Swienconka for Two?

The Real Butter Lamb

The Real Butter Lamb

My husband and I awoke to an empty house today. We think it might be the first time in over 20 years we haven’t had at least one of the kids here with us on Easter morning. We are fine with it. My husband is in his Polish food glory. I’m happy that I’m not staring down two candy-filled Easter baskets knowing that I’m going to end up losing the battle of willpower and diving in to them. It’s a happy empty nest.

Preparations for Easter or, in our case, a Polish Easter can take days. Hard boiling eggs, buying and cooking up the Polish sausage (the holiday variety, if we can get it around here. Side Note: Yes, we know about Ostrowski’s, but they do not use the same recipe as Redlinksi’s (in Buffalo, NY), which is my husband’s favorite, so we usually just get a decent stand in from Wegman’s.), getting the butter lamb (Side Note: We got a “REAL Butter Lamb this year!), getting the ham, getting the seedless rye bread, and that is the bare minimum for the Polish traditional meal of the day on Easter Sunday: Swienconka.*

The food for this meal is usually blessed. In the Buffalo area, churches are overflowing with folks bringing huge baskets, stuffed with everything for the swienconka to be blessed the Saturday before Easter. I’ve heard that at some churches, the priest has had to come out and do a mass blessing in the parking lots to all the folks trapped in the gridlock in their cars. Around here, our church has done the Blessing of the Food Mass but attendance is considerably lighter. In fact, the few times we’ve gone, there have been probably fewer than 30 baskets. This year, with just the two of us, we did not make it to have our food blessed. I often wonder how many years of blessing we can get out of, say, our salt and pepper shaker’s contents…I guess I would need to pay attention to how often I refill them during the year. Anyway, the lack of actual, current blessing, however, did not stop us from having the traditional meal. 

The Basic Traditional Polish Meal

The Basic Traditional Polish Meal

I was happy to not have to dye the eggs, buy candy, or decorate the house. Our daughter made it over to our house in time for church, which was nice. We got a nice Easter note from our son. My parents are having us over for Easter dinner. It’s a very happy empty nest, indeed.


*Swienconka – I do not know how to speak or write in Polish, so I’m using the word tweeted out by my sister-in-law, who will know better than I the ins and outs of Polish Easter words.



Bonus Day Fun


It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. So long, in fact, that one of my fellow HoCo bloggers introduced me tonight as a retired blogger. Very funny, HoCoConnect! Because I have had such a good “Leap Day” and not because I was guilted into it, I am inspired to get back to my blog. (Smile)

Tonight, the HoCo Bloggers were invited to enjoy a meal at the new Nalley Fresh Restaurant, which is in the Dobbin Center plaza near Performance Bikes. Nalley Fresh offers a “Chipotle-style” make your own salad, wrap, or bowl. I think one of the more unique offerings, and there are several here, is the sweet potato base for your bowl. I did not try it, because I was drawn to the salad. There is a wall of lettuce options, and I asked to have a romaine and spring mix combination. From there I had to choose a protein, which wasn’t easy. The beef looked fabulous. There was shrimp and salmon, and three styles of chicken, and I was stuck in the land of too many choices. It was temporary. One of the very friendly staff members had told me to ask for a small taste of the protein to make sure I’d like it. So, I asked to try the plain, grilled chicken. It was OK, but I wasn’t sold on it. So, I took a chance on the whisky chicken. I proceeded to the next friendly server and picked a bunch of my favorite salad veggies, then skipped the cheese (as I do) and asked for ranch dressing on the side. I was offered a piece of nutty bread, which I accepted. It was a delicious salad if I do say so myself. It was very obvious why fresh is in the name. It was super fresh. On top of a great meal, John really liked the wrap he chose, too, it was fun to meet new bloggers and chat with the regulars. (I’m going to have a lot connecting to do on social media after I get this post up.)

I was happy to get to tell JessieX in person that I love her new blog series, The Uber Chronicles. It is so perfectly her. I was so energized by her excitement and our conversation that I’m sure that is also propelling me to write this post.

Earlier today I was able to get in one more Masters swim practice for February, and it ended up being about 500 more yards than the coach actually wrote for us. Note to self: It’s time to grab your prescription goggles so you can read what is actually written on the white board. It was a happy problem on a bonus day!

Go check out Nalley Fresh for yourself. You may even run into this guy:

Chef Nalley at the New Columbia, MD Nalley Fresh Location

And, if you’re lucky, there will be live music and you’ll catch him playing a mean harmonica.



Our Empty Nest Game is Strong


We had a chance to take a page out of our Empty Nest playbook this weekend and it was fantastic, dare I say, glorious. As a couple, John and I went into empty nest-hood with a basic survival plan, some vaguely articulated hopes, and a determined flexibility. We did great! Although, I didn’t fare as well, at least initially, but that’s a topic for another post.

Since that momentous August two years ago, the kids have come back and gone again and come back and so on. Thus, the parenting territory has become murky or murkier than pre empty nest. It has required many adjustments on our part. Currently, the biggest one being how to handle the limited amount of “empty” in our house. We have found ourselves being less motivated to be the foot loose and fancy free empty nesters we were in the beginning, in exchange for spending time with one or both of the kids. Despite the soundness of our thinking, we were a little stuck.

That is, until this past week. We learned that very dear friends were going to retire on Friday. We knew immediately upon hearing the news that we wanted and needed to be there. “There” being Buffalo, NY. We were able to clear our schedules in under a week and head up to Buffalo. Our friends, Tom and MaryJane, have owned a pizzeria in the town my husband grew up in for 31 years. He actually worked for them 30 years ago. They are about our age, and when John finally moved to Maryland, he kept in touch with them. My first trip to Buffalo included a required stop at the restaurant and introductions. MaryJane and I hit it off instantly, and I would look forward to getting together with them during our Buffalo visits. To think that we wouldn’t have their restaurant as a stop during future visits was so sad. We had to get there one more time. Plus, they were planning a big party Friday night.

We ended up making the trip without the kids, which was a little strange since they were both technically at home. But it was also really empty nesty of us. We realized how much we had needed to get away almost the minute we arrived at the restaurant, which was our first stop upon arriving in town. We had a great visit and we’re thrilled to get to Torella’s one last time to wish our lovely friends happiness and lots of spur of the moment fun!







Not So Picky After All

A "Green Bag" from Whole Foods

A “Green Bag” from Whole Foods


















I learned something quite astonishing about myself this past evening. I’m still in a bit of shock. John was also amazed when I told him the news. It happened during a food tasting event. I was invited to attend the exclusive sneak peek tasting of the new menu offerings at The Counter. The Counter is the in-store diner at the Whole Foods Market in downtown Columbia, MD.

Breakfast Sandwich at The Counter "Counter Fave"

Breakfast Sandwich at The Counter “Counter Fave”

I am not a adventurous eater. In fact, I’m a straight up picky eater, who tries to act like a normal eater. I can pick the smallest particle of black olive from an empanada with my eyes (partially) closed. I can remove onion or pepper pieces from just about any dish with the surgical precision of a brain surgeon. I rarely order anything off a menu that I don’t modify in some way. And this picky gal found herself at a food sampling party. It was great. I ate breakfast sandwiches with cheese on them (I don’t eat cheese on any sandwich unless it’s a grilled cheese sandwich.) But that wasn’t even the amazing part. I ate braised kale and caramelized kielbasa. My husband is Polish and can attest to my non-sausage eating ways. But, this breakfast sandwich, called “Counter Fave,” was very tasty. Another, “The Biscuit” was also very good, and it had fried spinach and chipotle remoulade.

Breakfast Sandwich at The Counter "The Biscuit"

Breakfast Sandwich at The Counter “The Biscuit”

I tried everything, as if I wasn’t a picky eater. Next up was Southwest Tofu and aged Cheddar Scramble. Yes! I ate Tofu! I ate kale and tofu and everything had cheese on it. It was really good. I’d order it and eat it again.

The Scrambler Breakfast at The Counter Southwest Tofu and Aged Cheddar Scramble

The Scrambler Breakfast at The Counter Southwest Tofu and Aged Cheddar Scramble

Another shockingly delightful offering I couldn’t believe I ate and really liked is from the lunch and dinner menu. It is the Avocado Tacos. Deep fried avocados, cabbage slaw, chipotle remoulade in a soft tortilla shell. The avocado has a plain breading and is deep fried. It has the most interesting and tasty textural contrast with the cabbage slaw. It’s a must try, if you’ve never had anything like it before. The chef who was introducing the samples told me that it is a customer favorite and was rolled over from the previous menu. So, you are in luck if it was one of your favorites.

Avocado Tacos at The Counter

Avocado Tacos at The Counter

For me, the best sample of the event, was the “Columbia Burger.” It is a blend of short rib and ground chuck. It was served with caramelized onions, mushrooms, special sauce on a Brioche Roll. I did not remove the onion. It was delicious. It was so delicious. I highly recommend trying it. The Counter also offers desserts. But what caught my eye was that they serve Milkshakes and MALTS. Yes, malts.  And, it is very hard to find malts around here. And an awesome malt…well, let’s just say, I’m in the Market for one (no pun intended!). I am looking forward to pairing one of those awesome burgers with a chocolate malt. 

The Columbia Burger at The Counter in Downtown Columbia, MD

The Columbia Burger at The Counter in Downtown Columbia, MD

The evening was obviously all about the new menu offerings, but I was equally if not more impressed with the Whole Foods Market Chefs and marketing team. They eagerly and thoroughly explained every item, answered questions, and made sure everyone had a chance to sample everything. It was an absolute joy to be there. I am grateful to have been invited to this sneak peek and can’t wait to bring my family back for dinner.