Friday, October 31, 2014

 I had to take some pictures of the souvenirs I bought on the trip.  I got a beautiful Russian style fringed shawl and used it as the background for this picture.  It is a taupe colored fabric with brilliant colors.  I'd even use it as a table cloth.  I bought 2 pairs of gorgeous amber earrings for around $20 each and a large-ish amber pendant $35ish.  Compulsory patch?  Check.  I love visiting grocery stores and chemists overseas too and always pick up bars of soap.  I got 5 at the grocery store for about 50 cents each and a tin of diaper rash cream (for our non-existent baby stash) in a tin.  I love anything that comes in a tin!  More magnets for my already magnet congested fridge:  a Lipowa #4 (Schindler's factory address), a Pope John Paul II, and an obwarzanek.  I also got a fabulous machine embroidered felt purse with a design similar to the paper cuttings we saw everywhere and a Polish pottery egg ornament and a small pottery pot I intend to use for toothpicks in my china cabinet-$1.25.  
We visited Wadowice where Pope John Paul II was born and the church next door where he was baptized and had his first communion.  Krakow is where he lived and worked as a priest and later bishop.  I am Lutheran but have always loved Pope John Paul II.  He is the pope I grew up with and was truly a great human being.  He was admired in our household too.  I was 3 years old during his attempted assassination and my parents are fond of reminding me that I went around telling everyone, "Someone shot the Post!"

This may sound silly, but I worked in gerontology for the first third of my nursing career and seeing him age and struggle and continue in his ministry was particularly poignant to me.  The museum in Wadowice was worth every penny and so moving because they brought up that very point that as he aged, he showed us how to endure our human suffering with dignity.  We also visited St. Francis' church in Krakow where he was priest.  I bought 2 rosaries and each had a Pope John Paul II medallion as well as a replica of the Christ from his staff.  I got a card rosary with a lovely prayer on it as well as a scapula and several  olive wood crosses for my nieces and nephew. 

The icon you see is that of The Black Madonna which is the protector of Poland.  Legend says she warded off Swedish invaders back in the day.  There is a replica of her at the Barbakan gate but the real one is 2 hours away from Krakow but we didn't go see it because it was a production to use public transportation to get to it.  We later found out that our guide to Auschwitz also took people to the Lady on another day tour offering.  Maybe next time. 

I bought a beautiful mezuzah for our front door.  We wandered around the old Jewish quarter and saw all the gouges in the doors where the mezuzahs had been dug out just before the resident Jews were driven out.  Even though I am Lutheran, we have the Old Testament in common with the Jews and so much in common with the Catholic church so I don't find it strange to identify with either.
We visited the cathedral on Wawel Hill and it was the only church I'd ever visited that had tapestries for decoration.  I bought 2 folio folders with plates of the tapestries on them as well as one with a folk embroidery photo.  I will use these for errant knitting patterns instead of them slamming around inside my knitting bag.  We also saw Da Vinci's Lady With the Ermine there.  She was gorgeous, and unlike the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, we were the only ones in the room to look at her.  She was maybe 6 feet behind a rope and just glorious.  I bought a little canvas copy of her to hang in my sewing room.  I also got 2 blank books at the ethnographic museum with a folk embroidery on one and a painted trunk on the other.  I was born and raised a full blooded Norwegian and love and appreciate all forms of folk art.
I know I mentioned my Polish pottery that I ordered earlier but I did buy and bring some home with me.  Here are 2 platters, the smaller one cost $18 and the larger was $23.  I got this lovely wooden nativity for $15.  I was able to pack the platters in my suitcase (surrounded by the hostess napkins I bought!) and the nativity made it home safely in my carry on bag.
Here is a baker and a bowl Mother bought for me as an early Christmas gift.  These also traveled with me in my carry on bag and survived the the trip home.  The colorful eggs are painted wood and cost not quite $1 each.  I love decorated eggs whether they are painted or dyed or whatever.  I have yet to post pictures of them, but this summer we bought a china cabinet and sideboard from the estate of Dave's sister's in-laws.  I have waited my whole life for a china cabinet, but more importantly, somewhere to put it!   I've had dishes sitting in boxes for over 10 years and they finally have a home and I have a place to put these beautiful dishes!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Polish Food

When was the last time you said, "Let's go out for some Polish food,"?  I have to say Polish food was filling, tasty, relatively healthy, and CHEAP!

Usually when my mother and I travel, we eat out of the grocery store due to her violent allergy to fish.  Luckily for us on this trip, Poland isn't known for seafood and we felt comfortable enough to frequent the bars.  The MILK bars that is ;)  Back in communist times, milk bars were a government subsidized lunch counter because a well fed worker is a productive worker.  Nowadays the milk bars are still present and a wonderful place to get an authentic and local meal for a great price.  Note the little booth in this picture.  They are selling obwarzanek which are the Polish street pretzels you see EVERYWHERE.  The weather was cooler or maybe it was spitting out because the vendor has the vinyl shelter flaps put up.  The pretzels cost about 40 cents.
We stayed in Krakow and everyone who visits Krakow goes to the main square and the cloth hall for shopping.  We did plenty of that but we also took time to walk up Grodska street to visit this milk bar.  I want to say it was #27 but I could be wrong.  Just look for this blue sign.  You walk in and they have a Polish/English menu on the wall.
 It looks like your typical lunch counter.  You pick up your tray and tell the gal what you want.  In our case, we wrote down what we wanted in Polish on our handy dandy notebook and showed it to her. 
She then goes to the little window in the back and places your order.  Anything hot came through the little window from the kitchen.  All the salads and beverages were already dished up and sitting waiting on the counter. You bus your own table by taking your dishes up to the counter at the end of your meal.
 These are the cottage cheese dumplings with strawberry sauce my mother ordered.
 Here is my order of potato pancakes with goulash of pork.  I think most Americans think goulash is made of macaroni noodles and ground beef and tomato sauce.  Goulash in Poland means meat sauce and this was DELICIOUS!  Num NUM!
 This was my dad's roast pork with mushroom sauce with a serving of the ubiquitous carrot salad we saw everywhere and the mashed potatoes topped with dried dill weed.
 This was a plate of 'salads' that we also saw everywhere!  And it was delicious.  We saw green and red cabbage varieties of salad that were bona fide salads.  They had a light slightly salty and sweet dressing and were filling and delicious.  We Americans eat cabbage salad smothered in mayonnaise and call it cole slaw.  After tasting this I ordered it in every milk bar we frequented.
 This is the bar we visited on Kasimierz street after we visited the Jewish market and the site of a major scene used in the film Schindler's List.  It was a block or two up the street from the ethnographic museum and was a really local hole in the wall place.  We saw lots of old age pensioners visiting this lunch counter and most of them came to get take-away meals.  They'd bring in a quart jar and the lunch counter lady would fill it up with soup or Borscht or whatever.  I had a cheat sheet of common Polish menu items and the wonderfully sympathetic lunch counter lady saved our lives by uttering, "English menu?" 
 Typical milk bar set up.  My biggest pet peeve about the milk bars was that the juices and kefirs were already poured out and sitting on the counter at room temperature but that seemed to be the standard procedure in all the bars. 
 Here is another version of the ubiquitous cabbage and carrot salad.  Delicious.
 Here is my order of meat and rice stuffed cabbage leaves with dried dill topped potatoes.  My brother makes very good stuffed cabbage leaves and I need to get his recipe.
 Here are my mom's strawberry stuffed pirogi. 
 I absolutely couldn't wait to buy a red cabbage when we got home.  I made my first attempt at Polish cabbage salad using my mandolin but then I remembered I had this implement of destruction lurking in my cupboards. My sister gave me this years ago and I'd never used it before.  It is a Salad Master and is the most low tech but versatile kitchen tool.  This was the first time I'd used it and it has earned a permanent home in my hall closet.  I tweaked the following recipe to taste:

1/2 head of shredded cabbage
3 tsp. salt
2 finely grated carrots
1 finely grated onion
1/4 c. vinegar
6 Tbsp. stevia
2 Tbsp. oil

All this is to taste of course.  I ended up putting some garlic powder in too.  The salt softens the cabbage and brings out the water which becomes most of the dressing.  I never thought raw cabbage could be so simple and tasty.

The next thing I wanted to try to make was potato pancakes.  Polish potato pancakes were not like latkes and seemed to be made more of mashed than grated potatoes.  I found this recipe and the first time I made them, I was too lazy to get out my food processor and I just grated the potatoes on my box grater.  The pancakes turned out ok but the recipe yielded about 8-9 pancakes.
I wanted to make these along with pork goulash for Dave's supper.  This time I used the food processor as instructed and was happier with the texture.  We got enough to feed us both and pack 4 box lunches for work!
For the goulash, I got an 18 oz. pork tenderloin on sale at Cub and used that for the meat.  I used this recipe and it was delicious.  The meat just melts in your mouth.  I used half the amount of paprika called for but next time I'll use the whole amount.  I have a BAG or two of paprika my parents brought me from Budapest and I bought some more from Poland.  I thought it was fitting to serve this on my Polish pottery too!  I bought 12 place settings of it on the trip and am eagerly awaiting a knock on the door from the UPS man.  I will post pictures when they arrive.
As far as kitchen souvenirs (I like finding things overseas to put in my kitchen because I will use them regularly), I am proud to say I did NOT get any wooden spoons!  The first thing all my Anderson family members said when they came to Christmas last year was, "You have a lot of wooden spoons and spatulas!"  I bought a bunch of packets of dried herbs and spices at the grocery store.  I know we have dried dill here but I wanted Polish dill and they were CHEAP!  A huge packet like that cost about 25c.  I also bought a bunch of hostess napkins for not quite $2-including a polish pottery print.  Hostess napkins cost well over $6 in gift shops here.  That wooden mushroom is in fact a nutcracker and cost around $2.50.  We visited a salt mine and I bought a salt grinder and a bag of rock salt.  We visited Schindler's factory and they sold small enameled cups and of course I bought one.  I love enamelware and before the trip was even thinking I wanted to find a functional piece to bring home.  I found that small green pot and lid in a shop in Wadowice and it cost not quite $10.

Prices were very cheap in Poland.  A loaf of bread cost $1.  A liter of milk cost $1.  10 eggs cost $2.50 and they were free range organic eggs--the most flavorful I've ever tasted.  They sold eggs in packages of 10 or 20 which I thought was so funny--but they probably think we're crazy for selling ours in such an un-metric number as 12!  150 grams of bacon was $1.30 and it was lean bacon but again, the most flavorful I've ever tasted.  It was so lean that we fried up cooked potatoes with some chunked bacon for breakfast and we had to add butter to the pan!  A liter of fruit juice was $1.  A kilo of wax beans was 75c.  A huge head of cauliflower was 50c.  They had the most beautiful produce I'd ever seen.

And most of the museums we went to were free one day a week and we planned to visit that day.  If you had to pay to get in, they were around $2 or so.  Mom and I were saying that in London, any museum or site you want to see costs $15-$20! 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

 We survived Poland and got back on Friday.  I'm working all week and haven't had time to really unpack.  The apartment we rented had a washing machine so I only had to bring 2-3 changes of clothes which left me way more room to bring home trinkets and souvenirs!  I will take pictures of them in a day or two.  Otherwise, my mornings have been filled finishing up these fabric baby shoes for my Etsy shop.
Here is another three pair.  I'm always so hopeful with Etsy but so far, all my sales have been limited to gals I work with and I appreciate them very much.  If these don't sell, then someday when we have kids they'll have the best dressed feet in the neighborhood!
November is shortly upon us which means it is time for National Knit A Sweater In A Month again!  Last year our census was down and I was offered on call shifts left and right and was able to finish an adult cardigan.  I don't think that will happen again this year so instead I am going to attempt a toddler dress for my niece Leah for Christmas.  I have my pattern at the ready and my yarn wound.  I will have a delayed start though because Brenda and Melissa are coming to visit for a few days on Monday.  We're taking a field trip to SR Harris and will sew and eat a lot!  Can't wait to see my girlfriends!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Deep Thoughts...

...actually it feels more like random thoughts.  Dave and I went to the Renaissance Festival 2 weeks ago.  I last went 10 (count them TEN!) years ago with Matt and Melissa.  Dad had free press passes for us and off we went.  It was a hot day while we were there and we hiked around the entire site.  I'd done my homework the night before and had a few booths I wanted to check out.  We got Burger King for breakfast on the drive over so we weren't hungry while we were there and didn't buy any food.  I saw a few pottery pieces I liked but I couldn't justify buying them because I am leaving for Poland on TUESDAY and am going to buy as much Polish pottery as I can carry.  The only thing we bought was a garlic braid and jar of jalapeno pickled garlic cloves.  I'd wanted to buy a garlic braid 10 years ago but didn't because I knew I'd never use it up before it spoiled.  And I'm disappointed in all the literature that touts the immunity boosting properties of garlic because I've been cooking with it like crazy and still managed to catch the worst cold in recent memory this week.
 I finished a few more owl cardigans for cousin baby gifts as well as some cloth baby shoes.  I got these off in the post today and I hope they like them.
 I knitted another for our non-existent baby stash.  I finished this one with buttons for eyes and I might try to knit a matching hat. 
 And since I have another trip coming up, I needed another bag.  Last week I sewed another trusty Amy Butler Messenger Bag out of a yard of 60" wide Amy Butler fabric.  I bought this years ago when Dave and I were still dating and he'd come down to Mason City to visit and we drove over to Charles City to go to the Pizza Ranch but more importantly, to visit the yarn/quilt shop next door!  This has to be some of the fussiest sewing I've done to match up the pattern to the bag.  I felt guilty cutting out of the middle of the fabric to match the pieces.  In the end, I didn't have enough and had to piece together scraps to finish off the outer purse.  If this was a blah patterned cut of fabric, I'd have had more than enough but because it was such a specific design, I ran short.  It turned out OK though.  I love that it looks like tiles and I love the colors.  Necessity is indeed the mother of all invention and nothing could be more true.  I got creative in squeezing every last inch out of this fabric.  Can you see the outer purse hiding in the bag?