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Would you like some advice from That Wife (a girl who now believes she can say she is a world traveler, since she has been to Europe no less than 3 times)?

When you go on vacation, or when you leave for the weekend, or when you just leave… leave your house clean.

The night before we left I was going crazy. I needed to pack, I was trying to get Christmas and Thank You cards in the mail, and I was absolutely firm about leaving the house clean. No plastic bags, no wrappers, no dishes in the sink, nothing.

It was so wonderful to walk in the door and see this after a full 24 hours of flying.

And since I’m jobless (and avoid my schoolwork at all costs) that’s actually exactly what my house looks like right now. I love a clean house.

Do you have a travel rule? Packing extra underwear in my carry-on became essential for me this last trip when the airline delayed my baggage and I didn’t have it for the 2 days we were in Washington.

The morning of the 26th we woke, showered, and went to breakfast where I was cautioned “Don’t eat too much. We’re going to Grandma’s and she will have a lot for you to eat!”

This tree outside of Grandma’s apartment building was one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen. Wouldn’t this be gorgeous in a white snowy field, with nothing but this tree all around?

When we got inside, we all took off our shoes and put slippers on. In Poland you never wear shoes in the house, but you never go barefoot either. I’m not a huge fan of wearing other peoples shoes, but I had socks on so I survived.

First course was mushroom soup. I believe that in Poland nice dinners always have soup as a first course. The taste was delicious, but I have a hard time with the texture of mushrooms so I made sure to swallow all of my spoonfuls whole.

That Husband and I were “assigned” seats next to each other.

We laughed when That SIL and her boyfriend were not assigned seats next to each other. Grandma sat in between them for the meal. We teased them that it was because they weren’t married.

I had been really nervous about eating at Grandma’s house, with all the warnings about so much food to eat (and what if I didn’t like any of it?), but I had nothing to be worried about because it was really delicious. I thought this was cranberrries (finally, something I recognized from home), but I was mistaken. They are in fact, cowberries. A stronger, more tart taste than cranberries.

This tasted like sauerkraut made with beets to me. But I think sauerkraut means “cabbage” in some way, so that is probably impossible.

These potatoes were my mom’s favorite when she went to Poland with me in May of this year. They are softy and mushy. I can’t think of a

Apricot-stuffed pork. Yum!

And of course, poppy seed bread for dessert!

More Krakow cake. This is why my belly was filling out my jeans just a little bit better on the way home.

And of course, more fruit compote. Luckily this wasn’t what we had to drink through this meal. That Husband and I asked for a drink this time around as well. It was sparkling water, but I’m told the Europeans like that kind of thing.

After dinner we were treated to pictures from That Husbands family. In this shot, you can see That Husband’s father (to the left of the little girl, TH’s aunt), as a little boy. That Husband’s aunt showed us all kinds of amazing photos, and gave us some additions to the genealogy chart we are building. I think we have enough information to do the work for 60+ ancestors now!

When we walked out of the apartment and were waiting for the elevator, everyone started laughing as they read this sign. I convinced TH to translate for me, and apparently it says something like “Make sure the elevator is here before you open the door and try to get on.”

I can’t even imagine what kind of horrible situation would prompt such a message. 😦

That evening, everyone was sitting in the living room chatting and I knew they wanted me there with them, but my head was pounding and I was so tired I could hardly see straight. I felt sad saying goodnight, knowing these were our last few moments together for a long time. What a wonderful Christmas it had been!

The next morning we woke up (well I woke up, since TH never went to sleep that night), packed up, and left. You all know the feeling, it was good to be there, but it was good to be going home.

After staying up very late reading Fail blog and Photoshop disasters, That Husband and I didn’t wake up until 12:30 on Christmas day. What kind of Christmas spirit is that? It did help me with breakfast a little bit, since breakfast always felt a little more like lunch. In Poland, they eat sandwiches for breakfast. No eggs, bacon, milk, or cereal to be found. I really liked the slices that looked like pepperoni (but it wasn’t like American pepperoni) and the sausage in the middle.

I was afraid of the albino sausage, so I stuck to what was safe. The red sausage on the right was delicious, it had a kind of a sweetness to it.

That Husband is always complaining about how he misses hearty Polish bread, so he was in heaven for those three days. I liked it best toasted, but that’s no surprise since I like everything toasted.

I’m sorry to bring you right back to more food pictures once again, but we ate breakfast at 1:00 and dinner at 3:00 so there wasn’t much to do besides shower in between.

Dinner consisted of the fish from the previous night, served cold this time.

And Polish sushi! It was actually quite good.

Up until this point I had really been missing American food, so when I looked down at my plate and discovered this lump of peas, carrots, and potatoes I said “I know you! You like to come along at picnics and your name is Potato Salad. Thanks for being in Poland with me American food look-alike.”

Finally a dish with cream cheese! But I have a hard time with smoked salmon (which I’m pretty sure this was) so I didn’t eat very much of it. This time I got smart and asked for a glass of water as the meal started. I don’t think they were offended (especially since That Husband had a glass as well), but the lack of beverages at the table was definitely a reminder that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

After dinner and dessert That Husband and I headed over to the Catholic church, located 2 houses away from my in-laws house, to see the nativity before mass started. It was a heart warming display of community love, and That FIL told me they add a new element each year. Which might explain…

the giant hamster and cute little puppy?

We left the church just as mass was starting and attempted to slide our way down to the cemetery. I’ve never seen such icy roads in my life!

The cemetery was breathtaking. Filled with hundreds of red and green lanterns for Christmas. That Husband told me there is one day during the year when the cemetery looks more beautiful than this, and that is on the Day of the Dead. Everyone goes to the cemetery that day and when night falls there are thousands of candles as far as the eye can see. That Husband lives on the other side of the tree line in this photo, and he told me that as a boy he loved Day of the Dead because he would look out his window and it would look like the cemetery was on fire.

I think this is proof enough that the Poles visit the cemetery a lot more than we do.

On our way back home we saw these girls sliding around on the ice. I wanted to be cool like them, so I decided to give a try.

Haha, I guess I am not quite as cool as they are.

Even though we had a lovely dinner with That Husband’s family, up until this point I still didn’t really feel like it was Christmas day. I missed the excitement of waking up that morning to see what was under the tree, the cousins, the loud laughter from my grandpa, all of those things I’ve experienced 22 Christmases before.

Then, when we got back inside the house and warmed up a little bit, we went upstairs and talked about our beliefs by the light of the Christmas tree with That Husband’s family. We told them about the temple, why we visit, and what it’s like. We love our faith and believe it to be the truth, so having the chance to open up to his family and speak about those sacred and special things was the best gift that Christmas brought this year.

I think, after that, I’ve decided that this might have been the best Christmas after all.

When we arrived home we were greeted by the delicious smell of dinner in the oven. No wait, scratch that. Dinner in the microwave oven. Even though I’m told this is probably a  microwave convection oven, I’m still impressed that a regular oven doesn’t exist anywhere in the house and they are still able to put a delicious meal on the table.

To pass the time before dinner (and to distract ourselves from our grumbling tummys while we waited for a cousin to arrive from Warsaw) I decorated gingerbread cookies with That SIL. I wanted to make some homemade ones and bring lots of fun toppings with me, but in all the craziness before we flew out it didn’t happen. So I picked up a box from Target, and we did our best with sprinkles, gumdrops, and icing.

I parcticularly like That SIL’s creation on the left, which has two gumdrops positioned in a manner that looks distinctly like two cute little breasts.

A long time ago, on one of our first dates, That Husband told me about Christmas in Poland. One of my favorite holiday traditions he described was waiting for the first star in the sky to appear before starting the CHristmas Eve festivities. I spent a long time out on the porch searching for any stars, but the cloudy skies laughed at me and said “It’s not going to happen sister.” That FIL was really sweet and told me we could count the twinkle lights in the yard as the star this year.

While we waited for dinner I wandered around taking pictures. (Me, wander around and take pictures? I know you are just shocked.)

I love how simple and pretty their ornaments are. I confess I messed things up a little bit by giving my in-laws a Starbucks ornament as a gift, which looked quite garish comparitively when hung on the tree. But I didn’t know that in Poland they resist the urge to litter their tree with commercial items and other such sundry paraphenelia.

That MIL used to collect Buddhas (I hear she has moved on to dragons now), and so they are all over the living room. They’re all so happy.

I think this one is my favorite.

That FIL on the other hand, collects knives and swords. It’s AWESOME. I’m a girly girl and I even recognized just how sweet this collection is. They come from all over; Germany, Poland, Japan, etc.

These are actual medieval Polish weapons.

It was in the middle of all these photos, just a few minutes before dinner, when That Husband decided to inform me that his family dresses up in Sunday best for Christmas Eve dinner. WHAT??!?!? Good thing I brought my church clothes.

On my way downstairs to change I peeked out the window and realized it was snowing. A Christmas miracle! I love Christmas miracle snow.

Everyone gathered downstairs and I realized that I was the only one not wearing any red. That Husband!

That FIL started by reading the Christmas story out of Luke, while That Husband whispered the familiar story in my ear in English. We prayed (I believe That Husband had to catch himself because we don’t cross ourselves before praying, and everyone in the room did but us), and then the wafers were passed out.

Everyone goes around the room with their wafer, giving “wishes” to each other. Luckily they let That Husband and I go as a couple or I would have been really lost, since only about half those present spoke English. Wishes are exchanged (something like “I wish you health and happiness, and many children in the years to come”) and then each wisher breaks a piece of the other persons wafer off and eats it.

That Husband took a second to exchange wishes with his mother all on his own.

After all parties present had exchanged wishes it was time to sit down and eat!

Notice in the picture above that there are no glasses for beverages on the table. In That Husbands family (and I think throughout Poland) they don’t drink with their meal. They did have this fruit compote on the table, which was really delicious, but so sweet that my mouth was still dry after drinking up all the liquid inside.

That SIL taught me that it was okay to snack on my croutons before the soup was poured over them. That Husband and I were lucky to get a big bag of these homemade croutons to take home with us. They’re really delicious.

I learned the hard way that taking pictures of this soup is a bad idea. The croutons are best eated cruncy in the delicious buttery broth they are floating in.

Dinner was composed of three kinds of fish (I’m sorry I don’t know what they all were, one of them was carp), a potoato, and saukeraut.

All of the adults ate this dish, which I refer to in my head as “gelatinous fish”, since the fish is flaoting in some kind of clear gelatin. I was relieved when all of the “kids” (those of us in our 20’s) all politely refused.

That Husband had been looking forward to dessert all night. Poppsyseed cake! It’s composed of layers of moist bread and layers of a poppyseed mixture.

I call it “Opium Cake”.

After dinner we all moved to the upstairs living room for coffe and conversation. This would be the time of the night when little kids (if any were present) would be bouncing off the walls because they know it is almost time to open presents. Everyone politely ate the gingerbread cookies that Zu and I decorated, while I felt embarassed that they were all eating store bought cookies. I really should have made them myself.

Next to the cookies was another kind of poppyseed cake (this one much drier, more like coffee cake), and a very dry kind of cheesecake that I liked really liked. They also had some really amazing raspberry herbal tea for me to drink while everyone else had their coffee. That Husband informs me that Poland is a little bit famous for their tea selection.

To the right of That Husband is a cousin, who I believe is named Jacob, but that’s not how you say it in Polish and I was constnatly getting confused. The word they were saying sounded a lot like Koopa to me, so that’s what I called him.

At dinner they asked me if I would like to be the “Christmas Angel” when it came time to hand out presents, but I was nervous about reading everyones names in Polish (let alone remembering all of them), so I begged That SIL to help me out. It’s a good thing because I only guessed who the present beloned to correctly about 10% of the time.

Present opening time, was a little bit crazy. You see, none of the presents had a “from” category, just a “to”. So I had no idea where all the gifts I receieved came from. That Husband told me not to worry about it, but how am I supposed to accurately write thank you cards?

That SIL gave us yummy gingerbread cookies.

I was just feeling relieved that my Christmas angel duties were done. We gave out lots of Ovaltine and peanut butter chocolates. Apparently Butterfingers are the house favorite.

See that ring on his left hand? I really really want him to wear it as a wedding band, since the one I gave him on the day of our wedding is too larg for him, but I think it’s a bit heavy for his taste. I love it though! It was the military ring of his uncle, who was quite a famous jeweler in London. Apparently he fashioned a piece for Queen Elizabeth II!

Enjoying our spoils.

We brought over Othello for That SIL and it turned out to be a hit! That FIL and That Husband had quite the intense matchup. I think we’ll bring over boardgames whenever we fly over from now on. Board games and peanut butter candies.

We ended the night on a sweet note, with some delicious “Krakow Cake” made by That GIL (Grandma In-Law). This was my favorite Polish dish by far!

We woke up on the morning of the 24th and headed over to the apartment building of That Husband’s friend Tetija. I love how colorful his apartment building is!

When we got to Krakow, we pulled up onto the sidewalk to park. What? Apparently that’s how they do it in Poland.

Please, someone explain to me why you would import this car from Pennsylvania?

Apparently this is That Husban’s name street. He doesn’t feel comoftable with me publishing his name, but since this looks about 1/4 like his name to me I think we are safe.

Krakow town square. Made 10 times better with a Christmas market in the middle.

Whenever I travel somewhere I pick up a pendant to remember the trip. I fell in love with this selection of pressed flora and fauna.

These books smell weird (really organic) but they look cool. We picked up one with a sun and moon on front, and it’s perfect for holding our guestbook postcards from the wedding.

You know how whenever you visit a fair or market in America, there is always a Native American booth in the mix? Apparently that is also the case in Poland.

I’m 99% sure that bekon is better than bacon. I didn’t go inside to test it out though.

After spending all of our money in the Christmas marketplace we headed over to the nativity exhibit, where we were told that under no uncertain terms were insober persons to be admitted.

The nativities were breathtaking! I’m not sure that the multitude of colors is really my style but credit must be given for the immense amount of detail these nativities include.

Some of them were as big as I am. How do you transport something like that? Especially when all the cars in Europe are really tiny!

Best part of the nativity exhibit was hands down discovering all of the interesting characters present at the nativity that I never knew about before.

King Herod, flanked by the KKK and the devil.

I’m sure that right after the birth a hot salty pretzel was all Mary could think about.

What Mary really disapproved of was the choice of costumes these miscreants chose for the costume party held on the Christ child’s first birthday. Both the donkey and the skull man are so scary! They didn’t even make it in the stable door.

Dragon bodyguards come cheap in Bethlehem.

Sure,the shepherds smelled bad from being out in the fields all day, but that was nothing compared to the sooty mess the chimney sweep was when he showed up.

Cinderelly Cinderelly, you’re late! The little drummer boy will play the child a song, but what will you do? Offer to let him try on your glass slipper?

The bride and groom make sense to me (all nativities I fashion from now on will probably include a bride and groom), but the dragon butler with eyes that blink on and off dressed in a circus inspired outfit? That, I just can’t wrap my head around.

This guy got a little bit lazy with his design and decided to cut his Mary and Joseph out of the bible study manual.

Let’s not forget the pope!

What is the story behind the black wiseman? I hope he stays out to take care of the horses when they go to visit King Herod.

Last but not least, the Jews. Is this supposed to be funny? Ironic?

They also had a room full of nativities fashioned by children. They ranged from simple…

to crazy elaborate. I think this guy has a future in this kind of thing. I kind of want to eat this one.

I was impressed by the nativity made out of matchsticks. It was in the room full of children’s nativities. A kid made this?

Unfortunately, corporate sponsorship has made it’s way over to Poland. This cookie nativity is brought to you by Lajkonik.

It was late in the afternoon by the time we emerged from the nativity exhibit and so we headed back to the Christmas marketplace to eat some dinner at one of the stalls located inside. I don’t think the health food craze his hit Poland yet.

We went with something classically Polish, sausage and poatoes.

Delicious and nutritious in a 2000 calorie kind of way. We couldn’t even get anything to drink because all they had was hot wine. I would have paid $10 for a good cup (maybe even a bad cup) of hot chocolate right then.

After we ate it was time to load up the car with our purchases and head back to the house for Christmas Eve dinner!

The morning we spent at the Seattle airport was such a nightmare that I can’t even force myself to sit down and relive it by writing it out here. Oh my, how to make it short.

We had been told my United that we had to get our ticket re-issued, no matter what, and that it absolutely had to be done by a desk agent. We arrive at the airport and the lines are the longest I have ever seen. We find the correct United line and are told that the estimated wait is 4 hours. Our internation flight LEAVES in 4 hours, so we know that there is no way we will make it back through in time. After 2 hours of me running back and forth, texting with my husband who had no voice, I’m finally told my a United rep on the phone that they can fix my problem for me. And they do! So we got on.

20 hours after we left my house in Central Washington that morning we took this picture.

Yes, I know, we were looking really hot.When I laid my eyes on the sofa sleeper we would be sharing at my in-laws I knew I had never seen a prettier sight.

That Husband’s childhood home is yellow and boxy, with really beautiful landscaping all around.

This walkway has a dwarf hiding in the underbrush! I hope it stays there forever so I can teach our kids about it someday.

Before we settled into catch up on our sleep for the night we were presented with a beautiful nativity which That Husband’s aunt had bought for us. You’ll see a bunch more of just like them when I post about the nativity exhibit we visited in Krakow.

I love it because I’ve never seen another nativity style like this. They are using foil, glitter, beads, and all kinds of other materials in really unique ways.

The in-laws offered to take us somewhere if we wanted to start visiting places, but we were both exhuasted and I think I went to bed around 6 or 7 that night!

Poland recaps are coming (I PROMISE MOM), but I’m still floating along on the high that was the New Years Vow Renewal of Ami. I can’t do a recap post of the weekend yet (I promised, since no blogger would ever show such disrespect by ruining the recap surprises of a close friend like that). So I can’t show you pictures of the event, but what I can do, is show you the pictures of myself. 🙂

I took my first ever picture with Ami. (Don’t you love first ever pictures?)

I had my first ever Chick-Fil-A meal. And then I had another the next day.

I jumped for joy on Turner Field (well not on the field. We weren’t allowed on the grass so the gravel would have to do.)

I met up with Mrs. Magnolia from Weddingbee!

I wandered around Atalanta, sucking down Dr. Pepper to stay awake (I think I may be going through withdrawals I drank so much) and being molested by homeless men (remember that molested can also mean “bothered”. It was just the perfect word to use in this instance, unfortunate that it has such sinister connotations as well.)

I attempted to be all Vogue at my first black tie event. I was such a fake in my Charlotte Russe accessories, $32 heels, and $85 dress.

I freaked out some rather amazing photographers by stalking them and directly quoting things they had previously written on their blogs. You can count yourself a wedding photographer stalker as well if you can name the people in this photo with me based on their smiling faces.

I made some new friends! This is Kate of the amazing photography duo altmix. Quite possibly the cutest little darling I have ever laid eyes on.

My roommate for the event, Morgan. It was true love when she told me I could set the thermostat at whatever temperature I wanted for the night. Also, she possesses the amazing ability to talk to anyone about anything. I tried to take notes while it was happening but I don’t think the magic will ever happen for me like that.

And I wore red lipstick without looking like a hooker (despite everything That Husband believes about red lipstick).

Once I have the go ahead, I’ll do a more in-depth post about the whole experience on this blog and That Bride!

“Hello! Would you like to check in?” The computer console asks so cheerfully.

“Yes, I would like to check in computer, thank you,” she says.

“Okay, just set your ID down on the scanner and we’ll get started.”

She sets passport on scanner.

“I’m sorry, your flight to Chicago has been cancelled. Would you like to check on other flights?”

She begins to feel hopeful.

“Haha, too bad. All flights to Chicago are cancelled. No Christmas in Poland for you.”

She feels sad at the thought of going home to her ant-filled apartment for Christmas instead of spending it with family.

The she and husband meet a nice man at the United ticket counter who tells them he will send them to Seattle (for free!) where they can spend a few days with her family while they fight to find a way to get to his family.

They land in Seattle, rent a car, and drive to central Washington. Her dad hugs them both excitedly.

They turn off all the lights and wait in the living room in the dark for mom to come home. Mom walks in the door. Mom drops something on the floor. Mom puts the keys down and look into the living room. Mom continues setting things down. Mom stops and turns back. Mom screams. Mom cries. It’s a Christmas miracle!

She and husband realize that they have a flight scheduled for the morning after the biggest storm to hit Seattle in years. They push their flight back one day. They try not to think about how they will travel for 20 hours, stay for 3 days, and fly 20 hours back.

She and he see both sets of her grandparents. They drink whole milk straight form the dairy with the cream still on top. They open their Christmas presents. They go to church and sing Christmas songs. They revel in the love and happiness around them.

Now they will get up at 3:30 am and drive over the snowy pass to catch a flight to Germany, and then on to Poland.

What a lucky girl and boy they are. First Christmas as newlyweds, spent with both families, though they live a world apart.

May your Christmas be just as magical.

As mentioned previously, we are flying to Poland for Christmas! Woohoo, right? The experiencing Polish Christmas part is lovely. Getting there, is like a living nightmare.

Here is how we get to Poland

Dallas to Chicago: Depart 1:04 pm, December 19

Chicago to Düsseldorf: Depart 4:25 pm, December 19

Arrive in Düsseldorf at 7:35 am December 20, with a 7 hour layover (I’m lobbying to have That Husband take me to Germany for Christmas)

Düsseldorf to Frankfurt: Depart 2:45 pm, December 20

Fly for 55 minutes

Frankfurt to Katowice: Depart 4:45 pm, December 20

Arrive in Katowice, Poland at 6:10 pm, December 20

Total travel time: 22 hours

We stay for 5 days.

Here is how we get back to Dallas

Katowice to Frankfurt: Depart 1:40 pm, December 26

Fly for 1 hour and 40 minutes

Frankfurt to Munich: Depart 5:20 pm, December 26

Fly for 55 minutes. 2 hour layover.

Munich to Charlotte: Depart 11:30 am, December 26 (Anyone notice a problem here?)

Fly for 10 hours and 10 minutes. 2 1/2 hour layover.

Charlotte to Dallas: Depart 6:20 pm, December 26

Fly for 2 hours and 55 minutes.

Arrive in Dallas at 8:15 pm, December 26

Total Travel Time: With the mysterious time travel back in time in order to catch the flight from Munich to Charlotte, the trip would be 14 hours.

So we fly 22 hours to get there, and  on the way home, the airport is somehow going to transport us back in time so we can make our 11:30 am Munich flight when we aren’t leaving Katowice until 1:40 pm that same day. This is why it is important to triple check these itineraries for accuracy before going on the actual trip.

Likely we will end up having an overnight layover in Munich. I’ve been reading online and apparently you can do night tours. That Husband doesn’t seem to have any interest in touring Europe, so this is my chance!

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