go to Duxford for ages, but just never got around to it.  There was simply always something more interesting going on in London, plus we didn’t have the convenience of a car.  Now that we have a car, we were sitting around over the weekend trying to think up a day trip that would interest all of us, including Daughter.  So we piled into the car and went off to Duxford. (To be fair, you don’t actually need a car to get there, but it helps.)

There are no words to describe Duxford for WWII buffs, beyond “absolutely necessary”.  I saw a Spitfire fly for the first time in my life, and we also got quite close to a Junkers and an intact, most likely restored, Messerschmitt.  On top of that, there were loads of Spitfires, Hurricanes, and Mustangs on display, plus any number of other really cool planes.  They even have a test Concorde that you can walk through.

We didn’t even get into the specially-designated WWII hanger, since there was a special event going on that day, but we are going back in October.  We also didn’t make it into the Land Warfare hanger.  On the other hand, we did get to see acrobatic pilots demonstrating dog-fighting and the Spitfire.  I had so much fun, I felt like a kid again.  Husband had an especially fun time quizzing me on WWII history at the Battle of Britain exhibit.

One caveat though, because it is quite expensive to get in.  I think it runs about 16 quid a person, 12 for concessions.  Husband got in free because he’s an IWM member, and Daughter did as well, since she is under 6, so we only had to pay for me.  Still, when I think of the amount of exhibits, the planes, the size of the place, and the fact that we had to bribe Daughter back into the car even though we’d been there for five hours already, I think it’s probably worth it.  I should probably also mention that we took Sister-in-Law and her brother, neither of whom are plane or WWII buffs, and they had a great time too.  So, yes, the entrance price is high, but it is so cool once you get in.

And yes, we’ve already planned our next trip back…

A visit to the London Aquarium

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Daughter had been wanting to go to the London Aquarium for ages (really, ages), and I finally took her over summer break.  We tried to go once earlier, but if you don’t get there bang on time when it opens, you can be stuck waiting in a very long queue, only to have to nudge people out of the way when you are inside.  So we went early and during the week, which doesn’t actually stop the throngs of tourists, but we were able to get in quite quickly anyway.

The worst part of the London Aquarium is the entrance fee, ouch.  I paid twenty-five pounds for the two of us to get in, which is about forty-three US dollars, but it would have been cheaper if I had one of those 2-for-1 vouchers that are available at some of the train stations (I know Southeastern does this, at least).  For those of you who don’t live in London, twenty-five pounds for two people to get into an attraction is outrageous, even in London, unless you’re a tourist (then it seems to be normal, but I digress).

Once we were inside, we had a great time.  There is a path to follow, but there are so many kids that it is okay to cross back and forth, i.e. going through it all and then back-tracking to do it again.  We didn’t get to see the octopus or the sea cucumber, as they were both hiding, but we did get to talk to the expert at the Shark Walk for about ten minutes.  We also didn’t see any of the feedings, but that was more me avoiding crowds than anything else.  There is also a craft station about 3/4 of the way through, which was a nice break, and it had a variety of things to do (mostly coloring and stenciling, but you could also pay to do a sand craft, I think).

The second worst part of the visit, and my biggest complaint, is the store that you have to walk through in order to get out of the aquarium.  I hate that.  Really, after forking over twenty-five quid to start with, you can bet I’m not parting with more money at the end, especially not for some cheap toy that you can also get at Sea World and any other ocean attraction.  I was a bit disappointed too, because the children’s books they had about sealife and oceans weren’t that good either, and that was the one thing I might have considered getting.

However, it was well worth the trip. I can’t say that this is something that we are going to repeat anytime soon, given the cost, but both Daughter and I had quite a lot of fun, and it is a very family friendly place.  Daughter also learned a few things about oceans and oceanlife, but we put a bit of work into getting ready for our aquarium trip (see below).  So, I think if you need to keep a child entertained in London for two-three hours, and you don’t mind splashing out a bit of money, the aquarium is well worth a visit.

For those who are interested, I turned Daughter’s interest in sealife and the aquarium into a theme cycle.  We read lots of picture books with sea themes, like The Rainbow Fish, and we also read a few non-fiction books about sea life.  We had been at the Horniman’s the week earlier, where they have a small aquarium, so we spent some time there making general observations and thinking of questions we wanted to answer.  I also picked up some of their worksheets, so Daughter worked on those the few days before we went down to the London Aquarium.  After our trip, Daughter put together a memory book about what she had seen and wanted to remember.  She drew the pictures, and then I wrote down the passages she dictated to me.  We also followed up with a Discovery channel show on sharks and a few more worksheets from the aquarium.  It was worth the effort, because Daughter was able to talk to the different experts available at the aquarium and ask them questions that she wanted answered.  We might do one final activity, writing a story about fish or the ocean, but only if Daughter is interested.

Not Quite WWII

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Okay, this is just a quick post, and probably only relevant to anyone who is going to be in London within the next nine months, but we just went to the new Terrible Trenches exhibit at the IWM.  It is 100% kid friendly, but informative enough to keep adults entertained too.  Daughter spent about forty minutes in there running around trying everything (ever smelled mustard gas?), and she says her favorite part was the bit about the latrines.  Some of the video clips were a bit distressing for her, but we just moved on when she thought it was too much.

My only complaint is that they end the exhibit with a store, so that children are certain to ask for something before you can get out.  Obviously memorabilia sales are a source of income for the museum, and I regularly buy things there, but I don’t like being trapped like that.  You do have to pay to get into the exhibit, unless you are a Museum Friend, but the prices didn’t seem too over the top for me, given that it is a special exhibit.

Anyway, for anyone how might be interested, I contextualized it first by taking Daugther through the WWI section down in the basement, and we talked specifically about trench warfare while we were exploring their models down there.  Then I asked her if she wanted to go through the big trench exhibit, so we did, even if I had to carry her.  Then we went up to the Terrible Trenches, which she now calls the “kids’ trench”.  After that, she asked to go back through the big trench, which she did by herself without being scared, and she was able to talk about the different aspects of the big trench exhibit.  She now knows some of the differences between WWI and WWII, and she keeps asking to go back to the kids’ trench.  Judging by her reaction and all of the other kids’ laughter, I think the exhibit is a success.