Archive | March, 2012

Euro 2012: Have a Drink or Two

29 Mar

Would a soccer match be as good without a celebratory drink?  Although many will join the argument in regard to the best beer or vodka in Europe, I have my own favorites.

If you are in Poland for any of the soccer matches, don’t forget to try some of the local favorites.

Some of the more popular Polish beers are Zywiec, Tyskie, Zubr, Lech, Okocim, Warka, Debowe Mocne, Tatra.

Zywiec is a great pick; the porter is my favorite, with a slight chocolaty flavor (??) and a pleasant crispness that does wonders to my pallet.

Top Vodka brands are Sobieski, Pan Tadeusz, Belvedere, Żołądkowa Gorzka, Dębowa, Krupnik, Chopin, Żubrówka, Luksusowa, and Wyborowa.

My favorite is Żubrówka.  Żubrówka also known in English as Bison Grass Vodka, is a brand of dry, herb-flavored vodka that is distilled from rye and bottled at 40% alcohol by volume. Its flavor is unique and is described as having vanilla, coconut, and almond notes. The name comes from grass eaten by polish bisons, (żubr – bison) and in each bottle you will find a blade of bison grass.

In Poland, vodka is usually served chilled, not on the rocks , not mixed and without a chaser; I cannot really imagine a Polish native ordering a vodka and coke or vodka and orange juice.  What you  may become familiar with, I have to say it is my favorite, is Żubrówka with apple juice or cider. The combination is delightfully sweet with a great kick, unfortunately substituting with apple juice bought in the states just doesn’t give it the same flavor, so if you can get your hands on Polish apple juice, I advise it whole heartedly.

If you find yourself lucky enough to be invited to an authentic Polish dinner, make sure you bring your appetite; the food and drinks never stop coming.  The secret is to take a drink with every bite 😉   If you have the elusive invitation to try some bimber, do so with enthusiastic vigor.  Bimber is Polish moonshine (never say never).

I am definitely having a beer tonight; a lovely, crisp cold Polish beer.

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Writing is a Responsibility

28 Mar

So many of us are making our way through the ever-changing circle of being an employed writer, becoming a writer, wanting to do it just for fun, and desperately hoping one day it could yield a career.

The world is full of writers using their talent to spread words, but unfortunately, they are not all words of encouragement or even the words of truth.

Don’t we as writers have a responsibility to bring truth to the written word?

Some of us dabble in fiction, so facts, realities and truths can and are altered.  However, what about the thousands of writers who work in the media who have an obligation to the public to bring both sides of a subject to light and find the truth in either side; often these writers forget their ethical training, overlook or plainly ignore the reality of their jobs.  They have a duty to bring the written word to the reader in an undistorted way.  Yes, sensationalism sells, but that is not what we, writers, set out to do.

In today’s society, we see writing, especially in the media, creating havoc, stirring unneeded tension in a world that has already witnessed enough sadness, crime, unjust realities and terror to last us millions of lifetimes.

In a society that turns to writers to gather information, truths, details, and a small glimpse of words given from one person to another, we must use the gift we have been given as writers to help not hinder.

Many of us are on the writer’s path because we love what we do, many of us are not making a dime stirring the caldron.  We should look to the future and be proud to bring to our readers hope and justice, not another reason to stir contempt and instability.  As writers, we have the power to unite people as a whole, not create more dispersions among the masses.

Use your gift to share stories, give hope and promote love and happiness.  Yes, we have the right to know what is happening in the world and even a duty to make sure we, society, stays alert to everything around us, but as writers, we have the duty to make sure that truth is not distorted into our own fabrication of reality.

Writing is a form of artistic expression, and it is meant to open the imagination and spring forth new ideas and inspire.  However, at what point are we held accountable for what we share.  It is not just writers who must be held responsible, photography is a slippery slope as well.  I, myself, have been known to experiment with Photoshop, but how far can you go?  It is one thing to create photography as an artist and another issue when photographers share their photos as truths, very distorted truths.

I write because I want to share with my readers not only real stories of hope and love, but fictional possibilities that are alive with my imagination.  However, I hold myself accountable for what I write, do you?

Writing: The Art of Giving

26 Mar

I have always wanted to follow a path in life that was not only rewarding to me, but to others as well.  We can do so many different things with our lives; some of us are content with whom we are and what we do, others are constantly looking for a way to give back, searching for ways to share hope and love with those that are not lucky enough to receive it on a daily basis.

Nonprofit organizations and charities are a great source for anyone looking to donate time or money; in return, you can see physical proof of your giving.

Another way one can view giving is through a mental, soulful fulfillment.  Writing gives hope to many; it opens the eyes of those blind to the disasters of the world; it helps us see children who are without homes, clothes, food, running water and education.  Writing inspires us to give, to open our lives to something bigger.  Writing gives happiness to the sad, can fill time for the lonely, gives hope to those in despair and helps reconnect us to our inner thoughts and feelings.  The act of writing can create such a plethora of information; without it, the human race could perish.

Writing is an art, an art of giving.  Writers give back to the world by sharing stories, facts, concerns and knowledge.  A story, real or fiction can inspire or, simply, bring joy to another life.  How many of us have turned to a wonderful novel after a long week at work and found peace with the solitude of great words and our own imagination.

Writing gives back in so many ways, lucky are the ones that can write and touch other lives in an assortment of ways.

Write because it makes you happy, write because you have something to share, write so you can inspire others.

It is not an easy path to choose, yet somewhere in the smallest of corners, in the darkest of moments someone may remember your words and see a spark of light.

My ultimate endeavor would be to combine writing, an art of giving, with a nonprofit organization or charity and give back to the world not only through words, but also through physical change and involvement.

Polish Wonders: Apple Pancakes (placuszki z jablkami)

23 Mar

A quick Polish recipe that is delicious and healthy.  The recipe can make a great desert or, at least for me, a fantastic dinner alternative.

Ingredients

2 cups flour

2 eggs

1 ½ cups skim milk

4-5 apples (depending on size)

Whisk flour, milk and eggs until creamy

Peel apples and add slices, the thinner the better

Drizzle skillet with oil, medium heat

(I recommend expeller pressed, organic canola oil)

½ ladle of batter onto hot skillet, about 3 minutes on each side or until lightly brown.

Enjoy your apple pancakes; sprinkling with sugar or top with your favorite fruit.

 Always enjoy all my Polish recipes with a great cup of hot tea.

Euro 2012: Gdansk, A City of Freedom

22 Mar

Gdansk is a charming city, an illustrious choice for Euro 2012.  If you have always wanted to travel to Poland and just didn’t know which city to choose, (Krakow is the city I would recommend, alas it is not one of our soccer towns), Gdansk is a great option.

Gdansk in my mind will always be synonymous with the fall of communism in Europe.  The movement Solidarity (Solidarnosc) laid its groundwork in Gdansk; a birth of freedom stemmed from this historical and picturesque town.

I love Gdansk, no matter how many times I visit; there is always a new place to discover; perhaps a hidden cafe nestled in one of Old Town’s cobblestone roads.  My favorite part of the city may be the shipyard; many visitor sites go out of their way to point out that Gdansk has revitalized itself for the 21st century (no more dingy shipyard).  However, how can one ever wipe away a history stemmed from this very existence?  The wooden port crane, which was built in 1367, is a picture perfect keeper for your mementos, the very heart of Gdansk.

About an hour east of town a site not to be missed on your adventure is Malbork Castle.  Construction on the castle began in 1275; it is one of the biggest gothic castles remaining in the world.

My favorite hotel in Gdansk would have to be Hotel Krolewski, unfortunately; it is completely booked for Euro 2012, but if you are ever in the area make it a priority to stay here.  The view in most rooms is the wooden port crane and at night, the cafes and restaurants let a little twinkle filter through your window.  On average, the hotel is 80 euros with breakfast.

I will give my fellow readers a great tip when traveling to Poland:

Always, always book your hotel with breakfast included.  Breakfast in Poland is one of the greatest delights.  I am not even being biased, most of my fellow friends that have had the pleasure of traveling to Poland would agree.  Most hotels offer a breakfast option and surprisingly even the 1 star hotels have great food.

Have You Booked Your Ticket Yet??

Spring Fling into 100+ Novels

21 Mar

Spring ushers in a time for renewal, a time for change and new beginnings.  I wonder if it is possible to start from scratch, is that ever feasible?  It is a new year and now spring brings a rebirth of nature; maybe just maybe I can start anew, no looking back only a day-to-day focus on life in the present.

For starters, I will make sure to work on one of my countless writing projects every day, even if it’s just research or jotting down 250 words.  I will also start on the 100+ books that I want to read.

The first novel will be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  Yes, I have read it countless times, but not for some time now.  The novel will help me jump-start my project, if only that it will make life less daunting.  I will then try to watch all or any films that are associated with the novels.  A hard job having to watch numerous Pride and Prejudice films, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

Please let me know if I have missed any.

Springing Forward

The pups decided that they wanted to join in on Spring fever and welcome in the new season with haircuts and baths.  Misiu and Lola definitely needed a haircut and now are spick and span, and ready to take on the world.

Shaggy Misiu

Lola the fluff ball

Writing is a Dance

20 Mar

I am a huge fan of Dancing with the Stars, maybe because I was a dancer in another life, or maybe because my dance dreams never manifested in this one.  The show gives individuals the opportunity to learn and showcase an alluring, stimulating, stress reducing, thought-provoking and sensual form of entertainment (for the viewer and the dancer).

Unfortunately, the individuals are stars, and I cannot participate.

As I sit down to work on my novel, I realize that writing is in a way exactly like dancing.  The writer wants to captivate her audience; take the reader to another world through fluid and artistic prose that float onto paper or a computer screen.  With a wisp of fingers, a writer can stimulate a flurry of notions, beliefs and opinions; bringing before the reader a form of entertainment that can provoke wonder, happiness, anger, sadness and countless other emotions in a brief fragment of imagination.

Dancing reawakens one’s self-confidence and sensuality; writing allows an individual to express the world’s hopes, fears and needs.  Writing awakens the individual within me, the person struggling to be seen by the outside world; it makes me whole and helps me express anything and everything, as does dancing.

As I continue to write, I look to dancing as a marvelous companion to my emotions and frustrations.  Writing and Dancing create a splendid partnership in my ever-changing and evolving journey through life.

Now for a little Dancing with the Stars Critique

(Oh what fun)

To get things started, I adore the Chmerkovskiy brothers, Maksim and Val; it may stem from Polish and Ukrainian historical relations, family members from both sides having to switch nationalities as quickly and frequently as borders between the two countries.  In recent years, Poland and Ukraine have worked on reconciling their pasts and moving forward with good relations.  Euro 2012 is a great example of the two countries partnership.  However, I think the adoration for the brothers is mostly because they can dance and look so good doing it, their personalities adding a little flavor as well.

 Val and Sherrie were terrific.  Sherrie is so animated and full of energy.  She displayed the most enthusiasm I have ever seen, on all seasons of the show, when she first met her dance partner, Val.  Sherrie is actually a good dancer; she is in tune with all her body parts and has great hip movement.  Val seems to have received all the patience in the family and does not allow anything to faze him.  Ever the gentleman and such a superb dancer, I could watch him dance all day.

Maksim and Melissa were not too bad.  I grew up watching Little House on the Prairie; it was my first glimpse of American frontier life.  Although Melissa has a long way to go in bringing out her sensuality, she is off to a good start, seeing that the cha cha is not really the best of dances to start with.  I am hoping that they stay in for weeks to come.  Maks is so much fun to watch; his expressions are priceless, his dancing full of passion and his hard edged, take no-nonsense demeanor is the cream on top of an already over indulgent white chocolate mocha.

Jack Wagner: always fun to watch (oh how I love General Hospital)

William:  too much swooning in the audience and not enough dancing on the floor

Martina: so sweet, poor Tony always has to work so hard

Katherine: what a voice, what a dancer

Gladys Knight:  all I have to say is the girl can dance, and Tristan can talk to his heart’s content

Of course, there will be a future post about stars I would like to see on the dance floor, Richard Armitage and Gerard Butler.  I know both have said they would not do it, and both are big enough stars where they don’t need to.

That being said a girl can dream.

Soccer Aid 2012: Another Celebrity Name Announced, Richard Armitage

19 Mar

My dream headline, sorry for any disappointment.

Sitting down to write has been a chore lately.  The arrival of early warm weather is never a good thing; on one hand, it inspires me, on the other hand; it makes me want to pack my bags and head to the nearest airport; a trip anyone?

Anyway moving on…

I have been so excited about Euro 2012, that I almost forgot that Soccer Aid is May 27th.  The event raises money to aid UNICEF.  It will be England vs. The Rest of the World.  The match should be very exciting; a lot of famous names are popping up on the team roster list.

Michael Sheen will captain The Rest of the World Team.  Some of the high profile team members are Will Ferrell and Mike Myers, and, of course, Gerard Butler.  Mr.  Butler is a huge football (soccer) fan and always seems to be up for a challenge.  He was great in Miracle Match (The Game of Their Lives), if you have not seen it yet, rent it at your neighborhood library.  If you are like me and have seen it countless times, let out a collective sigh… his performance was charming, fun and made me want to visit Scotland all over again.

Missing in this fun group of celebrity men, is none other than Richard Armitage.  His athletic build and charismatic personality would fit in nicely with Gerard Butler’s tough, yet sensitive demeanor.  Mr. Armitage will greatly be missed, especially those great thighs in a pair of soccer shorts.

All this daydreaming made me come up with my own The Rest of the World Team.  I mean come on; a girl has to use her imagination for something, although it should be focused on finishing a fan fiction novel, but hey, life is short.

The Rest of the World Team lineup:

Coached by Sean Connery and Morgan Freeman

 

(11 on the starting line and 5 substitutes)

Richard Armitage

Gerard Butler

Hugh Jackman

Bradley Cooper

Eric Bana

 Prince Harry Windsor

Colin Firth

James Mcavoy

Enrique Iglesias

Orlando Bloom

Shia Labeouf

Daniel Craig

Jude Law

Brad Pitt

Matthew Macfadyen

Robert Downey Jr.

(Yes, I am aware I have a slight infatuation with UK actors)

A Squad consists of 25-30 players on a team; is there anyone I have missed?  Who would you like to see added to our imaginary and fantastic World Team?

Is anyone else struck by the fact that there are no women players in the Soccer Aid 2012 Match?

If you have a great women’s team line-up, I would love to hear it.

Euro 2012: Choose a Team, Choose a City

16 Mar

The event is almost upon us; Poland and the Ukraine are working on a few last minute improvements to make the experience as painless for foreign travelers as possible.  I am so proud of these countries for stepping up to the challenge and showing the world that post-communist countries, countries that stepped out from behind an iron curtain can thrive, usher in progress and make an impact on the world.  Once again, these countries have a voice.

The most daunting part of going to Euro 2012 is the planning.  The most important decision is picking which leg of the event you would like to attend.  In this case, that will mean which teams you want to see and perhaps which cities interest you the most.

These are the teams that will be around in the beginning and then we will watch them fall away one by one.  Fingers crossed your favorites stay in.

The playoff groups are:

 June  8th   12th  16th            Group A:Poland, Greece,

Russia     Czech Republic

June  9th   13th  17th              Group B:Netherlands, Denmark      

Germany, Portugal

June 10th  14th 18th              Group C:Spain, Italy                 

Republic of Ireland, Croatia

June 11th 15th  19th                Group D:France, England                

Ukraine, Sweden

The opening ceremony is in Warsaw.  The metropolis is a hub of business and cultural activity.  There is the hustle and bustle of a working city, but also a historical aura that lightly floats throughout Warsaw.  The historical wonders of a city utterly destroyed during WWII, then painstakingly rebuilt so future generations could revel in its wonders.

The New Town is full of shops, antiques, cafes and restaurants that make my mouth water just thinking about them.   Strolling into Old Town is like stepping back in time; make sure to take a horse-drawn carriage ride so you do not miss any of the small, rambling, cobblestone roads.

Another part of town that is not to be missed is Lazienki Park; in the same vicinity is embassy row.  Lazienki Park is only a hop and a skip from downtown; however, it feels like you have arrived in a Victorian countryside fairytale.  A royal summer retreat in its heyday, the park is not to be missed, especially after a long hard day of watching football (soccer) matches and drinking some of the best beer in Europe (more to come on that later, although I am sure, many will argue).

I am a fan of www.booking.com and www.staypoland.com for all your European travel.  A great hint for all my fellow travelers, www.priceline.com also works for Europe, and naming your own price is always a good choice.  If you are just starting your Euro 2012 hotel search, there is still a variety of choices available.  In Europe, the star rating is a little different from the United States; a 4 star is superb; a 2 or 3 star hotel is far nicer than the equivalent in the states.

Fort Hotel, 9 miles from the town center, if you are on a budget but still want a clean, updated hotel with great hospitality, then this is a great choice.

Hotel Kart, 2.5 miles from the city-center train station, a little on the pricier side (having said that-obviously any other time of the year it would be about 1/3 the price)

Warsaw Football Fans Camp, for those of you on a strict budget this may be a fun idea.  The camp is 30 minutes from National stadium, but there is a bus station that will have transportation to the event.  The facility will have 24-hour security and state of the art technology.

 

Gdansk coming soon…

 

 

 

Writing: A Bloom of Possibility

14 Mar

Spring is upon us, rather a little sooner in most parts of the world than expected.  The trees and shrubs have started an early bloom, embracing the warmth and unfolding their beauty to the prying eyes of the human race.

Writing is a steadfast endeavor, if you continue to march ahead a little at a time, then results will be inevitable.  Like a shrub that has started to bloom, unraveling its tiny petals, grasping for energy from the warmth of a new season, so must our habitual writing practices.

Writing is like a newly flowered shrub in the midst of a forest yet to awaken to the possibility of new life.  Sometimes one bright and lovely, interesting and persuasive idea can coax the imagination and reawaken our creativity.  One burst of an ‘aha’ moment and we can uncover a plethora of fantastic prose that magically stemmed from just one petal.

The weather and the beauty of this season is a great reason to be inspired and believe in ones writing talents.  No, not all of us are meant to be the next big thing, the next J. K. Rowling, but we can all strive to create a little magic, the magic of writing.

Remember that anything in life can inspire a moment of creativity, use it to your advantage and never miss a moment of reflection.  Write to create, to awaken your heart to the possibility of something special yet to be discovered.

 

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