December 30, 2014

A Smaller Gathering

Suburban Chicago, December 31, 1971. This photo dates from about the time we started celebrating the New Year by watching Die Fledermaus.

We're drinking from my Mom's funky champagne glasses. Each glass has a different tinted hue. My Mom's best friend Donna (seated to my left) also had a similar set. I was delighted a few years ago when Mom gave me those glasses.

They danced in the Rec Room, too.

Suburban Chicago, December 31, 1961. After dinner, the guests moved to the Rec Room. The Rec Room's tiled floor was good for dancing. Things changed after we carpeted that area.

It's time to dance.

Suburban Chicago, December 31, 1965. Lily and her dance partner know it's easy to dance in the basement because the basement floor isn't carpeted.

December 29, 2014

Silver Creek's Edge

Suburban Chicago, December 1964. We take a walk behind the house to check out the creek.

Let's get a picture before we take down the tree.

Suburban Chicago, December 1964. The aluminum tree didn't get assembled every year, but it lasted for a while.

Babos Receptai (Part 6)

It's almost New Year's Eve, so it's time to think about the užkandžiai, or appetizers, that will grace the table. We always served "New Year's Eve Eggs" when our family hosted the party. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, also liked to prepare her version of shrimp cocktail, "Amerikoniškas Shrimp Cocktail."

Here is her recipe (note the chemical formulas at the bottom of the page):

Here is how I wrote up the recipe:

First Courses

Shrimp with Rice and Pink Sauce

Wash canned shrimp* in cold water and place on cheesecloth.

Cook the rice as though you were making chicken (and rice with white sauce).

Make the sauce from mayonnaise, sour cream, red horseradish, tomato paste, and a bit of salt and sugar.

Place the shrimp in the center of the plate [and surround with the rice]. Pour the sauce around the shrimp and the rice.

Let stand in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving.

*This recipes is from the 1950s. Midwestern grocery stores rarely carried "fresh" seafood. It was not uncommon to serve luxury foods, like shrimp and lobster, from cans.

December 28, 2014

Armrest Reunion

Madison, Wisconsin, August 1998. Find a spot.

The party begins with a late meal.

Suburban Chicago, December 31, 1961. Friends gather around our dining room table for the late New Year's Eve meal. Dad was the "life of the party."

There are still photos from this party here.

Mistletoe Elf watches as friends gather.

Suburban Chicago, December 31, 1969. My Mom's best friend, Donna (right), and her husband Vytenis take their turn hosting the New Year's Eve gathering for our suburban enclave.

December 27, 2014

Moonrise Reunion

Verona, Wisconsin, December 6, 2014. We've had very little snow this month.

A Closer Look (Part 16)

Mariampolis, Lithuania, December 24, 1936. My Mom cherishes her Christmas gift. The doll may be wearing Polish folkdress; Mom's maternal Grandmother, Zigmunta, was Polish.

Here's the original post for this photo.

Party Mood

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, December 31, 1958. Kadis, my Dad's twin sister Jonė, and my Toronto Cousin host a New Year's Eve party. There's a red cigarette box on the table; I can't make out the brand. When I was a kid, I always wondered why Canadian cigarette boxes where so different from U.S. cigarette boxes.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

ADDED: My Toronto Cousin reports the cigarettes were DuMaurier.

Santa Regatta

Santas grace the Grand Canal.

Thanks to my childhood Best Friend for catching that post.

December 26, 2014

Dinner Supervisor

Verona, Wisconsin, December 24, 2014. Rex oversees the end of our Kūčios celebration.

Related by Marriage: A Big-Boy Gift

Suburban Chicago, December 1959. Mr. Irene's maternal Grandmother, Anna, watches as Mr. Irene test drives the Christmas gift.

Boxing Day

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, December 1958. It's time to enjoy the haul. I would favor the monkey.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

The Unused Score ...

... for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

"Even those who actively dislike Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, for instance, would surely agree that its every last audiovisual nuance serves its distinctive, bold vision — especially that opening use of 'Thus Spake Zarathustra.' "

December 24, 2014

Christmas Fish

Are you curious about the recipe for "Christmas Fish?" Here is how we make it:

Žuvis su Pomidorais, or "Christmas Fish"

1/4 ounce dry Porcini mushrooms
1-1/4 cups water

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 pounds yellow onions, sliced into rings
5 to 6 ounces carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
3 ounces celery, coarsely grated

2 tablespoons tomato paste
24 ounces tomato ketchup
1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (to taste)
2 bay leaves
1/2 to 1 teaspoon paprika (to taste)
8 peppercorns
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, minced very fine
1/4 cup dry, white wine

2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice (to taste)
3 to 4 tablespoons dill pickle brine (or cider vinegar)

1 cup flour, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
32 ounces firm white fish (Whitefish, Sole, or Orange Roughy)
1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, minced

Cover the dry mushrooms with 1-1/4 cups water in a glass measuring cup. Microwave for about 1-1/2 minutes; then let the mushrooms soak in the water for about 30 minutes. Strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter; reserve 3/4 cup liquid. Chop the mushrooms finely.

In a large skillet, heat the canola oil and butter. Sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until onions are translucent and softened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add tomato paste, ketchup, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, bay leaves, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, peppercorns, chopped, chopped mushrooms, and parsley. Add the white wine; scrape up any browned bits from the pan. Sauté, stirring often, for about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add 2 teaspoon lemon juice, reserved 3/4 cup mushroom liquid, and 3 tablespoons dill pickle brine to the pan. Simmer slowly for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring often, or until the mixture thickens. Taste to determine whether the sauce needs more Dijon mustard, paprika, lemon juice, and/or dill pickle brine (or cider vinegar). Cool the sauce. While the sauce cools, prepare the fish.

Mix the flour, salt, and pepper. Dredge the fish fillets in the flour mixture and shake off excess. 

In a large sauteuse pan, heat the canola oil (there should be about one-half inch of oil in the pan). Brown the fish fillets. When the fish fillets are browned, transfer to several layers of paper towel to drain the excess oil.

Assemble the dish in a 3-quart, glass serving dish. Spread a layer of the onion/tomato sauce mixture on the bottom of the dish, followed by a layer of the fish, then a layer of the onion/tomato sauce, then fish, with the top layer of the onion/tomato sauce. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

Serve at room temperature. Just before serving, sprinkle with freshly snipped parsley leaves.

This Year's Table for Kūčios

Verona, Wisconsin, December 24, 2014. We stick to the twelve traditional dishes for our Kūčios.

(When Mom saw the table, she said, "Do you remember when I roasted a duck on Kūčios?!!")

Merry Christmas!

Silent Night

Lübeck, Germany, about 1946. The residents of the DP camp's Žirgynas prepare to celebrate the Kūčios meal. (More photos from this night appear here, here, here, and here.)

Thanks to Toronto Al for making this photo available to us.

Our Christmas Cards: Look-up Edition

Verona, Wisconsin, December 2013. The doggies are accustomed to the routine.

December 23, 2014

A Visit from Santa Paws, in Three Takes

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Verona, Wisconsin, December 23, 2014. We were thrilled to see you; Baci especially got wound up.

We break bread.

Suburban Chicago, December 24, 1961. My Dad's twin sister, Jonė, and her family—husband Kadis and daughter Toronto Cousin—spend Christmas with us. The family engages in the tradition of breaking plotkelės before the Christmas-Eve meal, Kūčios. We also place a plotkelė on each dish.

Our Christmas Cards: Poppy-settles-in Edition

Verona, Wisconsin, December 2012. This was the year we cheated: we used a photo from the previous year's shoot. Would you have noticed?

December 22, 2014

Nutcracker Reunion

Chicago, Illinois, December 1966. We're enjoying the performance.

Opening Gifts

Suburban Chicago, December 24, 1960. The Kūčios meal is finished, and we've moved into the living room to open gifts. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, looks happy when she opens a box containing a pocketbook; her face brightens more when she finds the pocketbook contains an envelope of cash.

Our Christmas Cards: New-Addition Edition

Verona, Wisconsin, December 2011. Poppy came to live with us in August 2011. She's the little one wearing bows. It took a few tries to stage this shot.

December 21, 2014

Welcome, Winter

Verona, Wisconsin, December 24, 2013. It's cloudy, warm, and grey this year, but we had a nice snowfall last Christmas Eve.

Christmas Manners: Linger on each gift.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, December 1960. Look closely; you may find a few gems.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

Our Christmas Cards: Back-to-what-matters Edition

Verona, Wisconsin, December 2010. Rex spots the camera; Baci's still focused on the turkey bait.

December 20, 2014

Ice Show, in Three Takes

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Chicago, Illinois, December 1961. I don't remember what show we saw here, but it was the beginning of my fascination with figure skating. I recall the headdresses the skaters wore.

Christmas Manners: Show your appreciation, even if he is a Santa Fake.

Bulger Park, Veterans Park District, Melrose Park, Illinois, December 1966. The bunnies know how to be grateful.

Our Christmas Cards: Annus-Horribilis Edition

Verona, Wisconsin, December 2009. The troubles started late in 2008, and they lingered.

December 19, 2014

A Closer Look (Part 15)

Mariampolis, Lithuania, December 24, 1936. My Mom's maternal Grandmother, Zigmunta, holds one of the "Pupsikas" dogs.

Here's the original post for this photo.

Our Christmas Cards: A Passing Edition

Verona, Wisconsin, December 2008. Our Pupa—the little one, wearing bows, in the center—passed away in August 2008.


Suburban Chicago, February 1962 . I'm thinking about Dad today.

Here's another photo Mom took that same afternoon.

December 18, 2014

Moving Forward

Glacier National Park, Montana, July 1972. We're on the trail that leads to Iceberg Lake.

Our Christmas Cards: Three-Dog Edition

Verona, Wisconsin, December 2007. Rex joined the group. (I earlier posted this photo here.)

Related by Marriage: The new technology arrives.

Marquette Park, Chicago, Illinois, 1955. Mr. Irene's Mom (right) and her sister, Martha (standing), pose with a friend in their living room. The family had just acquired its first television set.

"Twelve Dishes and No Booze."

A Lithuanian living in the UK reflects on our Christmas-Eve ("Kūčios") traditions. We, too, prepare that holiday meal.

(Yes, the piece is from 2007, but the customs have not changed.)

December 17, 2014

Creekside Reunion

Thatcher Woods, Suburban Chicago, January 1962. We approach the spot at which Silver Creek meets the Des Plaines River.

Our Christmas Cards: Adaptable Edition

Verona, Wisconsin, December 2006. We used the holiday greeting to announce another move. Pupa and Baci brought their beds and suitcase to the new place.

(Rex and his owner—my Mom—joined us in this house a few months later.)

Our Christmas Cards: Forget-Us-Not Edition

Madison, Wisconsin, December 2005. This card featured Pupa and Baci enjoying a Door County flower field.

December 16, 2014

December 15, 2014

Room-for-a-snack Reunion

Verona, Wisconsin, December 2011. Poppy rests in her "box;" there's a bowl of kibble within reach.

Our Chirstmas Cards: Photo-Sheet Edition

Madison, Wisconsin, December 2003. We introduced the "photo summary" to our Christmas mailings in 2003. That year, we sent out the summary only, and we did not prepare separate photo cards. Since then, we've mailed both cards and photo sheets.

The 2003 sheet featured our acquisition of Baci and Žulė's passing (the two events may not have been unrelated: Baci's exuberance likely overwhelmed Žulė). The sheet also highlighted some knitting: Mr. Irene models a sweater I knitted for my boss, and Mom wears one I did for the wife of a former colleague.

Our Christmas Cards: Shaggy Edition

Madison, Wisconsin, December 2002. We featured the Poodles in their most common state.