Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year 2010!

Happy New Year! We wish everyone a joyous and peaceful 2010.

Over the holidays, we traveled to visit relatives and friends in Illinois and Michigan. Some photos and stories about the visits follow.

Carter posing in front of our tree in Lawrence prior to the cross-country circuit.

The first stop was Quincy, Illinois to visit Lea's family. We enjoyed traditional Slovak Christmas Eve fare (oplatke, potato, prune, and sauerkraut soup, fish (fried, pickled, and smoked), and bobal'ki (nut and poppy seed)), exchanged gifts, and attended Christmas Mass together.

Carter set out cookies and milk for Santa, who naturally was aware of our travel plans. He was especially excited when he was briefly awakened by an audible bump on the rooftop around 4 a.m. "It WAS SANTA!" Carter was well-rewarded for his good behavior this year.

Our next stop was Chelsea, Michigan to see Erik's family. Everyone gathered together briefly (his brother Brett and wife Nina could only visit for a short time), but Carter was able to play with his cousins for several days. Perhaps the most exciting activity was sledding. Although we did not see much snow during our few days in Michigan - and were surprised to return and find far more snow on the ground in Kansas - we all had a great time sledding.

Ivy and Jane.





Scott and Elijah.

Lea, Carter, and Ivy.

Kristin and Theresa.

A successful attempt to break the day's distance record.

Once again, we wish all of you a Happy New Year!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Another Happy Thanksgiving

Our new tradition of appliance mishaps returned this year. Two years ago, we went through a couple of refrigerators in L'viv, Ukraine, finally scoring one that worked. This year, our new stove malfunctioned all day. Something has gone awry with the thermometer or the electronic controls that connect it to the igniter. While the oven heated up, it would not re-fire as the temperature dropped well below the requisite cooking temperature for the turkey. Erik stood watch in the kitchen, manually re-starting the oven every 5-10 minutes. We were able to finish the turkey and stuffing in the oven, but the bird was a bit unevenly cooked.

However, Thanksgiving is more about sharing with family and friends than worrying about the food preparation. Lea's parents visited for the holiday, and we also hosted a Ukrainian Fulbright scholar (Maksym from L'viv) along with Margarita and her daughter Anya (from Russia). Erik read President Obama's Thanksgiving proclamation, continuing our tradition of reciting presidential proclamations before the meal. Everyone enjoyed the company and the standard fixings - turkey, stuffing, succotash, squash, cranberry relish, and mashed potatoes - along with our newer additions - kimchi (honoring a Korean family that shared Thanksgiving with us for several years) and a delicious beet salad that Margarita prepared (per Lea and Erik's request - it is our favorite Russian salad).

Erik working on the turkey (thanks to Maksym for the photo).

After dinner conversation.

Carter playing hide-and-seek.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This is Planet Earth

Last year, while Carter was enjoying the Halloween season in his Pac-Man power dot costume, he announced that next year, he would be Indonesia. We thought that he would forget about this choice, but he did not. When we finally figured out how to make an Indonesia costume, Carter faced a dilemma. Lea asked him what he was going to do about Papua New Guinea. He responded, with concern in his voice, "...and Singapore and Malaysia." Lea suggested: "Do you want to be the whole world?" Carter: "That's what I'm talking about!"

Carter has celebrated several Halloweens in 2009 - three parties (one at school), and two trick-or-treating ventures. The first Halloween was a costume birthday party that resulted in the loss of Antarctica. After repairs, he went to the dormitories at the university. Last year, he went to the all-women's residence halls and had quite a candy haul - 113 pieces from that trip alone. Different dormitories were participating this year, however. Upon his arrival, Carter surprised, amused, and impressed a young man at the door by asking "where are the college girls?" [Carter's interest in older women is primarily related to their generosity with candy.] Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), few students were participating and he collected far less. Since it took Carter an entire year to eat his Halloween candy from 2008 (he finished all of it days before the new holiday), having less candy is not really a problem - except to him. After all of the trick-or-treating events, he ended up with 110 items in an overflowing plastic pumpkin. They will probably last until next Halloween!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Collecting Leaves

Carter decided that today was a perfect fall day - just right for a romp in the leaves. The catalpa and hackberry trees are shedding their foliage, and the maple leaves are just beginning to drop. After playing outside, Carter made a lovely leaf collage for Lea's office at KU.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Fall Colors

Autumn evokes fond memories of cider mills, magenta and ochre leaves, and chilly evenings back in Michigan. Our ninth fall season in Kansas has replicated some of the Michigan experience, including day after day of steel-grey skies. The maple tree in front of our house has produced glorious colors that you can see in the photo above.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Home on the Range

A couple of years after we moved to Kansas, we attended the formal dedication of the Dole Institute of Politics. As the event began, the local children's choir began singing "Home on the Range" and the assembled masses stood at attention. We were a bit perplexed by this behavior, but quickly discovered that it is the Kansas state song. The pioneer tradition and prairie life are a source of great pride for Kansans, and they are celebrated at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. The site is managed by the US Park Service, but is owned by a public-private partnership. We have been planning a trip for several years, but finally made it there this weekend.

We took a less-traveled route on small roads, enjoying the rural scenery. Once we were at the preserve, we hiked and took a bus tour. Several photos and comments follow.

The photo above illustrates the sparse beauty of the tallgrass prairie. The preserve is located in the Flint Hills, and limestone deposits from Kansas' time as a prehistoric sea sit about two feet below ground. The land is not arable for standard agriculture, but is ideal for grasses and wildflowers. The terrain reminded Erik of his travels in Mongolia.

While fall is not ideal for viewing wildflowers, it is the best time to see the tallgrass.

Some flowers were still abundant, especially sunflowers.

Carter was a real trooper, as we hiked quite a bit (Carter also earned his "junior ranger" badge by completing several tasks). He has experience hiking - especially during our trip to Ukraine. In fact, we think that our friends Phil, Jani, and Thomas would love the tallgrass prairie.

In addition to showcasing the flora and fauna of the prairie, the site includes a one-room schoolhouse that was used from the late 19th century until the early-mid 20th century.

The Park Service staff conducted a nice tour, and also showed off pioneer skills like quilting.

We'll leave you with two final prairie images from a great visit.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Haskell Indian Art Market

Lawrence is fortunate to host two universities. In addition to the University of Kansas, our town is home to Haskell Indian Nations University. Haskell was originally opened as a school to assimilate children into the dominant European culture, but it later became an inter-tribal university. We have attended the Haskell Indian Art Market almost every year since our move to Kansas, often bringing along visiting scholars to expose them to the unique North American cultures represented at the event. This year a Fulbright scholar from Ukraine accompanied us as we perused the art, enjoyed music and dance performances, and snacked on fry bread. A video and photos follow.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Oh Canada!

Over the Labor Day weekend, Erik was in Canada attending the American Political Science Association Conference. Yes - the American Political Science Association met in Canada. Many of the participants were also shaking their heads about the venue. To be sure, Canada is a lovely country and Toronto has much to recommend it, but traveling to Canada created some logistical and financial hurdles that other conference sites would not have presented. Erik was also annoyed by some problems with his panels. On one panel where he and his Ukrainian colleague Nazar were presenting their research, the discussant was unable to attend. A discussant reviews and provides commentary on all papers, and plays a critical role in academic conference activities. So, they received no feedback. In addition, his second panel, scheduled for Sunday, was canceled.

Despite these complications, he had a productive visit. Erik met with his colleagues who are working together on a big research project funded by the National Science Foundation, spent several hours working with Nazar on their research projects, networked with other political scientists, and caught up with grad school chums.

Toronto is a great food town, but Erik's conference obligations did not allow him to explore too much. He did a bit of research with the help of Yelp to identify two must-visit roadfood sites. Erik took Nazar, as well as Rob and Frank (from Texas and Texas Tech universities, respectively), to the St. Lawrence Market for the "World Famous" peameal bacon sandwich. As we have noted on previous posts, markets are always key destinations to visit on trips. Lea and Erik cobbled together a lovely picnic lunch from cheese, bread, and other items from the St. Lawrence Market during their visit to Toronto over ten years ago. The peameal bacon sandwich did not disappoint. The freshly baked soft bun offset the tender bacon. Erik added horseradish, hot mustard, and some hot pepper rings to spice things up. Here you can see the sign advertising the sandwich (at the Carousel Bakery stall), and Nazar taking in the sites and smells of the market.

Chinatown was another important food destination, as Erik had identified a Banh Mi shop that he wanted to visit. Here you can see the sandwich that he ate on the road (the shop had no seats). The baguette had a wonderfully crunchy exterior and soft interior. The barbecued pork was sweet and was accompanied by fresh coriander, sliced and marinated carrot and daikon, and hot pepper. The whole filling was coated in a dark sauce that came out of a Sriracha sauce bottle, but its color and viscosity did not match Sriracha. The banh mi was definitely the most delicious sandwich Erik has ever tasted for $2.25 (Canadian, so take off 15 cents or so). It also ranks among his favorite sandwiches of all time.

Toronto has been hosting an air show, and during the day sonic booms regularly blasted eardrums in the city center. It was hard to capture the planes as they moved quickly across the sky, but this photo caught one fighter jet.

Early one morning, Erik took a 7km jog (the hotel provided nice maps for runners, with 2K, 4K, and 7K options) that took him up through the university to the Royal Ontario Museum, past Chinatown, and back to the hotel. He came upon some interesting buildings (the one below is an art school), and also was able to witness Toronto's sizable homeless population in many of their haunts. He passed by a Salvation Army trailer serving breakfast to a large crowd, and passed many people camped out on grates or in doorways. The man in the photo below - along with his dog - found a spot inside the locked yard of a historic home museum.

Erik had some time on Sunday prior to his departure to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame. His first stop was the shrine dedicated to the Stanley Cup. The Hall has been reorganized since his last visit, and unfortunately some of the historic gear was not on display. However, the international component has been expanded. He found alot of gear from his favorite area of the world - below
you can see the Kazakhstan and Ukraine national jerseys. Another great sweater was North Korea's - complete with a Nike swoosh.

While the visit had ups and downs, it was a success overall.