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Re: Wanderfood Wednesday: Epicurean despot (by mark at 5/09 2:16 PM)
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24 December 2010
Photo/Video Friday: Helan Går

Last year, we had the privilege of spending Christmas day with the Eldh family, who celebrate with spirited Swedish traditions. As someone whose family takes pride in their offbeat ethnic holiday traditions, I was thrilled to be among like-minded folk.

Christmas with the Eldhs

After a sampling of odd gelatinous meat products and beet-laced spreads, we sat down for dinner at a table adorned with a beautiful shot glass at each place setting, and several bottles of Akvavit. Now you're talking! Mark was asked to make a toast, and immediately afterwards the entire family burst into a drinking song! Followed by a slug of Akvavit.

This happened several more times through the course of the meal, and the family was kind enough to print out lyrics to Helan Går so the three non-Eldhs could sing along. Kinda made me want to be Swedish, at least for a day.

Happy holidays to you and yours, and here's to wacky traditions that make for treasured memories!

This post is part of DeliciousBaby's Photo Friday series. Thanks, DB, for a year of inspiring Photo Fridays!


RELATED LINKS:
* I'm dreaming of a Slovak Christmas
* Helan Går lyrics

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 0 comments


15 December 2010
WanderFood Wednesday: I'm dreaming of a Slovak Christmas
just like the ones I used to know

Growing up in a Slovak household, we had lots of unusual holiday traditions that seemed weird and embarassing when we were kids, but have evolved into cherished rituals. Since my entire family was together for Thanksgiving this year, my sister had the brilliant idea to prepare our Slovak Christmas Eve meal that same weekend.

Julia gets down and dirty with the dough
Julia gets down and dirty with the dough

The traditional Christmas Eve dinner is a simple, meatless meal, centered around fish, soups, and carbs in several formats. Our favorite part of the preparation was always making the ducks, which are basically dinner rolls where the dough is rolled and shaped sort of like a pretzel. One end of the pretzel is formed into a duck bill, with raisins for eyes. The other end becomes the tail. Back in the day, Grandmom Gallo presided over the duckmaking, awarding a shiny nickel to the "best" ducks. I have to say, my second cousin Julia (or is she my first cousin once removed?) shows enormous promise, even though this was her first year making ducks!

duckmaking is a family affair
duckmaking is a family affair

who will win the nickel this year?
who will win the nickel this year?

Julia brushes the ducks with egg
Julia brushes the ducks with egg before popping them into the over

The other part of the meal involving some artistry is the soup. We make big batches of lentil and mushroom soups. True to form, these are pretty simple dishes, but the basis of both is zapraska, the Slovak version of a roux, made from browned butter and flour whisked together over high heat.

Kathy and Mark rock out some zapraska
Kathy and Mark rock out some zapraska

There's no recipe for zapraska, and even though I had lots of years apprenticing until my mother and grandmother, the first time I had to do it myself was pretty nerve-wracking. So of course this job has become a right of passage for non-native family members! Kathy and Mark did an admirable job, aided by just the right amount of wine.

Dad preps the fish
Dad preps the fish

The meal is rounded out with fish. This was always reviled when we were growing up, but now it's something I actually enjoy eating. It's prepared with paprika and dried parsley, plus a generous amount of butter. There has been some disagreement in recent years about the specific type of fish to use; this year we went with pollock.

see, it's not so bad!
see, it's not so bad!

When we were little, the dinnertime ritual began with a procession where the grandchildren brought in key parts of the meal and presented them to my dad at the head of the table. As each child approached, he'd ask "What do you bring me?" and we'd answer something carefully scripted like "I bring you honey, for sweetness." This was abandoned shortly after the year I came up with "I bring you nuts, because you are what you eat."

Even without the procession, things progress in a very specific order:

1) Oplatky - a rectangular wafer similar to a Catholic communion wafer, but spread with honey in celebration of the joy of Christmas.

2) Soup - either mushroom or lentil or sometimes both! Delicious, and also useful for creating amusing flatulence later on during Midnight Mass.

3) Nuts - everyone selects one and cracks it open, and if you get a good nut, you've got a good year ahead.

4) Bobalky - a dish made with the other half of the bread dough, shaped into little balls and soaked in a mixture of milk, honey, and poppyseed. Supposedly this was sometimes served as a dessert but we include it with the main dish.

5) Fish, green beans, and ducks also come out at the same time as the bobalky.

6) Dessert of nut & poppyseed rolls (nobody takes any drug tests after Christmas Eve dinner!) and a selection of Christmas cookies. If we're lucky, someone makes kiffles -- folded pastries filled with jam and dusted with powdered sugar -- but because we did Christmas dinner a month early this year, sadly, no kiffles in sight.

obligatory awkward table shot

And no holiday meal would be complete without the obligatory awkward shot of everyone stuffing their faces! Note the scary old Slovak lady photo in the background; I hope we've done her proud because she looks like she could jump straight out of the frame and kick all our asses.

Hop on over to Wanderlust & Lipstick's WanderFood Wednesday for more mouth-watering travel foodie posts.


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10 December 2010
Photo Friday: Bliss Dance

Bliss Dance, by Lloyd Taylor
Bliss Dance, by Lloyd Taylor

With the recent cold snap brutalizing the East Coast of the US, it's challenging to recollect our sweaty dusty adventures in the desert a few months back. Surely that must have happened in another lifetime?!? So, this Photo Friday, I decided to showcase a few pics from my favorite art installation of this year's Burn.

Bliss Dance, by Lloyd Taylor

According to the Burning Man site:
Bliss Dance is a unique steel sculpture utilizing cutting edge design; an unabashedly breathtaking modern sculpture in structure and balance. She celebrates humanity and shows the feminine beauty, power and strength that emerges when women are safe and free to be themselves. Standing 40 feet tall, she is dancing naked with her eyes closed; a sign that the spirit of the community is healthy and the balance between male and female is present.

Bliss Dance, by Lloyd Taylor

Which is impressive indeed. But when you randomly stumble upon a giant naked dancing woman who seems to rise out of nowhere and softly shimmers from one color to another, words escape.

Bliss Dance, by Lloyd Taylor

All you can really do is stand in awe. And, of course, try to snap some pics. Which is tricky without a tripod.

Bliss Dance, by Lloyd Taylor

Someone in the crowd referred to her as "David's Wife," as in: something so classically beautiful that Michelangelo himself might approve.

Bliss Dance Bliss Dance

She was also pretty cool to see during the day.

Bliss Dance by day

Supposedly the artist was inspired by the Joseph Campbell phase "follow your bliss." How are you following YOUR bliss this holiday season?

oktapodi admires Bliss Dance


Check out more fabulous travel photos at Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.


RELATED LINKS:
* Burning Man art installations | Bliss Dance
* Photo Friday: Burning Man art cars, part two
* Photo Friday: Burning Man art cars, part one
* Photo Friday: ab-fab, sweetie-dahling
* Photo Friday: my night with oktapodi
* Photo Friday: this is your brain on Burning Man
* browse all 2008 Burning Man pics
* read all Burning Man blog posts

 

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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 1 comment


07 December 2010
Career Break Boot Camp
realize your extended travel dreams!


Today’s guest post is by Sherry Ott (bio below) and provides some info about the upcoming Career Break Boot Camp. You may recall that I helped host one of the inaugural Meet, Plan, Go! events in September. In the interest of full disclosure, please note that I’m part of the Boot Camp affiliate program, so if any of you sign up, I get a spiff. Regardless, this is something I heartily believe in and would encourage folks to do, no matter what!

Career Break Boot Camp - sign up today!

Sometimes preparing to leave is the hardest part when it comes to extended travel. The to-do lists, the questions, packing, itineraries, and insurance decisions…it’s hard to know where to start. However, I think more people struggle with the hidden ‘monsters’…the ones that question your motives and moves. The little guy that sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear, “Are you crazy, what are you doing this for? Why are you causing yourself all of this stress? Are you REALLY going to do this?”

Even more important than the planning details, you should ask yourself: why are you doing this? What is it that you want to really get out of your extended travels?

Career Break Boot CampThese are all the typical hurdles a career breaker or extended traveler goes through. It’s amazing any of them actually leave at all as it sometimes feels like the bricks of societal pressure and doubt are stacked against you.

We want to relieve the pressures, and make the travel planning process fun again! The people who brought you the in-person travel events, Meet, Plan, Go! are now bringing you another way to motivate you to take a career break and do extended travel! The Career Break Boot Camp will kick off in January 2011.

For those seeking a career break or sabbatical, it’s not just about the trip planning – it’s about the life planning. Boot Camp is an online course and social learning platform where people with the dreams of taking a career break or sabbatical to do extended travel can come together in a community learning environment. Michaela Potter and myself, the founders of Briefcase to Backpack , teamed up with certified travel coach Tara Russell to design this one-of-a-kind 8-week course. These travel experts will provide inspiration, structure, community, resources, tools and motivation.

Registration for our Inaugural Course starts on December 8, 2010 and class begins on January 9, 2011. Because we believe so much in the community aspect, spaces are limited. As an added incentive, the first 20 people who register will receive a $100 gift certificate towards the Unconventional Guides by Chris Guillebeau and every person who registers will receive a free copy of his book, The Art of Non-Conformity.

To learn more about the course, community, curriculum, and instructors, go to Meet Plan Go Boot Camp and report for duty!


Sherry OttSherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of Briefcase to Backpack, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice. She also runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat experiences at Ottsworld. She is one of the driving forces behind Meet, Plan, Go! events across the country to inspire more people to get out and travel.


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03 December 2010
PhotoFriday: Thanksgiving, om nom nom

it's no fun unless it gets all over your face
it's no fun unless it gets all over your face

There are many ways to do Thanksgiving, but IMHO my 9-month-old nephew Jack has the right idea. I like how he follows up a faceful of pie by gnawing on an apple. Life is short, eat dessert first!

gotta get in your five daily servings!
gotta get in your five daily servings!


Check out more fabulous travel photos at Delicious Baby's Photo Friday.

 

Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 2 comments
01 December 2010
WanderFood Wednesday: Cuba's Cookin' in Aruba

a little slice of Havana in Oranjestad
a little slice of Havana in Oranjestad

We certainly hadn't gone to Aruba looking for Cuban cuisine. So it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across Cuba's Cookin', a charming little restaurant just a short walk from our hotel. Not only was the food amazing (note the marked absence of "food porn" shots? we scarfed it down too fast to capture any snaps) but the exuberant atmosphere made it impossible to leave without huge smiles on our faces.

live and lively
live and lively

DC in the hizzouse!
DC in the hizzouse!

We visited Cuba's Cookin' with Beth and Robert, a newlywed couple from the DC area we'd randomly met at our hotel. After admiring the eclectic artwork collection and wolfing down our scrumptious meals, we sat back to enjoy the live entertainment. The fun combination of traditional Cuban boleros, Buena Vista Social Club tunes, and Beatles & Stones covers in Spanish eventually gave way to a round of zesty audience participation.

Robert gets his groove on
Robert gets his groove on


If you're in the Oranjestad area of Aruba and want to sample the best ropa vieja this side of Havana, be sure to check out Cuba's Cookin'! And hop on over to Wanderlust & Lipstick's WanderFood Wednesday for more mouth-watering travel foodie posts.


RECOMMENDED:
Cuba's Cookin'
Wilhelminastraat 27
Oranjestad, Aruba
(297) 588-0627


RELATED POSTS:
* WanderFood Wednesday: two ends of the spectrum in Aruba
* PhotoFriday: creatures of Renaissance Island


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Posted by sonia at 12:00 AM | Link | 2 comments