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Friday, November 28, 2014


Sometimes beauty is in your own back yard--no traveling necessary.
November 28, 2014

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Little Poland-NYC
You can just pass by without thinking about it, but the menu seemed intriguing.
Rob and I can be creatures of habit, and when we are down in lower  Manhattan, we head toward Houston Street and Katz’s Delicatessen—you know, the one I’ve written about and the one with signs that read “Send a salami to your boy in the army” and (with arrow pointing downward) “This is the table where Harry met Sally.”   And then we head to Russ and Daughters to bring home some appetizing. (same link as Katz's) That’s the appetizer shop that Anthony Bourdain says, “occupies that rare and tiny place on the mountaintop reserved for those who are not just the oldest and the last-but also the best.”   But no, this is not about either one of these esteemed establishments; it is about a new find in the East Village, Little Poland.

The East Village was once the bastion of Eastern European eateries, but the demise of many of these restaurants leaves that designation a bit hazy.  But Little Poland, an unpretentious little restaurant decorated for the "regulars" at 200 Second Ave., leaves no doubt that authentic Polish food is still offered: a menu offering borscht, kielbasa, pierogi, stuffed cabbage, and a variety of soups enticed us to give a new place a try.  Even our waitress’ struggle with English was authentic!
Little Poland-NYC
Nothing fancy, but comfortable enough for lunch
Pierogis were the bait.  Eight different kinds are offered, and they can be ordered in any combination or the full sample platter. 

Pierogis are little pockets of dough stuffed with a variety of fillings.  They're basically the Polish/Russian equivalent of wontons or ravioli.  Probably most cultures and ethnic groups have their own versions of stuffed dough.

Little Poland-NYC

Pierogis hold a special place in our hearts.  Rob’s mom made pierogis that were just out of this world, little crescent-shaped dough patties filled with mixtures of farmer cheese and onions or sauerkraut or potatoes and cheese.  It was impossible to tell which was most delicious but it was possible to eat them until you practically fell off the chair in a food coma!  She taught me how to make them—a long and arduous process that Rob and I have made our own.  Last year we made several hundred for a fund-raiser!  One Christmas, Rob’s sister Wendy had the children make pierogi.  It’s just part of the Dembeck family, so to taste them in Little Poland was almost to dare the restaurant to outdo Sylvia Dembeck.

In the restaurant, we could have had the pierogis boiled or fried.  We ordered them fried.  In his usual fearless fashion, Rob chose the sample platter: potato, kasha, cheese, sweet potato, meat, spinach, sauerkraut with mushrooms, and Very Special Pierogi (potato, sauerkraut and cheese).  Because I ordered several of the Very Special Pierogi, mine came with a special sauce as well.  I then tried the spinach, the kasha, the cheese, and the meat.  Our orders came with onions sautéed in butter.  We also ordered sour cream on the side, and we could have ordered apple sauce on the side too.

The pierogis were quite nice!  The dough was not too thick, and the edges did not become hard as they fried.  The dough had a nice sweetness to it.  The dough is really the test of a great pierogi, and Little Poland passed easily.   

My “specials” came with a very tasty sauce made of sour cream, potato, and chives.  It was a lovely compliment to the pierogi, and I will remember this when next we make a batch of pierogi at home. 

Little Poland-NYC

Rob and I were consistent in our evaluations.  We liked best what we considered “traditional,” that is the cheese, the potato and cheese, and the Special.  If you go, I suggest stick to those types of pierogi. 

The sweet potato's flavor was overcome by the tasty dough, so I would skip them.  The meat, which was shredded inside its dough pocket, was too dry.  I was hoping the kasha would be good as I love this grain in knishes and kasha varnishkas, but it, too, fell a bit flat and tasted a bit too dry.  The nutty kasha taste (similar to Wheatena) got lost in the dough.  Had the spinach been in combination with potato or cheese, I would have liked that one more.  My pierogi was stuffed, but the spinach seemed unseasoned.  It overpowered the dough.  None of these pierogi was bad, but none was so good that I would try these out at home.

All said and done, if you should be in the area, try this little spot of Poland.  And if you’re not familiar with pierogi (and you’re not at my house), you might stop in here to see what you’re missing.                                                                        

Friday, November 14, 2014


I know I said I was going to post pics of Kilahuea with all its smoky heat and scalding lava,
here we are on Nov. 14th, and there is lots of snow/
Isn't the first snow the most beautiful?
That's why I am sharing.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


Since Kilahuea Volcano on Hawaii's Big Island is so much in the news lately as it is active now
and spilling lava down to the populated areas surrounding it,
I thought I'd share some of my photos in the next weeks.
Here is the caldera, quiet yet steaming.
It was, in 2012, a sleeping giant.

Thursday, November 06, 2014


Massanuttan, VA 2014The  Massanutten Resort in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley has become our place to bring friends and has also evolved into the meeting spot for my yearly reunion with my cousins. (Use my “search” box and keyword Massanutten to see earlier posts)

 Rob and I head down from New York’s Hudson Valley; my sister and her husband come down from the Adirondacks in New York State; Rita and her husband come over from Richmond, and Bill comes in from Tucson, Arizona.  I wish I could remember the number of times we’ve been in Massanutten, and while you may wonder how we can find ways to occupy our time, the richness of the Shenandoah Valley never ceases to leave us with the words, “Next year we’ve got to include….”  This year—this past week—was no different.

My sister owns timeshares there and we trade one of our timeshares through RCI, so our accommodations are spacious and comfortably furnished for lounging and visiting.  The two-bedroom units have two bathrooms, Jacuzzis, fully equipped kitchen, sofas and chairs, a dining area big enough for 8, a balcony, and a fireplace.  The one bedroom unit is equally equipped sans second bathroom.  So we are ready in all kinds of weather to catch up and enjoy each other’s company.  You cannot do this with hotel rooms, that’s for sure.

Although leisure is part of vacation, don’t think we sit around all day, and as we are not attached at the hip, we sometimes go our separate ways.

Most days we breakfast in and meet for whatever we plan to do in the AM.

Rita and I like the water aerobics class at the Woodstone Pool.  It’s a 1 hour workout with weights and noodles.  Sometimes Rob uses the gym and treadmill; Bill likes to walk.  Robyn and Neal relax with lattes.  It's all good.

But later in the AM we meet to head up Massanutten Mountain.  

As a four-season resort, Massanutten Mountain is great for skiing in winter, but in the fall, a ride up the ski lift to the top of the mountain gives us panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley, the sunlight hitting the autumnal colors and gifting us with bright, vivid, oranges, yellows and reds.  At the mountain’s peak we have hiking options on marked trails.  We can ride down the chair lift, or we can walk down the mountain, sometimes seeing wildlife and almost always seeing bear scat along the way.

Massanuttan, VA 2014
somewhere WAY DOWN there are our accommodations
Massanuttan, VA 2014
view at the top of the ski lift
We follow our chair lift ride with a walk near Painter Pond where we check out the fishing prospects.  We don’t fish, but there are people there trying their luck.  It’s lovely to sit in the sun, absorbing the rays and once again enjoying the colors—this time from a different perspective.

Massanuttan, VA 2014

Massanuttan, VA 2014

Enjoy fragrance?  We head over to White Oak Lavender Farm where the shop is so aromatic, it seems another world.  Lavender ice cream, perfume, soaps, jams, and more.  I'd rename that shop Everything Lavender.  Robyn could not resist the horses and went over to say hello.

Massanuttan, VA 2014
At this time of year the lavender is not the purple with which we are
familiar, but the fragrance is still in the air

Massanuttan, VA 2014

We plan to go out to dinner at some point, but as we prepare for our reunion, each of us is responsible for dinner one night.  This begins with a long cocktail hour and lengthy dinner with accompanying conversation, laughter, catching up and remembrances.  Wine flows freely; desserts are varied.  We each bring the things we like, and it’s always good. 

Massanuttan, VA 2014

The TV plays a lot of football and the World Series.  Some of us watch; some play the card game Phase 10.  No pressure.  Lots of feet-up relaxing.

During the day weather is beautiful, so heading north 30 miles on Skyline Drive we stop at several overlooks to gaze in awe at Nature’s beautiful canvas.  Our National Park System is extraordinary and well-run. The annual or lifetime passes are great money-savers, and there are additional savings for seniors over 62.  Check that out when you click on my Skyline Drive link.

We make a quick visit to the Ranger Station at Big Meadow for maps and advice before heading to Limberlost Trail, a circuit loop of a little more than a mile that takes us through the woods, over streams, and across horse trails with fresh tracks.  In summer we would have been canopied in green, but this time of year we can see into the woods and up to the sky.  Sunlight shines down in streams and sparkles against the yellow, brown, and red leaves piled high on the mountain’s floor.

Massanuttan, VA 2014
beginning of the Limberlost Trail
Massanuttan, VA 2014

The Ranger had warned of a big black bear hanging around the picnic area we choose, but when we get there, traveling a bit farther north, other leaf-peepers are setting up at tables, a campfire is crisply burning, and the wide open area seemed perfect for our picnic.  No one needs jackets, and at some point we each have our face pointed at the sky, eyes closed and enjoying the sun’s warmth.  Life is good.  Sometimes it’s the simplest of days that prove the most valuable.

We enjoy the day so much and spend so much time up in the mountains that we have to forego our last plan—a trip to Old Hill Cider Mill.  That’s one thing we’ll have to put off until next time.  And it slips my mind that we could have squeezed in a stop at Rt. 11 Potato Chips, the best chips on earth, for a quick tasting and to see if they were cooking chips.  Next time.  And there was also a 12 acre corn maze up that way that caught our fancies.  Next time.

One morning Bill and I play golf at Woodstone, one of Massanutten’s two courses, and it is great for me.  I love playing with him, and this is our once-a-year-day.  It's warm out there despite the season, and Bill gets a bit sunburned.

Massanuttan, VA 2014

Massanuttan, VA 2014

Speaking of golf, one day Robyn and Neal and Rita and Bill played miniature golf at the resort.  They have the best miniature golf courses I’ve ever played, and that’s always a lot of fun. 

One afternoon just before sunset, we head to the CrossKeys Vineyards for a wine tasting.  Not only is this the kind of winery you'd see in a movie as it is nestled in the rolling rises in the valley but also it boasts a lovely array of flavorful wines, a restaurant, and a gorgeous patio to sit, sip and watch the sun set.  Which is exactly what we do.

Massanuttan, VA 2014
The vines are almost ready to be put to bed for the winter

Massanuttan, VA 2014

Weather let us down on only one day, but the constant drizzle and mist did not dampen our plans.  We went to Plan B. The rain began just as we all reached our morning rendezvous--right outside Hank’s Smokehouse, one of our favorite stops in Virginia.  While our four companions headed off to the movies, Rob and I took some scrumptious take-out home (pulled pork sliders with 2 sides), got cozy in front of the fire, slowly savored our lunch, sipped wine, and read until they returned.  I debated playing a movie as we brought our Dongle and Samsung Tablet so I could get cc, but I am reading the third book of Ken Follett’s Twentieth Century Trilogy and found it difficult to put down.

We celebrate two birthdays while we’re away, Bill’s and Robyn’s.  This year that was my dinner-prep night, and dinner included the birthday cake my mother used to make for us—chocolate pudding and graham cracker cake.  Great evening.  Great celebration—including Robyn’s special birthday chapeau a picture of which sisterly instinct tells me I best omit.

It’s only a few days once a year, but these are days I relish.  This is what life is about.  My family might be for me, but the Shenandoah Valley is for everyone.  If not the Massanutten Resort which, as many resorts are now, both hotels and timeshares, rent a cabin in the mountains as we did for Rob’s 60th birthday, or try one of the b&bs in the area.  Stay up at Big Meadow.  Explore caverns, Civil War sites, Mennonite markets in Dayton, or enjoy any of the myriad offerings of this area.  I guarantee there is something for everyone.

Massanuttan, VA 2014