Sunday, July 5, 2015

Independence and Bubbles

Here in Poland, our little Polish/American (or American/Polish if you wish) family celebrated July 4th czyli American Independence Day. It was a blast.

Truth be told, my sister is famous for her legendary 4th of July parties. Three years ago we happened to be in the States for her party, and we were not disappointed. I think the whole town was there. We stopped counting when we reached a hundred people. And the good. The best part of all was the hour-long firework show thanks to my brother-in-law's completed course and certification in firework handling (?) and my father's deep pockets. 

We finally found the flag that we purchased at Target last year. It was in a safe place that we couldn't remember. We also found a great fireworks store, but decided not to burn the whole village down and opted for sparklers only, so-called "zimny ognie" in Polish which translates to "cold fire".

Here's how our flag presented on the barn door.

Our romantic country netting fared much worse as it was windy and wasps kept getting trapped inside.

It found a new home.

I almost forgot that before the party we hit a local flea market and came out with these great party finds.

It was hot as hell yesterday so we did our best to stay cool. Some of us were chilling in the shade of the barn.

The rest of us enjoyed the low-tech fun of getting sprayed with the hose. That water's straight from the spigot in the basement, and it was c-o-l-d!


The loft in the barn is always an attraction for our little guests and for their parents a nice reminder of childhoods spent with grandparents. 

We also organized a scavenger hunt. It wasn't too complicated, but the kids' natural rivalry came out. They were running around despite the heat trying to be the first to complete their list. Here are two little ladies presenting their findings to the judge.

Our village had a small festival as well. There was no occasion. I suppose our local municipality got some money and had to use it up. Or I can pretend that it was in my honor. There were games and competitions for kids, some small rides, a water curtain, popcorn, cotton candy, etc. Our girls and their guests came home with arms full of prizes. Forgive the picture above, but this man fascinated me throughout the whole festival. I don't know if it was the no-shirt and suspenders combination or the fact that he had the suspenders hitched to his jeans in the back, but hitched to his underpants in the front. Additionally these suspenders were in no way doing their job of keeping his trousers up. He deserved a prize too.

We ended the day with sparklers which I didn't catch a picture of because I was having too much sparkler fun myself and also with bubbles using my own homemade bubble concoction which worked perfectly if I do say so myself.

All in all, it was a great day.

Here's my very imprecise recipe for bubble mix:

I mixed everything in a big jar of water. I added about a 1/2 cup good quality dishwashing liquid. Here in Europe "Fairy" which is "Dawn" in the States. Next I added a little 50 gram bottle of glycerin. I don't know if that is too little or too much. After that I added a teaspoon or less of baking powder. All of that was sufficient for making bubbles, but the bubbles didn't want to come off the wand, they weren't reflective, and they popped right away. Google to the rescue, I discovered I was missing a key ingredient - some kind of polymer to help the bubbles along. We found that polymer at the pharmacy in the form of Durex 2 in 1 lubricant similar to KY jelly. I added a couple of squirts only. After that the bubbles came right out of the wands, were big and colorful, and lasted a long time. My mix was a bit concentrated so I transferred it to a plastic bottle and then diluted individual portions with water. 

Give it a try!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Our kids don't have everything

Our kids don't have everything. By our choice.

I had pretty much everything as a child. I did grow up in America after all. My husband a child of PRL had adventures, not toys.

Years ago we bought a house about an hour outside of the city in a village of 500 people surrounded by farms and forests. A house is an overstatement. It was more likes a collection of bricks. No heating, no electricity, no water, no bathroom, but one hectare of land and peace and quiet all around. 

Now the house has new windows and a new roof. It has electricity and water and heating and its first ever indoor bathroom. Ameryka, po prostu. Our kids have a big room, shared, full of books and toys - it is true. They have less than what I had, and more than their father had. 

There will be no gaming systems, no iPad per kid, no television sets in their rooms, nothing like that. There will be family bike rides, their own personal flower beds (weeded out by Mom), worms, snakes, frogs, bug bites, swimming in the lake, and family barbecues - emphasis on experiences, instead of things.

I must admit it is often harder for us as parents to say no than for the kids to hear it, especially the parent who had less as a child. Yes, one Coca-cola won't kill them, but today it's a coke, tomorrow a candy bar, the next day a video game. It's a slippery slope ;)

If you know Polish, here is one parent's perspective on the "kids with everything " issue - from a parent who grew up with "nothing".,nasze-dzieci-maja-wszystko

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Half naked

Poland has a new President, well, President-Elect until he's actually sworn in. President-Elect Andrzej Duda won out over current President Bronisław Komorowski. Duda is strongly supported by the conservative right and won overwhelmingly in the eastern side of Poland. The east-west split in Poland falls along the lines of history with so-called Polska A of the west including territory acquired after WW2.* Polska A tends to be less conservative, less religious, and better off than Polska B. It follows that Polska B is less well-off, more conservative, and more religious. In some areas in the east, Duda received even 70% of the vote. Voter turnout hit about 50% if I remember correctly. There were 2 eastern areas where Komorowski won out. Those areas are Eastern Orthodox which goes to show how much of an impact religion had on the election results.

*Noted* First commenter below reminds that this division existed prior to WW2 as well.

Recently Duda was asked about the possibility of homosexuals working in his cabinet. His reply speaks for itself:

"I cannot imagine that I would ask employees how and with whom they live."

Good, good.

"But I also cannot imagine that some half-naked people would be parading around my office."

Duda, you should have stopped while you were ahead. So homosexual = half naked. Maybe if we are talking about a hot, gay club at 2 a.m. or at least that's what I've seen on TV. Maybe Duda has more experience with half-naked homosexuals than I do or perhaps we just watch the same TV programs.

Mayor of Słupsk, Robert Biedroń, when asked about Duda's comments, made an excellent point, "Duda should remember the he is president of a serious country. If he holds such a stereotype about gays, just imagine what he thinks about Jews, or Roma, or Germans or Russians. That's not an appropriate stance for a politician of this stature. He's not doing me any favors sitting at the table with me. I'm just as much a citizen as anybody else." I should mention here that Robert Biedroń is not only the Mayor of Słupsk, he is also homosexual.

It's supposed to hit 28*C today so I think there are plenty of people who'd like to be parading around half naked at work...including me!

Article in Polish,robert-biedron-nie-przystoi-by-prezydent-tak-wypowiadal-sie-o-gejach

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Get your Polish pottery fix here!

We had a great Saturday full of family and pottery. First, let's tackle the pottery part. We went to Bolesławiec, the Mecca of Polish pottery lovers, to get our yearly pottery fix. We bought a reasonable (not excessive) amount of pottery and snapped a lot of pictures. Trips to Bolesławiec are always great, but this time there was the added family bonus. I got to see my cousin after 20 years and meet her husband. They're currently living in Germany and are also pottery fans. It was only natural for us to meet up for some shopping. Bring on the zakupy!

It was hard to make a decision with so many beautiful pieces to choose from. Luckily, Lizzie and Rosie were on hand to help. At least we only had to pop our stuff in the car and go. My cousin will eventually have to pack it all up and get it all to their next home wherever that may be. That didn't deter my cousin in her shopping along with my comments of "Get it. You deserve it." I should get commission.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Easy peasy birthday party

Our baby Rosie is seven. I know everyone says it, but seriously, where'd the time go? Because Rosie spent her actual birthday at her Dziadek's funeral, we decided to invite a couple of friends over this weekend for a mini-party.

Yes, it is true that once upon a time after cleaning the apartment, Rosie ran to the kitchen to look for the birthday cake. You know because why else would we clean? There was no cake and no birthday that time, but we went all out this time - well, except the windows.

So how to have a quick and easy birthday party? We planned it at home, Saturday morning, 4 guests only, finger sandwiches, fruit, gellies, cake, ice cream, pitchers of fruit tea, paper plates and cups from Ikea, flowers instead of decorations. Easy peasy.

Plus we invited Miss Amanda from MaluMika to paint ceramics with the girls. Take a look.

Easy Peasy, happy birthday.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

No funerals, no vomit hands

We got a chance to spend the weekend together. No funerals.

Our weekend always starts the same with a drive from the city to the village. Occasionally we spot a deer or fox or wild pig on the way, but this weekend we spotted something much less rare - the overturned bike. When we spot a bike overturned on a dark and winding road, we of course stop to look for its owner. That's our do-goodery policy. This time it really looked like someone might have been hit by a car based on the position of the bike. Fortunately it turned out to be another case of falling drunk into a ditch. Based on previous experience with vomit hands, we decided not to make physical contact with that fellow. We called in backup from the nearby shop - some strong, young men who recognized our description of the poor fellow. He was dragged out of the ditch and returned home safely. It happens so often that I don't much feel like patting myself on the back anymore.

Saturday we went to a new, little juice bar called Malinea where we drank yummy fruit shakes and received a little present of fruit preserves. The kids had waffles with whipped cream - homemade whipped cream, not from the spray can.

I also made a practice cake for Lizzie's birthday party. She asked for a SpongeBob cake, and I wasn't sure if I could make something that resembled SpongeBob. This is my first attempt. Hopefully, it'll come out a little better on party day.

Here's my first attempt at rainbow gellies. Rosie's birthday has passed, but her party is next weekend. We've got one little Celiac guest, and I wanted to make something special just for her to eat. I hope she likes gellies.

The rest of the weekend I spent doing a boring translation about chemicals. I've still got 5 pages to go. It's so hard to sit at the computer when the sun is shining. I think I'll eat the last of the gellies.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Not what I was expecting

We spent last Easter in the US with my family. Rosie got her birthday cake on board the plane along with a card signed by the whole crew. She promptly vomited it all up, but the thought was very nice. We got to see lots of our friends, even more family, and our girls had a real "American-style" Easter egg hunt with lots of eggs and more importantly lots of other kids. I got to see my father for the last time, although I had no idea it would be the last time. I will remember that trip forever as one of the best in my life. I cannot believe how much has changed in the last year.

Unfortunately, this year we started from a funeral. The cemetery is in a quiet, wooded location. It's also just down the cobblestone road from the beautiful wooden church where my parents-in-law got married, and once at Christmas Eve mass when I thought I saw the Unibomber.
That's a story for another day.

We also visited some family members with their version of cobblestone as well.
modern cobblestone
Rosie turned 7 and celebrated with her Easter-themed birthday cake made by Mom ;)

I chickened out and bought little Mazurki.

Pickled eggs in waiting

Babki baked to perfection ;)

Pisanki decorated to perfection ;)

The Easter bunny didn't forget our girls.

It was bit wet out, but no snow so yay!

Pickled egg perfection :)

Honey-baked ham
And all the fixings
Rosie got this at the local Christmas ball factory.

Today we returned to work. The girls will go back to school tomorrow. Back to normal I guess, but a new normal, a normal I wasn't quite expecting.