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Everyone has those food items that stick with them as they grow up. A soup or casserole your mom made that you miss as you go through college. Then there are the recipes and foods that have a deeper history. For me, that is my great-grandmother’s kolaches. She would spend a full day making these for the family and we loved them. Our favorites were those filled with poppy seed and others topped with a sweetened cream cheese. This recipe, and the technique that went along with it, was passed to my mother. She too would spend a full day making kolaches. The smell of yeast would wander through the house and that was the sign that something awesome was a few hours away. My mom would send my dad to work with bags filled with different flavors and he would return telling her how quickly they disappeared. These small pastries were a staple of my childhood. And sure, there are some store bought options out there that come close to being a temporary replacement but they all vary just a little bit.

Finished Sausage and Cheese Klobasneks
My mother was kind enough to pass the family kolache recipe to my wife and I after we got married. My wife made the savory versions (klobasneks) once before and they turned out great, but recently we decided to try our hand at the sweet version that I grew up with. Of course, we made some savory ones as a snack and for the science of it. If you’re going to perfect something, you have to practice. We ended up with a product we were happy with but that we know can be improved and perfected so we took copious notes and will make another attempt soon. We are also going through different flavors that could be combined to make the kolaches our own and we have a number of ideas of things that are readily available in Portland so we will give those a shot as well. As we make the tweaks to get the dough as close to what my great-grandmother would make, we know that we will be able to pass that along to our own children and keep this tiny bit of my Czech heritage alive.

I posted a few photos of the end result and received a large number of requests for the recipe. Seeing as this recipe was passed down to my mother first I asked how she felt about the recipe being shared. Right now, she would prefer that the recipe stay in the family and I am going to respect that. However, she had no qualms with me posting a few similar recipes that I found online and sharing a few ideas on techniques.

Klobasnek Cross-Section
The first recipe is for klobasneks, the savory, meat and cheese version of a kolache. While the history of it (and the kolach in general) is a little off in the link, the recipe is a great start for making klobasneks. One note I will make here is that the dough and the sausage are the stars here and special care should be paid to both. For sausage we try our best to find a German or Czech style link. We then boil it and when cooked, give it a sear on all sides before letting it cool. We then cut it into the proper size before forming the klobasneks. The dough part is just as important. With all of the recipes I am going to post, patience (and butter) are the key. The more patience you have for the rise of the dough and the less you work the dough when preparing it, the better the final product. When you think the dough is ready, wait a little longer. A little more time and you may get a little jump in the rise, resulting in an even better result.

Cream Cheese and Orange Marmalade Kolache
Next up is a very detailed history and recipe for sweet kolaches. The technique in this one is a little too precise and methodical for me and what you will find is that as you start to make kolaches, being precise is overkill. I do like that they include some filling recipes as well and the general concept of the kolache is still intact. For a more free form version there is this recipe. It is not perfect but it gives a lot more leeway to do what you wish with the kolache recipe.

I think these three recipes are a great way to get started trying to make your own Czech pastries at home. I hope you enjoy these sweet treats that remind me of my chilhood!

Today while using Google Chrome I made some kind of user error and whatever it was wiped out my bookmarks, my browsing history, and my tabs. Usually if I have to close the browser for an update or other change there is a function that brings up “Recent Tabs” and all is well. Not today. Everything is gone and I have not found anything that will help me bring it back. But maybe that’s a good thing…

I am a tab hoarder. I will keep tabs open for weeks while I think about whether I need it or not. Rather than bookmark it or perform an action around it, I’ll just keep it open. You can believe that I had a ton of tabs open before this happened. This clean-up while it hurts, I am still trying to remember what I had open that was important or urgent, maybe it’s just the wake-up I needed to get my digital house in order. Time to make a big backup of everything and put it aside and organize what I am working on now.

Spring cleaning is beginning.

My arrival at LAX was met with a huge rainstorm. I took the rental car shuttle for Avis and found my name on the board with a “See Preferred Counter Staff” note next to it. I walk inside and I am quickly greeted. The gentleman informs me that he has a number of different SUVs. I ask for a car, to which he replies, “well, the only available car I have for you is on the other side of the lot”. It is pouring outside and LAX rental car locations don’t have covered parking. Why should they, they don’t get enough rain to warrant it, but it’s 11:30pm and I just want to get to the hotel and get some sleep before a 4am wake-up.

I take the SUV, a Hyundai Tuscon. 28,000 miles on it but the Tuscon drives alright. Like most rentals, the windshield is filthy with a film on the inside making it difficult to see in the pouring rain. Rental companies, if you are reading this, clean the inside of the windshields! It’s important!

I end up driving the Tuscon for a few days all around Los Angeles. It guzzles gas like it is going out of style. I do not have to pay for the gas, but the client does and I think having to fill up once a week is a bit excessive, especially since I am only driving 40 miles a day. So, I place a phone call to an Avis location near the office and ask if they will swap out the Tuscon for a car. Nope, only SUVs left. I call another location, same response. I find a place that does have a car but it’s a Hyundai Elantra with 45,000 miles on it. No thanks.

Eventually, I call the Avis counter at Burbank airport and explain that I would like a car. They have some! It is a bit further of a drive but I make it there and inform the counter agent that I had called and requested a car. He thanks me for being an Avis First member, one of the “elite” levels in their program, then informs me that he has a Ford Mustang or a Nissan Altima. I ask if he has a Prius available, I saw three of them when I was walking to the counter. “Nope, they’re reserved”.

This is where I have to speak up. On Avis’s website, I had reserved an intermediate car, instead, they auto-assigned me a SUV as an upgrade. Yet, there is no way for me to specify that I want a hybrid vehicle or fuel efficient vehicle. Avis even touts their Prius rentals, yet there is no way to specifically reserve one.

Then there is the counter experience. If you have a lot full of cars and especially 3 or 4 Priuses yet when I ask to grab one of them and the answer is “they’re reserved”, how is that even possible? How is someone reserving that specific car? And, if they didn’t reserve it but it was assigned to them, why can’t you assign them something else.

I tried to have a little bit of this discussion with the person helping me but he was insistent that the only options he had were an Altima or a Ford Mustang. I took the Altima and it’s better to get 30mpg than the 20mpg I was getting with the Hyundai Tuscon, but the rental car experience is really abysmal. It is not just Avis, but all of the different car companies. Sure, there are “pick your own vehicle” rows with most companies but there is no guarantee those vehicles are not completely beat up inside or don’t smell like smoke. Even my Silvercar rental over the Christmas holiday was mediocre. The car had dings in it, the attendant pointed them out to me, yet he had a bunch of cars sitting around available.

There has to be a better way to do this. Let me look at your inventory and reserve a specific car or even a specific class of car. Let me state “no SUVs” in my profile and have that honored. Let me know how many miles a car has on it before I walk to it.

All of these things would make the entire experience better. I am interested to hear your thoughts on the rental car process. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

I think it is pretty obvious that I am airplane nerd, an “avgeek” if you will. My love of planes and flying has been present since I was a little kid. Only in the last 10 to 15 years has my love of commercial aviation come to life, most of my love when I was younger was focused on military aircraft, especially those from the World War II era. Recently, when I visited the Polish Aviation Museum in Krakow, Poland, that love of military aircraft was reignited.

Yak-23
A number of my friends and I were in town and we thought we would plan a tour of the Polish Aviation Museum so I arranged a van to drive us to the location due to it be a little hard to reach via public transit. I was also able to arrange an English speaking guide for a small fee. He ended up being a fantastic guide and he seemed to love the enthusiasm we all had for aviation and thought it was awesome we came to their museum.

The museum is on the site of an old airfield and they have hold an airshow every year by reopening closed taxiways and runways just for the occasion. The indoor exhibits are fascinating with tons of general information about different conflicts as well as Poland’s aviation history. There is even an entire display of aircraft engines, including one of the largest ever built. But, the real gem is the outdoor aircraft display. At first it looks like there are only a few aircraft, but you turn a corner and you see that there are tons of Russian, American, French, and Swedish aircraft scattered all over the property. There is even a “MiG Alley”, a long walkway containing every MiG aircraft produced, including most variants.

If you have a love of aviation and are in Poland or even a country nearby, make a detour to the Polish Aviation Museum. It really is an aviation geek paradise. Enough words, I will let the pictures do the talking. I have a ton of photos to upload and will update this post as I get them uploaded.

MiG-15

MiG Alley

MiG Alley

 

Soviet Missile Systems

MiG-21

Su-17