Friday, April 30, 2010

Chestnuts - Kasztany

I did do other things in the Village those 10 years ago than just try to pick up boys. I also went for walks ;)

I am not very good at finding my way around so I started on mini-walks using the big church (close to my home) as a reference guide. Then as I got to know more of the Village, I ventured further and further away. If I had realized then what a beautiful place I was living in, I certainly would have bought a bike (and perhaps a map) and explored.

I was interested in seeing everything that was different- the different architecture, the different birds and animals, the different trees and plants. I was very happy one day to discover an enormous chestnut tree which had dropped a carpet of chestnuts on the sidewalk. We have a lot of chestnut trees in my hometown in the US and my part of my hometown is even named after the chestnut. I was pretty excited (C’mon, I didn’t have a TV).

At that moment, I decided that Polish people were wasteful, allowing perfectly good food (chestnuts) to rot on the street. I collected a couple of handfuls of chestnuts and took them home.

As you can probably gather, I had brought home so-called horse chestnuts. They look different than edible chestnuts, but I thought it was just a different kind of chestnut (like cabbages in Poland - they are huge!) The sad part is it took me to my third chestnut to finally decide that there was something wrong with these chestnuts.

Horse chestnuts are edible (I think, ‘cause I ate 3 and didn’t die), but terribly bitter.


Horse chestnuts are good for making little creatures with match stick legs.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Other Suitors

Let’s recap: It’s about 10 years ago. I had just come to Poland. Misiu’s girlfriend was back in town. And the short-lived thing with Maciek was definitely over.

Not that I didn’t have other suitors to choose from, ha ha ha.

First was Karolek. Karolek I met one of my first weeks in Poland. He followed me home like a stray dog, mumbling something under his breath all the way behind me. As we reached my door, I explained to him (in English) that he should go home and leave me alone. I later learned that he was a patient in the nearby mental hospital and following women home was his M.O. About 2 years ago, I saw him again in the City in the Market Square up to his old games trying to catch the attention of as many women as he could .

There was another gentleman, but I wasn’t sure if he was an admirer or not. He invited me a lot of places to talk which was great for me. It broke up the monotony of the school days, and I think it was good for him as he could practice his English. He never overtly expressed any interest but enjoyed inviting me to his home and asking his girlfriend to wait on us. With every tray of food and drink she served, he reminded me that she was just temporary, that he would never marry her, that she wasn’t good enough for him. I think he was trying to advertise himself, but in this case it was a kind of anti-reklama.

As you know Misiu and I are together now so somewhere in my first year in Poland we managed to get together. That didn’t stop some of my suitors. Well, I’m not sure if the next two count as suitors either as they were alcohol inspired and underage.

One boy from one of my classes decided to declare his love for me one cold January night. As I mentioned before, I lived at PZU. I did have an intercom to my room except on very cold nights when it didn’t work. I didn’t have a phone either, so if you wanted to talk to me on a cold January night, you had to be pretty resourceful. The resource this boy chose was a tangerine as a tool to get my attention by throwing it at my window... on the top floor. How romantic. Not really. Tangerines hit your window with a big thud and he missed quite a few times and hit my neighbors window (the maintenance man lived under me). Did I mention he was 17? I opened the window to see the smiling-faced boy as he asked “Did I wake you?” and then demanded “Let me in. Please, let me in. Let me in. It’s so cold.”

I responded very responsibly that he should go home, but he claimed to be locked out. I considered my possibilities. I could tell this poor drunk boy to go home. He could wander away to the park, pass out and freeze to death or I could let him, give him a pillow and blanket for the floor and send him home the next morning. No freezing to death involved but maybe a little burning in hell involved because I lived directly next to the church and the last thing I needed was church-goers seeing a 17 year-old boy sheepishly exiting my apartment early Sunday morning.

As I was running the possibilities through my head again, he asked, “What’s the problem? Is Misiu there?” Misiu was his teacher too. Someone else was very observant or maybe I just wasn’t very discreet. “Go home,” I implored, absolutely sure my downstairs neighbors were also listening at their window sorry that they didn’t know English. He finally gave up, went home and we never mentioned it again.

Another boy from the same class with the unfortunate nickname Mały (because he was small) decided to declare his love for me on his class trip. I had been chosen as chaperone of the class trip to Gdańsk along with 2 other teachers. It was at the start of June and we were expecting wonderful weather, except we didn’t get what we expected. It was cold, cold, cold at the seaside and the bungalows we were staying in did not have heat. Until it was time to sleep we all, students and teachers, decided to congregate in one room. The kids prepared sandwiches and I suspected drank some alcohol. It was a dilemma for me as most of them by this time were 18 years old, the legal drinking age in Poland, but I was their adult chaperone. I told them that I did not want to see them drinking, that they were forbidden from leaving the premises and that no children were to be born 9 months from this trip.

The kids continued to talk some of them saying more to me in the previous 10 minutes than they had they whole school year in class. Especially Mały, who informed me that he had something important to tell me. I leaned in and he declared loudly to the whole room of classmates and teachers, shouting in my ear, “Miss Chris, I am in love in you!” I guess I hadn’t taught them their prepositions very well. I laughed as he offered me a bite of his pâté sandwich to seal the deal. I declined the sandwich to which he ordered, “Miss Chris, kiss me! Kiss my face!” It was so funny watching this shy boy declare his drunken love for me that I obliged. Taking his face in my hands, I brought his forehead to my lips and gave him a kiss. This inspired oohs and aahs from the rest of the room to which Misiu, another chaperone on the trip said, “Mały, hands off my girlfriend, man.” To which inspired a quieter level of oohs and aahs. Misiu had admitted to the kids that we were together. They didn’t know what to say. They all decided to play it cool. And so did we.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Other stuff that has happened in the last week or two

Our friends from Burma visited us with their 2 children which is a big deal because Burma is not a free country, it is far away, and they had to travel all that way with 2 small kids without losing their minds.

Misiu found his class picture from Wawel.

Wawel school trip

Lizzie turned 4. She was very pleased with her birthday cake and hardly noticed that it wasn’t homemade as she requested. Lizzie also received her dream bike which she rides constantly. She would sleep with it if she could.Spring 2010 115

Rosie’s allergy diet is still going on and preliminary results show that she is not allergic to eggs, a little bit allergic to wheat and very allergic to milk. Next, we are going to check if dairy in baked goods causes an allergic reaction and if yogurt causes as bad a reaction (or worse) than milk.

We have discovered that Rosie can put together her puzzle all by herself. Genius? I think so.Spring 2010 049

Sandbox season has officially opened and our girls couldn’t be happier.

Both Rosie and Lizzie had their first hairdresser haircuts. Lizzie was very brave and her hair turned out great. Rosie on the other hand wasn’t having it and only got her bangs trimmed.

There was an armed robbery at the deli next to one of our 3 Żabkas (Wow! I know!). As the robbers didn’t made away with much (according to the hairdresser), I think that it may be the first and last such robbery in our neighborhood. (I need to write a post about gun control, I think.)Spring 2010 114

Two of my clients have changed their office locations, cutting my commute and time spent searching for a parking spot considerably.

We have discovered the benefit of living in such a windy place. It is great for flying a kite.Spring 2010 004

We put a bird feeder at our house fulfilling a long-standing desire of Lizzie to watch birds in our garden.Spring 2010 009

Misiu bought me a charm bracelet fulfilling a long-standing desire of mine to see a charm bracelet on my wrist ;)Spring 2010 001

Life goes on.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I guess pretty much everyone around the world knows that the the Polish President and his wife and many prominent politicians died last week in a plane crash. Well, not everybody knows. For example, Rosie, age 2, has no idea. When we tried to catch a glimpse of the funeral on TV on Sunday, Rosie screamed, “Nie this. Ja want bajka!” (bajka = cartoons)

Lizzie, age 4, on the other hand was interested. She asked what it was, who died, how they died, if they were in the boxes (caskets), what color they were (???) and what’ll happen to them in the boxes. I explained that it was the funeral of the President and his wife, that they died in a plane crash, that they were in those boxes, that they were “people” color and that the boxes will go into the ground and they will turn to dust.

Lizzie then asked: But what happens to them? What happens when you die?

Me: You are dead.

Liz: But then what?

Me: Nothing. You are dead and that’s it. (hoping to drop the subject)

Liz: Who’s that lady crying?

Me: It’s their daughter and that’s their granddaughter next to her.

Liz: They were her babcia and dziadek? (grandma and grandpa)

Me: Yes.

Liz: And they are never coming back?

Me: Nope.

Liz: Why is everybody so sad?

Me: ‘Cause they died and are never coming back. Wouldn’t you be sad if Dziadek died and never came back?

Liz: Like he went to the szopa? (Dziadek likes to spend time in the szopa) (szopa = shed)

Me: Not exactly.

Liz: Why’s everybody wearing black?

Me: You wear black to show that you are sad.

Liz: You can be sad in a pink top.

How can you argue with that?

You may be wondering why I didn’t tell Lizzie that they went to heaven. Well, it is for 2 reasons. The first reason is that I don’t believe in heaven. I am sad to say that at this moment in my life, I believe that when you go, that’s it. I have a teeny tiny slither of hope that there is more, but hopin’ ain’t the same as believin’. I really wish that I did believe. It would make my life nicer and easier. It really hurts me to think that I will not have knowledge of my grandkids lives and so on and so on. Also, what’s my moral base established on? Where’s my motivation not to lie, cheat and steal? I’m not afraid about not getting into heaven. I guess I’m just a nice person…or it’s all that internalized Catholic guilt .

The second reason that I did not tell her about heaven is that Lizzie is mega-logical, and I remember what I thought about heaven at her age. The nuns at Catholic school explained heaven as a paradise and as our ultimate destination. Everyone we loved would be waiting there for us and we shouldn’t be afraid to die or sad when our grandma dies because heaven is a great place. In fact, this life isn’t the important one. The after-life in heaven is the most important…and it lasts for eternity. So, my stupid friends and I decided that we should try to get to this heaven as soon as possible. We were not able to fathom suicide at that age, but we decided that we would stop looking both ways before crossing the street. We had to cross the street a lot at school as the school was on one side of the street and the church and cafeteria were on the other side. It took the nuns 3 days to figure out what was going on.

This recent tragedy also sparked some deep conversations between Misiu and me. We started to think what we should arrange for our children in the event that we both died. I mean we have made financial arrangements, but who should take care of them? Some very hard conversations ensued. The kids could be sent to my family in the US – the family that at this moment they have never met. They would be provided for and would receive an excellent education, but I’m not sure someone would hug them or kiss them on a regular basis. If they were sent to Misiu’s family, they would not be lacking in hugs or kisses but for the person who took them in (his parents or more likely his sister), it would be a huge financial hardship even with the provisions we have made for them. What to do? Then we started discussing what to do in the case only one of us died. I said that I would sell everything and go back to the States, not right away, but eventually. I’m not Polish, and I wouldn’t want to live here without my Misiu. Having said that, I am confident that I could live here without Misiu, but I just wouldn’t want to. Misiu said that in the event of my death, he would do the same - sell everything and move to the US. That begs the question - Why do we live here in Poland in the first place?

The conversation got really quite deep and there was some crying involved (on my part, of course). I never much cared if I lived or died until I had children and I could only think about leaving my girls without a mother, not the fact that I would die. As the conversation got deeper and deeper with no solution in sight, Misiu pulled out his good old benchmarking system- the WWRD system. Maybe you are familiar with WWJD, the popularly-used abbreviation meaning “What would Jesus do?” There are bracelets, hats, t-shirts sporting these letters reminding you that when you are in a difficult situation you should think about what Jesus would do in such a situation.

Misiu’s version is a little different. It is WWRD, meaning “What would Rysiu do?” Rysiu is not his wise father or trusted uncle, or experienced family friend. Rysiu is a character from the Polish soap opera Klan. Klan in my opinion is thinly-veiled propaganda of Polish public television trying to show us, the Polish society, how we should live - how to be a good Pole, a good parent, a good spouse, a good sibling, a good child, a good student, a good neighbor, a good boss, a good employee, a good Catholic. There’s nothing better to break up a somber mood than a good old game of WWRD. Try it!

PS We decided that Rysiu, father of 3 in the serial, would want his children to be raised by his brother, the wealthy doctor, in the event of his and his wife Grażyna’s death. If only we all had wealthy doctor brothers ;)

Monday, April 19, 2010

What’s up with Wawel anyway?

The late President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria Kaczynska were laid to rest in a crypt in the cathedral at Wawel Castle in Kraków, Poland.

So what’s all the fuss with Wawel?

If you are Polish for sure you’ve been on at least one class trip to Wawel and you may have one or several class photos from Wawel in your “school days” photo album (I couldn’t find Misiu’s, but it does exist). I’ve been to Wawel countless times. Every person who has visited me has been on the obligatory Auschwitz-Kraków-Wieliczka tour. My favorite part of the Wawel museum exhibits would have to be the suits of armor. I am fascinated at how small they actually are. In the room with the suits of armor, there are also drums which just call out to me to strike them. As I was preparing to do just that on one visit, the lady guarding the room informed me it would be better if I didn’t. So I didn’t.

For an American girl from a country without castles, Wawel is quite impressive. Positioned on a hill along the Vistula River, the complex includes a courtyard, cathedral and even a dragon ;)

The fuss about Kaczynski and Kraków started a couple of months ago (before his death) when the city of Kraków was planning to give Kaczynski honorary citizenship. Short version- Some Krakowians (or Cracowians) protested and Kaczynski said that if they didn’t want him, he wouldn’t accept the honorary citizenship.

No one can say for sure whose idea it first was to inter the late President and First Lady at Wawel. It was reported it was at the request of the family. Then it was said Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz initiated the idea. Still others claimed that the President’s identical twin, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, requested the burial at Wawel. No matter whose idea it was, it couldn’t have happened without the support of the family and the Catholic Church combined.

So, who is buried at Wawel?

Mostly members of the Polish Royal family and some notable others such as Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Jozef Pilsudski, Adam Mickiewicz, and General Wladyslaw Sikorski.

Some who have expressed their disagreement to the President’s burial at Wawel say that the family liken themselves to royals which they were not. Others say it is inappropriate. I’m on the fence. I mean, Kaczynski did die as the president in service to his country. On the other hand, he was a very controversial president without the kinds of achievements we would expect from a person interred in such a place of honor. Also, the immediate burial at Wawel was questioned. Many of those buried at Wawel were not interred there until months, if not years, after their deaths. Of course, preparation of their burial place may have had something to do with the delay, not politics or paying of respects in another location. Some in the media have suggested creating a gravesite for all presidents, even at Wawel in a separate location or in Warsaw. I think that is a good idea, but would the family agree to moved their loved ones. I’m not so sure.

PS I would like to express thanks to all my American friends who have expressed sympathy over the recent tragedy.

PS2 To answer some questions of those same friends (who don’t read or know about my blog anyhow):

Answer 1: Katyn is a “where” not a “who”.

Answer 2: The volcano is not located in Poland, but thank you for your concern.

Answer 3: No, the volcanic ash does not prevent us from going outside.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I’m tired today…

…so let’s just look at pictures.

Lizzie02.06.2009 014

Rosie extreme close-up06302009(002)

Our Family as drawn by Lizzie09172009

Vampire RosieImage011

Zoo with the Monkeys 04122009(003) Image001

Gnomes in WroclawImage012

At the doctor’s 02192010

Kittens in the Village Image001


Monday, April 12, 2010

Back to Reality

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to meet and talk to a lot of different people, from different backgrounds, with different opinions, leading different lives. Sometimes for my own selfish purposes their English language betterment, I ask different groups of students about the same hot topic or current events. Today was one of those days.

As you know, the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, and 95 others perished in a plane crash on their way to a memorial ceremony in Katyn. It is a great personal tragedy for all those involved and also a political tragedy for Poland. (The memorial ceremony was to take place in the forest close to Katyn, the site of a massacre of Polish officers by the Soviet secret police 70 years ago.)

I started my morning with a group of well-read and opinionated gentlemen. We had a great discussion about the political ramifications of the accident and the “what’s next?” in the political arena. They also told me the theory that perhaps the pilot did not want to land but was ordered to do so by higher-ups. Maybe they didn’t want to be late. Maybe they thought the landing was do-able. I guess it will all come out in the black box.

Another lesson today was with a lady who was a definite Kaczynski supporter. I was not a supporter because for me his views were too far on the right. Anyhow, it was interesting to hear her perspective and to listen to her describe the many charitable acts of the late First Lady. She also described how her father taught her about Katyn and other historical events which were not in the history books during communist times.

One student today explained that in fact it is the Russian’s fault because if they had not massacred Polish soldiers (and not only Polish soldiers) in Katyn, then there would have been no need to travel there in the first place. Another student made a joke, in bad taste, that it is good for “us”, meaning the opposition party to the late President. One person faulted the late President and his cabinet stating that they were not even invited there anyhow which is kind of true, but is neither here nor there.

As I drove on from one company to the next, I noticed that the City and private citizens had hung Polish flags with a black ribbon. The radio station played subdued music with special reports about some of the local people who died in the crash. Many people are also flocking to church and to other meeting places to show their respect. I also saw a lot of red eyes today.

No matter how I felt about the President, I still view this event as a tragedy. It is hard to say that anything good has come of it. Perhaps it has allowed Poland and Polish people to show their patriotism without being ashamed and without fear of being accused of nationalism. A good thing to come out of this tragedy is that more and more people have become aware of Katyn. That is one of the reasons Kaczynski wanted to go there in the first place, to put an international spotlight on what happened there 70 years ago. Russian’s main TV channel even showed Wajda’s Oscar-nominated film “Katyn” on TV last night.

In light of the support given by Putin to Poland in resolving all issues connected to the crash (and for his promise to release for the first time top secret documents connected to the Katyn massacre), it has been proposed in the media that a new era of brotherhood between Poland and Russia may arise out of this tragedy. I think they went too far with that prediction. I also think that the late President Kaczynski would be opposed to closer relations between Poland and Russia and especially displeased with his death being the impetus for such strengthening in relations.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Sad Day for Poland

Here’s an article in English describing the plane crash which killed the Polish President, First Lady and almost 100 others. So sad.

Polish president among scores dead in jet crash

Plane goes down in Russia en route to commemoration of Stalin’s victims

BREAKING NEWS news services

updated 6:30 a.m. ET April 10, 2010

SMOLENSK, Russia - Polish President Lech Kaczynski and some of the country's highest military and civilian leaders died when the presidential plane crashed as it came in for a landing in thick fog in western Russia on Saturday, killing 96, officials said.

Russian and Polish officials said there were no survivors on the Soviet-era Tupolev, which was taking the president, his wife and staff to events marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish officers by Soviet secret police.

The Army chief of staff, Gen. Franciszek Gagor, National Bank President Slawomir Skrzypek and Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Kremer were also on board, the Polish foreign ministry said.

Russia's Emergency Ministry said there were 96 dead, 88 part of a Polish state delegation. Poland's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Piotr Paszkowski, said there were 89 people on the passenger list but one person had not shown up.

Earlier, several reports had put the death toll at 132. There was no explanation for the change.

"We still cannot fully understand the scope of this tragedy and what it means for us in the future. Nothing like this has ever happened in Poland," Paszkowski said. "We can assume with great certainty that all persons on board have been killed."

The governor of the Smolensk region, where the crash took place about 11 a.m. (3 a.m. ET), also said no one survived.

State news channel Rossiya-24 showed footage from the crash site, with pieces of the plane scattered widely amid leafless trees and small fires burning in woods shrouded with fog. A tail fin with the Polish red and white colors stuck up from the debris.

"The Polish presidential plane did not make it to the runway while landing. Tentative findings indicate that it hit the treetops and fell apart," regional governor Sergei Anufriev said on Rossiya-24. "Nobody has survived the disaster."

The presidential Tu-154 was at least 20 years old. Polish officials have long discussed replacing the planes that carry the country's leaders but said they lacked the funds. According to the Aviation Safety Network, there have been 66 crashes involving Tu-154s, including six in the past five years. The Russian carrier Aeroflot recently withdrew its Tu-154 fleet from service.

Early elections
A government spokesman said Poland will hold an early presidential election after Kaczynski's death, the government spokesman said.

"In line with the constitution, we will have to hold an early presidential poll," Pawel Gras told Reuters. "For now, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski, is automatically ... the acting president."

Constitutionalists say the election date must be announced within two weeks and the election must take place within two months of the announcement.

Poland, a nation of 38 million people, is by far the largest of he 10 formerly communist countries that have joined the European Union in recent years.

Last year, Poland was the only EU nation to avoid recession and posted economic growth of 1.7 percent. It has become a firm U.S. ally in the region since the fall of communism — a stance that crosses party lines.

The country sent troops to the U.S.-led war in Iraq and recently boosted its contingent in Afghanistan to some 2,600 soldiers.

Improving Poland-Russia relations
Polish-Russian relations had been improving of late after being poisoned for decades over the Katyn massacre.

Russia never has formally apologized for the murders of some 22,000 Polish officers, but Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's decision to attend a memorial ceremony earlier this week in the forest near Katyn was seen as a gesture of goodwill toward reconciliation. Rossiya-24 showed hundreds of people around the Katyn monument, many holding Polish flags, some weeping.

Putin has been put in charge of a commission investigating the crash, the Kremlin said.

In Warsaw, Prime Minister Donald Tusk called an extraordinary meeting of his Cabinet and the national flag was lowered to half-staff at the presidential palace, where people gathered to lay flowers and light candles.

Black ribbons appeared in some windows in the Polish capital.

Poland's president is commander-in-chief of its armed forces but the position's domestic duties are chiefly symbolic. Kaczynski, 60, became president in December 2005 after defeating Tusk in that year's presidential vote.

The nationalist conservative was the twin brother of Poland's opposition leader, former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Kaczynski's wife, Maria, was an economist. They had a daughter, Marta, and two granddaughters.

Missile deal
U.S. Patriot missiles are expected to be deployed in Poland this year. That was a Polish condition for a 2008 deal to host long-range missile defense interceptors.

The deal, which was struck by the Bush administration, angered Russia and was later reconfigured under President Barack Obama's administration.

Under the Obama plan, Poland would host a different type of missile defense interceptors as part of a more mobile system and at a later date, probably not until 2018.

Kaczynski is the first serving Polish leader to die since exiled World War II-era leader Gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski in a plane crash off Gibraltar in 1943.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Saturday, "This is a horrible tragedy for Poland and we extend to the people of Poland our deepest condolences."

Neighboring Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said he was "shocked and full of sadness" at Kaczynski's death.

"All the German people are mourning with our Polish neighbors," Westerwelle said during a visit to South Africa.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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© 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What did I know anyway?

And what did I know about Polish relationships anyhow? Maybe it didn’t work like in America. I decided to forget about this Misiu guy and I turned my direction to Maciek. I mean, I didn’t have a choice, he was hard to ignore. He was everywhere - waiting for me outside of the school after my classes ended, in the morning outside my building to drive me to school (or to be seen driving me to school) or every Monday at 6:00 pm when he drove me to the next town for dinner.

Yes, he had a car which he tried to impress me with, but I’m American, possessing a car by a 19-year old is nothing impressive for me. By Polish village standards back then he was a catch - a catch set to inherit his father’s business some day and oh, the dimples. I had almost forgotten about those dimples.

Once when I went to the City to visit my friends, he was waiting for me at the station when I got off the bus. He spent the whole weekend with us, and it was really a lot of fun. It was also fun to have other people around us to take the pressure off of me because Maciek couldn’t really speak English, and I couldn’t speak Polish. During our weekly dinners, you can imagine that we ate a lot and talked very little.

He really was sweet and tried to entertain me and take care of me in his own way. If he noticed that I needed something in my apartment, he brought it for me. If I looked sad, he invited me for a walk. He was very thoughtful.

But I was 22 and he was 19 and I thought that was an insurmountable age difference at the time. I was stupid ‘cause now, I’d be all over that Maciek, but then…

Besides the “huge” age difference, I couldn’t get over the fact that I felt like an accessory. Like next to the nice clothes, nice car, fancy dinners, and trips to the City, the next best accessory was an American girlfriend. I know that wasn’t the whole reason for his interest in me, but it was in the mix.

It definitely wasn’t going to work. I wanted to break it to him gently. I really did like him, but before I could even broach the subject, he brought it up himself, in the corridor of my city friend’s apartment. I told him it was the age difference, the language barrier, everything. “But you like me,” he said. It wasn’t a question, just a kind of statement of the situation. I answered, “Of course, I like you. I like you very much.” And it was true. It was a long drive back to the Village, but always the gentleman, Maciek carried my bag up to my apartment. I invited him in. He sat down but didn’t take off his jacket.

He idly thumbed through my yellow dictionary and looked up, “It’s Misiu, isn’t it?”

I was taken aback. I wasn’t the only one who had been observant. I protested, “No, of course not. He’s got nothing to do with it.” My voice trailed off sounding unconvincing even to myself.

He got red in the face and grabbed the dictionary again looking for something he wanted to say. His eyes searched following the lead of his index finger down the page. “He’s utilizing you,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

He handed me the dictionary, pointing to the entry and repeated, “He’s utilizing you.” I looked down at the dictionary entry: wykorzystywać: to utilize, to use, to make us of, to exploit, to take advantage of. I got it. I protested again, “Use me? Why? What for?”

“To go to America,” he answered defeated, deflated, with no spite. He wasn’t angry. He just wanted me to be aware. As much as I wanted to deny it, the idea had crossed my mind before - not specifically about Misiu, but about people in general and their motivations for wanting to get close to me. I mean I was American in a small town in Poland (years ago). I was aware of the attraction of the “nowość” factor. I wondered if it was really so desirable to go to America anyhow. Well, for the time being it didn’t matter. This was over and so were the Monday 6:00 pm dinner dates. Pity. Time to move on.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Eggs: Pisanki

Eggs 2010 001 We finally decorated our Easter Eggs. Actually, we made pisanki (from the Polish word pisać - to write, so “written” Easter eggs). Some babcias would probably turn over in their graves if they could see what I am calling a pisanka. OK, so we didn’t actually make them the traditional way, but they still look fantastic.

Pisanki Instant

Eggs 2010 2

Eggs 2010 4

Eggs 2010 5

Eggs 2010 006

Kinds of Pisanki (according to the pisanki package)

Pisanki Batikowe Batik Eggs: Przed gotowaniem jajek w barwnym wywarze wzór nanosi sie woskiem, np. igłą lub specjalnym lejkiem. Before boiling the egg in dye, a pattern is put on the egg with wax using a needle or a funnel.

Egg 2010 001a

Oklejanki Glued Paper Eggs: Z naklejanymi na skorupkę wycinkami papieru, materiału. Pieces of paper or material are glued to the egg.

Eggs 2010 008 Pisanki Łowickie / Łowicz Regional Eggs

Kraszanki One-color Eggs: Barwione na jednolity kolor. Dyed one color.

Drapanki Scratched Eggs: Wzór wydrapywany w zabarwionej skorupce. The pattern is scratched on the dyed egg.

Eggs 2010 010 Pisanka Huculska / Hucul Ethnic Egg

And one that I think they forgot on the package…

Malowanki Painted Eggs

Eggs 2010 009 Pisanki Kaszubskie / Kaszub Regional Eggs

Wishing you a Happy Easter full of tasty eggs!

Wesołych Świąt Wielkanocnych i smacznego jajka!

Easter: Rosie’s Birthday and Pickled Eggs

It’s Rosie’s 2nd birthday today. I can’t believe Rosie’s the same age that Lizzie was when we brought her home from the hospital. She still seems like such a baby, and Lizzie seemed liked such a big girl back then.

What to do for a child on her birthday when she’s on a restricted diet? A gelatin “cake”! 

Happy Birthday Rosie!2010 04Both girls loved it.

After the cake, we decided to crack open our first jar of pickled eggs. This year, we managed to wait 24 hours. Last year we couldn’t stand it and tried them on the first day. They turned out  great.

For me, it wouldn’t be Easter without pickled eggs and beet and horseradish relish.2010 03

One jar down, another one to go!2010 02

Pickled Eggs RECIPE



1 cup white wine vinegar

1 ½ cups beet water

½ cup sugar (white or brown)

1 teaspoon salt

1 bay leaf (liść laurowy)

1 teaspoon whole allspice (ziele angielskie)

1 teaspoon cloves (goździki)

½ teaspoon ginger (imbir)

½ teaspoon whole caraway seeds (kminek)

1 garlic clove – chopped or whole

hard-boiled eggs



  1. Boil eggs and remove shells. Set aside.
  1. Clean and boil beets. Remove beets from water to cool and cut.
  1. In the beet water (1-2 cups), mix garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt and spices. Bring to a boil.
  1. In a large clean jar, layer eggs and beets and fill in with spiced beet water. Close jar tightly and briefly turn upside down. Keep in refrigerator.
  1. Wait at least 12 hours before serving.

We also made…

Horseradish Sauce - Sos Chrzanowy

grated horseradish



a little milk/cream


Beet and Horseradish Relish-  Ćwikła

grated cooked beets

a few spoons of grated horseradish

a teaspoon of vinegar

a teaspoon of sugar

a pinch of salt

a bit of cumin


Vegetable Salad - Sałatka Jarzynowa

Cook and cube potatoes, carrots and celeriac (celery root). Also cube pickles and hard boiled eggs and add peas, corn and (optional) chopped onion. Mix with mayo and season to taste (pepper, parsley, dill).


Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday Easter Preparations: Cooking

Today was a day of cooking and cleaning. I guess that despite my dirty windows, I really am turning into a Polish mom and housewife.

I cooked a lot today. I’ll give you the lowdown on all my tasty dishes tomorrow, but I can tell you about the main player in our Easter menu this year – ham. In case you didn’t know, ham is not pink. It’s whitish brownish like regular pork. If your ham is pink, that means it is cured. It’ll probably be salty too, so adjust for that in your recipe. (I’m telling you that because a few years ago I didn’t know it, hee, hee) Last year we waited till Good Friday (Wielki Piątek) to do our meat shopping. That was a mistake, and we came away empty-handed. This year, we reserved a raw ham at out local butcher’s. I split the ham in half and cooked it two different ways.

Na słodko – Sweet Glazed Ham

I prepared a sweet glaze of honey, brown sugar, mustard, some water and a clove. I smothered the ham with the glaze and baked covered in foil. It is delish!

Piercarkowo – Ham and Mushrooms

I baked the rest of the ham with mushrooms, garlic, marjoram, pepper, and a little olive oil. Also delish.

It helped that I had fresh mushrooms. And when I say fresh, I mean super fresh, like practically still growing. That’s because they came from our new home mushroom farm (a present from our client).

Our mushrooms yesterday in the evening2010 062

Our mushrooms this morning before harvesting2010 072

Our mushrooms after cooking 2010 075

More to come tomorrow. Gotta go. There’s a glass a bottle of wine waiting for me.