A Joyous New Year

2018 has started off as a joyous New Year, with our first three days spent in our home town of Chicago.  Our most recent visit was one of the best we’ve ever had.  Matilda has added a whole new level of specialness to our visits home and this Christmas and New Year was no exception.

As part of this Chicago visit, we first hosted Matilda’s baptism.  The rest of the visit was spent catching up with family and friends and celebrating both the Christmas and New Year holiday.  We were in Chicago for three weeks, and I am so thankful to my parents for hosting us.

Aside from the baptism, some of the highlights of the trip included:

Matilda interacting with other children

As Matilda is almost one year now, she is at a very fun age.  She is chatty (though not speaking real words), mobile, and very interactive.  Her personality is really taking shape – both the good and bad parts. 🙂

She interacted with many other kids this trip – my nephew, my cousin’s children, and my best friend’s children.  Her interaction with her cousin, Adrian was the funniest, though.  Adrian has an extremely sweet demeanor.  We were teaching him to share toys, and while Matilda liked the toys, she liked Adrian more.  She kept grabbing his shirt collar to pull him closer to her.  That act frightened him a bit, so he would slowly scoot away.  It was hysterical to watch, and perhaps a preview into their relationship down the line.

Catching Up with Friends

Since we were home for 3 weeks, I got to spend extra time with my best friends.  We weren’t rushed like we have been during past visits. It also allowed for visiting friends I see less frequently, such as my friend Jordan who lives in Washington, DC.

Spending Time with Family

This extra time gave us real quality moments with our families.  Staying with my parents exposed them to the funny nuances and quirks of Matilda’s personality, and gave them a glimpse into our daily interactions with her.

We helped my sister move into a beautiful new home and were able to personally share in her joy and excitement.  And I visited with aunts and uncles more frequently than in the past.

It was so nice, in fact, it felt like we had moved back to Chicago!

The Food!

I can’t forget our beloved Chicago-style food.  Hotdogs and beef sandwiches from Portillos, pizza from Pizano’s and Barnaby’s, Mexican from the local hole in the wall…it was awesome.  The problem, however, is the extreme weight gain that occurs eating food like this.  Oh well, that’s what New Year’s resolutions are for. 🙂

Sadly for us, all 3 of us caught a nasty cold the last week we were in town.  We had to cancel our NYE plans but it ended up meaning a great night in with my parents.  We ordered Wildfire steaks for take out and I still made us all dress up to ring in the New Year.

Cheers to another great visit home – my sincerest thanks to my parents for hosting us and letting us take over their house!

And cheers to a great New Year!

An Easter Celebration in Poland

One of the great things about living in Europe is the accessibility to other countries.  Driving to Poland from Switzerland is like driving from Chicago to Ohio.  Tony’s sister, Veronica, lives outside of Krakow, and we wanted to celebrate the Easter holiday with family.  It was the perfect opportunity to introduce Matilda to her aunt and cousins.  On Tuesday we made the decision to rent a car, and by Thursday night we were on our way!

Now normally, the drive should take 10-12 hours, but driving over the holiday weekend and through Polish construction topped the drive off at 20 hours – yikes!  Luckily Matilda was a true champ about the whole thing.  I feel like my daughter is already a better traveler than most!

Even though it took almost twice as long to arrive, it was worth every second on the road.  Seeing Matilda with her three cousins brought tears to my eyes – their introduction was the absolute sweetest moment.  They loved stroking her chubby baby cheeks and kissing the top of her head.

easter in poland

easter in poland

easter in poland

Veronica invited us to spend a typical Polish Easter brunch with her husband’s family.  Having been with Tony almost 10 years, I’ve been exposed to my fair share of Polish food, but never like this!

Veronica’s sister-in-law set out a long table with breads, sausages (kiełbasa), fresh horseradish, beets, hard boiled eggs and black tea.  The family members took turns trying to crack the hard boiled eggs on each other’s forehead – the more caught of guard the person was, the bigger the laugh!  We passed around the delicious food and ate until we almost popped.  The food was simple but incredibly tasty.  It was even better because it was coupled with the sound of hearty laughter brought on by Polish jokes.  Even though we didn’t understand the language, this made the atmosphere extremely warm and inviting.

easter in poland

easter in poland

The brunch ended with passing the vodka.  Tony and I kicked it off by doing a shot and toasting the person on our left.  The vodka and shots were then passed around the table this way until the bottle was empty.  I knew it was time to leave as soon as they opened up a second bottle…  😆

This has already been a very memorable and special Easter, and the day isn’t even over yet!  I look forward to continuing the vodka passing later this evening….

Happy Easter, everyone!

easter in poland

Krakow, Poland – A Family Visit

I’ve known Tony since I was 14 years old, but it took until my mid-20s to realize how perfect he was for me.  One of the first questions I asked when vetting him as a potential partner was if he had a passport.  His response?  “I have two.”  It was the sexiest thing I had ever heard.

My husband’s father is from Poland, and as such, Tony and his siblings have dual citizenship.  My sister-in-law married a Polish man and settled with her 3 adorable kids an hour outside of Krakow.  They recently finished building their dream home and Tony and I visited this weekend for some quality family time.

I haven’t been back to Krakow since her wedding 7 years ago.  So much of her town has changed since I last saw it.  But what I was most looking forward to was seeing how much my nieces and nephew had grown.

2009 Krakow

2009 Krakow

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2009 Polish Wedding

Upon arrival to their house, the kids ran to us for big hugs.  I scooped them up and squeezed super tight.  It was such a treat to be with them again!  Throughout our visit, they also blew my mind with how easily they could flip between English and Polish.  They had been attending school in Poland for about a year and while nervous at first, had clearly found their way.

Tony's little doppelganger

Tony’s little doppelganger

The weather started off really beautiful as well – sunny and 75 degrees for 3 days straight.  One day Tony and I took our niece and nephew out for ice cream to beat the heat.  When we arrived, we had no idea how to order, so relying on a 6 and 5 year old was hysterical.

We also spent a whole day together in Krakow.  It was great to be back in this amazing city, which boasts one of the best and largest squares in Europe.  It is my personal favorite, as there is so much to do and see.  To top it off, Polish food is incredible, and Tony and I couldn’t get enough of the pierogis.

krakow

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According to Wikipedia, Krakow has been around since the 7th century and is Poland’s second largest city.  The city wasn’t destroyed during WWII – in fact, it became a completely German city, and many of the original, medieval structures remained intact.  Tony and I didn’t exactly bar hop with my baby belly, but in 2009, the bars we visited all had low ceilings and small doorways, evidence of the days of old.

St. Mary’s Basilica, which is the large church in the square, has a unique story to it.  Wikipedia says “On every hour, a trumpet signal—called the Hejnał mariacki—is played from the top of the taller of St. Mary’s two towers. The plaintive tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city.”  We got to hear this a couple of times throughout the day.

Krakow

St. Mary's Basilica

St. Mary’s Basilica

Additionally, Krakow is known to have a dragon, called the Wawel Dragon (pronounced “va-vel”), who lives at the bottom at Wawel Hill.  There are a many tales associated with this dragon, and Tony and I made sure to purchase a dragon magnet to commemorate our trip.

Many tears were shed when it was time to leave, but I am thrilled to have my sister-in-law and her family come visit us at Christmas.  It will be their first time to see our place in Zurich, and I am sure Clark will be so happy to see the kids again.

The Missus’ Picks:

Tony and I didn’t do much sight seeing on this trip, but there are certainly a few things you must see when visiting Krakow.

  • Free walking tours are always high on my list, and there are many to choose from in Krakow.
  • Visit the Jewish Quarter and eat a meal at Ariel
  • Check out Wawel Castle and try to spot the dragon
  • Eat as many pierogis as you can get your hands on – yum!

Happy travels, everyone, and dziękuję za przeczytanie (thanks for reading)!