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.



The Beautiful Game Back in The Day

Love Soccer

Love Soccer

I grew up in a time and place that was quite unique. I played soccer and swam on the neighborhood summer swim team. Forty years ago. It was very normal. I had no idea that literally the year my family moved to this unique place, Title IX was passed. It didn’t seem to matter. Boys and girls, black or white or other races were all just kids. We were on teams and in school and we were not told we couldn’t do any of it for any reason. I had no idea how rare it all was. I had no idea that there were huge areas of the country that did not offer soccer as a sport option, or if they did, did not offer soccer as a sport for girls back at that time.

In high school, I played on the Girls Varsity Soccer team, which I believe had only started up the year or two before I got there. I would later learn that one of my former neighborhood team teammates had lobbied hard to make high school soccer for girls a reality at my school. (Thank you, Jessie!) Our coach was a Cuban American woman, who was also my Spanish teacher.  There was no Girls Junior Varsity team back then. I don’t even know when that started in our county. I was in college by then or older perhaps.

So, I was a soccer player and soccer fan in the U.S. a long time ago. We had a very successful Boys Varsity Soccer Team at the time. One young man was drafted to play in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the U.S. professional league, right out of high school. He played for the New York Cosmos, which was a very good team.  It was very exciting to think that someone we knew from our school was playing professionally with some of the top names in the sport.

Today I learned that one of THE legends of the game back then died. Johan Cruyff. He was Dutch, but he played in the U.S. for another NASL team, the Washington Diplomats, for a time. I can’t believe how hearing of his passing has brought to mind this flood of my personal soccer memories and with them, gratitude. I got to see that guy play. And, while the details are fuzzy and honestly irrelevant, I’m happy to have had the honor. But, I’m even more grateful that I was able to play.

Soccer Patches

Soccer Patches




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? 



Rolling Along the Western Maryland Rail Trail

The Stone Bridge on the Western Maryland Rail Trail


Another day, another ride. That's how we Empty Nesters roll. Or, at least that's how we roll when we plan a day off to ride another new (to us) rail trail.

Today we took on the Western Maryland Rail Trail. The weather was overcast skies with temperatures in the low 70's. We began our ride at eastern end of the trail in Big Pool and headed west. We had read a little about this trail before we started, which helped us plan our day. We decided to break the 22 mile or so trail into two visits. We rode the original part of the trail from Big Pool to Hancock, MD this visit. It was just over 10 miles. This seemed manageable to us given that we had done the 26 mile ride in Virginia yesterday. I should say, it seemed reasonable until we actually remounted our bikes. At that point, anything beyond jumping off immediately seemed unreasonable. But, were pushed through the pain (because that's how hard core we are – ahem.)

The Rails and Big Pool in the Background

It was a lovely ride from the beginning. The first thing I noticed were the railroad tracks right next to the start of the trail. I love that! There was also a body of water, Big Pool, that I could see beyond the tracks. It was so nice. There was also a pretty stone bridge over the trail a few yards into the ride (photograph at top of post). It was so quiet and peaceful. The only other folks we saw initially were several older couples. We passed a working farm or two but not really any housing developments. It was woodsy and scenic until we got close to Rte. 70. The trail runs parallel with that busy highway for a good part of the trail. We decided that the road noise was a little annoying, but the beauty of the views opposite the highway completely outweighed the highway noise.

View of C & O Canal Towpath from Western Maryland Rail Trail

The trail was very flat, wide, and paved, which was good, I guess. It was strange to me to have such a flat, straight trail, but John loved it. It was getting increasingly more windy as we rode back to Big Pool. This made our return trip noteworthy (tougher) in that we had to fight that headwind. But, we got back to the car not much worse for the wear. All in all a good day and a good ride.

Western Maryland Rail Trail at Hancock, MD


Happy Happiness Day


It's the first day of Spring! Hurrah! For all the good it is going to do us in the near term. There are rumors, and by rumors I mean the weathermen and just about every news outlet are reporting it, that there is likely going to be another winter storm. Next week. On Tuesday. Fortunately, we were able to enjoy today. It was a sunny and warm feeling 55 degrees.

It was also International Happiness (or Happy) Day. I am lucky to not only “get” Twitter but I get a lot out of it, specifically news and entertainment. I follow some very fun and funny people on Twitter, so news of this little known day of smiles and happy thoughts and deeds was all the rage on my twitter feed today. I was treated to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams several times (with the cute video). It's such a catchy tune, I can't help but sing and clap along… Because I'm happy! Happy Spring is here, and sooner or later the weather is bound to improve.



Ten Things that Made Me Smile


I'm feeling the need for a Top Ten list this evening. The still wintery weather seems to be dragging me and a lot of people I know down. So, instead of focusing on the dread, I'm going to highlight the Happy! I've read the word “Smile” today in several places, so here are some of the things that made me smile today:

1) Getting a compliment.

2) Giving a compliment.

3) Hearing the birds sing like it's Springtime, but seeing them trying not to stand in the snow too long.

4) Getting into the noon Body Pump weightlifting class.

5) Helping a new friend with her groovy business.

6) Planning a Masters luncheon/party for the end of May.

7) Conversations with both kids – one by phone and one by text.

8) Not having to make dinner tonight.

9) Getting to sleep in a little this morning, and

10) Trying something new.


A Merry and Snowy Christmas

Look at what I woke up to this morning! Hurrah! We are getting a White Christmas. It has not happened too often in recent years. I don't know why I love a white Christmas so much. It could be that I enjoyed a good number of them when I was little. My family used to travel to Indianapolis to spend Christmas with my paternal grandparents. We have a lot of wonderful and snowy memories of those Christmases. It could be that I have bought into what all the songs, television shows, movies, and books have led us to want in order to have a Merry Christmas. Or, it could be that snow just makes everything look so beautiful and therefore more magical. Well, whatever the reason, I am very grateful to have this little blessing this Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone!