Saturday, April 23, 2011

our little easter bunny

Baby Dillan is on his last trek into our hearts and open arms.  Only two more months until we can hold our blessed bundle of joy!  He is already making himself known to the world as evident in Mama's protruding belly.  At this time, he is 16 inches long and weighs at least 3 pounds (like a head of cabbage.)  During the final trimester, baby's eyesight is developing as his eyelids will open and begin to grow eyelashes.  His brain and human feeling begin to significantly develop.  He is sensitive to light and last week when Margarita was relaxing in the sunshine, Dillan began to kick and move around.  His hands are fully formed and fingernails are growing.  Baby can cry and open his eyes, and his testicles will descend this month.  He may be sucking his thumb.  His hearing is completely developed at this time and they play music and sing and read stories to him.  He can turn his head side to side and his arms, legs and body are beginning to plump out as needed fat accumulates underneath his skin.  He is moving around alot with somersaults and kicks which is a good sign that baby is active and healthy.  It is beneficial to show affection by caressing the belly.  Brain waves show rapid eye movement (REM) sleep which means baby may be dreaming.  Branches of lungs are developing and his hair is getting thicker.  Dillan's head and body are now proportioned like a newborn.
  We are excited for baby Dillan's arrival and will celebrate our happiness with friends and family next week at Meson Sabika to shower Margarita with our good wishes and help begin her journey as a mother.  It will be fun to be together for a happy occasion and indulge in their famous brunch, play a few games, play 'catch up' with one another, and share stories of motherhood, labor, delivery and all the delights of having a newborn.  This last trimester is the most challenging as baby dominates Mama's womb, so enjoying all the cute little baby things might make the journey a little more pleasant to endure.

Happy Easter and Alleluia! xo

Saturday, April 16, 2011

polish easter traditions

Our Lady of Czestochowa

The celebration of Easter among Poles and Polish-Americans is an elaborate occasion shared with family and close friends.  One week before Palm Sunday, housewives stopped baking bread through the fear that the bread they baked thoughout the rest of the year would spoil.  Not until the Holy Week did they start baking.  In some parts they began to do so on Good Friday and in others it was not permitted to bake anything at all that day.  If any housewife violated this ban, the entire village would be in danger of a long drought, which could be repelled only by throwing the pots and guilty housewife into a pond.

 The celebration of Easter is preceded by Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday.  Palm branches and twigs commemorate Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem.  After the festivities, palm leaves were used for magic rites, such as conjuring up storms and consecrating women at childbirth and sick domestic animals.  The original palm branch is replaced by a willow or raspberry branch, and is decorated with ribbons, flowers and leaves.  It is believed that swallowing a willow catkin from a branch consecrated by a priest would bring health, and a palm branch placed behind a holy image until the following year would bring the inhabitants luck.  The church bells that had resounded from Palm Sunday onwards fell silent on Holy Thursday.  Rattles and clappers took their place.  Fires were lit at crossroads so that wayfarers and poor people could warm themselves.  Meals were also placed at these spots so that they could nourish themselves ~ and together with them the good spirits of the house.  On the morning of Holy Thursday, the vestments are changed on the miraculous icon in the chapel of the Pauline monastery at Jasna Gora in Czestochowa.  This is one of the most important sites of the religious Poles, and has been venerated as a national shrine since the 14th century.

Pisanki (elaborately designed Easter eggs) are made during Holy Week.  The baking of breads and pastries is an art among Polish housekeepers and special confections, such as the famous Babka, are prepared for Easter, as are lamb-shaped cakes and lambs molded from butter.  Along with various cured meats, sausage and ham, these items are arranged in a large basket and taken to church on Holy Saturday for a special blessing.  These blessed foods constitute the basis of the Polish Swieconka or Easter Meal.
On Sunday morning, the table is set with the best linens, china and finery.  Featured foods include colored eggs, cold meats, coils of sausages, ham, yeast cakes, pound cakes, poppyseed cakes, other pastries and in the middle of it all, a lamb-molded cake or a lamb made of sugar or butter.  This symbol commemorates the resurrected Christ.  In olden times, no cooking was permitted on Easter Sunday, so the Poles evolved the tradition of not serving warm meals on that day.  Among the favorite foods is cwikla (grated horseradish and red beets), home-made pickles, marinated mushrooms and other delicacies.  Sharing a blessed boiled egg with one's relatives continue the following day, on Easter Monday.  On this day, many Poles and Polish-Americans celebrate a very ancient Slavic spring tradition called Smingus-Dyngus or the custom of sprinkling or pouring water on one another. 
Swieconka is the traditional blessing of the food to be eaten on Easter Sunday.  While the tradition varies from region to region and village to village, it is a tradition dear to the heart of every Pole.  Today, this blessing takes place in church on Holy Saturday.  All the items are placed in a wicker basket that is sometimes lined with an ornamental cloth or traditional folk fabric.  The filled basket is then covered with a linen cloth which should be white, but can have a colored crocheted or embroidered design.  The basket is decorated with sprigs of boxwood (bukszpan), the typical Polish Easter evergreen.  Polish Palms which are created from dried flowers, can also be used for decoration. 
Polish Easter Foods that are most commonly placed in the Easter Basket for the traditional blessing and their symbolism have been provided by The Polish Falcons of America.

Bacon (Boczek/Slonina) Symbol of the overabundance of God's mercy on us.

Bread (Chleb) Home baked bread, the staff of life.
Easter Bread (Babka) A special round loaf, made of rich dough and raisins, and decorated with a cross, reminds us of Jesus, the Risen Lord, who, in the Eucharist, is the food of our earthly journey and the true bread of everlasting life.

Butter (Maslo) The butter should be shaped into the figure of a lamb or cross.  Dairy products are included to celebrate the end of Lent and the richness of Salvation which flows from the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. 

Candle (Swieca) The only non-edible item in the basket, the candle symbolize Jesus, the Life and Light of the World.  The candle can be lit during the blessing.

Cheese (Ser) A symbol to remind Christians of moderation.

Colored Eggs (Pisanki) Both colored and uncolored eggs, indicate hope, new life and Resurrection.  Because of their special meaning, it is fitting that the eggs to be blessed are decorated with symbols of Easter.

Ham (Szynka) This popular main dish is symbolic of great joy and abundance.

Horseradish (Chrzan) This represents the bitter herbs prescribed in the original Passover meal as a reminder of the bitterness and harshness of the life of slavery in Egypt.  It also reminds us of the bitterness of the Passion of Jesus, by which he entered glory.  Horseradish is often prepared with red beets.

Salt (Sol) Symbolizes wisdom and preservation from corruption, it is included to remind us that Jesus did not undergo corruption in the grave. 

Sausage (Kielbasa) This is an old Slavic tradition.  Its links remind us of the chains of death that were broken when Jesus rose from the dead as well as God's favor and generosity.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The blueberry is one of the few fruits native to North America.  For centuries, blueberries were gathered from the forests and the bogs of  Native Americans and consumed fresh and also preserved.  The Northeast Native American tribes revered blueberries and much folklore developed around them.  The blossom end of each berry, the calyx, forms the shape of a perfect five-pointed star; the elders of the tribe would tell of how the Great Spirit sent star berries to relieve the children's hunger during a famine.  Parts of the blueberry plant were used as medicine.  A tea made from the leaves of the plant was thought to be good for the blood.  Blueberry juice was used to treat coughs.  The juice also made an excellent dye for baskets and cloth.  In food preparation, dried blueberries were added to stews, soups and meats. 

North America produces 90% of the world's blueberries.  They grow from mid-April though October with the peak harvest in July, also known as National Blueberry Month.  Blueberries belong to the Ericaceae family, which includes cranberry, azalea, rhodondendron and heather.  They trive on acid soils, flower in the spring and are pollinated by bees.  Fruit occurs 2-3 months after blooms.
Everyone loves blueberries.  The health and nutrient benefits include vitamin C, fiber, manganese and antioxidants.  There are only 80 calories per cup of blueberries.  I always wanted to grow a blueberry bush and decided it's time.  I prepared a new section in my garden yesterday and have the perfect spot for my new addition.  My hydrangeas need acidic soil so I will keep the blue babies near each other.  I think a couple of morning glories would cover the unsightly electrical boxes without hampering the underground lines. 
Steve and I went to see a matinee of the Born to be Wild movie about our favorite animals ~ elephants and orangutans.  What a spectacular show, and the 3D effects make you feel as if you could touch the creatures.  This was definitely a moment that took my breath away. 
Know you what is to be a child?  It is to be something very different from the man of today.  It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul.  Francis Thompson Shelley
We are always too busy for our children; we never give them the time or the interest they deserve.  We lavish gifts upon them; but the most precious gift ~ our personal association, which means so much to them ~ we give grudgingly.  Mark Twain

Life is beautiful and so are you...xo

Sunday, April 10, 2011

spring has sprung!

It's official ~ spring has arrived.  The weather is gorgeous and my jonquils popped out to say hello once again.  We're due to reach into the 80s today so I can ride my Trek bike this morning, then Steve and I will plant some seeds in the gardens.  Good times. 
Here is little thumper bunny.  When I opened my blinds, he came out to greet me.  I call all the bunnies that hang out around these parts thumper and all the deer bambi.  Must be a childhood thing.
This is the mighty Miller ~ Kathy named him after the beer.  He is a lover dog and gives lots of smooches.  He amazed me all day as we attended a birthday bash for the baby of our big family, as Robert turned into a teenager.  Watch out, world! He started a blog called Robert's World for he is a very creative writer and I look forward to reading his shares.  He remains the youngest of Mom and Dad's 17 grandchildren.  Soon our little Dillon will hold the new title of youngest when he makes his entrance in a couple of months.
Here is Mike working diligently on our walls.  He is a perfectionist and really knows how to beautify a room.  Every Saturday he spends the day priming, plastering, sanding and painting our place.  We look forward to having him over but it is imperative we all stay out of his way so he can perform his task at hand.  Notice his tee shirt ~ Kevin in our hearts forever, in remembrance of his cousin.
He stops by on his motorbike (you can see it parked outside.)  The walls are looking so nice and after the floors are refinished he will apply the final coat.  I chose the color called calm air to soothe the senses. Good job, Mikey!  Then he will tackle the outside  :).  This week they begin the demolition of the lower bath.  The shower will be out of commision for a few weeks so it will be interesting to see everyone taking baths.  No one but me takes baths ~ ever.  It will be fun to see all the before and after pics of these projects. 

I hope you enjoy the beauty of our new season.  Please continue to pray for our Uncle Bill who, despite a few setbacks, forges forward in his quest for complete recovery and good health.  He is such an inspiration of strength and determination and his positive attitude continues to amaze me.  The support of his bride for almost 50 years warms my heart and the love of his entire family is evident in this journey. I know he counts his blessings everyday. 

Oh, happy day! xo

Monday, April 4, 2011

baby cakes


Here I go again...I am now attempting to make another cake, but this time it will be for the baby shower.   As I pondered the ingredients to prepare this creation, I had a brainstorm to go to Babies R Us and find some items on the wish list registry and make it that way.  This will be a challenge as the colors and materials are so eclectic, but I figured what the heck?  I had a blast perusing the isles for all the little necessities and some things that were just plain adorable, not to mention so soft and cuddly.  After attempting to combine all the items in one cake, I realized it is necessary to make two cakes.

bottom layer

To begin, make sure you have a solid base as the blankets will need support.  I found a couple of actual cake bases at Wilton's.   Also have plenty of pins - straight, safety or better yet, diaper pins and an assortment of pretty ribbons.  This way when it is dismantled, Mama can use everything in the cake later on.  You can use towels or blankets, but the first layer will be larger, so two are needed.  Fold one blanket in half ~  lengthwise ~ then once again.  Repeat for the other blanket.  Place them end to end with an inch overlapping and beginning at one end, roll very tightly.  Secure the side with pins and put face up.  This is the first layer.  It may be easier to add some bigger items in the blankets as you are rolling instead of stuffing them in later.  See what works best for you.  I used the bigger blankets as my base layer.

second layer

Now take smaller towels or blankets and repeat as above.  If the material is thinner, you may want to use three or four instead of two.  I am using four receiving blankets.  Connect all four just as above and stuff as you go along, or wait until later to include items such as baby powder, lotions, bottles, etc. 

third layer

I am going with a bath towel set with handcloths for this layer so I must alternate a towel, then hand towels individually rolled and place them creatively together.  Continue adding the lighter enhancements such as spoons, little toys or rattles and pacifiers. 


If you plan to include diapers, or make a cake solely with diapers, fold individual diapers as above and wrap each separately.  Secure with a rubber band in the middle.  Wrap a ribbon around the rubber band to hide it.  Stand each diaper next to another when a full circle is complete, wrap in ribbon to secure together.  You can make continuous layers of diapers only and enhance with little treats.  I must share a resource for someone who will make these cutesy creations if you don't want to spend the time making it yourself and from her photos they look fantastic ~ Diaper Cakes by Ria.

icing on the cake

The final piece will include a ceramic container which was given to me for one of my son's birth celebrations.  I saved it knowing I would be blessed with at least one grandson and I was right.  I also found some items used for my own baby shower 25 years ago and decided to include them in the mix.   Now embellish the cake with little trinkets where there are openings and place a decorative ribbon around each layer and baby's breath on each level.

Endless possibilities.   xo