Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas in the Village

Christmas 2011 134We spent Christmas at our village house for the first time ever. It was fantastic. Rosie kept saying “this is our prawdziwy dom”. That’s exactly what I was thinking too. We were able to spend Christmas at our house this year because we installed gas heating which was finished just a few days before Christmas. For future reference - when the gas company tells you that it only takes a month or two to do all the paperwork and install everything, please know that they are exaggerating at best or just plain lying at worst.  

Christmas 2011 054We had a real tree and put it up in the girls’ room. That’s when I discovered that lights for a little apartment-tree are not enough for a big house-tree. Oh well, better luck next year. I also discovered that it is hard to play Santa Claus in the room where children are sleeping, but I managed to do it somehow. The top hit this year was Baby Alive for Rosie and Lego City for Lizzie. They were also thrilled with their room and the house and spending time together. So were we.

The girls made some decorations for the tree. I love them! It’s my Christmas 2011 “favorite thing”.Christmas 2011 124

 Christmas 2011 120

 Christmas 2011 121

I cooked the usual - kutia, herrings and this year pork roast with prunes.

Here are all the ingredients for kutia. Recipe after the pictures.

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Here’s the wheat after it is cooked…

Christmas 2011 022 

…and after all the ingredients have been added.

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Christmas 2011 025

Kutia Recipe

“kutia” wheat -whole grains



nuts of your choice

poppy seeds

candied orange peel

cream at least 18%

Soak the wheat overnight. Boil in a large pot until the wheat softens. Depending on the brand of wheat, it can take from 1 hour to as long as 3. Drain and rinse the wheat.

Mix the cooked wheat, honey (to taste – I use about 6 teaspoons for one bag of wheat), raisins, chopped nuts (I use walnuts and sometimes almonds), poppy and candied orange peel (I used canned and prepared poppy seeds) and a couple of tablespoons of cream.

Kutia Przepis

pszenica na kutię – całe ziarna



orzechy – do wyboru


kandyzowana skórka z pomarańczy

śmietanka – co najmniej 18%

Mocz pszenicę w wodzie przez noc. Gotuj w dużym garnku aż zmięknie. W zależności od rodzaju ziarna może to zająć od 1 do 3 godzin. Odcedź i wypłucz pszenicę.

Wymieszaj ugotowaną pszenicę, miód (żeby był smak ja używam około 6 łyżeczek na jeden woreczek pszenicy), rodzynki, posiekane orzechy (ja używam włoskie a czasami migdały), mak i skórkę pomarańczy (używam maku gotowego z puszki) i kilka łyżek stołowych śmietanki .

I can say that after all these years in Poland, I even like herrings – as long as I prepare them myself. My favorite way to prepare herrings is with onions.

Herrings with onions

8-10 herring filets matias (as we call them “majtasy”). If they are salted they need to be rinsed or even soaked and rinsed in water or milk. Drain and pat dry. Set aside.

Slice an onion or two very thinly. Place on a plate and sprinkle with sugar. Allow the onions to sit until they start to get soft and release some juice (at least an hour). Layer the fish and onions in a bowl. Sprinkle each layer with a little white wine vinegar and drizzle with some olive oil. Allow to sit at least 12 hours. Decorate with parsley and lime.

Śledzie z cebulą

8-10 filetów śledziowych tzw. MATJASY (my mówimy na nie MAJTASY). Jeśli są posolone trzeba je wypłukać lub nawet namoczyć w wodzie lub w mleku i wypłukać. Odcedzić i wysuszyć. Odłożyć na bok.

Potnij w cienkie plasterki 1 lub 2 cebule. Połóż na talerzu i posyp cukrem. Pozostaw cebulę aż zmięknie i puści sok (co najmniej 1 godzina). Ułóż warstwami rybę i cebulę na półmisku. Pokrop każdą warstwę odrobiną octu winnego i polej odrobiną oliwy z oliwek. Pozostaw na co najmniej 12 godzin. Udekoruj natką pietruszki i limonką.

Christmas 2011 028  Christmas 2011 029 Christmas 2011 030

I also prepared a herring salad with potatoes, beets, onions, pickles, apples, herring (of course) and mayo but it wasn’t as good as the plain herrings with onions.

I thought that my biggest challenge would be the schab ze śliwkami but in fact it was the easiest. I was most worried about how I would make the hole in the roast for the prunes but our butcher read my mind and asked me if I needed a hole punched through the meat. Problem solved.

Christmas 2011 026Before…

Christmas 2011 027… and after.

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Our Christmas Eve supper  - pierogi and uszka courtesy of my mother-in-lawChristmas 2011 031

From the sofa I could admire our heater (yippee) and the Christmas decorations on our neighbor’s roof. We don’t have curtains as you can see. It makes things interesting ;)

Christmas 2011 130

Here’s some mistletoe from our garden that I hung in the kitchen. I stood under it for ages with no results. Maybe next time.Christmas 2011 137

Some carolers came to our door but while I was looking for my wallet, they left. Impatient little carolers. I also saw my favorite neighborhood pijaki visiting the shop owner at home on Boxing Day begging him to take pity on them and open the shop just for a minute so they could buy a flaszka. The shop owner declined to open the shop. Good for him!

One more favorite thing of Christmas 2011 is the fact that we are mortgage free. We paid the last mortgage payment for our apartment (our house has been paid for awhile) and are now mortgage free. Yippee!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shopping Madness

MH900411972 I have experienced the shopping madness which is IKEA Saturday morning one week before Christmas. Normally, I wouldn’t even go to IKEA on a normal weekend but circumstances were such that we had to go today. What circumstances could possibly get me into a shopping mall a week before Christmas (‘cause we all know how I love to shop)?

Well, the circumstances are that our heat installer czyli plumber is finishing our central heating today and we will be able (knock on wood) to spend a warm and toasty Christmas at our dacha this year. And seeing as Christmas Eve is next Saturday and we don’t have any (well, almost any) furniture in our house and we don’t have any days off next week, well, you see why we had to go to shopping for furniture today.

MH900410569 Luckily, I planned ahead and thank goodness I did because it was a mad house…and we had to take the girls with us. Bless their little hearts, they were so well-behaved. First we stopped at JYSK – just as crowded as IKEA, but with only one cashier – to buy a trundle bed for the girls. Then off to IKEA for some more furniture. Chamstwo nie było. I made a list ahead of time which you can do from the catalog or better yet print out online and we shopped terminator style –locate and hit- throughout the whole store. There were plenty of helpful shop assistants. The lines at the check-out weren’t too bad. The bill was pretty high though - it was very Lisbeth of me.

Surprisingly, we didn’t see anybody we knew except for one employee of IKEA (Misiu used to teach English at IKEA). We usually see somebody we know no matter where we go – I even ran into an old school friend on the subway in NYC once. I suppose anybody I know would have more sense than to go to IKEA a week before Christmas.

MH900412046Now all that is left is to clean our housek (blah), put all the furniture together (blah) and do the grocery shopping (don’t worry, I have a list). I bought the children’s presents 2 weeks ago so they only need to be wrapped (oh, wrapping paper) and put under the tree. THE TREE! That’s another thing to take care of…

Just an aside, this year my girls are pretty much getting everything on their Christmas lists. Now, just wait a minute, I am not spoiling them. They just have incredibly short Christmas lists. Why? Because they think you can only get one thing for Christmas. Finding all their gifts (well, except for one thing from each of their lists – I have to leave something for their birthdays) took some doing. And let me just say this – for name brand toys SMYK is a rip-off. Baby Alive, Rosie’s dream doll, costs 299.98 at SMYK and I got it for 148.99 at Auchan – in the same mall. The same goes for Legos. SMYK does, however, have nice “Smyk” brand toys for a reasonable price.

Of course, I spoke too soon. Misiu just called to say the heat isn’t finished (it’s almost finished) and the plumber isn’t answering his phone. It can’t be worse than our last plumber who made a huge hole in the wall and then killed himself, God rest his soul. Heat or no heat, we are blessed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Marszu Niepodległości i Sprawiedliwości – March of Independence and Justice

Yesterday, the political party PiS organized a March of Independence and Justice in Warsaw. I was thinking about the anniversary of martial law in Poland yesterday and apparently PiS was thinking about something else.

There were a lot of anti-Tusk signs and anti-Sikorski signs especially after Sikorski’s public comments that we (Europe) cannot afford Germany’s lack of action in face of the financial crisis. PiS has expressed a fear that Poland’s sovereignty is threatened by membership in the European Union. Just an FYI – Poland currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Here’s just a taste of what Kaczyński had to say about it. Read more here in Gazeta Wyborcza.

Chcę wam przyrzec, że PiS stanie na czele walki o Polskę suwerenną! Aby obywatele Polski mogli sami decydować o tym, co jest ważne. Stać nas na to! Gdyby nie to chore państwo, gdyby nie te interesiki, nasz naród parłby do przodu jak Chiny. Musimy zrzucić ten worek kamieni. - Jarosław Kaczyński

I want to promise you all that PiS will lead the fight for Poland's sovereignty! So that Polish citizens can decide for themselves what is important. We can do it! If it were not for this sick government, if it were not for these little deals, our nation would push forward as China has done. We must throw off this bag of stones. – Jarosław Kaczyński (translation mine). *

I cannot think of a more independent and just country than China to model our nation after.**

*If I understand correctly the “bag of stones” is the membership in the EU and the “little deals” are agreements with the EU.
**I thought we were supposed to model ourselves after Hungary? Jarosław, I can’t keep up.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Angina po polsku

Little Rosie has angina. Angina!?! you say. Don’t worry. It isn’t that serious. She has angina po polsku.

Nauseous girl avatar

I remember the first time I heard the word angina in Poland. One of my students called me to cancel her lesson because she had to pick up her child from kindergarten and take him to the doctor. She said that he probably had angina. My reaction - No leć! Go! Go to the doctor immediately, maybe even the hospital. My student, the mother of the little patient, didn’t seem to be all that concerned. I thought, maybe angina isn’t such a big deal here in Poland.

Of course I was thinking of angina in English – actually I was thinking of angina pectoris, a heart problem while my student’s child was suffering from angina in Polish which is in fact tonsillitis or acute purulent tonsillitis in Rosie’s case. She has all the telltale signs – fever, vomiting and white spots on her tonsils. She’ll be on antibiotics for the week and stay home from pre-school obviously.

Aahh, acute angina…that reminds me of a joke.

Keep yourselves well!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Santa’s Little Helpers


One Lovely Blog

Thank you Megi for the award. It helps brighten things up around here.

Homemade Advent Calendar

12062011300Here’s a simple and creative idea for a homemade Advent calendar.

All the credit goes to the very crafty mom of my student Misia.


To make your own Advent calendar you will need:

a corkboard12062011299

empty matchboxes

decorative paper


corkboard pins


a metallic pen

little surprises to go in each box

amazing willpower not to look in the boxes (Misia, don’t peek!)

Here’s the finished product.


Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The original Polish sex kitten, Violetta Villas has died at the age of 73. Violetta whose career spanned more than 50 years was just as famous for her hair as she was for her coquettish singing style.

I got to know about Violetta Villas from my father-in-law. We were looking through an old photo album where we found a post card with a picture of Violetta Villas posing in a leopard-print bikini, of course with her trademark hair. My f-i-l who is a quiet and introspective man remarked that when he was younger he thought she was just about the sexiest thing going.

So, good-bye Violetta Villas. You have taught me a few things over the years. First of all, that “nie ma miłości bez zazdrości”. Second of all that “Józek wszystko wie”. And lastly, that my father-in-law has a peculiar taste in women.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

blah, blah, blah…czyli what’s up with me

I know this blog is supposed to be mainly about Poland but we shall digress for a moment and talk about….me!

I am working, working, working as usual as is Misiu. We celebrated Thanksgiving last weekend (it had to be on the weekend for us, but hooray – no Black Friday!) and have started to think about Christmas. Santa Claus Day is the 6th and Lizzie and Rosie per our new tradition (because I forgot Santa Claus day last year) will leave letters to Santa under their pillows. Santa will take their letters so he knows what to bring them for Christmas and leave them something sweet . That’s how we cover the issue of Santa visiting us twice. So far our story holds water ;)

SDC12102We have received the girls’ passports finally. So what that the photographer made them look like orphans from some forgotten Siberian orphanage. What’s important is that they are little American citizens.

Lizzie and Rosie have hit the pre-school social circuit and they have hit it hard. They have invitations to birthday parties practically every week and last week they even went to 2 parties on the same day. One party Lizzie  described as the “best party in my whole life” – props to the mom who pulled that off. I don’t know if it means anything but my girls were the only girls invited to the last 2 parties and Lizzie is going to a party next week and she is the only girl invited. I noticed that those birthday boys like cars, dinosaurs and Spiderman just like Lizzie so I suppose it is a birds-of-a-feather thing.

We have plans to end our reign of village coolness and install central heating in our village house. Well, we have more than plans and would like to spend Christmas there without huddling in one room, but I say no more – don’t wanna jinx it.

We are also looking for a new apartment in the City. There’s nothing wrong with our current apartment, but as the kids grow the apartment seems to shrink. We thought we’d get on top of the problem and start looking now. Yesterday we went to an open house of one of the local developments. The apartments were nice if not a little to0 small for us (the biggest on offer was 72 sq.m.). The sales associate who accompanied us pulled a “ja tylko sprzątam” on us and knew almost nothing about the building, parking, garages, finish dates, etc. From our own investigation we found that this development will have no on-street parking. None. Well, there are 6 places currently at the sales booth but we alone would occupy 1/3 of that parking lot. That means garage only. Bleh, 50,000 PLN to park your car in a spot among all the other cars. Bleh.2011 011

2011 007On a brighter note, we went to the Christmas fair in the Market  Square as we do every year. The kids checked out the fairytale presentations and then took a few turns on the carousel and the race track (very Christmasey, 2011 013don’t ya think?) and we perused the stalls to see what’s new in Christmas trends. And what’s new in   Christmas trends? Apparently trying to pass off Christmas ornaments made in China as made in Poland – that’s the 2011 001only trend we saw. And thank you to the lady who gave us 3 tickets to the carousel after her child got bored. We used 2 of them and re-gifted the third. Thanks again.

2011 004

Merry Christmas preparations!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Giving is Good II

Last Thursday evening I had the honor once again to attend PGF’s annual charity auction. The auction benefits children in cancer wards all over Poland and was held this year in the Museum of Architecture in Wroclaw. I, unfortunately, do not have photos from the event because I was simply too busy socializing with all the fantastic people there – and of course I had to take a close look at all the beautiful pictures before I could select the one that I wanted to bid on.

And here it is, a picture made by a 7-year-old little artist from the cancer ward in Kielce.SDC12104

Forgive me for copying from my own post last year but…

PGF Urtica is one of the largest wholesalers and distributors of pharmaceuticals (to the hospital market) in the country. Urtica dzieciom is the charitable arm of the company which organizes cycles of artistic workshops for the patients in the children’s cancer wards. These workshops are led by a team of dedicated professional artists and art teachers throughout the whole year culminating in the annual auction where we can admire the artistic talents of those incredible little patients.

The auction started out with a welcoming speech from the President of PGF Urtica and moved swiftly into a film presentation of the workshops in the cancer wards. Then the “big auction” began. Once again, I couldn’t participate in the big auction (prices!) but was pleased to see bids reaching into the thousands. Last year’s auction was very emotional as the little star of the annual video passed away not long after filming the video. This year was all business. Big auction, break, little auction, break, musical presentation, results. The auction this year raised almost 85 thousand zloty. Let’s hope to break 100 thousand next year!


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Independence Day 11.11.11

Yesterday was Polish Independence Day. We celebrated in an official way….

SDC12039SDC12033 SDC12029

…and in a non-official way.





It was a really lovely day spent with our children.

Poland’s borders have changed dramatically over the last thousand years. Poland has grown and shrunk and even disappeared from the map altogether. I recommend checking out this page to get the whole effect. You can see how the map of Poland changes from the 10th century up until now.

During times of expansion, Poland reached its largest size under Zygmunt Stary I (reigning 1506-1548) reaching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Poland was cut in size during the first partition of Poland which took place in 1772 with the Prussians, Russians and Austrians pushing on Poland from all sides. The 2nd partition by Prussians and Russians took place in 1793 reducing the size of Poland even more, with the 3rd partition of Poland taking place in 1795 by Russians, Prussians and again the Austrians thus removing an independent Poland from the map. Poland as an independent country did not return to the map until 1918 starting with uprisings and border changes (led, of course, by Józef Piłsudski). In 1920 the Russians attacked and the borders continued to change for the next few years until 1939 when Poland came under Russian and Nazi German rule. After WWII, the borders were re-set in 1945 (with a minor adjustment in 1951), but unfortunately leaving a proud “independent” Poland behind the iron curtain.

In 1980 Solidarity began and in 1981 martial law was declared. The iron curtain fell in 1989 with the first “free” elections in Poland (the communist party allowed free elections for 1/3 of the seats in the Sejm but free elections were allowed for the entire  Senate).  Poland is on its 4th president since then – Lech Wałęsa from 1990-1995, Alexsander Kwaśniewski from 1995-2005 during which Poland joined the European Union, Lech Kaczyński from 2005-2010 ending with his death in a plane crash and currently President Bronisław Komorowski who governs with Prime Minister Donald Tusk, both members of the same political party PO (Civic Platform). (Ok, ok, Poland is on its 5th President actually if we count General Wojciech Jaruzelski’s presidency in 1989-1990. He was selected by the parliament, not in the popular vote.)

Enough with the history in a nutshell. Back to us. In addition to our official and non-official celebrations, we watched the official military parade and speeches broadcast from Warsaw. I love these kinds of holidays and watching the soldiers march. Lizzie and Rosie also enjoyed a good march around Babcia and Dziadek’s apartment, I am sure to the enjoyment of the neighbors downstairs. Speaking of marching, last year marked the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII. A  monumental parade was held in Red Square in Moscow in which soldiers from Russia (of course), Poland, the US, Britain and France took part. I remember the TV interviews with some of the Polish troops returning from the trip and the questions regarding marching. In my opinion Polish troops march well. They really put on a good show. The Polish troops felt that they did a good job in Moscow but stated that the Russians really know how to march. Unfortunately, the almost unanimous opinion was that the US troops marched the worst of the group and that their march “lacked heart”. :(

Official ceremony from Warsaw – President and First Lady

fot. PAP / Jacek Turczyk


Biało-czerwona na budynkach

fot. PAP / Radek Pietruszka

Co czeka mieszkańców stolicy 11 listopada? - zdjęcia

PAP/ Tomasz Gzell

(fot. Grażyna Myślińska/FORUM)

WrocławŚwięto Niepodległości we Wrocławiu Paweł Kozioł

WrocławŚwięto Niepodległości we Wrocławiu Paweł Kozioł

On a lighter note, here’s a funny map of Europe I found here.

Europe according to Americans

 funny europe map

I live in the buffer zone between the Commies and the country of Dirty Porn. That would make me a nervous neighbor…a very nervous neighbor.