Sunday, April 26, 2009

Living al fresco

Disa's balcony is pretty small, and narrow, only about 4" x 15" (1,20 m x 4.5 m), yet she has managed to arrange it so, that it allows for different activities: there is place for plants, a round table and a couple of chairs, a chaiselounge and even an electric grill.

The plants, filling all the left over space, are my doing.

Last week I planted clematis with large, pale blue flowers, which I am awaiting eagerly (according to the nursery, the only large blooming clematis, that grows in the south) in the same pot as a lavender rose, which already has one flower. (all my pictures are clickable, so you can see the details).

I was really thrilled to have found - in the same nursery - an Angel Earrings fuchsia from the Amazon jungle (to the right of the table) - the only fuchsia that can take heat and humidity of Atlanta in the summer, popularly known as Hotlanta for that very reason.

We both love living al fresco, so this corner is when we have breakfast, lunch, sometimes dinner, read, write, talk.

Disa is a sun worshipper, so she can enjoy an early afternoon there as well, while I - and my laptop - feel that we are getting too much sun then.

What I enjoy most is the forest outside - or an illusion of a forest, since it is just a slope, covered with trees in the middle of a city with close to 4 millions of inhabitants. Behind the slope are townhouses.
To increase the forest feel I planted a dwarf columbine (in a pot on the railing) and two different vines in baskets hanging on the wall: a blue ipomoea and dark red coral vine.

Nearest the balconies grow some tulip poplars, spreading their branches like nature provided green umbrellas with yellow dots of flowers in the spring.

They give such a peaceful ambiance, allowing the inhabitants of the building to relax on their balconies, feeling as if they were having a picnic in a forest.
Oh, I do love my various places with views!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Uff, it's hot...

I have been working on the balcony, replanting and now I am ready for a cool glass of lemonade. Would you care for a glass of lemonade, too?

I have plenty. I whole stand - yes, I have received a lemonade stand award from zooms For attitude. And I am passing it to the following bloggers with attitude.
First, Silka Besosa for her courage - and hard work - in starting and establishing the first CSA farm in Puerto Rico.

Next, two professors on sabbaticals in southern France:
Emile Donat and Mme Boisvert

The blogs above are in English, and thus accessible to all (well, almost all).

The blogs below are in Polish and thus accessible only to those, who read this pretty difficult language.
A few Polish expat women: Agnieszka Sadlakowska from Amsterdam, Patrycja Todo from Lyon, Bea from Sweden.
And a couple of Polish women living in Poland: Nicka from Poznan and Satine from Gdansk.
They all show great attitude and truly deserve a lemonade stand.

All of you, who received that award are asked to pass it on to other bloggers with great attitudes, by
  • posting a lemonade stand award logo on your blog
  • awarding 10 other bloggers
  • letting them know they got the award by commenting on their blogs.

It's a hard work, I know, but somebody's got to do it ;-) !

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Purple beauties

The favorite purple beauties of my youth were lilacs.
I miss their fragrance, their promise of a spring romance... and of a summer to come...
In Poland they were blooming in May, in Sweden in July and I met them in the USA, too, but in upstate New York, around the Fingerlakes.
Unfortunately they do not grow in the warm climate, where I like to live. So my southern purple beauty of choice is wisteria.
Wisteria grows all over Atlanta, covering plenty of trees with its showy purple flowers. A lot prettier - and more cheerful - than the kudzu vines.

If you like wisteria, you can find a lot more pictures of it here , on Ewas blog, as she assembled a gallery of wisteria pictures from all (?) the places, where they grow. Enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Friends' book club

Yesterday my daughter Disa hosted a meeting of her Friends' book club. They were discussing a 15 years old, but relatively recently translated to English, thriller by a very successful Swedish writer, Henning Mankell: The Man Who Smiled (Mannen som Log). They were mostly Americans in the group, but also a few Swedes, either by birth or - like Disa and me - by citizenship.

Thus the discussion was lively and showed interesting observations of Sweden and Swedes, as described in the book. Unfortunately I can't give more details, as the book is a thriller and a resume of the discussion would give aways the plot and the ending. So let's talk about food Disa made, instead.

Since the book is Swedish and its main character, detective Wallander eats mainly sandwiches throughout the book, Disa served a variety of typical Swedish sandwiches.
There were cheese sandwiches with cucumber on a typical Swedish bread, limpa, purchased at IKEA.

A digression:Limpa is slightly sweet and its sweetness has an interesting origin: during WWII Swedish government came to the conclusion that Swedes were undernourished, so it decreed that all bread baked in Sweden had to have added sugar. More than half a century has passed, the law is no longer, Sweden now has various types of bread, most of them without any sugar, but limpa persisted, although it is by far not as sweet as it used to be even in the seventies, when I immigrated to Sweden and could not abide by Swedish bread. Now I eat it, too, and like it. :-)

Another typical Swedish sandwich is one with a French pate (here a duck pate) and tiny marinated cucumbers, called cornichons, served on a French baguette.
Another digression: In the XIX century Sweden underwent a serious franconization, reflected in its upper and middle class cuisine, franconization of Swedish last names, especially of its middle class, etc.

But the king of Disa's sandwich table was a Sandwich Cake (Smorgastorta) a la Skagen.

Sandwich Cake, of which are many varieties, is a typical Swedish party fare.
This particular one ( a la Skagen) refers to the Danish fishing village turned resort of Skagen, famous not only for its sand beaches but, first and foremost, for its fantastic and unique light, which has always attracted painters from near and far
Summer afternoon at Skagen - a painting by Peter Severin Kroyer

Disa chose this cake, because the main character of the book spends some time in Skagen.... and because it is very, very tasty and very Scandinavian.

Here is a recipe for the Sandwich Cake a la Skagen:

8-10 servings Prepare 24 hrs in advance.

Bread:9 square slices of white bread (you want to find a denser bread rather than fluffy "wonder bread"). Cut all crust off. 3 slices next to each other make one layer


3 hard boiled eggs chopped,

1 lb peeled shrimp (pref small salad shrimp)

1/2 c mayonnaise

1/2 c sour cream

2 oz lump fish roe (the red kind)

1/2 c chopped dill

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing it gently with a spoon.

Note about shrimp: the Swedish shrimp are boiled in salty water before they are sold, thus making the taste different from the shrimp sold here. To get the same taste: 1. buy the peel-and-eat shrimp at IKEA (you will need about 1.5 bags and do a lot of peeling) or 2) buy peeled salad shrimp but sprinkle them with salt and let them soak it in over night. If you are at IKEA, you can buy the roe there also in 2.8 oz jars (use rest for garnish.)

Place 1/2 mixture on the first bread layer (it will be "stacked") making sure you have filling out to the edges.Place second row of 3 bread slices on top of the filling. Put remaining 1/2 of filling on top of that bread layer. Cover with the third bread layer.

"Frosting": 1 c sour cream1/2 - 1 c mayonnaise

Stir together until well mixed. "Frost" all sides of the "cake" I take a little less of each and add Greek yogurt, but that's just a taste preference. Makes the frosting a bit tart.

Garnish:Roe (rest from jar), Shrimp (about a cup of shrimp), Dill, Lemon Decorate the sides with dill. Arrange the roe and shrimp as you like on the top. Add lemon 1/2 moons to add color. Alternatively or in addition; smoked salmon "rosettes" can be used as garnish. Refrigerate over night. Take out 30 min before party (depending on room temp) so the "cake" is not cold when eaten. Enjoy!

Another very typical Swedish sandwich creation is ham on a Swedish flat bread with mimosa salad. Yummy!

And my only contribution to the preparation of this feast was to peel 2 kilograms of shrimp!

Cats were banned to the bedroom for the time of the meeting, as they made an awful nuisance of themselves, begging for shrimp leftovers, while I was peeling them, and there was a risk they would do the same to the guests. (Disa commented that I let them get away with anything!)

But they dis not seem to mind at all!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Pan Tadeusz... or how I inadvertently discouraged my daughter from watching Polish movies :-(((

Pan Tadeusz is an epic poem by Adam Mickiewicz, one of the three greatest romantic Polish poets of the early XIX century.

It's whole title is: 'Pan Tadeusz or The Last Foray in Lithuania. A Tale of the Gentry during 1811–1812 in Twelve Books of Verse'.

It is a tragicomical story of the life of Polish gentry in then north-eastern corner of a historical Poland-Lithuania, but already at that time under Russian occupation (and now within the borders of Bielarus, not Lituania and not Poland, since after the World War II the borders of Poland have been moved - by the allies - far to the West, with over one/third of the territory of pre-war Poland lost to the Soviet Union).

Pan Tadeusz invited interesting comparison among its foreign reviewers: an English edition reviewer called it a mix of Don Quixote and Iliada, while a French one called it a combination of El Cid and Three Musketeers.

Pan Tadeusz has everything: a romance

(more than one: serious and comical),

an insurrection against the Russians (tragic)

and a foray of one faction of Polish gentry againts another disputing ownership of a half-ruined castle (tragicomical)

Grzybobranie (Muszroom picking) - painting by Franciszek Kostrzewski.1860
But - perhaps most of all - Pan Tadeusz, the poem, is an expression of nostalgia of Mickiewicz, an involuntary expatriot in Paris, of his longing to the (idealized, despite the bitter criticism) Poland of his childhood and youth.

Thus the poem is full of loving descriptions of everyday life of Polish gentry, of a special way to make coffee, of making bigos, a traditional Polish hunters' stew, a desciption of old Polish expressions of courtesy, typical entertainment (hunting, mushroom picking, formal dinners in the castle and impromptu lunches in the woods.... and praise of the beauty of Polish landscape and even the sky over Poland, full of varying clouds, light and heavy, unlike the - boring, according to Mickiewicz - sky over Italy, which is always blue.

My memory of this poem also lingered mostly on its nostalgia aspects

-- after all, although born about one and a half of century later and under a communist rule, I also spent my early childhood in a "little country manor" like the one in the movie, and used a similar type of horse drawn carriage, like the one Tadeusz uses in the first scene of the movie) not so much on either romance or forays or all doomed Polish insurrections against the Russians

(after all the action of the poem is placed in 1811-1812, where the Napoleon army -- with many, many Polish noblemen as first row volunteers: first to fight, first to be slaughtered -- marched through Poland to fight the Russians, while the final - lets hope! - independence from Russia - save for a 20 years interlude between WWI and WWII - Poland gained first in 1989, that is looooooong, loooooong later).

Pan Tadeusz, the movie by Andrzej Wajda, made in 1999, cuts a lot of these nostalgia parts of the poem to tell its main action story... and yet the movie is both beautiful and satisfying both to Poles and foreigners, and I recommend it wholeheartedly (it is available on Netflix) to all my friends and readers.

Just watch its last scene, a grand Polonaise, as a preview.

While, then, you may ask, watching this movie discouraged my daughter from watching any more Polish movies???

Well, it was my fault. She set it up, choosing the Polish language version without English subtitles... and her Polish, although fine for a brief casual conversation, turned out to be totally inadequate (she left Poland when she was 8 years old) to follow an early XIX century Polish poem.

Knowing that she never studied the history of Poland I explained the historical background of the movie, but failed to notice she had linguistic difficulty.

I found it out when I invited her to watch "Chlopi" ( another Polish historical movie, located in central Poland, in Masovia, near my hometown of Lowicz, and showcasing the rich Polish customs and ethnic costumes of this region)... and she refused.

OK, next time we shall watch Pan Tadeusz - and other Polish movies - with English subtitles.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Snow in april

no, in Atlanta it is not a real snow, but dogwood.

A lot of those profusely blooming trees grow in the Eastern part of the United States, where the soil is mostly acidic.
They create an enchanting contrast of all that fresh spring green interspersed with a totally "snow" covered trees
And cheer everybody up!

Monday, April 13, 2009

It is raining today

and the cats are bored. Sweetie exploited my moment of inattention and jumped into a warm clothes dryer. Naughty, naughty.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter brunch

Our Easter brunch today consisted, as usual of a mix of traditional Polish and Swedish dishes. First the cold table (above)

According to Swedish tradition we start with a few kinds of herring: (clockwise): dill herring, traditional Swedish and onion herring. It is seved with boiled young potates, caviarm sour cream and egg with caviar, wtrapped in a smoked salmon. After herring come two sorts of salmon: gravlax and smoked salmon with a selection of cheeses.

After that comes ham, fresh veggies and a few kinds of stuffed eggs.
When we were in Chicago two years ago, we visited Polish town there, where Disa found a profusely illustrated book of Polish cuisine. As far as I know she never cooked anything from this book by herself, but anytime I come to visit she picks up this book, points to (too many, in my opinion) pictures and asks: mom, could you do that? and that? and that?
So this Easter I made eggs filled with sausage and clover sprouts (jajka faszerowane masa z serdelka i rzerzucha), King's eggs (jajka po krolewsku), which are first filled with a ham and butter paste and topped with whipped cream with parmesan, and eggs with horseradish and sour cream wrapped in ham cornucopia (jajka z szynka i chrzanem). I though it was more than plenty, but turned out that I forgot to make eggs filled with roqueford and something, so I'll have to make them tomorrow.
Traditionally, after all that we were supposed to have a red beet soup, steamed asparagus, boiled kabanosy and debreciner sausages, and my daughter's favorite Polish dish: pan fried filled eggs (jajka faszerowane smazone), but we had more than enough food already, so a decision was made to serve the other part of Easter brunch for dinner, insted of lamb, that can be eaten tomorrow.
Happy and tasty Easter everybody!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Carribbean art bargain!

My virtual friend, Heather is an artist, living, painting and gardening in Grenada. Heather is a very talented painter with one flaw typical of idealistic dreamers - she does not price her work nowhere near their real value.

Or what would you say of her willing to part with the painting above for US$10??? I bid $ 50 for it and would consider it a bargain if I actually ended getting it for that price.... since you are welcome to outbid me... or bid on any other of her paintings, the images of which you can see browsing through her blog.

Wouldn't you like to have an authentic piece of art, which is also a cheerful reminder of the balmy Caribbean, hanging somewhere in your place???

And to be able to acquire it at a bargain price? What could be better in this gloomy time of economic crisis?

Good Friday

A sashimi plate at Hashiguchi

In Poland, where I grew up, Good Friday was called Great Friday (Wielki Piatek), but as a child I used to call it a Long Friday, as the day, due to a religious catholic tradition was a severe fast day, with practically only one meal served all day (dinner) and with only fish served: usually herring with some boiled potatoes. It really seamed like a very, very looooooong - and hungry as well as gloomy - Friday.

But now, a fish lover that I have become, I use Good Friday as an opportunity to eat fish both for lunch and dinner.

To make my daughter happy, however, I made healthy eggs benedict for breakfast: toasted English muffins, wilted spinach with garlic, poached eggs, canadian bacon... but NO Hollandaise sauce.

But for lunch we went to - according to my daughter's Japanese friends - the best sushi place in greater Atlanta: Hashiguchi in Marietta, an Atlanta suburb (although there is now a Hashiguchi Jr in downtown Atlanta).

Hashiguchi is a small, but very popular place: both among the local Japanese as with Atlantans at large.

There Mr Hashiguchi himself gets behind the sushi bar and prepares fresh sushi, sashimi, maki and norimaki for each and every client, while the kitchen - in the background - makes super fresh and super yummy tempura, miso soup and other delicacies. All the food there is to die for!

I had a combination plate of sushi and sashimi (above), while Disa had sahimi and an eel California roll, for which I traded a few of my sushi. All that with a green sallad with an Asian ginger dressing and a bowl of miso soup. Yuuummm! And for dinner at home we shall have grilled salmon with grilled baby bok choy and guinoa and a dill mousse:
However, not the traditional dill/cucumber version, but an experimental cold sauce, which I am inspired to make by a Polish photographer/graphic artist living now in London (but before living in the Caribbean) and an avid cook, who posted yesterday a recipe for a mint mousse/sauce, which I decided to try to make today using a bunch of fresh dill instead of mint.

Now, that's a Great Friday in my book! Hapy Easter, everybody!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


It is unusually cold for an April in Atlanta.

It takes guts - and warm clothes - to sit outdoors even for a short moment.
Yet the cats - imported from tropical Puerto Rico - are happy. They are indoors.
Enjoying their new digs: Disa's sofa and soft, warm pillows and blankets... as she has not yet have the time to change her decor from winter to spring.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More orchids ... and an orchid sale

Early this morning Atlanta Botanical Garden held an orchid sale from the Orchid Daze exhibition - for members only. You could buy fantastic specimens at $10 (and up), so a lot of members showed up to take advantage of this event.
Above is what I brought home, and below some other beauties from the exhibition.