Monday, December 17, 2012

Seasoning and Greetings - Weekend Adventures

Christmas just isn't Christmas around here without a party with food, friends and a Billy Mays "Big City Slider Station Mini Slider Maker"

The house was tidied up, and the 1960's Aluminum Tree and color wheel assembled.  This is not a reproduction but an actual tree from the Sixties, complete with old color wheel. The house seemed empty without Barkley, but guests in nice clothes (one with a serious dog allergy) a table full of snack sized food, and a excitable lab don't always mix. So he was having a sleepover elsewhere during the party, though I made him his own dog friendly "cheese straws" for later.

Just a few things left to do. Extra chairs were brought over and a couple digital cameras were made available for guests to take shots to share by email later.
Now for the food assembly. Bacon wrapped dates are always a hit.  Here's the first tray ready to go in the oven.

Chips, fresh veggies and dips were prepared.

The Pimento Cheese Dip was a huge hit (recipe in the comments).

Eggnog was made and the bar was readied with some things for cocktails, plus red wine, mead and . . . Liquid Wrench? That got a few smiles before it was set aside and drinks mixed.
Of course there were toys, you can't have a house full of geeks without toys. Radio Controlled helicopters, board games and of course, the stuff in the shop. The hosts and designated drivers got to play with the lathe in the Bat Cave. (I think the camera crew for this one got some spiked eggnog but you get the somewhat blurry idea).
. . . . while guests more loosened up with Liquid Wrench had the option to play with Mr. Blick, International Bean of Mystery (much safer).
The sandwiches and hot food were put out. Bacon!
There's sandwiches with cranberry, turkey and Swiss, marinated bits of steak on top of smokey cheddar and toasted baguettes, bacon!, apples with homemade caramel dip, chips, dips, veggies, cheese straws and two rolled dark chocolate cakes, one filled with peanut butter frosting, the other cream cheese and raspberry frosting, waiting to be sliced and of course, Christmas cookies and drinks on the side buffet.

Someone, get a picture.  To friends!

The food went quickly, the conversation lively, not a blog friend group, just folks that go back many years and some new friends, an assortment of squirrels, scientists, engineers, architects and teachers. Always a fun group for parties.

The evening went well, even as the food disappeared, no limbs were lost in the Bat Cave and there was only one or two near mid airs with the RC helicopters. Time to open the White Elephant Gifts, which some of the group brought to share.
There was an assortment of the deliberately useless and tacky, including the Billy Mays Slider Maker (because just making 5 small burgers is SO hard but wait there's more act now and get the special slider flipper for only $19.95 shipping and handling.) Another fun one was the small children's story books, hard bound. Or shall I say 10 for $10 BADLY edited children's story books. "Jack and her Brother Jill went up the hill" (??) and a little Red Riding Hood where the editor just couldn't handle the historical ending of Red Riding Hood which did NOT end happily ever after, instead, substituting a vague, "we're not sure what happened to Red Riding Hood, no animals were harmed in the making of this book. THE END."

The party wrapped up about 1 am, everyone  tired and full, heading home to sleep and church the next morning. It was a great time but I was getting sleepy as well. Dishes were washed and soon, I too, was snoozing.


The weekend wasn't over yet, Sunday, was cold and grey, but the earlier rain had let up. The phone rang about noon. It was time for another adventure, a late lunch with Midwest Chick and Mr. B.

The Warsaw Inn in Lynwood IL. Even at 2 pm the place was packed.  Fortunately, we got a parking spot near the door as someone was leaving. Mr. B and one of the Og Clan had discovered this little gem and Mr. B. suggested meeting there for a meal, as though the drive would not be short, it would be about the same distance for all of us.  Partner in Grime was free to join us as well.  Excellent!

The decor was dated, yet the overeager wallpaper, framed prints and a room full of families wearing everything from day wear to formal suits with bowler hats just "fit", and if you add in the accordion player that frequents the place some days it doesn't get more Polish than that. The buffet itself is a bit smaller than most "buffet restaurants", but quality takes time, and there was everything we wanted, all tasting like something one's Polish Grandmother spent all day cooking.

There's daily specials in addition to the daily sausages and chicken, carved beef and ham.  This day was turkey and a pork tenderloin that was as good as Mom ever made, plus all kinds  of side dishes (perogies!) salads, homemade noodle soups and homemade bread with honey butter (check them out at )

There was much catching up, tales of daring, stories of mountaineering and dog hair and the latest in home renovations, during this wonderful meal which Mr. B.generously treated us all to.

After the last little plate of pastries and blintzes was picked up by our outstanding waitress, plans were made for a weekend together after the New Year. A few hugs were dispensed, goodbyes were exchanged and it was time for the long drive back home. Our waitress offered money off coupons for the next visit. There WILL be a next visit, I'm certain.

Soon it was home and nighttime again, a couple hours to just put the feet up with a glass of Mead, Dr. Who and many thanks for good friends and the blessings they bring, year round.


  1. 1/2 package cream cheese (about 4 ounces)
    1 cup grated sharp cheddar
    1 cup grated Monterey Jack
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1 to 1 and 1/2 teaspoons Cajun Seasoning (or mix of salt,pepper, garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne)
    3 heaping tablespoons pimentos, smashed
    splash of Worcestershire sauce
    pinch of grated lemon zest
    1 generous teaspoon finely diced sweet onion

    Beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy with a small electric mixer.

    Add all of the remaining ingredients and beat until well blended.

  2. We're calling it "Liquid Dilaudid."
    2 oz dark rum
    1 oz Laird's Applejack
    2 oz fresh orange juice
    2 oz coconut cream
    1 oz pineapple juice

    Nothing more than a spiked Painkiller of olde - and perfect when arthritis is annoying and there's no reason to drive that day.

    We recently enjoyed it with some fresh squash soup!

  3. What a wonderful weekend! You're a blessed woman.

  4. Ok, now there's a place that's a blast from the past.....use to live back there (multiple areas - Homewood-Flossmoor, the Heights, all the way to Beecher) - won't dare say how long ago that was LOL....Nice to hear the Inn is still there :)

    Another drool worthy post, hehe......

  5. Bacon wrapped around dates is very good! I think I once had this treat with a pecan half stuffed in the date then wrapped with bacon which was most excellent.

    Paul Campbell

  6. The Warsaw Inn is fantastic. I haven't been there in several years. I forgot all about that place. The food is incredible. Looks like a good time. Like your lathe. I would like to get a decent size one, but my garage is pretty full right now. Keep debating on putting up a big enough shed in back to put a bridgeport and a small lathe. I could move my welder out there as well. Take care and enjoy the Christmas season.

  7. The Tree! We need to see the aluminium tri-color illuminated Tree. My great-aunt Floss had one from the day they debuted. Glorious. I think it got trashed when she passed. Travesty. Have a safe and Merry Christmas.

  8. Rova - Welome! That concoction sounds pretty good!

    naturegirl - I've a number of friends who live in north IL and IND who work in the city, I'm starting to learn my way around better. The lady that owns it looks like she's about 45, but she's owned it for 40 years. She was there greeting people like family.

    Campbell76209 - They certainly didn't last long!

    Rev Paul - indeed and I know it. Thank you.

    RichD - next time we're going to plan ahead so Og and family and perhaps your brother as well can come. Wish you lived further north, it would be a good group trip.

  9. mikelaforge - another picture is up. It's an original tree, purchased before they got trendy again for $3.

  10. You didn't, by any chance, watch "Blink" in an empty house? I guess I should have warned you.

    I spent the better part of the weekend grading bad student software projects. This is the first and last semester I'm doing that job.

  11. But what kind of dates? What temperature? How long?

  12. Well, now I'm definitely going to have to try the Warsaw Inn. Got to test out the authenticity, don't you know.

    "Hey, Ron, we need to train the network ops folks in Warsaw. How'd you like to go out there?" Sure, love to. "Take your wife, it'll be a nice trip." They had no idea my wife is 1/2 Polish. We ended up going out 4 days early. Stayed the night in Warsaw, took the train to Kracow the next day and then got picked up there by some quite distant relatives of my wife who had been contacted by some of her closer relatives who live in Chicago but are still in contact.

    Anna and Andrzej walked us around Kracow, through old churches that were over 200 years old when the city was founded in 1257, through the market square, down some streets. Kracow avoided the urban renewal at the hands of the Nazis and Communists that Warsaw suffered (and the 500,000 dead ...). Took us out for a fabulous dinner ("What would you like to eat? There's Italian, ...." I'm in Poland. I can get Italian or steaks in Chicago. I want traditional Polish food.) which they refused to let us pay for and then drove us 2 hours to Bialka Tatrzanska, a village that's up in the Carpathian mountains almost in Slovakia.

  13. Turns out they run an inn. While most of the villages out there are quite poor, someone who went to the U.S. and cleaned buildings for a few years came back, leased some land, and built a bunch of ski runs. Lots of people come there to ski. They spend money. The locals, including Anna and Andrzej, have put up inns to house them. The season runs from Christmas week to March or April. Anna lays out a huge spread of food and Andrzej pulls out a bottle of what turned out to be a quite good vodka. The four of us took care of that bottle and a 1/4 full backup bottle.

    The next morning a big breakfast. Sliced meats, scrambled eggs, bacon (Islam is not going to catch on in Poland, these people dig the pig way too much). We get introduced to their daughter and their son-in-law and to "Uncle", a 95-year-old relative who I think is her grandfather's cousin. We toured Bialka. We went to the medieval wooden church and lit candles on my wife's great-grandfather's grave and those of his brothers. We drove through the mountains and saw the ski lifts (which Andrzej works on) and other villages that have not seen the economic boost that Bialka has, looking for some of the homes of my wife's ancestors. Then back to Bialka. "Let's go to Uncle's house." Uncle's "house" is a 100-room hotel. He's adding on another 100 rooms. His son and grandsons run the place but it's his money. He takes us on a tour while Andrzej translates. He didn't translate what Uncle yelled at the workmen who he caught sitting on their asses. We got to Uncle's restaurant and eat and drink vodka with a 95-year old man. More touring, and then back to the inn, where Anna lays out a big dinner (the woman runs an inn, she can cook) and Andrzej opens up another bottle. Their daughter and son-in-law were there as well. After dinner we finish off the bottle while watching a video of his daughter's wedding. They're "Highlanders" - it's a separate ethnic/cultural group from the rest of Poland. A lot of very neat customs and costumes, etc. It was quite interesting. The video was over before the bottle was, so we finish off the evening drinking and watching Polish MMA.

  14. The next morning we get up and start packing, as we have to be in Warsaw that evening so that I can go to work Monday morning. My wife is sitting on the edge of the bed, not moving. "What's up? We've gotta get packed." I walk around and she's in tears. Grandpa left this village in 1912 when he was 13. He never went back. He never saw his parents or siblings again. He never talked about Poland. "Now I understand what it was like for him here."

    Off to Kracow. "You should go buy your train tickets." But when I come to the front of the line Andrzej pushes my credit card away. "You can't use that here", fires off some Polish to the ticket agent and pays for my tickets, some $83 worth. Then we go to the 1400's vintage gate in a section of the remaining old city wall. Turns out Anna and Andrzej have engaged a tour guide who walks us around the city talking about the architecture, history, etc. for the next few hours. I could write a 1000 words on that alone. Let's just say that these folks are very aware and very proud of their history. After that, they buy us another wonderful meal (I do like the shredded cabbage and forest mushrooms pierogis) and we bid them farewell as we go back to Warsaw. Wonderful people, tremendous hospitality. They told us to come back and spend a week next time, there's lots more to show us.

    This is getting pretty long. I'll write about Warsaw another time. But I'll leave with this:

    I came back from Poland with not only great memories but a bad cold. I finally go to the doctor yesterday. I figure I should tell him about the trip out of the country so he'll consider that I might not just have "what's going around."

    "Oh, you went to Poland? Where did you go?" Warsaw, Kracow, and this little village my wife's father's family is from called Bialka Tatrzanska. The next words out of his mouth?

    "I was born in Bialka!"

  15. Roscoe - no, I wasn't alone but dang, that was an intense episode. LOVED it. Also throughly enjoyed the other episodes on the disk you sent. Big thanks. Red Dwarf will be another weekend.

    Windy - my date cooked the dates, they were just the bagged dates from the raisin section of the store. 350 until the bacon started getting brown. I don't know how long, it's an ancient gas oven but it didn't seem like it was more than 10-15 minutes.

    RonF - loved the stories, thank you. And Tischlers deli has a pretty dandy pimento cheese spread in your neighborhood.

    Mikelaforge - thank you for the nod and the smile.


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