Saturday, December 26, 2009

So where do I start now?

Next number at window A is 2010, 2010, does anyone know where 2010 is? Oh yeah, just around the corner!
About time to light a new year candle.

So Christmas has now come and gone, and there is another year sneaking up on me around the corner. Yet I still have photos that I haven't even looked at from Summer, Autumn and I even found some from Spring! That is a little scary, actually, it is very scary.

For all those in other locations who have been eagerly awaiting some photos of a white Christmas, your Christmas has been cancelled! Alas, there is none for you this year, maybe you need to be better? We had a fantastic covering of snow two days before the big day, but on the day in question, it rained and rained and rained and rained. For a little while on Christmas Eve day, I was thinking on my wish list I should have asked for an Ark. Then I realised I don't like animals in twos, anyway this rain washed away the majority of the snow. So instead of making snow angels, Snow men and losing an eye to a snow ball fight, I had to content myself cooking.
Mistletow was abound though (thanks to Marty who took this great photo)
Christmas in Poland is THE biggest event of the year. Most of the country lives for it. Except maybe the Orthodox and the Tatars. It was funny to hear many of my students complain about the complete commercialisation of Christmas, but from what I have seen it doesn't touch Australia, the US or the UK. Not even close.

Poland still maintains many traditions around this time, some that may even appear to be heavy and burdensome and maybe slightly cruel. Of this I will speak more of later. Firstly some basics:

- The Poles focus their celebration on Christmas Eve, not on Christmas Day, as we do back home.
- They serve 12 different dishes on this night, some people include salt and pepper as a dish to save on cooking.
- No meat is eaten, and in the strictly Catholic families, no one is allowed to drink either (this is part of the cruelty!)
- Passages are read from the Bible before you start the meal, and wishes are given to each individual at the meal.
- The preference for fish is either Northern Herring or buying live Carp as one of the main meals (not eaten live but just bought live)
- The Christmas tree is decorated only on Christmas Eve Day
- And many people attend church services on CED, especially at midnight.

I was lucky enough not to have to kill the carp, as they are notoriously hard to knock off, also I skipped out on church. I did get the chance to give everyone best wishes, eat at least 12 dishes, have a celebratory drink, and decorate the tree. So overall, I think I must have been about a 50% Pole for the day. But I tried to be in the kitchen all day chopping and roasting and baking to make sure that all were fed.

We cooked up some lovely food as our 12 dishes. They were:
Firstly the ones I didn't photographt (or photograph well)
- Pickled Herring in onion and vinegar
- Fresh pickled cucumbers
- Boiled vegetables, pickles and egg salad
- Dark chocolate cake with marinated plums and vanilla cream mousse
- Kompot (a drink made from dried fruit that are boiled for some time)
- Smoked salmon on bread with a horseradish, chive, cream and garlic sauce

- Carp roasted with a mushroom sauce
- Roasted Tench (another freshwater fish)
- Roasted herb potatoes
- Fish Greek style
- Tortellini salad
- Beetroot and Herring salad
- Fried butterfish
- Barszcz (beetroot soup) with uszka, or little ears (tortellini-shaped dumplings with cabbage and sauerkraut).
- A Gingerbread house

The end result.
So we demolished most of the above that evening. Not too bad for 8 people, one of which is 3 years old! He did the most of his damage to the Gingerbread house, or as he called it domek, or little house. Sebastian lining up his first attack on the structure of the house.
Marty analysing the damaged parts.
During the battle the Santa near the chimney ended up being a casualty.
We think that building a house will be a new tradition for Marty and me (not that Sebastian agrees here), to build a different house each year and keep a record of it (probably just a photographic record) and change the design each year. This was the first time I had ever made one, so I am pretty happy with the end result.

This year Marta designed it, I baked it and a team of Marty, me, her mum and her brother all decorated it with
smarties, malteasers, chocolate wafers for tiles and shutters, and melted dark to help stick it together and white chocolate around the place as glue and faux snow. Not to forget an army of chocolate Santas to guard it.

So this was the Christmas Eve..... Then there was Christmas day where I made scones in the morning for the family for the first time ever, and then cooked a turkey as well. I stuffed it with breadcrumbs, garlic, apple, ham, onion, pig fat, herbs, salt and pepper and of course some water to bind it all together. This was the first time the family had roasted a whole turkey ever. So once cooked, I made gravy from its juices where I also roasted some potatoes. It went down a treat. I think it will be a new tradition..... maybe, unless we decide on goose next year!
Thanks for reading this year. I hope I can keep you interested enough to continue to read me in the new decade that starts in just over 24 hours!

Friday, December 18, 2009

News Flash!

News just in from WWW that is Warsaw the Winter Wonderland.
It appears that life as we knew it is dead! The world has proven to be totally racist in that all is now officially white.
So it started off earlier in the week with a light dusting, which makes for nice patterns.
But patterns are part of the greatness of life. To me things that are consistent aren't boring. They are things of wonder. I really like how simple tyre tracks on paving stones can look. That is just me though.
Or how you see the man holes have halos of warmth around them.

A question my students ask me, as does Marty, is about the weather and how do I cope. So how does an Australian know when he has hit snow and not just really really white sand?
Well he has thongs with socks and jeans as a start.
Also that what he thought was a lovely white beach just ends up being the balcony as he can tell by the coldness, oh and the tiles under his footprints.

Transmission terminated, we now resume to your normal programming.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More of the Autumn

So as you saw Autumn was smaller for me this year rather than last. It didn't involve me travelling a crazy amount, nor did it involve the many colour changes that I had the chance to snap in 2008. I really should have been better at it. But alas that was not the case. Part of the reason was a rather abrupt and rather vicious, in my eyes, cold snap.It came in the middle of Autumn, ruining the beautiful leaves on many trees as the more delicate of them decided to drop their leaves ASAP to enable them to continue to survive.
The moss continued to grow though as it was rather damp, and then, later it was warm again. So the lichens were wild and crazy around the place.There was plenty of rain to keep the grasses growing though, so I am sure it would be a great time for the dairy farmers.

Hence forth, I will endeavour to do this, however, I was able to do some other things.

In Sokolka, we had the chance to pick wild fruits for the making of whatever our hearts desired. One other great thing about this was that there was quite a heavy frost. This frost makes the fruit extra sweet and means that anything you want to do with them in the future now allows you to use less sugar.
Next will be what we took from the wild fruit trees. Also of course the end results.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Autumn catch up

Well, with Winter knocking away on the door, apparently we will be getting some -20C weather this week. That not only scares me, but makes me think I will be investing in some winter long johns pretty darned soon. So with this coming, I really need to get myself organised, so that I can put some Autumn photos up. This years Autumn was really quick, because we had a huge cold snap early in the year. That meant we got snow, frost and some scary temperatures far too early! Also this had drastic consequences for the beautiful coloured leaves we get here in Poland at this time. Last year I was here in November, and I was bathed in sunshine and some of the most gorgeous browns, yellows, oranges, reds and all shades in between (of the leaves).
So let me start with our newest and noisiest addition yet (possible ever when it comes to the noise side of things). Ralph AKA Ralphunio, Sir Chirpsalot, Chirpy pants, Papuga, Mr Fluffy and most commonly referred to as "SHUT THE HELL UP YOU INSANE CREATURE". Yes, Ralph has the biggest lungs to bird ratio ever in the history of evolution.
Sinister looking Ralph shadows!

He is able to chirp so loud that, when we first got him, I was walking home turned the corner of our street from the main road, a road with buses, trucks and many cars. On turning this corner, I could hear chirping or screaming depending on how you look at it. I looked up to our house and could see Marta had left the window open to let some fresh air in the house when she went to work. So yes, he is clinically insane. But we love him, as he is so pretty and eats from our hands, if he isn't biting us, that is.

Also Autumn, as the weather was freezing, inspired me to make more liquours. So early in Autumn, I started on a Pear liquour, as I had never had a pear liquour before. So I thought I should give it a go. 1 litre of Vodka, a litre of Brandy, about 250g of brown and white sugar mixed and enough hot water to dissolve it (500ml), and a couple of kilos of pears later, you get the base of the liquour to stew for a few months.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Top ten pics of 2009

So here they are in order from No. 1 to 10.

So thanks to everyone who voted on here and on Facebook too. These are the top 10 picks in regards to colour and black and white. I am taking a top 5 of each to make a top 10. The top ten is complied in order of votes for each photo. So you can figure out the top 5 in each if you want. :)

Hope the festive season and pandemonium is going well for all.