Christmas in Poland, 1929 - Wordless Wednesday

(Photograph Privately Held by Cynthia Shenette; Text Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) This is a photo of Tomasz Walkowski and family of Kepno, Poland.  The photo was taken in Kepno.  I do not believe the Walkowskis are related to my family but are friends of my grandmother's family who did live in Kepno.  According to family letters the Walkowskis had a son and a daughter.  The children in the photo are dressed very similarly.  Can you tell who is the boy and who is the girl?  I'm not sure, but I'll hazard a guess. My answer is at the end of this post.  I love the detail in the photo--the children's toys, the clothing styles, the decorations on the tree, the rug, the wallpaper.  The back of the photo is stamped with a photographer's stamp: Zaklad Fotograficzny / Jan Nawrocki / Kepno, Wlkp. Warszawska 23.

My Answer: The boy is the child on the left on the rocking horse, and the girl is the child on the right holding a doll.  What do you think?

Other Posts You Might Like:

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Me and My Doll
Amanuensis Monday: Where My Doll Came From
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Baby It's Cold Outside - Wordless Wednesday

What the Dickens 2, Or More Tales from Hell's Kitchen - Advent Calendar, Grab Bag

(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)

"Do you know the Poulterer's, in the next street but one, at the corner?" Scrooge inquired.

"I should hope I did," replied the lad.

"An intelligent boy!'' said Scrooge. "A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they've sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there? Not the little prize Turkey; the big one?"

"What, the one as big as me?" returned the boy.

Bigger isn't always better, especially when it involves a turkey.  I learned this the hard way.

Yes, Gentle Reader, It's Holiday Time Again!

Due to the popularity of last year's holiday post, What the Dickens, Or How to Blow Up a Duck, I have decided to return to Christmas Past to share more holiday tales of food preparation gone wrong.

I realize that whenever you do Part 2 of something it never seems to live up to the audience's expectations  of Part 1.  Even when Part 2 is good it never quite achieves the same level of greatness as Part 1.  So, Gentle Reader, with that said it's time to lower your expectations and once again journey with me back in time as I try to shamelessly capitalize on the popularity of the initial post to Christmas Past...

Christmas 1985, Or How to Lose Your Cookies

Several friends and I had a brilliant idea!  Let's have a Christmas cookie baking party!  I was dating this guy at the time who offered to host the party at his apartment.  Each of us brought a cookie ingredient (flour, sugar, eggs) and a recipe for batch of cookies.  The plan was to make a huge batch of cookies which we would all share.  One friend who was a bartender thought it would be fun to mix up a couple of pitchers of Blue Hawaiians to liven things up a little.

Well it didn't take long for my friends and I to realize that we really hadn't thought through the logistics of our cookie baking activity.  A small apartment, multiple batches of cookies, one oven, limited counter space, and a large batch of Blue Hawaiians were not exactly the ingredients for success.  We were quickly overwhelmed by dirty dishes, empty cookie sheets, full cookie sheets, cookie dough, and all of the already baked cookies.  There were cookies everywhere--cookies on the counters, cookies on the table, cookies on top of the refrigerator!  To put it in perspective think Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory with peanut butter blossoms instead of bonbons.

As the evening wore on my friends and I were getting desperate (plus I suspect the Blue Hawaiians were starting to kick in).  What to do, what to do?  An idea!  Why couldn't we rest some of the hot cookies still on cookie sheets on a window sill to cool?  They would be out of the way and cool off at the same time.  Did I mention my boyfriend's apartment was in a three-decker?  Yep, you guessed it.  The cookies fell out the window.  I don't remember how many flights.  Let's just say the cookie incident kind of foreshadowed my relationship with the boyfriend (which was also out the window) a few weeks later.

Christmas 2010, Or You'll Shoot Your Eye Out Kid

My husband and son LOVE cranberry sauce.  So do I, so every year I make home-made cranberry-orange relish.  My son is somewhat spoiled and won't eat the stuff from the can which is fine with me.  I'm always looking for ways to remove high fructose corn syrup from our diets.  I'm happy to make my own which only contains three simple ingredients--cranberries, oranges, and sugar.  How can you go wrong with only three ingredients?

I've come to think of kitchen appliances as power tools for the kitchen.  A food processor is not for the faint of heart.  I hadn't really thought too much about it until last year's mishap.  I pulled out my food processor (which I rarely use I might add) put the cranberries in, put the cover on, and turned the power on.  Unfortunately I forgot one thing.  You know that cap that goes over the little tube you feed stuff into?  I forgot to put that on.  Oops. The result--a rapid-fire cranberry machine gun shooting cranberries all over the kitchen!  My cranberries could have given Ralphie's Red Ryder BB Gun a run for it's money any day.

Thanksgiving 1989, Or More Problems With Poultry

Now, Gentle Reader, I know you are asking, "So what happened with the turkey?"  I kind of alluded to what I have come to think of as "the unfortunate flaming turkey incident" at the end of my duck story.  To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what happened other than the turkey was really big and Mom was using one of those cooking bags again.  Clearly we learned nothing from the exploding duck episode.  All I know is Mom opened the oven door, and flames shot out!  Still being the nervous type, I went for the kitchen fire extinguisher, again.  Mom, still not being the nervous type, told me to put away the fire extinguisher, again. She closed the oven door, and the flames went out.  After the fire was out Mom said in a calm voice, "Once you cut off the oxygen the fire will go out."  Good to know.  The turkey was fine, but I wasn't doing so well, again.  And yes, we did have that turkey for dinner.

Do you have a Christmas tale of culinary chaos? A souffle that flopped? A fondue that didn't?  Do you fear Christmas Dinner Yet to Come?  Feel free to leave a comment. After all, misery loves company.  Now I'm off to Home Depot to buy safety goggles.  I need to make cranberry sauce...

God Bless Us, Everyone

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A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)
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A Charlie Brown Tree, All Grown Up - Wordless Wednesday

Cynthia Shenette and Henry Shenette
(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) What the heck is going on with that tree?  It kind of reminds me of Charlie Brown's Christmas tree except bigger.  I look as if I'm about two in the photo. We didn't have any pets at time so I can't blame the mess with the tinsel on a cat or a dog. Hmm.  I wonder what got into the tree?  Me perhaps? That might explain the grumpy little look on my face.  An attitude adjustment definitely seems to be in order.

Clearly I am much happier in this photo.  There's nothing like a new set of wheels to put a smile on one's face!

Other Posts You Might Like:

What The Dickens, Or How to Blow Up a Duck - Advent Calendar, Holiday Foods
Advent Calendar: Christmas Cards from Poland and Germany
(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Me and My Doll
Not So Wordless Wednesday: Me, Our Tree, and Another Doll

Retail, Restaurants, Food, and More - Follow Friday, December 9, 2011

(Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette) I love reading all of the Follow Friday posts by my fellow geneabloggers, but I will admit haven't written a Follow Friday post of my own in well over a year.  I've come across a number of blogs lately that are interesting, fun, or specific to Massachusetts that I'd like to share.  Please check them out!

Shopping Days in Retro Boston is a fun blog.  I spent 11 years working at the Jordan Marsh in Worcester where I started out as Christmas help in 1977. I've also done my share of shopping in good old Boston so it's been a fun walk down memory lane.  Be sure to check out the photos and advertisements in the post, Christmas in Boston 1956.

Speaking of good old Boston, the blog And This Is Good Old Boston always has something interesting to share. Recent posts include topics such as the old Boston baseball team the Boston Braves, the infamous Coconut Grove fire, and the Perkins Institution for the Blind. Great visuals--photos, Sanborn map images, and more--accompany almost every post.

Fruitcake is the Cake of the Gods?  Huh?  Check out the Kitchen Retro blog, and decide for yourself.  I bet you can guess how I'm coming down on the fruitcake issue.  Also, if you are a parent or grandparent of young children you might want to learn why Seven Up soda is good for babies. Read Seven Months? Seven Up!  (Whoever came up with this idea should be made to sit in a hermetically sealed room with 20 six-year-olds on a sugary birthday cake and fruit punch high.)  I shudder at the thought... 

For those of you with Worcester, MA connections, check out the Denholms Blog for another walk down memory lane.  Denholms was THE place to shop for decades in Worcester.  It was also THE place to go to see Santa and the Easter Bunny.  For my "bunny shot" at Denholms see here.  I use to make my mother nuts by running around in the revolving door at Denholms. I even got stuck in it once.  If you are so inclined, you can see a picture of the revolving door here (second photo down).  Let me add that while I might look cute in the bunny photo I was absolutely evil once I hit that door.

Now I know why washing dishes was such a threat back in the old days for folks who couldn't pay their restaurant check after a meal out.  Read Washing Up at Restaurant-ing Through History.  It's interesting and informative, as is the rest of the blog.

That's about it for this addition of Follow Friday, though I do have one more thing to add on a serious note.   If you know a firefighter or are related to a firefighter, say thank you to him or her for doing what they do. Yesterday Worcester lost yet another firefighter who was killed in the line of duty.  You can read about it here.  Forget about what they say about sports figures and movie stars being heroes.  Firefighters are REAL heroes.

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Advent Calendar: Christmas Cards from Poland and Germany 
Remembering Pearl Harbor
Reflecting on My American Experience this Thanksgiving
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What the Dickens, Or How to Blow Up a Duck - Advent Calendar, Holiday Foods

(This is a re post of a piece written for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories in December 2010.)

(Copyright (c) 2010 Cynthia Shenette) "God Bless Us, Everyone." So says Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens' famous tale, A Christmas Carol. A fitting wrap up to a heart-warming story. Feast and food play an important part in the tale--the giant turkey, the plum pudding, the roast goose. I get the tingles just thinking about it. But not in a good way.

I read A Christmas Carol for the first time in eighth grade English class. Oh, that story made such an impression on me. One of the other English classes, not mine of course, actually got to stage a Dickens-style feast, complete with costumes, in our junior high cafeteria. Why couldn't my class do that? No Salisbury steak, instant mashed potatoes, and gray green beans in the cafeteria that day, but a real honest to goodness Dickens-style feast. I was so jealous.

I must have mentioned my disappointment to my mom. She came up with a brilliant idea. Why couldn't we stage our own Dickens feast right at home? She would make a goose and a couple of the other traditional English dishes for our celebration. Sounds good on paper right?

Well off mom went to the grocery store, but apparently back in the mid-1970s goose was hard to come by in Worcester, MA. No luck on the goose front. She did find a duck though. Mom figured that would be acceptable. I agreed. Mr. Dickens would most heartily approve. So home we went with our duck ready and willing to prepare our feast.

Mom, not knowing anything about duck, decided to prepare the duck the way she usually prepared turkey. This was back in the day when those turkey cooking bags were new to the grocery market. Mom was all for making things easier in the kitchen, so in went the duck, into a cooking bag. Mom also had heard that ducks can be kind of greasy, so she decided to put a trivet underneath the duck, inside the cooking bag so the grease could drip off into the bottom of the pan. Mom tied up the bag, and put the entire bag and it's contents into a pan, and faster than you can say Bleak House, the duck was in the oven. Our Dickens of a feast would be on the table in no time.

There was one fatal flaw in this plan. You knew there had to be one, right? Mom forgot to cut holes in the cooking bag to let steam out. Oops. While the duck was cooking away in the oven I was in the kitchen helping mom to prepare the rest of the meal. All of a sudden boom! An explosion! I looked over to the stove. Through the glass oven door I saw the duck, bag, trivet and all, blow up, hit the top of the oven, and plop back down in the pan! Being the nervous type I went for the kitchen fire extinguisher. Mom, not being the nervous type, told me to put away the fire extinguisher. The duck was fine. I wasn't doing so well.

Later on that evening, we did have our feast. Duck and all. Even after it blew up it turned out fine. I know this may come as a surprise, but we never had duck again. Lesson learned. NEVER forget to cut holes in the cooking bag.

Aah, those warm holiday memories of Christmas Past. Now let me tell you about the time my mom set fire to the turkey...

God Bless Us, Everyone.

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Reflecting on My American Experience this Thanksgiving
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A Comedy of Errors: My Family in the Census (Part 1 of 3)

Holidays Are Like People...

Dinner at My House, Thanksgiving 2002
(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2011 Cynthia Shenette)  When I started thinking about our Carnival of Genealogy topic for December, Thanksgiving traditions, it occurred to me that my Thanksgiving holiday celebrations have changed over the years.

When I was little my family and I always had dinner at my aunt Helen Bulak's house.  Auntie Helen and my grandmother shared a duplex house in their later years.  Thanksgiving was always on Auntie's side of the house, and Easter was always on my grandmother's side of the house. Thanksgiving dinner included extended family and involved a fancy dinner table set with Auntie's Lenox china.  There was turkey, of course, a special Polish poultry dressing made with turkey or chicken livers (which for the longest time I did not like), mashed potatoes, glazed sweet potatoes, broccoli with Polish crumbs, gravy, cranberry sauce from a can, and apple pie with ice cream for dessert.  Auntie Helen always made the turkey while my mom and my grandmother supplied everything else.

One of my favorite things was and still is broccoli with Polish crumbs or "garnish Polonaise," as I heard Julia Child call it once.  Things always sound better in French, don't they?  Polish crum...oops...I mean "garnish Polonaise" is a garnish made from dried bread crumbs which are browned in butter in a pan on the stove top until they take on a toasted flavor and a crunchy texture.  Sprinkled over broccoli or most other vegetables they are delicious.  It's amazing how something so simple can liven up a dish!

As long as my dad and my grandmother were still with us we continued to celebrate Thanksgiving at home.  By 1990 Dad and Gram were both gone, and I was busy with work and graduate school.  Rather than cook dinner at home Mom and I decided to start having Thanksgiving dinner out, a tradition which we carried on for a number of years.  

After I had a family of my own I cooked dinner at our house.  I made the traditional favorites--turkey, gravy, mashed sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry-orange relish, and my personal favorite, stuffing.  Mom joined us for Thanksgiving for as long as she was physically able.  Mom died three years ago, so now we join my husband's family in upstate New York for the holiday.

Grandmother's House (My Mother-in-Law's Family Homestead, Photo Circa 1900)
I love Thanksgiving with my in-laws.  We usually have dinner at my sister-in-law's house.  She and her family still live on the old family homestead. My mother-in-law's Ladd ancestors built the house around 1800, and the Ladd family has lived there ever since.  Again, we have all the traditional dishes--turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry-orange relish.  My mother-in-law is a pie baker of awesome talent.  She makes apple pie and butternut squash pie for dessert.  This year my son had fun helping Grandma make cranberry-orange relish!

I often think back to the wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations of my childhood.  I miss my parents and grandmother profoundly during the holidays.  My life has changed, but I enjoy Thanksgiving with my son and my husband and his family.  My in-laws are incredibly kind and welcoming. I feel like I'm part of their family now. 

Holidays are like people.  Time passes, and people change.  I've changed.  My Thanksgivings now aren't any better or any worse.  They are just different.

Submitted for the 112th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy.

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