Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Late Thanksgiving!

We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!!! For the last 4 years we have been away from our families during Thanksgiving, but we were with our Vanderbilt family so that was still great. This year was a little different. Obviously we were in a different country, and since nobody here celebrates Thanksgiving we had to make some plans of our own. We had the day off which was great! We slept in and then went to lunch at our usual place. After that, we went to the grocery store and picked up some things that we needed in order to cook or own Thanksgiving meal. We borrowed some pots and pans from a teammate so that our cooking would go a little faster.

I (Tina) started off cooking the green bean casserole. That is definitely one of my favorite Thanksgiving foods so that was one thing we had to have. Jen was in charge of the mashed potatoes, and I must say she did a fantastic job. After those two things were taken care of, I got the corn cooking and then turned my attention to the gravy. Jen and I both love gravy, and we agree that it is one of the most important parts of a successful Thanksgiving meal. Well, let me just say that we were pretty darn close to having an unsuccessful meal if we were basing it off of our gravy! I must have looked up 15 different recipes before settling on the one that sounded the best. Granted, we didn’t have a turkey (we ate chicken instead) so that meant we didn’t have any drippings or anything. I started making the gravy using some flour, olive oil, beef broth, and some other ingredients. It hadn’t been cooking for 2 minutes before the flour completely decided to take over and form the chunkiest, lumpiest “gravy” I have ever seen. We added water, more broth, more oil, and whatever other liquids we could find to try to make that lump resemble something similar to gravy, but that flour had a mind of its own. Failed attempt #1. We decided to try again. At this point, the rest of our food is pretty much getting cold, but oh well. The meal would not be complete without gravy. We tried again using much less flour and much more broth. The flour immediately clumped together and just started floating around in the broth. After trying to break it apart, we decided to just scoop it out and try to at least save the broth. Failed attempt #2. I decided to look up another recipe completely. This one called for ½ cup of flour, but we only ended up using about 2 tablespoons…we had already seen what happened with the other two attempts…we didn’t want to make that mistake again. I have to say, this gravy didn’t exactly taste like gravy, but it was a liquid so we were happy about that, and we decided to just go with it. We cooked the chicken, heated up the rest of the food that was now cold, and then sat down for our feast. DELICIOUS! In spite of the gravy fiasco, our meal was a success! And to be honest, once the gravy was mixed with some mashed potatoes and chicken, it wasn’t half bad. We topped off our feast with a little sparkling cider (another Thanksgiving necessity, in my opinion). It’s always tough to be away from your family and friends during the holidays, but I am just so thankful that I can be with my best friend sharing all of these fun experiences!

I love Thanksgiving, and I’m so happy that Jen and I were able to find ways to celebrate. We have so much to be thankful! I know I speak for both of us when I say that we are thankful for our families, our friends, all of the amazing opportunities we have been given, and most of all for Jesus who died for us and who shows His love to us every day.

Now that Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is just around the corner, I can’t wait to start getting in the Christmas spirit! I will be making a CD of Christmas songs very soon, and I’m sure we will start watching some of our favorite Christmas movies in the next couple of days! Oh, and we are going home in 24 days! Starting the countdown…

Until next time,
Jen and Tina

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” -James 1:17

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vienna, Austria

In our last blog, Tina talked about our new kitty Šimon. He has been a lot of fun. He is a very active little kitty! He also poops a ton! We aren’t going to feed him as much because he doesn’t know how to control himself. We had to leave him for a day or so when we left for our trip to Vienna, Austria. He was not very happy with us when we came back. All he did was meow at us. Tina and I felt horrible. It was almost like he was yelling at us for leaving him so long. I never knew a cat knew how to work a guilt trip!


The trip to Vienna was a lot of fun. Tina and I made cookies for all the girls to eat on the way there. The bus ride took about 7 hours with a few stops in between. We drove past Budapest which was beautiful! We thought we were in Vienna because Vacki, one of our teammates, told us we were in Vienna. It was very dark so we couldn’t tell. We thought, “wow that was a fast trip!” Then she said, “Oh sorry, I was just kidding.” We were so mad ;-) Vienna was 2 ½ hours past Budapest. We got to Vienna really late. Tina, Vacki, and I were roommates. We laughed and talked for a bit then went to sleep. Someone woke me up on the middle of the night with her snoring and it wasn’t Tina! (SMH) We had asked her if she did that kind of thing and she said no….

The next day we woke up for breakfast. I had a couple pieces of bread with butter on it. The European style breakfast has been a little different compared to the US. There is always coffee, tea, ham, cereal, and warm milk. Sometimes there are hard boiled eggs and jam. I was still hungry after breakfast, but I heard there was a McDonald's in town so I knew I wouldn’t be hungry all day :)

We went to the gym next for a short practice. This was the first time we ever had practice or a “shoot around” before the game. I’m glad we did because Tina and I got use to the slippery floor and worn down WNBA balls. Shoot around was interesting. We played a game of 5 on 5. Each team had to play zone. I didn’t want to get worn out before the game, but as soon as he said, “No dribbling,” I knew I wouldn’t be tired at all. Just frustrated.

After our one hour practice we had to leave the hotel by 12. The game wasn’t until 6:30pm, so we had a lot of time to kill. We ate lunch at this restaurant in the gym and then we were off to see Vienna. Vienna was a pretty city. We saw their Parliament, Center, and different markets that they have during Christmas. It was a nice city, but I wish we would have had a chance to see other parts of Vienna. We looked up so many beautiful buildings before the trip. We thought we would get to see most of them, but only saw one. It was still nice being in a different country. The people in Austria speak German. It was a good thing we had Vacki with us because she studied and played in Austria for a little bit and learned the language. To kill time we went to good ol’ McDonalds, a very cool park for kids, and talked with different people who spoke English. After all of our different adventures we took a tram through the city back to the gym.

The Game…

We were so tired before the game from walking and site seeing. Tina and I were thinking, “hope this doesn’t affect how we play.” It didn’t one bit. What affected us the most was the refereeing. Before the game, one of our teammates told us not to talk to these refs because they were bad and would give us technical fouls. We were thinking, “uh oh.”

The other team had two American players and one player who played in America but was from Slovakia. Tina and I both were excited to play against other Americans and to speak in English during the game with them.

The start of the game was crazy! The ref blew his whistle at least 5 times in the first minute of play. Travel…carry…travel…foul…carry… We didn’t know what to think. One girl was literally walking and dribbling and the ref called her for carrying. I have never played in a game before with horrible refs like this. I know we all complain about calls sometimes, or think it cant get any worse, but I mean it when I say, THEY WERE HORRIBLE! Six people fouled out. Six others had 4 fouls. We would talk to the other Americans during the game and ask what was wrong with their refs. They would reply…I don’t know they hate us! We would laugh at almost ever call and talk about it. The fans were going crazy because of the lack of basketball knowledge on their part. My coach got a technical for saying, “Hey, Hey, Hey!” haha Tina and I laughed a lot during the game. I have never felt this feeling in a game before. I actually felt like the other team was sort of a part of our team, and we were all playing against the refs. It was like one big joke on everyone in the gym put on by the refs. I really wish we could have won the game, but it was completely out of our control. Even the other team felt as though they lost. I’m shaking my head right now thinking…. “I don’t ever want to play a basketball game in Austria again.” After the game we laughed and shook hands. I told the Americans on the other team to not worry about this game. When they come to Slovakia they will be able to enjoy the game and maybe have fun. I’m not saying our refs are good, but after experiencing those refs, let’s just say I’m thankful for the ones we have.

*Jen and Tina

Sometimes in life we want things to go our way, but we need to remember that God says in Proverbs 19:21…"Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails."

Pray for God’s plan for your life.

If you want to see more pictures of our trip to Vienna, just copy and paste the following link:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our New Friend Šimon

We have a kitty! His name is Šimon (it’s pronounced ‘Simon’ but with an ‘sh’). We were at lunch last week and then after lunch we decided to go to the bank to finish getting some things set up with our accounts. It’s about a 5 minute walk from the restaurant to the bank. We were walking, and it was kinda raining a little bit. We had walked about one minute when I (Tina) heard a ‘meow.’ I looked around and saw a cute little kitty sitting underneath a parked car. It looked so sad and cold being out in the rain. I walked over to it and stuck my hand out towards it and it came right to me. A car drove by and it ran under the car again but then it came right back out to me. Jen was standing on the sidewalk and told me to pick it up. I picked it up, and it just curled right up in my arms. We started walking with it to the bank, talking about what to do with it. When we got to the bank, we didn’t want to leave it outside so we took it in with us. We figured that if anyone had a problem with it we could just play the “I don’t understand what you’re saying” card. Nobody seemed to mind. After the bank we were getting ready to drive home. We decided to take him with us.

When we got home, the first thing we did was give him a bath. He was surprisingly really good about it. He tried to escape a couple of times, but for the most part, he just stood there and let us wash him. We drove to the store and bought some kitty litter and food. When we gave him the food, he ate like an animal that hadn’t been fed in days. I know I keep referring to this cat as a “he,” but to be honest, we aren’t sure if it’s a girl or a boy. We looked up on the computer how to tell if a cat is a male or female, but we still aren’t sure. Obviously the name Šimon is a boy’s name so we are just gonna go with that unless we find out different.

I don’t know a whole lot about cats, and to be honest, I don’t really like them that much. Jen has a cat so she knows more than I do. Both of us were shocked at how much Šimon wanted to be with us. Most cats that I’ve been around seem like they want to do their own thing and just come back when they want food or something. Not this cat. He follows us around like a little puppy. If we sit on the couch, he is curled up on top of us or right next to us. If we get up, so does he. We don’t let him come in our bedrooms or in the kitchen though so that requires some disciplining on our part. He is trained pretty well, but sometimes he still tries to sneak in. If he disobeys too many times we just put him in the bathroom and close the door for a little while.

We are very thankful for Šimon because he brightens up our days. We look forward to coming back to our apartment to see him. When we are just sitting on the couch being bored, it’s fun to watch him. We gave him a couple little balls that I had brought with me. He loves playing with them. He will chase them all around the living room, then stop, wait, and pounce again. You have a lot of free time when you’re overseas which is great but can sometimes be a little boring. Šimon helps the boring times not seem so boring. Thanks Šimon, and thanks God for bringing Šimon to us :-)

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” -1 John 5:14

Until next time,
Jen and Tina

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Šariš Castle

We had a day off over the weekend so we looked up some fun things to do. Jen loves castles, and we found out that there are 3 in Prešov. After having lunch at Atrium, we decided to drive to Šariš castle and take some pictures. We didn’t really have good directions (since there are NO street names/signs out here), but amazingly we found it without getting lost once. I take that back…we found the parking lot without getting lost once! After we parked, we got out and started walking towards the castle. It was a pretty cold day, and we were dressed in jeans and sweaters (if you know me and Jen you know that we are usually in sweats, but on this particular day, we decided to get “dressed up”…terrible decision!) We just ended up freezing!

Anyways, moving on…we had walked about 5 minutes on a little path when I decided that I thought I knew a shortcut so I climbed up this little hill thinking that the castle was probably sitting on top of that hill…wrong. All that was there was a little covered wagon type thing. We took some pictures and then continued on our way.

We walked for probably 20 more minutes before we started wondering if there even was a castle and if we were walking in the right direction. There were a couple signs but they were all in Slovensky which means virtually nothing to us. So basically, we were freezing cold, walking through the woods, and all the while, not even sure where we were supposed to be going. We finally saw some people walking towards us so we decided to try to ask if we were on the right track. We know the Slovak word for castle is ‘hrad’ so we would just say the word and then point or look sort of confused…it seemed to work. Most people nodded or pointed in the direction of the castle. It was just great to have some confirmation that a castle existed.

We walked probably 20 more minutes and right when Jen had just about had enough we saw the castle! We walked through the entrance of the castle and immediately 3 goats started walking towards us. Jen and I looked at each other like “What in the world? Are these things safe?” Luckily there were some other people nearby, and I’m sure they could tell we were nervous so they just sort of smiled at us and nodded their heads.

The castle is mostly in ruins now. It was originally built in the 12th century and was later burnt down by the Polish king in the 17th century. We walked around and explored different parts of the castle. Then we saw that there was a way to get to the top of one of the tallest building so we climbed through a tiny hole and then up some stairs. The view at the top was worth it. We looked out over the city and the beautiful surroundings. It was especially beautiful because we could see the sunset. That’s when we realized that we had better get the heck out of there! The sun sets around 4:30 here, and it was about 4:05 when we were standing on top of the castle. Considering that it had taken us about 50 minutes to get to the castle, we knew that if we didn’t get moving we were gonna be stuck in the woods in the dark! Needless to say, we made good time getting back to our car! It wasn’t exactly the trip we had planned (we just thought we were going to drive right up to a castle, get out, and take some pictures)…it turned out to be much more of an adventure, and that’s what made it so fun!

If you want to see more pictures, just copy and paste the following link:

Until next time,
Jen and Tina

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." -Philippians 4:8

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pizza Friday

Jen and I are quickly becoming pretty darn good cooks. We make new meals every night, and I must say, we haven’t made a bad one yet. On Friday we decided to make homemade pizza. First of all, we need to give a little shout out to Spin and Mike who inspired our “Pizza Friday” idea and who also were the greatest teachers ever when it comes to Italian Cooking 101! :-) We wish you could have been here to taste our pizza…we think you would have been proud.

We were proud of ourselves because it is no easy task walking into a grocery store and trying to buy things when you really aren’t too sure what you are actually buying. We can’t read very many words in Slovensky and even when we can read the words, there is sometimes a big difference between an American version of a product and a Slovakian version of that same product. With some help from a few women at the grocery store, we managed to buy tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, oregano, mushrooms, onions, pizza dough, and cheese.

When we started cooking, Jen got to work cutting up the cheese. We don’t have a cheese grater (and we are too cheap to buy one) so we had to cut the cheese into small pieces. I made the pizza dough. After that we had to go to practice. When we came back, we got to work on the sauce. We had a general recipe to follow, but we sort of improvised, as well, and it turned out delicious.

We made 2 pizzas. One was half cheese, half pepperoni. The other was half pepperoni, half ham. Both were very, very good. All in all, I think our first Pizza Friday on our own was a success. Next time, we want to try making BBQ Chicken pizza. We will see how that goes… :-)

Until next time,
Jen and Tina

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:6