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.



Taking Time to Enjoy Holiday Happenings

My First (non-artist guided) Painting!

My First (non-artist guided) Painting!

I’m trying to keep myself from the usual adrenaline rush that comes when I think about how close Christmas actually is to today. No matter what day it is after Thanksgiving, I usually find myself in the sprint to Christmas. This year, as in most years, I’m trying to slow it down and take it all in and enjoy it. No sprinting around and not taking time to fully appreciate everything I love about Christmas for me this year. Nope. I’m going to take time to see, smell, taste, and enjoy the season. So, I have been looking for holiday-themed concerts and activities to enhance the jolly in my holiday. My mom had been looking for a holiday activity or two, also. Thanks to a new on-line community events calendar  and the outstanding community building and communication efforts of HoCoBlogs, I was able to hear about a neat holiday event: the Howard County Historical Society 38th Annual Holiday House Tour. It sounds like a very delightful way to spend an afternoon.  Happily, mom agreed. So, we have made plans to go. We can’t wait! The tour takes place Sunday, December 14, 2014 and is an opportunity to see five historic Howard County properties, while traveling comfortably in an Eyre bus. There is still time (but not much!) to get tickets! Visit the Howard County Historical Society’s website for details. Will we see you there? 



Family Traditions: Glue? Glitter? A Little of Both

The Delicious Fresh Turkey from Maple Lawn Farms

I am feeling so grateful and blessed for this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I am still silently giving thanks. Our son surprised us by coming home a day early, and we were all beyond thrilled. Alyssa was thrilled (though she didn't say so) because she finally had someone else to absorb our constant attention, and because she missed her brother. John and I were thrilled because the weather was supposed to be horrible the day Alex told us he was coming home, and because we also missed him. However, I was a little bothered by the fact that I had not had the chance to give the house its final cleaning before Alex came home. We also had planned to have our from scratch, family recipe beef and vegetable soup ready for him when he walked through the door. My mom was taking care of soup duty, so I could prepare for cooking the Thanksgiving dinner. So, the soup wasn't even at our house yet. Those two things, a clean, “company ready” house, and a special soup dinner don't sound like big deals. But, since Alyssa left for college, I tried to do at least those two things every time she came home, and especially when she came home for holidays. I wanted her to know how special it was to us that she was coming home. I am continuing this tradition with Alex's visits. However by the sound of it, neither kid has picked up on any of my attempts at tradition. Alyssa said, “Mom, Alex doesn't care if you vacuumed. He is just happy to be home.” He also knew the soup would not be ready a day early. And, while I still have a bit of a knot in my stomach at not having the picture perfect, June Cleaver welcome for him, he was happy. The soup on his second night home was delicious and loved by all, and I did finally vacuum the next day, too.

Our Traditional Thanksgiving Feast

This new information does not deter nor disappoint me. I think having a few, well-placed, nicely-timed family traditions are part of the glue that keeps families happy and together. They are also that little something special, like glitter, that says, “You are loved!” “And, we are happy you're here!” I have wonderful memories of clean houses and special dinners for holidays from my parents and grandparents.
So, I know that, eventually, our kids will delight in these little acts of love. And, that these traditions will be meaningful to them when they come and visit us with their families.


An Honor To Catch Memorial Day Festivities in DC

World War II Memorial

The weather was nice yesterday, but it was supposed to be even better today. John and I decided to go on a bike ride first thing this morning on the Capital Crescent Trail. It was a beautiful day. The trail was filled with fellow cyclists, walkers, and etc. As we eased our way down to the waters edge in Georgetown, I started to think about possibly riding further into DC to see some of the Memorial Day observances.


We stopped at the bottom of the trail (in Georgetown), and I mentioned my idea to John. He was interested in seeing what was happening at the war memorials also. So we set off through the city. It was so easy to get around on bicycles. There were several road closures due to the Memorial Day events involving Rolling Thunder. There were so many motorcycles everywhere. They were parked along nearly every street we rode by. Block after block of parked motorcycles, as well as tons of them on the roads. We made it over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, our first stop of the day, to honor my uncle Steve, who was killed in Vietnam. We found his name on the wall. There were so many people who came downtown to honor our fallen veterans. So many were veterans themselves or had family members serving in the military. It was great to see and be a part of.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial

We next rode over to the World War II Memorial, which is beautiful and was also filled with folks milling about the awesome structures. After that we could hear the thunderous sounds of the motorcycles parading down Constitution Avenue, so we went back toward the street we came in on to watch the parade. It was impressive. Very impressive, really. You could see the pride and support for our troops from everyone who came to be a part of the festivities.

Watching Rolling Thunder Roll Down Constitution Ave.

We rode back to Georgetown and hopped back on the trail for our ride back to Bethesda. We were quite tired by the time we got to the car, but we were so thrilled we made the extra detour into Washington. It was wonderful to see the memorials and participate in the observances honoring those who died serving our country.


What a Difference a (Snow) Day Makes

Symphony of Lights, Symphony Woods, Howard County, MD

The great thing about that first back to the gym weights workout is the “Yay, I worked out!” pain you feel the next day (and sometimes the day after that one). The not so great thing about when it hurts to walk, sit, stand up, go up and down stairs, brush your hair, and, well, you name it, is that you don't always workout that next day. Today was one of those painful days. I did both a swim practice and a weightlifting class yesterday, which was fantastic. But, today was a snow day, so we had the no-school-no-fitness-class-until-10:45-rule, which meant no swim practice. I managed to get in a workout from lugging Christmas decoration boxes up and downstairs. It was painful, but hopefully I moved enough that I won't be sore (or as sore) tomorrow. It was great to get a jump on taking down the decorations before I got too overwhelmed by what a big undertaking it is. I jumped right in and got as much done as I could. What a great feeling. While I was running around putting Christmas decorations away, I noticed we had a couple of birds checking out our bird feeder. Hurrah! They were camera or people shy, so I had a tough time getting a picture. Finally, I got smart and set the camera up and then walked away until one of the birds flew back to the feeder. Then, I snuck over to the camera and started clicking away. I got a couple of cute shots, I think…well, considering I was using an iPhone 4 perched on my window sill.

Bird at my Bird Feeder

Well, tonight marked the first time in years (or ever) that we didn't have a full car, SUV, or van to drive through the Symphony of Lights holiday lights display in Symphony Woods. It was just John and me. Normally, we have the kids and my mom, and we go before Christmas. Tonight it was just us. We were delighted to see the lights with a snowy backdrop. It was very nice this year. We think they added more light displays. We enjoyed it, although we did miss making it a family affair.


A New Year’s Day Thanksgiving Dinner

Here is a picture of the ready-for-the-oven dressing. It was very delicious. I only made a few modifications to the recipe shown.
I thought I was going to have a lot more lounging around time today, but I had a little “lack of Thanksgiving leftovers” bitterness to rectify. So, I made the complete Thanksgiving meal, including “the green stuff,” which is Watergate Salad — one of the staples in our holiday dinners. And, it was a delicious meal, if I do say so myself. Actually, everyone loved it, including my parents, who were also here for the Thanksgiving New Year's Day dinner. And, just like on Thanksgiving, I am having the post meal regret of too much dressing and potatoes (and gravy). I did not do really any snacking beforehand, and I was running around the kitchen to get it all ready, so hopefully I didn't do too much damage. I guess if I sink to the bottom of the pool tomorrow, I'll have my answer. We don't normally have such an elaborate feast on New Year's Day, but I'm grateful I was inspired (even though it was mostly inspiration due to bitterness) to make the effort. It was well worth it. I usually have a simple ham dinner without too many overboard extras. I also usually spend a good part of the afternoon adding all of the family birthdays, appointments, work commitments, and etc. that I already know about into my trusty “Week at a Glance” Day Timer. I will have to do that tonight, since I haven't had time yet this afternoon.

Well, sadly, we have already started the countdown to taking Alex back to school. His classes start so much earlier than Alyssa's do. So, that means I'm trying to stay ahead of the laundry, make sure he gets the home cooked meals he likes, and get some treats ready for him to take back. There is one loaf of Banana Bread in the freezer that has his name on it. So, that is a good start. There's no easing into the new year over here.

Let's eat!



Embracing Change This Christmas

This was my view from the pool this morning.

Merry Christmas!

This is the first Christmas we woke up in a hotel. It's definitely different. We ate breakfast and then went back to our room to open some gifts. Afterwards, in another first: we did a work out on Christmas Day. Alyssa and I went down to the hotel gym and pool. I did as vigorous a water aerobic workout as I could muster, mindful of the continuing celebrations this evening. After my 40 minute cardio, I did some weight lifting (Alyssa made it look fun…I'm not sure how, but she sucked me into the gym). John came down after a bit to hit the elliptical. Alex, in true teenage guy form, slept till we got back to the room after our workouts. A very different Christmas for us, but I think we are all doing our best to embrace the changes and make it very nice. We are off to the movies now, another first for us on Christmas Day, before heading over to another sister's house for Christmas Dinner.

One other note to add about yesterday, we enjoyed another surprise blessing that afternoon. We went to 4:00 PM Mass at the Church where John grew up, instead of the church where his sister and her family were going. We arrived a little early and the first person we saw was his Aunt Joanne. She was alone (and we sort of were too) so we sat together. It was such a treat! She and John had a great mini visit catching up before Mass started. Such a blessing!