Thursday, May 28, 2015

About Groceries, Bread And Everyday Meals

When I came to Texas and visited a grocery store for the first time, the amount of new information (all the brand names, products and labels which were unknown to me) was so overwhelming that I was only able to see the manufacturers' names which I had known from Europe. And it was not easy to spot them among all the colorful bulk on the shelves. Besides, it was a bit tricky too as eg. some of the items which are also available in the stores on the old continent, are packed differently there. For example a certain face cream is sold in red jars/packages in Europe while here in the States, the jars/boxes of the same product are green.
All in all, with the help of my husband, I was trying to find myself among all the new items. Nevertheless, I had some problems with finding particular products, which I would call 'pantry basics'.
First thing which I learned was that vanilla sugar is not available here. It surprised me because it is nothing unusual in Poland. Actually, vanilla sugar is quite a common item, and used as a cake/cookies ingredient much more often than vanilla extract. Some other difficulties which I encountered trying to find various groceries were connected with 'vocabulary differences'. Well, I had not known about them. For example, when I asked about corn flour (this is the name used for the product in Poland), nobody knew what I meant. Later I learned the thing is called 'corn meal' here. Another, quite funny example of a slight difference in naming, is elbow pasta, which is called 'little knees' in Poland.
In The Kitchen With Tobo

Ah, and potato flour, another essential of the Polish pantry, which is both popular and inexpensive there. I was not able to find it in local shops. Searching the Internet I found out how ridiculously pricy and really rare the flour is here. Thanks to my own research I learned a new thing again: cornstarch is used instead of potato flour as both products have similar properties.
Besides it, there is something else which I find rather interesting too. In Poland sugar is made of white sugar beets not sugar cane. Due to the different and colder climate, sugar cane is not grown there. But both kinds of sugar look and taste the same.

After some time I got used to it all (including the layouts of particular stores) and these days I am able to actually notice the groceries displayed on the shelves. What is more, I enjoy buying and trying new things too. On the other hand, having tried some of the best selling kinds/brands of bread here, I admit I was disappointed that all of them are sweet. Simply because it is not what I got used to growing up and living in Poland. Neither sandwich bread nor hot-dog or hamburger buns are sweet (well, at least they shouldn't be, according to what I had got used to). I decided to start making bread and rolls at home, with very pleasing results! No, we do not have a bread machine. I mention this because I have heard about such an attitude that one cannot make bread if they have not bread machine (I wrote a short post about it), which really makes me laugh.
In The Kitchen With Tobo Buns
Yeast Rolls made by myself

Anyway, after several visits in various grocery stores, I found  kinds of bread which I like - they are called Italian and French bread. Also, Kaiser rolls and sourdough rolls taste similarly to the bread I used to eat in Europe. However, there are some differences in serving the bread here and in my home country. 
1. Sandwiches
Sandwiches are also eaten for breakfast and supper in Poland. They are a bit different than lunch sandwiches though. Mainly because they are made of single slices of bread (instead of two) which are cut in two halves. Another difference is that butter or butter like spread is used to make a sandwich (not mustard). What else is served on a sandwich depends on personal likes of course. Typically, for breakfast it can be some cottage cheese, cream cheese or just a slice (1) of ham, cheese, sausage or other meat + a slice of tomato/or and egg/or and pickle/ some lettuce. More or less the same kind of sandwiches would be served for supper too.
In The Kitchen With Tobo

When I told my mum that mustard is used on sandwiches (instead of butter) here, she was surprised and asked me whether it is because local people happen have cholesterol problems. I guess some do but it is rather a matter of a different custom than a total health concern.
2. Bread
Bread is eaten mainly for breakfast, lunch and supper. Usually NOT for dinner. However, certain kinds of soup (eg. vegetable soup) is sometimes served with a slice of bread - which is not sweet, and with no butter). All the sweet things baked in a loaf shaped tin such as banana bread, lemon bread and others, would be called cakes (banana cake, lemon cake, etc.) in Poland. Bread is usually not sweet and cakes are sweeter of course - they are two different things.
In The Kitchen With Tobo Bread
White bread made by myself.
In The Kitchen With Tobo
.............or banana cake :)

3. Meals
A typical Polish family eat home made meals more often than they go out. Because of different, also economical, reasons - there are no such things  like discount coupons there. I like cooking and baking too but, from time to time, I do enjoy having a break and appreciate a nice restaurant meal.
What I like about food places in the States is free drink refills. In Europe you pay for every glass of soda or water you drink. If you empty one glass, you need to buy another one if you are still thirsty. Unless you are at a local Pizza Hut place - they have the same rules about free refills as they are in the US.
Another thing is the size of dishes served in the local restaurants. At first, I was amazed at the amount of food - the lunch and dinner portions I got in the States. Usually the bread and drink would be enough for me. If I eat the bread (which I really like) and some appetizer, I am hardly able to eat anything more.  In  restaurants in Poland, a dinner plate usually meant more food than I normally ate at home but still, even if I was overeaten at the end, I was also most often able to cope with my dish and eat it (almost) all. So there was never such a thing like taking the leftovers home. If you happened not to eat everything, what was left was not worth thinking about, too little to have another meal.
In The Kitchen With Tobo
Two sizes of dinner plates: American & Polish

Well, surprisingly, the sizes of dinner plates (home dinnerware), teaspoons and coffee cups  are bigger in the States than in Europe too.
In The Kitchen With Tobo
In The Kitchen With Tobo
Most popular size of a Polish drinking glass = the size of 1 cup, American kitchen measure. Of course bigger glasses are available in Poland too.

Typical Polish meals (of course there are exceptions depending on personal kikes and needs)

  • a bowl of cereal with hot/warm or cold milk or
  • a milk based soup - mainly for children or
  • scrambled eggs or
  • cooked sausage or
  • sandwiches - single slices of bread also with honey/jam or dairy products/ham/sausage slices etc.
In The Kitchen With Tobo
Lunch - called also 'second breakfast' (meaning something light)
Some work places have lunch breaks/canteens, some do not. At the latter ones people eat their sandwiches (double bread slices) or whatever they bring from home, while doing their work, whenever they can.
In The Kitchen With Tobo
My lunch sandwiches

Lunch menu at state schools is prepared by school dietitians and meals are made by school cooks. The meal usually consists of a soup, main dish, some (prepared in the school kitchen) fruit drink and a dessert (most often a yoghurt or a fruit). Friday is typically a meatless day. Lunch break is quite short - lasts 25 up to 30 minutes, so there is not much time to enjoy the meal. Students whose parents choose not to buy lunch at school, eat their sandwiches brought from home, outside the canteen. However, kids coming from poor families have their school lunches sponsored by local community councils.

Dinner - usually a home made meal eaten when back from work. On Sundays and holidays lunch is skipped and dinner is simply eaten much earlier.

Supper - served later in the evening/night
(if dinner was early enough and one gets hungry again), most often it is something light (eg.  sandwiches) and not sweet. Sometimes it is also scrambled eggs or a cooked sausage or/and other things.
Our home made hamburges & home baked buns

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Pure Light Foundation For Summer By Yves Rocher

Since it is getting warmer and warmer (despite the rain), it is time to switch to a lighter makeup version. I have recently bought this Light & Luminous Foundation by Yves Rocher and I really love it. Although it is light indeed, it evens the skin tone and makes it look radiant and fresh. It gives medium coverage and quite a natural look. Besides, what is also important on a warm and sunny day, the foundation lets the skin 'breath' (I do not feel it on my face as it is lightweight) and stays in place all day long. It is also good for a nude and flawless makeup look. What is more, it does not irritate my eyes/skin. The fluid consistency makes it easy to apply the foundation evenly, without any darker smudges.
The Light & Luminous Foundation contains rice extract, cornflower water, soy extract and vitamin E.
Its regular price = $23 (it is often available at a lower price during 'special offer' time - right now it is $13.90).

From the manufacturer:
  • Rice extract, from Asia, is rich in botanical inositol which improves the skin's radiance.
  • Tested under dermatological control.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

About New Philharmonic Orchestra, Music & Schools

Last week I happened to win tickets for a performance by New Philharmonic Orchestra of Irving. The tickets were sponsored by WRR101.1, one of our favorite local radio station.  I was quite excited about the winning - we neither had heard the Orchestra play before nor had been to The Irving Arts Center, where the event was to take place. All in all, we were hoping to have a good time.
When we arrived  there on Sunday, we found the Arts Center to be quite a nice and large venue, surrounded by a charming, little park (which was still being worked on).

The event, entitled 'Symphonic Sparkle!', was the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Irving Season Finale. What was special about it: some talented students of the local school district, including a great young violin player - youth concerto composition and scholarship winner, played with the Orchestra musicians too. We were not only very pleased with the music by Schubert and Bizet, and the quality of the musical performance but also with the theater room too. It is so good that there are still places like that - where food and drinks are not allowed during a play or concert. The smell of pop corn or/and sounds made by munching and champing audience can really spoil the quality of music/art perception.
FavTreats Music Texas
Irving Arts Center - before the concert...
The student instrumentalists participating in the Finale made me think of the musical education paths here, in the States, and in my home country.
Although Music is one of  many obligatory subjects ( besides Polish, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, PE, a foreign language, Crafts, History, Social Studies, Computer Science and Art at a junior high level for example), Music classes at a state school in Poland  include mainly learning about theory of music, and listening to music pieces by various composers of course. Most state schools usually have one piano, a few recorders, xylophones, tambourines and triangles. When I was teaching early education students, we also had a big electronic music board in every early education classroom of the school where I worked then. The board was quite a thing at that time - there was the staff with treble clef and diatonic scale notes (on C) on it. The notes, when touched with an electronic pointer, played sounds - I used it to teach the kids the notes/basic notation, it was fun. We also played little percussion instruments, xylophones, and sang. We did not have enough instruments at the school, so I asked the parents of my students' to buy them some simple xylophones. There was about thirty children in my class, when all of them started to try their little instruments, it was quite a noisy (and, frankly speaking, sometimes annoying) time. And I had only forty-five minutes a week to teach them everything which was included in the curriculum of the subject called Music.
Anyway, what I have learned while living in Poland, if a student there really wants to learn to play an instrument, they either need to take private lessons or go to a musical school. Of course the previous one includes money, but if someone is talented enough/has a 'musical ear', they can be admitted to a state musical school of I or II level. It is free but it requires a lot of effort meaning not only musical practice. Musical school classes are run in the afternoons and evenings, after the regular school time. That is why the kids - instruments players, after a day spent at their primary/junior high or high school go straight to the other - musical school. It is hard work but later, if one wants to develop themselves and study music at university, they do not have to do two schools anymore - in this meaning state musical academy is a kind of relief time.
I find it really great that students of US school districts have an opportunity to learn to play instruments at their own schools, and if they choose it, be a part of an orchestra or a marching band.

Without music life would be really Flat!

In the park - at the Arts Center

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

About Irish Music & Celtic Woman

I have always liked traditional Irish music. That was why I also played Irish songs to my students. However, before coming to the US, I had no opportunity to see any live performance of that kind.
Since my arrival in TX, we have been to North Irish Texas Festival - great bands and atmosphere!
My husband has also introduced me to Celtic Woman who are quite popular here. Last year we saw their 'Emerald' concert live. Both of us were totally delighted - with the music and the entire performance too.
No need to say that we were quite happy when we learned we would be able to enjoy one of their live 10th Anniversary productions. We were not disappointed again - just the opposite. The live shows by Celtic Woman were much more impressing than all the TV programs and videos which we had seen.

The name Celtic Woman is mostly associated with the female singers and their divine voices, and also with the sparkling 'Butterfly', a very skilful violin player. Although they are, of course, the faces of the 'brand', the enterprise called Celtic Woman is much more than the talented and attractive ladies. There are many more people who create the show. Except the ones who work 'behind the stage', there are also supporting singers, fantastic Irish tap dancers, all the instrumentalists: bagpipers, drummers, percussionists, piano player and others. Without them all - it would be quite a different Celtic Woman - just another singing group.

Whoever is responsible for the lights, does tremendous job to, as the light frame is a very important part of every Celtic Woman concert. The lights make each of them a multidimensional event, what you actually cannot really see while watching a TV recording/ a video. Comparing to a live production, what we can perceive on TV seems really flat. What is more, the colors of the lights very much add to the atmosphere of the programs. Nothing is accidental in a performance by Celtic Woman. While watching it, one can see how much work has been done. Every single detail has been polished perfectly, which (among others) makes all the dances look so effortless and every show so much enjoyable. Thanks to the work of the entire Celtic Woman, each of their live performances is quite an unforgettable experience. In my case - the waterproof makeup helped a lot.

Having watched and listened to them I wish we could go to Ireland some day...

Monday, May 18, 2015

My First Time At The Rodeo

When I was going to see a rodeo for the first time, I did not know what to expect. Of course, I had seen some rodeo scenes on TV but calf roping and throwing animals on the ground seemed rather cruel to me. I was excited to see real cowboys anyway. Besides, I was glad I would be able to learn what the real rodeo is.

The show consisted of various competitions. To my surprise, not only men but also women and little boys were the rodeo contestants. All of them tried to show themselves at their best, and achieve as good scores as they were able to (and as the animals let them).

FavTreats Rodeo Texas TX

Some categories, including bull riding, required rather acrobatic skills and looked quite dangerous. Luckily, nothing bad happened - neither the men nor the animals got hurt, which made the entire event really enjoyable.

It was all much more entertaining that I thought it would be. The cheerful music, the clown, his jokes, and some other funny elements created a pleasant, relaxing and laid back atmosphere.
All in all, the rodeo was fun and we had a really nice time at the arena.
There was one more thing which was very new to me on that day, besides the sport event itself. At the rodeo place I had a snow scone first time in my life. It was freezing cold!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Playful Little One & Bigger One

These pictures were taken some time ago, when our Cute Family Doggies were a bit younger. The little one looked so different then. From the very beginning they liked playing together. If you have your own pets you know - you do not need television, watching them play is quite an entertainment too.
our pets, dogs

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Ultimate Buffet Experience At Pizza Inn

There is one restaurant in my home city which serves a buffet type lunch. Since it has not been a popular way of having meals where I come from - I have no idea what is served at that place. I never found it interesting enough to check it. Anyway, all buffet kind of places and experiences have been new to me too.
We went first time to our local Pizza Inn a few months ago. We enjoyed their pizza so, some time later, we also decided to have their buffet meal. That was fun!
First of all I loved the salad I made myself, I was also delighted with the taste of the dressing I chose. I do not know what it was called, but it reminded me the taste of the salads I had used to have when in Poland. Perfect!
And the pizzas - so many different kinds to try! I needed to taste all of them just to make up my mind, and to know, which ones would be of my first choice during our next visits at Pizza Inn. There were also some spaghetti sauces and pasta but I was not able to have it all. Besides, I preferred pizzas and something I called 'cheese bread'. So good! We very much enjoyed the food and the service too: the waitresses were attending us kindly all the time, asking how we were and bringing drink refills.
And when they loudly called out the names of new foods/pizzas they were placing on the buffet every few minutes, people were standing up, going to the buffet, grabbing plates to get new pieces of something. Such fun! Of course we had more food than we usually do (I wished I had been able to eat more!). We also tried their cinnamon breads, very tasty, but my favorite dessert was plain vanilla pudding. It wonderfully completed the meal - nothing could taste better at the end of the Ultimate Buffet Feast Experience.

We loved it all and really enjoyed our buffet meal at Pizza Inn. Wonderful food and great service. Surely we are going to come back to the place in some time. And have fun again!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Eye Makeup: Just A Spring Day Makeup

This time I tried gold shades for an everyday spring makeup otpion.

Makeup FavTreats
Eye shadows:

1. Champagne
2. Gold
3. Gold-and-grey

Gold-and-grey eye shadow

Eye pencil:

4. Brown-and-gold

5. A bit different look with the same eye shadows and a green eye pencil

Friday, May 1, 2015

Baked Mac & Cheese

before baking...
First time when I was asked whether I would like some mac & cheese, I did not know what the 'mac' stood for. When I learned that fish is traditionally served here with macaroni and cheese, I was quite surprised. I would have never thought of such a meal configuration before. Where I come from, fish is always served with potatoes - either fried (french fries) or boiled, but never with elbow shaped pasta and cheese! Nevertheless, the two and fish match quite well and I learned to like it. Mac & Cheese goes nicely with fried meat too.
I have tried quite a few mac & cheese recipes, including making it on the stove, but this one seems to be the best of all.
In The Kitchen With Tobo
After baking....