Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday at Home, Except Not

This week for "Fridays at Home," I'm away. Pleasantly ironic, isn't it? I'm visiting my relatives in Germany, but I got a picture before I left. And oh dear, I know, it's an awful picture! Promise to make up for it next week.

Anyway, I bought this bag at the market for 10zl (about $3.50), and I've already had to, shall we say, reinforce the stitching at the zipper. But it's perfect for little week-long trips like this!

See you next week!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This time without fireworks

Tuesday was Independence Day in Poland. They're celebrating 90 years since the founding of the second Polish Republic (at the end of WWI), so it's sort of a big deal. Above is a photo of the flag outside our apartment building.

Brian and I celebrated in the same way as many of our fellow Cracovians--we got on a jam-packed bus (I mean my face was up against someone else's coat for most of the ride), and rode to the zoo!

We weren't actually headed to see the animals, though. The Krakow zoo is surrounded by woods, called Las Wolski, which are full of walking and biking trails. It was our first time out there, and I would definitely return. It helped that we had an absolutely gorgeous day. How many days in mid-November are 55F, sunny and cloudless?

Some of the trails are densely wooded, and some are edged with jagged limestone ridges. Some paths are paved, and some are a bit more rugged. It's a pretty big and diverse area.

The highlight of the trip, and the reason everyone comes out there on independence day, though, is a mound. Ok, a really big mound. Krakow has four of them, each with winding paths leading up to a great viewing point at the top. This one, though, is called Independence Mound, in memory of Josef Pilsudski, the celebrated Polish leader, who took charge as Chief of State of Poland 90 years ago. The mound contains soil from various battlefields, and so it's a pretty important place for an independence day celebration.

Like I said, from the top you can see all of Krakow, which is pretty spectacular. The view's not actually as great as from the Kosciuszko Mound, closer to the center of town, but it's still pretty cool.

Meanwhile, in town, the downtown was pretty crowded, a stage was set up for a sort of pagent and for some reason, small children were on every corner playing instruments. In particular, we saw a few little boys with little accordians... mostly they seemed not very interested in playing. I surreptitiously snapped this shot of an accordian boy against a lamppost on the main square. He would only play a few beats before stopping to gape at the pedestrians or pick his nose. I can't assume it was a very lucrative day for these kids, but who knows?

All in all, a fun and classy Independence Day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

colorful food for fall

So, I'm living in Poland right now--perhaps you've heard me mention that.
We like to eat cheaply, and we do almost all our grocery shopping at the Old Market (Stary Kleparz), which is about five minutes' walk from our place. What this means: we eat a lot of cabbage, onions, bread, barley and button mushrooms. White foods, in other words.

Lately we've been trying to incorporate more color into our culinary lives. It's really a perfect time to do it, too, because fall makes me want to put color everywhere, but especially on my plate! Our number one secret weapon against colorless food has been salad, and I think we've been pretty successful.

Top five colorful ingredients that we can get at the market, while staying frugal:
1. Avocado (definitely our biggest salad-splurge item at approx. $1 a piece)
2. Spinach (about $0.80 for a tremendous bunch, usually takes three meals to get through)
3. Yellow Lentils! (we've taken to soaking and cooking dry lentils rather than using canned, which is cheaper and tastier--the texture really does something for a spinach salad, and, of course, the color compliment is lovely)
4. Red Cabbage (delicious change of pace from white cabbage, slightly more expensive at about $0.50 for a good sized cabbage head)
5. Tomatoes (about $2/kilogram, less for the smaller, sweeter varieties)

And I recently learned to best absorb the lycopene in tomatoes, you should eat them with some fat. That's the best reason for a light oil-based salad dressing that I know of, after the obvious (delicious).

Considering all the pierogi, naleśniki and zapiekanka we eat, the right colorful salad can be positively refreshing, not to mention vital to our health.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Fridays at Home

Today one of my housemates and I got home from class, looked around our funny, useless little room between our kitchen and family room, and decided to clean it up. At the beginning of the year we had arranged this cute little reading nook and set up a sewing table, but the room had since been inundated by empty bottles waiting to be filled with home-brewed beer, drumset parts, hats, gloves, miscellaneous papers, half-completed knitting projects, etc. The works.

In an unplanned cleaning frenzy, we got rid of all of the clutter and unearthed our lovely reading nook. I promptly curled up with a cup of coffee and a scone and caught up on food and design blogs. A nice way to spend a snowy(!) afternoon.

Introducing Fridays at Home

I think the archive of this blog shows that Travel Photo Wednesdays has been a pretty successful idea, and with that in mind, Mallory and I are proud to introduce a new theme day to our blog-weeks.

Fridays at Home, as we'll call it, is pretty much the opposite of our Wednesdays abroad. We'll post photos from our home environments, our daily routines, etc. Things that might otherwise go overlooked.

I'm not incredibly proud of my first contribution to the theme, but I'm not actually at home (I'm at a tiny cafe, an environment that might be fairly considered my second home), and this is what I have.

Roses, especially the smaller breeds, are too pretty to let wilt and drop their petals. I prefer to dry them, and in our apartment, this is the solution I have found for hanging them to dry in perfect form. This particular rose was a birthday gift from a Polish friend (see my earlier post on the Polish flower habit. The drying rose looks admittedly weird for a day and a half hanging on our mini-blinds, but now it lays delicately on the hood above our stove, and brings some small amount of color to our kitchen.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Travel Photo...Thursday?

Now that my homework and other obligations are piling up, and I no longer have fall break to look forward to, I'm getting kind of nostalgic for some things about my semester in Germany. Mostly, how much easier the academics were. But also the numerous wine tastings paid for by IES.

Too bad my current studies don't include paid-for field trips to wineries. Isn't it still an important cultural experience?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

On the main square in Wroclaw, Poland

I took this photo of a small girl with a bicycle in downtown Wrocław, Poland, this past weekend. I love it. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Weekend Getaways

Today is election day. Maybe you've heard? Every blog I read posted something about it.
Here in Poland we won't know the results until 7 or 8 or 9am Wednesday morning -- and I have the mimosas ready and waiting.

Meanwhile, I spent the weekend in Wrocław (with my boyfriend and his father, who is visiting us) and Poznań (with one of my very best friends). It was a really nice getaway for a few days, and I got to see two lovely cities I'd never been to before.

I did what you might expect from me -- went to the cinema to watch a foreign film, drank tea and mulled beer in tiny dim cafes, bought (somewhat) old maps, went to a John Coltrane tribute concert and, oh, yeah, I took some photos!

Here are the main market squares of each town -- you can compare for yourselves.

And Poznań:

And for good measure, here's a snap of the amazing breakfast spread courtesy of my dear friend Asia:

Wonderful! I particularly liked the blood sausage with barley -- I can't help but wonder, though, what my seventeen-year-old self, the vegan, would have to say about that. Not to mention my dear co-blogger, also vegan. Mallory? Thoughts?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Travel Photo Wednesday

Today's travel photo wednesday...a look back at one of my favorite parts of Freiburg, the beer garden on the Schlossberg.

It's starting to feel closer and closer to winter every I'm getting nostalgic for the days of beers outside in the evening, when it got dark later than 7:00 PM.

The Return of Travel Photo Wednesday

These are photos from the Great Canadian Barn Dance in Alberta, Canada, as you can clearly see. I camped there with my family and my boyfriend this past August. It was very beautiful.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Today was my last day at my internship. In general I'm excited about the upcoming onslaught of free time, but there are always a few things to miss about leaving, even after such a relatively short time... The Center was a great place for me to practice languages--people came in speaking Polish, English, German, French, and plenty of languages I don't know... I even got to try out a little rusty Yiddish a couple times; I also loved it when the orchestra rehearsed in our concert hall, right next to the reception desk, though talking on the phone over some of Beethoven's louder swells is a trick. The best part of my days was the building staff, though.

Today the doorman, who must be one of the most friendly people I've ever met, said goodbye to me in the universal language: cake.

Of course, goodbyes are always bittersweet, but this one was definitely on the sweet side.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Speaking of wallpaper...

This photo is from one of the hundreds of great bars in Kazimierz, the former Jewish quarter of Krakow. The bar is called Alchemia and features jazz shows, a beautiful brick cellar, and a long series of dark, quirky and often crowded rooms -- in short, the main staples of a good bar in Krakow.

The main room also showcases this phenomenal wallpaper, which seems to be hand-painted. The photo doesn't do it justice, really. Because of the layers and the metallic paint, it changes depending on how you look at it. Another reason to look into wallpapering everything, the way these folks do.

Friday, October 24, 2008

It Might Snow Next Week...

...But we're making the most of Fall now.

This morning I was walking across Plac Szczpański, like I usually do, and I found a large obstacle in my way. It was a corral, and inside were three women handing out small bags of apples with pamphlets.
I've seen it before: apples given as incentive to read company literature, but never more than one apple, maybe two if you ask nicely. But bags of apples? Now we're talking.

Anyway, I immediately texted Brian: Free apples! At work I thought about the bounty in my backpack. Brian got two bags, and together we had nine apples (here it starts to sound like a word problem from third grade math class). When I got home from work, I knew what to do. I mean seriously, when life gives you apples...

I love applesauce. Nothing screams Fall quite like yellow leaves and the smell of apples simmering down to their most delicious essence with some help from cinnamon and cloves. And did I mention the apples were free?

It turned out delicious, of course. Some of the apples in the bunch were really very good. Even better, I managed to press out a couple of glasses of cider, too. Together with some trail mix, a great little snack:

I have to admit, though--we still haven't read the pamphlets.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Series: Things I Love About Poland, Part II: Flowers

Spending an extended period of time in a new place, you start to perceive the little cultural differences that aren't immediately evident. Those little things--customs in Poland like hand-kissing and using exact change--those are the sweetest parts of spending time in new places.

Here's another one I love: kwiaty. In Poland, there's an appropriate flower for every occasion. At my work, we rarely get through an event without the giving of red or pink roses; for birthdays its yellow roses but yellow chrysanthemums are reserved for funerals. I once gave a carnation for an apology, and the recipient actually laughed at me.

But the best part for me isn't really the individual instances, it's the overall omnipresence of flowers and flower-sellers. On Sundays the streets are full of young women with flowers, anxious dates with small bouquets, mothers pushing strollers carrying flowers, men holding flowers in one hand and their girlfriend's hand in the other. On sunny days, the main market square in Krakow is one huge flower-shop, and it's really not a tourist trap. I'm pretty sure it's--if I may dare to use the word--authentic.

Anyway, as traditions go, it's bright and cheery and definitely something special for me.

If flowers aren't charming enough for you, though, no worries: peacock feathers are also very popular.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Now That's Apartment Therapy!

It's no great secret that I'm not loving my internship these days. But I've got a secret weapon that always cheers me up during slow hours of folding, stapling and xeroxing: interior design blogs.

I love a good craft blog, and there's nothing like Simply Breakfast to lift my spirits, but lately I've been really into anything involving wallpaper, paint or ripping out carpet.

There's a reason for this. I'll be coming back to the states at the end of December and moving into a little one-bedroom with hardwood floors and high ceilings. I can't imagine my landlord will let me paint or wallpaper, but I can certainly imagine what I'd do if I could!

Anyway, I've been dreaming about dove gray pocket doors, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired wall decals, and silk-screened tea towels, but it's all very concrete inspiration (thanks, Google Reader!).

This weekend, though, I was strolling through the royal chambers of the castle in Warsaw, when I came across some remarkably charming inlaid wood floors. The one pictured above is striking and beautiful, but this one below -- this pattern I want somewhere in my apartment. Maybe not on the floor, ok, but what about just one little wall?

Dear Landlord,

How about it?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Series: Things I love about Poland, Part I: Milk Bars

Remember the psychedelic black-and-white Milk Bar from A Clockwork Orange? The one that serves several varieties of milk, and nothing else?
Well, it's real. Sort of.

The milk bar (bar mleczny) does exist, but I've never seen any actual glasses of milk at one, let alone a table in the shape of a woman. The milk bar is essentially a cafeteria selling really decent polish food at really decent prices. They're usually poorly decorated and there is always, without fail, an aproned woman behind the counter, holding a soup ladle.

My personal favorite items are the most basic things on the menu: pierogi ruskie, or "russian" pirogi, which are filled with delicious potato and cheese; naleśniki z serem, or cheese-filled crepes, which can be sweet or savory; and placki ziemniaczane, potato pancakes. I also love the barszcz z krokietem (borscht with a croquette), in particular because it's usually considered an appetizer, not a full meal, and thus rarely costs more than about a dollar fifty. Beautiful.

The milk bar pictured above is located in the Nowa Huta district of Krakow, a city built as a "worker's paradise" in 1949/50 for the workers at the new steel mill outside town. This milk bar sits in Plac Centralny, or Central Square, which, in 1984, was renamed in honor of Ronald Reagan.

This infatuation with Ronald Reagan is not going to make it into this series of posts on things I love about Poland, I think. Sorry, Ron.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jesień w Polsce (Fall in Poland)

My boyfriend and I are living in Krakow right now, in an apartment not far from the city center. It's my favorite time of year in one of my favorite cities. Still, it's nice to have a change of scenery from time to time, so this weekend we took the express train to Warsaw.
This is the Palace on the Water, which is surrounded by gardens. Even though it's not really gardening season, and I'll admit it, the weather this weekend was anything but ideal for strolling, I still absolutely adore walking through wooded gardens in autumn. Poland is a great place for that.

Back in Krakow, the leaves aren't quite as advanced as in Warsaw. Every day I walk through the Planty gardens, which surround the Old Town and are therefore on my way from our apartment to just about everything. For me, it's ideal and romantic and even sort of inspirational. But I love that it's not just a recreational garden -- for so many people, it's just a sidewalk like any other.

When I was in elementary school, my friend Michaela told me that if you catch a falling leaf, you won't get sick for a month. I've never been quick enough to catch very many leaves, but in gardens like these, on a windy day the leaves just swirl around and get tangled in my hair, and finally, finally I am becoming a champion falling-leaf-catcher.
Unfortunately, this weekend we got caught in a lot of that wind and some heavy rain, too, and I caught a cold.
Sorry, Michaela, it isn't true.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

so many preserves

Well, hi there. I've been quite the delinquent blogger. But I'm settled into my house now, so you'll get the blog tour soon. (When everything's clean, that is). For now, a glimpse at some of the fun projects going on around here: one of my housemates started the Food Preservation Society, a club for preserving food and exploring food traditions. The rest of us have been the lucky recipients of a large number of these tasty preserved goods.

Sauerkraut, with farmers market cabbage!

Bread and butter pickles! With cucumbers acquired for free at a local bar.

Tomatoes from the farmers market + a school-funded dehydrator:

Delicious home-dried tomatoes!

Apples picked from various trees around campus become...

Apple butter!

I think I'm pretty good at choosing housemates. Coming up: plum jam, green tomato and apple chutney, apple chips, fruit leather. Oh boy.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Banff Canadian Nat'l Park

It's Wednesday. I'm in Krakow, but haven't had a chance to upload photos to my computer yet. This week's travel photo comes from our camping trip to Banff Nat'l Park in Alberta, CA, from August 2008. Pictured is Lake Louise, named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. Is it not special?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Travel Photo Iceland

Legitimate excuse for the lateness: somehow Blogger wasn't working on my Icelandic internet yesterday. BUT - arrived in Scotland, now I can post yesterday's update.

A double feature on this week's travel photo wednesday -- two photos from our first day in Reykjavik, September first, 2008.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

On the north road

Yesterday morning we arrived in Reykjavik, Iceland, and we've been having a grand old time. Things are a little pricey here, but thanks to we're making do and meeting great people, too.

Yesterday we saw a good deal of the city, including a lot of great public sculpture as in the photo above. Today we took a ferry out to a nearby island called Videy, where we rode bikes on rocky paths, and looked at remains of an old fishing village.

Tomorrow we're hoping to rent a car and see some of the countryside -- waterfalls, geysers, etcetera. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Birthday Dinner

Today my parents and I are preparing a little birthday dinner for me and my boyfriend, who will be abroad during our September birthdays, and also for my brother, whose birthday was earlier this month.

Tonight's dinner, moussaka, with carrot cake for dessert, would warrant a post of its own. But it gets me thinking of last week's birthday dinner, in honor of Mallory's 22nd.

We hadn't seen each other since before we started this blog, so it was a sweet chance to do some co-blogging. Somehow we missed the chance, but we did take advantage and do some collaborative cooking. Mallory found a great recipe for vegan, gluten-free "lasagna" made with corn tortillas instead of pasta and filled with a spicy tomato and bean sauce, with layers of avacado and corn in the middle. On top we crumbled baked tortillas to add some crunch, and paired it with spinach salad with a cinnamon-cumin dressing. Between the six of us at dinner, we easily polished off the large pan.

We started at the farmer's market, which is one of my favorite parts of summer in Grinnell, anyway.

It's like slicing butter, only more appetizing.

Halfway through and adding layers.

Halfway through, this time subtracting...

I love the birthday dinner tradition. In fact, I love any excuse for a little dinner party with my friends. Visiting Grinnell last week was a little melancholy, as I mentioned, but writing this post reminds me of a lot of really great moments, from potlucks with Lina and Abby second year and hauling pots of indian food across Mac Field to the German House faculty dinner junior year. From cooking over a makeshift candle-stove when we lost power for five days in February '07 to much-blogged-about summer potlucks last year and grill-outs on the deck this past semester.

I also love any excuse for a little reminiscing.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hopeful Return from Hiatus

Hi Blog. I'm back.

In the almost two months since you've seen me, I've done a lot, sort of. Let me make a list:
1. Got a job. Yessss!
2. Went on vacation.
3. Visited my co-blogger and much-missed friend, Mallory, on her birthday.
3. Planned my next big move.

May I elaborate?


1. I'm going to be working for Epic Systems Corporation starting next February. I'll be traveling a lot and living in Madison, my beloved hometown. That means several exciting things, including apartment-hunting, apartment-decorating and, most importantly, my own kitchen.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. That's not 'til Feburary.

2. My boyfriend, Brian, and my parents and I took off for two weeks of camping earlier this August. We went to Banff Canadian National Park in Alberta, by way of the Dakotas and Montana. It was a beautiful trip with lots of wildlife and frisbee and hiking... I'll try to remember to post some highlights in the coming days.

3. Mallory is supposed to blog about this, I think, and I'm going to post photos of the delicious feast we cooked up, but I thought I'd mention it. I visited my other hometown, Grinnell. I saw friends and ate muffins and chatted with professors and it was gorgeous and a little surreal, since I won't be returning to campus for another semester.

4. Did I mention I'm moving abroad? For the next five months I'll be in Europe, mostly in Krakow, Poland. On the way there, Brian and I will check out Iceland and Scotland to see new things and visit friends. I'm starting to get seriously excited for this. We leave in three days, and I'm already mostly packed and totally pumped. I've been apartment-hunting online for Krakow, but we still don't have a place to stay. That's the only really scary part...

I made granola for the trip, and it was nice because I haven't made granola in a few years. It's so easy and so delicious that I wonder why I don't make it more often. The recipe I used is from the Recipes for a Small Planet cookbook by Francis Moore Lappe, and focuses on complementary proteins. The upshot of this is that, even without adding milk, this granola contains complete proteins, which are, I guess, extra healthy.

That's my last few weeks in a nutshell. I hope to get back in the swing of blog-posting, and to never let you down again, Blog.

And in the mean time, because I don't like a post without a photo, here's a pretty one from Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Enjoy:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hello again

Hi! I haven't been here in a while. I'm back in Minnesota now, after a wonderful semester in Germany and traveling in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The above photo typifies the Belgium portion of my trip, when I was traveling with my sister: along with the wandering and sightseeing, a lot of hanging out in hostel bars planning, meeting people, playing cards, and sampling Belgian beers.

Unfortunately, I don't have any other photos from my trip because I accidentally sent my camera cord home with my parents. It's too bad, it would have been useful for Travel Photo Wednesdays in the future.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pool of orange

A common sight in the town in the mountains that we visited - refreshment stands along the hiking trail offering sodas and oranges (waiting to be turned into fresh-squeezed orange juice) chilling in natural refrigerators.

High Atlas Mountains, Morocco
April 2008