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About Me

I’m Tonya (Shuster) Harmon, Pauline’s first grandchild. I’m a Canadian transplanted to Virginia, living in Great Falls with my husband, 3 kids, 2 dogs and a rabbit. In 1998 I founded a software company for human services agencies, called Harmony Information Systems. After bringing in investors, I left the company last year, after 10 years as CEO.

I spent a lousy 2009 trying to figure out what to do next with my life, and as I contemplated it, I cooked, baked, researched and wrote about my ancestors, and the highlight of the year was attending Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. By the end of the year, I had figured out that what I wanted to do next with my life was to cook, bake, write and learn more about my heritage and about cooking.

So here I am.

57 Comments leave one →
  1. January 6, 2010 11:45 pm

    Congrats Tonya!

    aahhh to be waking up, smelling the coffee (and roses) and pursuing your dream. I’ll be following you along with the COUNTLESS other blogs I need to jumpstart my day.

    I, too, want to start a design blog but in the meantime will resort to what I interpret as the LAZY MAN’s blog (micro/whatever) which is Twitter

    I sure waste a LOT of time with this new social media stuff but it sure is FUN

    Cheers to a happy and prosperous 2010 and bon appetit!


  2. Lily permalink
    January 10, 2010 9:34 am

    Hi Tonya

    Way to go! I’ll be following along and look forward to learning more about my family.


  3. Diane Westlake permalink
    January 11, 2010 12:23 pm

    To think that I may never have been born if my grandmother and grandfather had not gone back to Europe…….You surely would have missed knwoing Aunt Diane and Uncle Joel…

  4. January 13, 2010 5:52 pm

    What a pleasure it is to follow your blog and review the wonderful recipes. Is there nothing low cal?! I will be following your progress and remembering the wonderful foods from my own Slovak childhood.
    You go girl!

    • January 13, 2010 7:07 pm

      Nothing low cal in her pastry book! But I do have other recipes – some wonderful soups and vegetable dishes, that will come later. So glad you are following – I hope you subscribed. I need all the encouragement I can get – no fun writing this into the air!

      • May 19, 2010 2:59 pm

        Probably You will find there in recipes also one for soup, that Slovakian woman use in Sunday lunch?

        Nedelna Polievka – it is chicken soup, mostly served in Sunday – I still can not copy my (late) mother way – and she made it great!

        best regards

      • May 20, 2010 2:53 am

        I am in Vojvodina today, and will track this soup and recipe down, Thank you.

  5. Rosemary permalink
    January 16, 2010 12:19 pm

    Mmmmmm. Yummy and fascinating. I can’t wait to read more.

  6. Carole permalink
    January 17, 2010 4:28 pm

    What a wonderful legacy you are creating. I look forward to reading and trying the recipes as you post them.


  7. January 19, 2010 10:59 am

    you go girl! M:)

  8. January 20, 2010 12:49 pm

    Don’t you think you should be allowing others to taste test these recipes?

  9. February 12, 2010 2:46 am

    Hi Tonya, great website! I love all those historical tidbits about the War. And getting together is definitely a good idea. Are you part of the DC Slovaks group? I was thinking that at some point we ought to start doing regular Slovak cooking lessons. Problem is, I currently don’t have my own place plus I am really busy with school (and the website), but I should have much more free time come summer.

    — lubos from

    • February 12, 2010 8:52 am

      No, I have only ever met one other Slovak in the DC area, who happens lo live next door. I’d really like doing group cooking lessons, and we have a big kitchen, so time is the only obstacle!

      • D. Vankova permalink
        October 6, 2014 11:33 am

        Hi Tonya Come to Prince George, VA October 11th, 2014. We are having a Czech-Slovak Festival at the county Courthouse. Just found your blog. I had 29 Czech and Slovak students here in Richmond this summer on work-study.

      • October 6, 2014 9:59 pm

        I would love to go, and will try to make it there!

  10. Lorrey permalink
    February 14, 2010 2:37 pm

    Another wonderful story of Slovak immigrants, rich in history. The recipies are fantastic, and similar to those I remember watching my Slovak Grandmother make. I”m really looking forward to the Poppyseed recipes, which are my favorite…Along with the Chicken paprikas, that is very close to the way I make it today!

    • February 14, 2010 9:26 pm

      Hi Lorrey, I am looking forward to testing and eating the poppyseed recipes too! I remember loving Pupaky – little dumplings rolled in honey and poppy seed. I am so glad you liked the recipes, and I hope y will come back to visit and contribute some of your oen recipes!


  11. als011 permalink
    March 9, 2010 10:46 am

    Hi Tonya,
    I am glad to meet you. We have the same surname but different origin. Anyway, we belong from same tribe. 🙂

    • March 9, 2010 11:03 am

      You know, I’ve met some related Susters now from all over the world, and we all seem to identify with the place we come from, and the language we speak. I’ve met some who speak German, Spanish, Serbian and who live in Australia, Belgrade, Argentina, Croatia, Puerto Rico, the US and Canada. But they all came from the same Slovak speaking Suster tribe 250 years ago in Vojvodina. So I am convinced we must somehow be related :).

      • Sanya Schuster permalink
        December 28, 2010 6:18 am

        Hy, i´m Sanja Suster, we are from the same family from Pivnice – Vojvodina. My grandfather Milan was born in Edmonton, Canada in 1931. but when he vas 7 year old they come back in Pivnce. Now i live in Pula – Croatia.

      • December 28, 2010 9:41 am

        Hi Sanya! It is so nice to hear from you! I’ve been searching for you for the past year, even contacted people in Pula with the last name of “Suster” trying to find you. I recently found your great grandfather’s entrance into the US too, in the 1930’s. If I remember correctly, he was a ship’s captain and he sailed around the world.

  12. Gayle permalink
    April 14, 2010 6:57 pm

    It’s a delicious read…… keep it coming !!!

  13. Brian permalink
    May 30, 2010 3:12 am

    Is this the Tonya from Linkage?

  14. Faith (Osmun) George permalink
    July 5, 2010 10:41 am

    Hi Tonya,

    I sent you a message on regarding your entry for Thomas C. Gordon. I really hope you are researching his wife Emma C. Harmon! I am so stuck and I have been trying to find out about her for years. I would love to swap notes with you etc and connect my line to yours! You have a great site here, I really want to try some of your recipes.

    best regards,
    Faith (Osmun) George

  15. Zelka Cani permalink
    July 30, 2010 6:37 am

    This is amazing. A friend of mine sent me the website for paulinescookbook. My mother is from Pivnice in Serbia and so is my mother-in-law. I am first generation Australian born. I have found the recipes fascinating as they are recipes my mum still makes, who also has a hand written cookbook from her mother. The ‘Perece Gastanove’ are Chestnut Pretzels. Perece is literally translated ‘pretzel’, it is a dough which is then shaped as a pretzel. I also know of Slovak Suster families here in Australia.
    Zelka Cani (Melbourne, Australia)

    • July 30, 2010 8:48 am

      Really? What a small world. I have Suster relatives in Australia too. I have a relative named Zelka as well. I think we need to have a Slovak reunion in Australia!

      Thank you for the Perece recipe info – I knew I got that one wrong.

  16. Alex B. permalink
    August 3, 2010 12:00 pm

    What a FANASTIC blog – so well done. I will be following all of your eating, tasting, discovering, writing with great interest. And the recipes – will try many of them – they sound, and look, amazing. Way to go!

  17. October 21, 2010 5:28 pm

    Oj Mama – no “formula” for “Nedelna Polievka” yet?

  18. October 31, 2010 11:48 pm

    Hi! I love your blog. Please fill out this form to be added to my blogroll. I’d appreciate if you would add me to yours! Thanks in advance. Here’s the quick form —

  19. Jan Kisgeci permalink
    November 3, 2010 9:32 pm

    Zaujimavy a poučny portal. Gratulujem

    • November 4, 2010 4:48 pm

      Servus Pan Kisgeci – pozdrav z Izraela, Vam a kolegom!
      Je tro od Castven-a (tetka Krivakova [neboha] kucharka syn!

  20. Sanya Schuster permalink
    December 28, 2010 6:04 am

    Hellou Tonya, my name is Sanya. My grand grandfather Jan Schuster, he was brother your grand grandfather Michal. I’ve seen that in my family tree.

  21. Ján permalink
    January 1, 2011 5:18 pm

    Pozdravujem, zaoberám sa geneaologiou Slovákov v Pivnici, Tvoju odresu mi poslal p. Miklovic , St. Pazova. Mám udaje pre teba. Ohlas sa na moj mail. Tiež mam rodiny v Kanade a Amerike. Všetko dobré v 2011 – Ján

  22. Al Duga permalink
    January 9, 2011 8:46 am

    Hi Tonya,
    I can’t tell you what a blessing it is to have stumbled onto your blog during my own recipe search. My grandmother was a fabulous cook. She was from Myjava Slovakia and I too have tried to find my connection to her through cooking. I am an executive chef, mostly because of her influence on my senses as a young child. I have no doubt she pointed me in the right direction.

    • January 9, 2011 12:25 pm

      Hi Al, thank you so much! I am envious of your career, and I know exactly what you mean about the influence on senses. I swoon over a taste, smell or wonderfully presented meal, and that love of food came from Pauline and her son, my dad (today it was over a bite of blue stilton cheese with port that I brought back from England recently). I hope you find some good recipes here that inspire you. One that think is really delicious and that I haven’t come across before anywhere is her recipe for chestnut pretzels, Perece z Gastanu. Tonya

  23. March 21, 2011 8:47 am

    Hello Tonya,

    congratulations on your new life, it feels great, doesn’t it? Helene told me about the upcoming trip which also sounds wonderful so I’m visiting and find we’re “neighbors” in Virginia. I’m in southwest VA but did visit Slovakia, etc. with Helene and Josef a few years ago. What a fabulous trip, so many fond memories and now your blog to enjoy. Blessings upon blessings!

    • March 21, 2011 10:20 am

      Hi Sandra, why thank you! I took a peak at your blog, Thistle Cove Farm – how beautiful, and how lucky you are. The views are incredible, and I would love to meet you and your sheep one day. As a teenager growing up in Canada I used to visit sheep farms and get magnificent wool. I learned how to card and spin the wool, and took weaving lessons from an old English woman on the looms her husband made. Last December we visited Ireland and I made my husband stop every few miles so that I could take pictures of the sheep. And you get to live with them every day!

      I am looking forward to a trip back to Europe this summer with Helene. Can hardly wait. Tonya

  24. Yvette permalink
    April 21, 2011 9:54 pm

    I was checking for some recepies and found your sight. Cabbage Strudel – as I started reading I saw your relatives are from Dolny Kubin. Thats where I use to live . Presently in Canada. My dad’s parents lived in Vysny Kubin we lived in Dolny Kubin and came to Canada in 1968. My maden name Mesko(Meshko – pronounced).

    • April 21, 2011 10:04 pm

      Hello, Yvette, I recognize that name! I will ask my family how they know it. Are you in Southwestern Ontario, by chance? Tonya

  25. yvette permalink
    April 21, 2011 10:08 pm


  26. Susan Prieur permalink
    September 2, 2011 6:53 pm

    Hi Tonya. I am a Lamos of the Lamos family of Bratislava. I would like to give you my e-mail so we can talk. I don’t want it on the blog though. I can’t believe you have some of the same pictures as I do. Susan Prieur

  27. Mariam Kashani permalink
    October 15, 2011 10:21 am

    Hi Tonya,
    Wow! You are truly amazing, from CEO to Chef!
    You gave me and my partner great advice 2 years ago regarding our concept of Personalized Case Management.
    Our patent has now been issued but we are unsure of how to proceed.
    If you have any ideas that might give us a first step we would be most grateful Tonya.
    Thanks again, Mariam Kashani
    (Debby’s daughter-in-law)

  28. Bill Kana permalink
    October 23, 2011 8:32 am

    Hi Tonya,
    Great Website! I especially like the Czech & Slovak recipes. My fathers parents were from Kunov Slovakia. I found your website while researching Milan Stefanik, My Great Grandmother is Francisska Stefanik. Would you know of any written or published genealogy of Milan Stefanik/ I would like to know if there is a connection.

    Again, great site!! & thanks for your time,


    • October 23, 2011 4:16 pm

      Hi Bill, Thank you and I am so glad you enjoy the blog. I recently bought a huge, rare and out of print book written in Slovak about Stefanik. I left in in Slovakia and hope to translate it one day. I will ask my family there if they can go through it to find her name. Do you know where she was born? Was she Lutheran? Was she born after 1900? If so, the records from each church are currently in Bratislava I believe, but all others before that are copied and with the Church of the Latter Day Saints. You can access them across the US at their Family Research Centers on microfiche. Go with your great grandmother’s name, approx year of birth, and town where she is from of you know it. If you don’t I would try entering the same town Stefanik is from, Košariská.


  29. December 21, 2011 4:17 am

    Hello from Brisbane, Australia. Thanks so much for the great post. It helped me a lot with my school cooking assignment 🙂

  30. October 7, 2012 10:27 am

    Tonya – I live in Rondeau Bay Estates near Morpeth in southern Ontario. I am trying to research some of the history of this subdivision. It is fascinating and deserves to be preserved. Some of the original residents are still alive and on their 90’s. That research has led me to your blog.
    I believe that your grandfather was the developer that had the vision for this place. Do you know if any of the original documents still exist? Or where I might find them – I have copies of some of the deeds and the names on the documents are Jerry & Pauline Shuster – JMS Developments.
    I have enjoyed reading your stories.You are an accomplished cook and I wish I had talents in that direction.

    • October 7, 2012 8:15 pm

      Hi Fran, how interesting to research this development! I will write you directly through email to share what I do know. I have a few stories about my grandfather’s real estate business and his work there. Tonya

  31. February 24, 2013 10:16 pm

    Hi Tonya, my grandfather was born in Pivnice, Duro Klucik, he just passed away 3 weeks ago at 91. His family was related to the Shusters. I wonder about your story about the Klucik brothers who returned home from the war — they may be related to my grandfather somehow. Thanks for this blog!

    • February 24, 2013 11:04 pm

      Hi there! The Klucik family is related to the Shusters! I see the Klucik name in my family tree in Pivnice. We must compare family trees. I am so sorry to hear your grandfather recently passed away, and I wish I had the opportunity to meet him. I have loved hearing the stories from “the old country” from his contemporaries. Tonya

      • Ján permalink
        July 6, 2013 3:53 pm

        Rodina Klúčik, Tonya, napíš mi kto bol otec Dura (Juraj) Klúčik a pozdrav jeho rodinu, aby sa ohláseli aj mne. S pozdravom, Ján Guba

  32. April 25, 2014 6:17 pm

    Greetings from Kulpin, Serbia.
    You have very interesting web site.
    Prajem Vam vsetko najlepsie!

  33. Barbara permalink
    June 2, 2014 8:36 am

    I just found your blog. Wow. I hope you can help me. My grandmother was from Moravia and was born in 1881. My mother talked about a dish called svetka ( probably need accents somewhere). This is an eggs and poppyseed in skillet (to quote my mother) . have you heard of it?

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