Thursday, January 31, 2019

Finding My Roots in the Frigid North

Hey.  I am still here.  I have not frozen yet, though as I sit here typing I must say that my fingers are cold.  The official temp right now outside is minus 9 F.  That is bone-chilling cold.  All the schools are closed, mail delivery has been cancelled and because of an explosion at a gas transmission center yesterday, we have been asked by the utility and the Governor to keep our thermostats at 65 F.  I normally keep mine at 66 F during the day and 62 F at night so, fortunately, I am used to cooler temps indoors.  I haven't left my house since Tuesday noon when I went out to bring the trash can back inside.  And then I nearly froze my face 'cause I forgot to wrap my scarf around thinking it was just a minute to walk to the street and back.  It looks nice out, but truly, looks can be deceiving.

So, what else have I been doing all month?  Finding my roots.  I have made inroads.  An Ancestry member in Australia sent me info from a Polish website and I have traced back to my paternal great-great grandmothers and grandfathers in northeastern Poland.  Finally, after much searching, my cousin in New York (who I never knew about until last year) and I figured out that our grandfathers were born in Zapieczne, Poland - a small village in the Lomza province.  Yes, Lomza, not Lodz as I was told, but one can understand the confusion.  We think they were first cousins based on family lore.  Unfortunately, folks who remember this connection, including my mother who kept in contact with his grandmother, are all deceased.  I am still hoping that an uncle may have some old family records from my grandmother.

My paternal aunt, who is 90, says she never really was interested in family history.  That just is mind-boggling to me.  I have had several people tell me they have no interest in who their ancestors were or where they came from.  To me, that is the epitome of thinking you are the most important person in the room, JMHO.

Anyway, I am making headway.  I found a distant cousin on my mother's side of the family who actually visited Cordenons, Italy to search old records.  Interestingly, he and I are not DNA matches, but I am a match to his brother.  He grew up in Fort Frances, Ontario, where my grandparents went when they came here from Italy (even though we have no Italian DNA, lol).

The search is made even more interesting by names.  Using the same first names for children born in each generation is a real nightmare on the English and Irish sides of my ex-husband's family.  In my family, it is the changing of a Polish first name from Wladislaw to 'Steve', 'Ladislaus', 'Walter', or whatever for example.  Then on the Italian side is the spelling of last names.  The Marius family in the USA is the Mariuz family in Canada.   I am thinking that the use of the letter 'Z' is more in keeping with the Hungarian background we seem to have.

And ages.  We always used to laugh about my paternal great-grandmother's age because no one seemed to know how old she really was.  Her funeral card says she was born in 1883.  If that were true, she would have been eleven when her first child was born.  I think not.  Going through old census records and her three immigration records of her arrivals in the USA (yes, she travelled back twice to Austria), it seems she was likely born in 1874, somewhere near what is now Nadolany, Poland in the southeast part of the country.  But hey, I also found older men who fudged their ages on marriage licenses when they were marrying younger women, lol.

One of my favorite shows is 'Finding Your Roots' on PBS.  Every week I am amazed at what celebrities find out about their past.  Often you hear a celeb say, 'I was told...'  NOT.  So, yesterday I called my sister and asked her where she heard that some members of my mother's family left Canada to go to South America.  She could not remember who said it, but does remember hearing it.  Well, I did too.  But, when I searched immigration records, I could find no evidence to support it.  I did find records showing them crossing from Fort Frances, Ontario, to International Falls, Minnesota.

So, did they go south to America? and not to South America?  Sure seems like it.

I hope to solve more mysteries about my roots.  I find it fascinating.   Already, one of my sons has had his DNA done.  I am thinking of using 23andMe to find more matches.  It is an adventure right on my computer and who knows what lies in store.  We'll see.

Thanks for stopping by and stay warm if you are living under this air mass that has broken off from the polar vortex.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Spelling Bee

Happy New Year!  And let me start by saying I have never understood the big deal about celebrating another year.  So, the calendar changed.  Not earth shattering news.  But that is just me, I guess.

Anyway, looking back at 2018 there were several things I did not blog about.  Life intervenes.  So, here is one topic I will share with you.

Many long time readers know that I do the New York Times crossword Monday through Saturday (I no longer spend time on Sunday).  This year a new puzzle was introduced called 'Spelling Bee'.  I am sure that many of you have played a variation of this where you are given letters and told to find as many words as you can.  I think I have played this at many a bridal shower.

The NYT version has seven letters.  Words need to be at least four letters, letters can be used more than once, but all words must contain the letter shown in the middle of the circle with the other six letters around it.  Today's letters are aihtry plus m as the required letter.  There are several levels you can reach, with 'Genius' being the top level.  There is always one pangram, but you can reach the genius level without finding it - I know from experience.  I did make it today with 22 words including the pangram.  Give it a try.

My complaint with this puzzle is that it is not up to NYT standards in my opinion.  I sent them an email way back when telling them to buy a dictionary.  It hasn't gotten any better; they just decide what words they accept.

If you do today's puzzle, do not bother with the word 'amah'.  It is not accepted in their list.  Everyday I will find at least one word that they say is not in their list.  It is like playing Monopoly with someone who makes up their own rules as they go along.  A couple of weeks ago I typed in the word "fritillary".  The message popped up that it was not in their list.  I was really miffed as you can see this is a pangram using seven different letters.  Somehow I expect better from the New York Times.

I enjoy puzzles, especially Sudoku which is a logic puzzle, not a numbers puzzle.  I still play Scrabble on the Kindle, but only against the computer.  I hated waiting for someone to make a word if playing against a real person.

I've decided that there are many things I enjoy doing and what is life for but to enjoy?  I learned years ago that life is short; too short for some.  So, while I do not make resolutions for the new year, I do hope that you look at your life ahead and decide what is really important in the greater scheme of things.  Family and just enjoying life do it for me.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Just 'Popover' for a Visit

Back in December of 2008 I attended a culinary class titled "Old English Holiday Feast".  I think that perhaps this was a feast in some very wealthy home as it started out with lobster bisque.  Yummy.  We then had a roasted prime rib with horseradish and mushroom sauce and those recipes are what I used for my Christmas dinner this year.  Along with that, we had popovers. 

When I was planning this dinner, one of my sons suggested we try popovers.  I had never made them myself.  I did not even own a popover pan.  We looked up several recipes online and they were all over the place.  The recipe from my class called for half and half and heavy cream, something not in any other recipe.  It also had a relatively short cooking time compared to some online which took almost 45 minutes to bake.

So, in deciding to give it a try, I made four popovers in a muffin tin.  They were just okay and a little too eggy for me.  I sent an email to a blogging buddy, Jo, and asked for suggestions.  She had never heard of using cream or olive oil.  She also asked if I had let the batter sit before baking, which I had not done.  None of the recipes we found mentioned that. 

Undaunted, I went ahead and ordered a popover pan.  I made a chart of all the recipes I found online and they were all over the map.  No consistency in the egg, liquid, flour ratio.  No consistency in baking times and temps except for the instruction not to open the oven.  Not wanting to practice making popovers all week before Christmas, I took my recipe from class, changed it up a little, followed Jo's suggestions, and went ahead on Christmas Day.

The result was like a new sporting event.  When the popovers went in the oven, we turned the oven light on and stood in front of the glass door watching them 'pop'.  I personally would have left them in a little longer, but everyone was saying 'take them out'.  They were good, but unfortunately a little deflated by the time we got them to the table and started passing the food.  (Actually, there is another story here about the green bean mishap that I will save for another post.)

Here is the pic again from Christmas Day:
And here is the recipe for the Yorkshire puddings I made.  If you are making them without a roast, use butter in the pan instead of the drippings.  My thanks to Jo for her suggestions, and to Chef Marcus Haight for the original recipe, which I modified (heavy cream?  really?).

Makes 12

2 cups half and half, at room temperature
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
salt and white pepper
roast drippings

It is very important that the ingredients be at room temperature.  You can warm the half and half in the microwave if need be and if the eggs have not been sitting out long enough, place them in a container of warm water.  The batter should be made ahead and allowed to sit for at least one hour. 

In a medium sized bowl, whip the half and half and flour together till smooth.  Add the eggs and whip until well-combined.  Add salt and pepper (I never measure just sprinkle some in).  Mix well till a little frothy.  Strain the batter into a container with a lip for pouring (you will have about three cups of batter) and let sit at room temperature.

When the roast is done, take the fat drippings from the roast and strain well.  Add one teaspoon of fat to each of the wells in the popover pan.  Spray the tins with baking spray to facilitate removal.

Set your oven at 400 F in the convection mode.  (If your oven automatically adjusts for convection baking, you may need to set it at 425.  Just make sure it is 400 and the fan is running.)  

Once the temperature is reached, place the pan with the drippings or butter in the oven for two minutes.  Remove the pan and fill each well with about 2 ounces of batter, about 3/4 full.

Place in oven for 15 minutes without opening the door.  I personally would have let mine go a little longer - five minutes more?  Just don't let them burn!

As for our dessert at the holiday meal, we had hot raspberry souffle with chocolate sauce.  I may just have to try making that next.