- Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies. Well, they were at least chocolate-chunk cookies. I went into three grocery stores of varying sizes and could not find chocolate chips, so I ended up buying a chocolate bar and chopping it up. Of course a dozen cookies is too much for me and Cameron, so I delivered most of them to Cameron's office, but they either were no good or were not well advertised because Cameron brought most of them back home at the end of the week.
- Crocheting. While visiting Bellevue I stopped in a craft store that was going out of business and bought a crocheting hook and a huge spool of yarn. I've made a pair of mittens but I have to redo them since they are too small for my hands and I'm pretty sure I used the wrong stitch. I also went to a crocheting workshop here in Poland and learned to make snowflake ornaments. They are currently our sole Christmas decorations.
- Joined Bumble BFF. Thanks to my friend Heather's suggestion I'm finally getting to live out my fantasy of being on a dating app! Unfortunately there are not a ton of people who've joined in Krakow so the app only shows me a couple of people a week, but I did meet a real-life person from the app! I joined up with her and one of her other friends to try and do a free tour of Wawel (a bust because the tickets were all sold out) and walk around the Christmas markets.
- Christmas Markets! Although not as big as what I remember in Germany, there is still a lot to see. Of course the main attraction is the rows of stalls selling homemade crafts, including Polish pottery, handmade clothes, and Christmas decorations. Food is also in abundance, the most common seeming to be big grilled meat stalls and pirogi stations. Gluhwin is available, but I'm more keen to try to "grzane piwo"–hot mulled beer! I've found three Christmas markets, the biggest of course being in Old Town, but even the smallest of the three has a stage set up for periodic traditional Polish dancing and singing.
- Planning a Ski Vacation. I feel like my friend Brittany, having done hours (really days) of research on various skiing options for our first European ski adventure. I pondered lists upon lists of recommendations from various websites and people I've met in person to ultimately decide on a week at Jansa Chopok, the largest ski area in Slovakia. The last week of January Cameron and I will drive about three hours south, cross the Polish-Slovakian boarder, and spend the week skiing in the Tatras Mountains, visiting an indoor waterpark, touring Slovak castles, and exploring an ice cave. Multiple websites referred to Jansa as "the next best thing to the Alps" and I figured since Cameron hasn't seen the Alps yet there's a chance this will be the coolest ski area he's ever gone to. Plus, the whole trip, including hotels, ski passes, passes for the other attractions, and food should cost less than $1,000.
- Toastmasters. I had been to one Toastmasters meetings the week before we left for our visa trip to the US, and I was excited to go back for round two. The meeting is setup to ensure everyone speaks, even if it's just for a 30 second introduction, but this time I volunteered to do a two-minute impromptu speech. Somehow I walked away with a certificate marking me as the best table topics speech of the night (being a native English speaker definitely helped) and a request to prepare a five minute speech for a meeting in a few weeks. Now I just have to decide if it would be totally inappropriate to share my opinions about sperm and egg donation during my inaugural introduction speech.
- Thanksgiving! I knew that Mike (the other Remitly American) wanted to do a proper Thanksgiving dinner but I didn't know until Tuesday that we would be hosting that dinner at our house. It made sense, since I had time to prep and to cook and Mike doesn't have a proper oven, plus I love hosting. I was quite smitten with the formal table setting and 12-dish meal we managed to put together. Nothing screams domesticity like a notebook outlining two days worth of cooking prep! But honestly, hosting fancy dinner parties with multiple courses is my dream in life.
- Continuing Professional Education (CPE). It doesn't sound like a ton of fun but sitting down to watch two hours of accounting-professionals talk about self reporting to the SEC for two hours was somewhat comforting. It's a good reminder that I am a professional and that I can maintain my edge even during my three-month hiatus. I've signed up for practically every free CPE course offered by the AICPA and am planning on doing at least one session a week.
- I work out! It might not be every day but it's at least close to every-other day. Heather had told me that if I'm not the fittest I've ever been during these months off then I'm doing something seriously wrong, and I've taken that a bit to heart. My current gym routine is an hour on the elliptical while I read my Kindle (right now I'm giving Sophie's Choice a shot) followed by 30-60 minutes of miscellaneous weightlifting machines and free weights. My favorite is a rotating disc that you stand on and swivel while you hold onto some hip-height handle bars; for the life of me I cannot find an example of this on Google.
- Learn Polish. I'm still slowly making my way thorough the Duolingo lessons, but I also signed up for a three-week intensive language course. Today was my first day, and for three hours me and four other students struggled through our alphabet, numbers, and basic dialogue. I'm getting the feeling that I will need to come home and do some serious practicing every night, which might mean taking a pause on Duo.
There seems to be tons of other things I still want/need to do–I truly do not know how regular working people have time for anything! Even with seemingly unlimited hours to myself I'm not sure if I will get to everything on my list and keeping a clean house and having a timely dinner overnight have already fallen to the wayside. But there is still more I want to do, so for my sake I'm using this as a to-do list:
- Christmas shopping (also need to wrap and mail presents)
- Decorate for Christmas- check out Pepco at Galeria Kazimierz
- Set up itineraries for people's visits to Poland. Try to include a mix of paid activities (salt mines, Auschwitz) and free things (walking tours, some museums). Let me know when you want to visit and what sort of things pique your interest!
- Find a knitting shop, craft shop, plant shop, and ski shop
- Write down all of the words I've learned on Duolingo
- Bake pretzels- for some reason I cannot get pretzels out of my brain!
One of the many szopki (nativity scenes) around town. Most of them look like large colorful churches or castles and will ultimately be judged by a panel of judges in the Market Square (Rynek).
Smok blowing some fire while I wait to meet my Bumble BFF outside of Wawel.
Traditional Polish dance at the main Christmas market.
Christmas market lights and crowds.
Our Thanksgiving feast.
Joined by Mike and Natalia for Thanksgiving. It was Natalia's first Thanksgiving dinner and her first taste of pumpkin pie.
Enjoying some mushroom soup at the Christmas market.
A second Christmas market in Kazimierz. This one is smaller but it seems to cater more towards the locals so I think it's better. Also, it had the best pierogis I've had so far!