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Star Lauder

March 1, 2010

Young shepherd lying in the field

At the end of a hard day’s work, a thoughtful young peasant boy named Pavol used to lie in his father’s farm field and look up in awe at the un-obscured sky that stretched endlessly overhead.  The magnificence of the constellations and stars made him question his existence, and made him feel both small and significant at the same time. Later he would grow up to put these thoughts down on paper in the form of beautiful lyrical poetry, and would become a beacon for millions of Slovak people who would rise up in unison against hundreds of years of Magyar domination, recognize their own significance, and demand a country of their own.

Hviezdoslav - Poet and Writer

On a personal level, Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav would also greatly influence the lives of my ancestors and the trajectory of my own life, something I never knew until recently.  My great, great grandfather Jan Suster had offered each of his eight children a choice: either land or a post secondary education. Two of them – Michal, my great grandfather, and later his sister Karolina – chose education.   In 1909 at the age of 16, Michal packed up his few belongings and headed a few hours north to Dolny Kubin in what is now the north eastern part of Slovakia, where he would attend college over the next 4 years.  The small town was very poor, yet housed a school that would educate several artists and leaders who would play prominent roles in the future Czechoslovakia.

Painting of Hviezdoslav - Poet and Writer

The things Pavol thought about while slaving away at some mindless, repetitive task in the field propelled him to leave the farm to attend school in Hungary, where he eventually became a lawyer and one of the most prolific Slovak writers and poets of all time. In 1871 he wrote radical poetry that was not understood or appreciated by his elders; indeed, they ignored his work for the entire decade, and refused to publish him.  Around that time he coined the pen name “Hviezdoslav” (“Star-lauder”).

One of many Hviezdoslav street signs in Slovakia

Pavol went on to write epic poems and books and translated a massive amount of work into Slovak, including Shakespeare (Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and works by Goethe and Pushkin among others, and was nominated for a Nobel Prize for Literature for his work translating Madách (The Tragedy of Man) and for his anti-WWI poem, “Bloody Sonnet”.  He became the poet laureate of his country, and in 1918 he was elected to parliament in Czechoslovakia.

Hviezdoslav Stamp

This is exactly what captivates me about Slovaks.  One the one hand, as a people we are peaceful, even docile people living contentedly off the land under the tent of a great big sky.  Because of our relatively simple existence and happiness with few material goods, the greater world has perceived us to be ignorant, simple minded people.  But out in the fields and inside those Slovak farmhouses and homes in tiny hamlets and villages live people who positively radiate with creativity and intelligence.

Bratislava Statue of Pavol

It must have been a very heady experience to be so close to such a powerful and charismatic person as Pavol at the height of his popularity. Michal learned much from Pavol over those four years, and perhaps most importantly, he came away with a love of learning. He would pass this love on down to his two children, and they on to theirs and so forth. My grandfather, Jerry, Michal’s son, set the expectation that each of his five children would attend university, which they did, and the same expectation was set for the 11 grandchildren, and now again it is so for the next generation.  It amazes me to think that a poor peasant boy from 150 years ago who dreamed about the stars has caused me to reach for them myself.


The End of The Golden Horned Bull

February 22, 2010

Michal and Marisa Suster, in white, during WWI

It is said that history repeats itself, and in our family that has certainly been true.  Although life under Hapsburg control had its serious shortcomings, one branch of my family in that period  enjoyed a life largely of comfort and prestige.  The formation of Czechoslovakia would change all of that.

A tall, rather serious looking young man named Michal Suster (my paternal great grandfather) left home to go to school along with his younger sister Karolina in Dolny Kubin, in what is now Slovakia.  Michal and Karolina were two of the eight Slovak children of Stefan and Julia (Pintir) Suster in Pivnice, Yugoslavia. I found it curious that both went away to school at such a young age, especially for Karolina; she was one of the first Slovak women ever to graduate from school.

They attended Viššia obchodna škola (business school) and after graduating, Michal was in army school for reserve officers. During WWI he was a First Lieutenant for the Austro Hungarian Army, stationed in Timisoara, Romania.

Michal Suster, 1909

While in school, Michal met and fell in love with Marisa Andel, the beautiful young daughter of a wealthy landowner, and they married right before the beginning of WWI in 1913.  The Andel family had two other daughters as well, Illona and Gita. The Andels lived on a beautiful estate in Dolny Kubin, and their father was often seen riding his white stallion around the perimeter of the property.

Marisa Andel, Dolny Kubin, around 1913

When Marisa married Michal, she was given a dowry of ½ million dinars, a handsome sum at the time.  Marisa and Michal settled a few hours south of Dolny Kubin back near the Suster family in Pivnice, where they bought a large farm and would eventually build a hops processing plant.  Marisa and Michal soon had two children, Jaroslav (my grandfather “Jerry”), born during the war in 1915  and Igor three years later, a month after the end of WWI.

Officers in the Austro-Hungarian Army. My Great Grandfather Michal Suster is the First Lieutenant dressed in whites, standing at the far right.

Marisa Andel, around 1913

I remember how difficult it was to raise a small child when my husband, Nick was in the US Navy and gone for months at a time, and I imagine that Marisa, 22 at the time of Jaro’s birth, did not have it easy on the farm alone with the baby while Michal was away at war.  My son Will was born in late summer 1992 and soon after, Nick was on the USS Saipan, deployed in the Mediterranean for 6 months at a time.  Even when Nick was not out at sea, his work hours were atrocious; during Desert Storm he would be gone from 5 in the morning, returning after midnight each night, night after night, week after week.  For all intents and purposes I was a single parent, setting my own routine with Will and work.  My days started early too, with full time work and a small business on the side.  And with Nick unavailable, I was responsible for everything related to the house and the cars, from fixing a burned out pilot light in the furnace to cleaning up after a tornado.

Toddler Jaro Suster with Michal Suster on the farm, 1918

Igor and Jaro Suster, around 1920 - Love the shoes!

Life as a military wife away from my family was not only exhausting, it was lonely too; Nick missed the firsts –first step and first word, and it was somewhat bittersweet to experience these events alone. I assume Marisa’s life alone on the farm away from her parents and sisters would have been equally tiring, challenging and lonesome.

Marisa Andel, around 1915

Marisa and her sisters had lived a fairytale life of leisure provided by substantial family wealth. The Andels (Slovak for Angel is Anjel, and Andel is a derivative of it) were a family of lower nobility, descendants of Jan Andel, a Vladyka in the 1600s, the equivalent of a  Duke. Since at least the fourteenth century the knighted Andels had been wealthy landowners, luxuriating on expansive property – land, castles, manor houses – throughout what is now Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and what was then known as the Hapsburg Empire.

Oravsky Castle, Slovakia

The remains of over 150 stunning castles, fortresses and manor houses still exist throughout Slovakia, a country geographically smaller in size than the state of Virginia. One of the most fascinating is Oravsky Castle near Dolny Kubin, near where the Andel family lived.  The Andel family coat of arms featured a black bull with gold horns and hooves, and can be seen on some of the castles today.

Andel Coat of Arms

In 1919, Czechoslovakia established the Land Control Act.   The purpose of the Land Act was to reallocate wealth in the new country by expropriating it from the rich and the nobility such as the Andels. My great, great grandfather and his family lost nearly everything – their property in Dolny Kubin was handed over to the government, and they were left with but a small sum of money as compensation.  When the communists came into power, they built hideous apartment buildings on the property, eyesores to this day.  All that I know of that is left today of the Andel family’s fortune is a pair of black emerald earrings and a necklace, handed down to daughter-in-law Pauline, and then later to her daughter Lily.

Andel Bull – Black with Gold Horns and Hooves

And so goes the story of our extended family. Sacrifices are made, fortunes are inherited or earned, and then lost either through poor management or more often, expropriated by the government, dishonest business partners or greedy investors. The Andel family misfortune has repeated itself over and over in the past 100 years, across generations and continents.

Around the World and Home at Last

February 21, 2010

Leaving Vladivostok by ship, 1920

The American Red Cross coordinated the return home for the tens of thousands of Legionnaires left in Vladivostok in 1920, arranging transportation with numerous countries who supplied an astonishing 42 ships varying greatly in terms of sea-worthiness and comfort.  These ships circumnavigated the globe, travelling through all sorts of exotic ports of call over the next year. Some of the Czechs and Slovaks sailed through Australia, while others travelled through Hong Kong, Singapore, Ceylon, Suez, Dubrovnik, Egypt, India, Canada and yes, the United States.

Exotic ports of call for Legionnaires, 1920

Interestingly, over 2,500 of those sailing back to the new country of Czechoslovakia were women and children; I suspect they were Russians who had become romantically involved with some of the Legion members during their extended stay in Russia, such as the women below, who sold them food at the various train stations along the Trans Siberian Railway.

Russian women selling meat, bread, pickles and other food

The American Red Cross offered food, clothing, supplies, shelter and medical attention to the Legion and their Allies, including protection against typhus, a potentially deadly disease spread by tics and fleas which would take the life of one of Paul’s family members one day.

They also provided communication services to the families of the soldiers back home in the US, and offered educational and employment services to thousands of Russians and to Armenian and Serbian refugees who were in Russia avoiding persecution back home.  During the Christmas season of 1918, the Japan Chapter of the Red Cross made comfort bags for the men, and provided knitted hats, sweaters and other presents to them as well.

Alice Buckman and other Red Cross volunteers about to set sail from Seattle to Siberia, 1919

Christmas has always been an important time for celebration for Czechs and Slovaks, and that was no different while in the Army in Siberia. In 1918 and 1919, the Legion celebrated the holiday with food and other cultural expressions, including postcards and painted boxcars.  In my home, pork is an essential part of many of our Slovak meals, especially sausage, and it appears to have been no different in Siberia. Tongue in cheek Christmas cards depict a pig pulling Santa’s sleigh instead of deer.

Christmas Santa-Pig, Legion Postcard 1920

Many Legion units decorated their boxcars, expressing their love of a woman back home, a religious or holiday scene.  Their artistry is incredible, I think, expressing hope and joy despite war.  More of these pictures can be seen on Pauline’s Facebook Fan page photo album.

Legion decorated boxcar, Siberia 1919

The term “Czechoslovak Legion” was not widely used during the war but was adopted shortly after World War I ended.  It is primarily based on their French connection – they were led by General Stefanik, the Slovak general who served in the French Army, and so essentially they reported to France and were thought of as part of the French Foreign Legion.  And initially when Czechoslovakia was originally formed, the new government operated out of France. While the majority of the Czechoslovak Legion was Czech (90%) and fought in Russia, others fought in Italy, Serbia and France.  Some of the boxcars were painted in French, as an homage to the French Foreign Legion.

Czechoslovak Legion boxcar decorated in French

When the Legion members finally arrived home to their newly formed country, they were welcomed as heroes, with a parade in the streets of Prague.  Their brave efforts had clearly helped form the new country, and the leaders of the Legion, Tomas Masaryk, Eduard Benes and Milan Stefanik became respectively, President, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Secretary of Defense in Czechoslovakia.  Benes later became the second president of Czechoslovakia.

Czechoslovak Legion welcomed home

The Legionnaires were paid back handsomely for their military service by the new country of Czechoslovakia, and with that money thousands of Legion members helped to fund the Czechoslovak Legion Bank. It is also rumored that at least one of the boxcars of gold bullion obfuscated from the White Russians in Siberia helped build the striking cubist-style bank building.  To be a Legionnaire in the 1920’s was an honor, and the new nation recognized Legion battles as national holidays and celebrated their heroism with movies, books, pageants and marches, according to Bruce Bendinger, who made a recent documentary about the Legion.

Interior of the Czechoslovak Legion Bank

Life in the new country of Czechoslovakia over the next decade or so either flourished or diminished, depending on whether you were Czech, Slovak or German, and upon your prior status under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. For members of my family, while it meant freedom of language and expression in Slovak and unprecedented access to higher education for some, it also meant devastating loss for others.

Kugler Torta (Kugler Cake)

February 15, 2010

Café Gerbeaud, Budapest

Cafe Gerbeaud, located in Budapest, is one of the oldest, most traditional and famous coffeehouses in Europe. Originally called Kugler’s, it was started in 1858 in Pest by Hungarian Henrik Kugler, a 3rd generation, French-trained confectioner. Kugler became famous for his imported Russian and Chinese teas, and for his ice creations, (the best ice in Pest) as well as for his tortas (cakes) and mignons, little cakes known today as petit fours.   Kugler also came up with the idea of allowing his patrons to take home their cakes and pies in paper boxes, an idea that quickly caught on across Europe.

Café Gerbeaud

In 1882 while on a trip to Paris, Kugler met Emil Gerbeaud. He became entranced with Gerbeaud’s talent and entrepreneurial spirit, and they soon became partners. By 1899, under Gerbeaud’s direction Kugler’s cafe grew to 150 employees, employed modern machinery and carried hundreds of sweet confections  – pastries, butter creams, Parisian crèmes, short cakes, chocolates and candies.  Pastry chefs from across Europe came to Kugler’s to work with this famous chef and the cafe became synonymous with high quality and artistic creation.  Gerbeaud won many international awards over the years, including the Legion of Honour at the Paris World Fair in 1900.  Soon after  the fair, Kugler died and the place was henceforth known as “Gerbeaud’s”.

Café Gerbeaud, Budapest

The Kugler Torta was one of Gerbeaud’s most famous cakes.  In my research, I have not come across another recipe for this cake, although I am sure there are other hazelnut cake recipes out there, just none with this name. Pauline’s good friend who wrote her pastry cookbook for her was employed as a pastry chef for a wealthy family in Novi Sad in the 1920’s and 30’s , and I assume that she learned this recipe from another chef who trained at Gerbeaud’s.

Gerbeaud died in 1919, after suffering through the difficult years of WWI.  His wife took over, and sold the cafe in 1940. From 1950-1984 while under communist control, the place was drastically altered and the name changed. In 1995 a German businessman bought the place and restored it to its stunning original beauty with its exotic woods, marble and bronze.

Bake this cake and brew some tea.  Then sit down, close your eyes and imagine yourself back 150 years ago, sitting at a French marble-top table in Gerbeaud’s, listening to animated conversations at nearby tables and to the clatter of teaspoons against the fine bone china. Sip your Russian imported tea, and enjoy each delectable bite of this light and airy hazelnut rum cake.

Kugler Torta



  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1 and 1/5 cup sugar
  • ½ vanilla pod (1 tsp vanilla)
  • 2 and 2/5 cup roasted and ground hazelnuts (or ground cookies)
  • 2/5 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp rum
  • 7 egg whites
  • (video below also calls for 6 tbsp butter)

Filling Ingredients:

  • 8 tbsp butter
  • 2/5 cup sugar
  • 3 squares baking chocolate


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ¼ cup nuts such as hazelnuts
  • ¼ cup icing sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Mix together the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, flour and rum on medium speed of mixer for 1-2 min until thoroughly combined
  3. Whip egg whites to stiff peak
  4. Fold egg whites into egg yolk mixture gently until just blended
  5. Fold in ground nuts or cookies
  6. Scrape batter into buttered and floured 9 inch baking pan
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes until toothpick comes out clean
  8. Cool
  9. When cool, split into two layers
  10. Spread  bottom layers with filling, top with remaining layer
  11. Whip cream and icing sugar, and spread on top and sides of cake; pipe decorative cream on top
  12. Decorate top with nuts


Here is a video of the making of a Kugler Torta:


Pauline’s Kugler Torta Recipe

Chicken Paprikash with Halusky

February 11, 2010

Chicken Paprikash with Halusky, garnished with parsley

On a cold, blustery winter night like we’ve had all week here in the DC area, I like to make Chicken Paprikash served with Halusky, Slovak potato dumplings, for the ultimate Slovak comfort food. A delicious, quick and easy dinner meal to prepare during the week, Pauline used to make this for her family all the time on the farm. As a kid I loved to smell it cooking on the stove, and even more, I loved to eat it.

The dish tasted extraordinary on the farm, I am sure, when it was made with my Grandpa Jerry’s own paprika, grown, ground and dried by him on the farm. But’s that’s a whole other story for another blog post…

Paprikash Ingredients:

  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp Hungarian Paprika (it’s sweeter)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Chicken, cut up (I use chicken thighs)
  • 1 cup Chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup or so  Sour Cream (I use fat free)

Paprikash Steps:

  1. Saute the onions until golden brown in 1 tbsp olive oil
  2. Sprinkle in the paprika, salt and pepper, stirring until well blended
  3. Place chicken pieces on top of onions (I brown my chicken pieces first, coated with flour and paprika)
  4. Pour chicken broth over chicken and onions
  5. Cook with lid on, simmering until chicken is done, about 10-15 min
  6. Stir in sour cream right a minute or two before serving
  7. Serve with desired starch, and a light cucumber salad and you have a complete meal

I garnished the dish with fresh, chopped parsley.  A real Slovak eats this with Halusky, potato dumplings (I loved Grandma’s Halusky). Less interesting, you can also eat it with rice, noodles or dumplings such as German spaetzle.

Halusky Ingredients

  • 2-3 Potatoes
  • 1 cup Flour or so
  • Salt
  • 1 Egg

Halusky Steps:

  1. Peel the potatoes and shred them finely.
  2. Mix in the egg and flour and make a dough that is firm and not to watery. You may use more or less flour or add a little bit of water if it is too tough.
  3. Add a tsp of salt.
  4. Boil water with 2 tbsp of salt.
  5. With a knife, cut off small pieces of dough and quickly drop them into a pot of boiling water. Be sure the water is always boiling.
  6. When the Halusky are done, they will float on top of the water
  7. Skim them out with a strainer.

If you are going to eat the Halusky on its own, you can follow these next steps. Otherwise, the Halusky prepared up until this point is ready to be served with the Paprikash. Just sprinkle it with some salt and pepper and dig in.

  1. Slovak Halusky can be mixed with sheep’s cheese called Bryndza.
  2. If you can’t find this cheese, mix 1/2 c Feta cheese with 1/2 c sour cream
  3. Place the cheese and sour cream in a pot and heat it up
  4. When it starts to boil, remove it from the heat.
  5. Cut up little pieces of bacon and fry them.
  6. Serve Halusky with the cheese sauce on top and sprinkle with the bacon pieces.

Dream of Moonstruck Idealists

February 10, 2010

In the spring of 1918, the Cossacks had joined the fight with the White Army. The Cossacks were an adventurous group of people, nomadic “free men” who had achieved special status under the Czar’s regime, employed as border controls and special force soldiers.  When Lenin and his Red Army had taken power the year before, the Cossacks lost their special status in government, and now this infamous group of mercenary fighters was looking for revenge.

Russian Cossacks in WWI

In one particularly bloody incident, over 800 Bolsheviks were brutally murdered in Vladivostok by the Cossacks – shot, hung, buried alive and beaten to death. When asked why the Bolsheviks were executed in so many different and painful ways, the Cossack General said, “the executioners get bored.”

Bolsheviks murdered by White Russian Forces

It does not appear that the Legion itself was completely innocent; there is a disturbing picture of Legion members in Vladivostok standing over a row of murdered Bolsheviks, bodies lined up like sandbags in a ditch, apparently bludgeoned by the Legion army.  In another picture, there is a room filled with lifeless Bolshevik men and women tossed together, slaughtered by some members of the White Army and their Allies.  These events and others like them turned the stomachs of Paul and his fellow soldiers.

Bolsheviks hung by White Russian Forces

Bolsheviks executed by White Russian Forces

The reputation of the Legion as a powerful force not to be reckoned with remained undisputed. When the Czar had abdicated his thrown, the empire’s fortune in gold was given to the White Russian Army for safe keeping.  The head of the White Russian Army, Admiral Kolchak, took it upon himself to watch over the bounty. Believing the safest place was with the seemingly unbeatable Czechoslovak Legion, the Admiral loaded up the gold bullion into 10 boxcars, and placed the train into the hands of the Legion, who by now controlled the Trans Siberian Railway. The Admiral stayed with the Legion, allowing the Legion to protect not only the gold, but himself as well.

Admiral Kolchak, leader of the White Russian Army

Three months after the Siberian Intervention was launched in Russia by allied forces, the goal of national independence for Slovaks and Czechs was realized. Despite the sneering declaration of adversaries that this goal was nothing but “a dream of moonstruck idealists,” the new nation of Czechoslovakia was finally proclaimed on October 28, 1918, and the Czechs and Slovaks were free at last from the tyranny of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Two weeks later, Germany surrendered and on November 11, 1918 WWI ended.

Paul and his fellow Legionnaires felt that with the occurrence of these two monumental events, combined with war fatigue and with a growing desire to distance themselves from the ruthless fighting of their fellow comrades, the Cossacks, their motivation to continue to fight in Russian’s civil war was petering out. Paul thought, “Why do we want to continue in this battle? Our goal of establishing our own nation has been achieved. There is nothing left to fight for.” And so, despite nearly capturing the Russian capital of Moscow by coming within 100 miles of it, in December 1918, Paul and his unit, and half of the Legion army quit the war and headed back on foot to their new home.

A Legion unit posing in front of a captured train

The remaining Legionnaires and their White Russian Allies were pushed further and further back towards Vladivostok. The Legion read the handwriting on the wall and, once again flipping sides, decided to cut a deal with the Bolsheviks. In return for handing over Admiral Kolchak and the boxcars of Imperial gold, in January, 1919 the Bolsheviks promised the Legion and its Allies safe passage to Vladivostok and an unhindered departure home. On February 7, 1919, the Bolsheviks executed Admiral Kolchak, ending most of the White Army resistance in Siberia.  It took another year, but by April 1920, most of the Alliance troops and remaining Legionnaires finally departed Vladivostok by sea.

Legion departing Vladivostok, 1920

It would take yet another year of travel to get back to Czechoslovakia, and about that gold?  Rumor has it they only handed over 8 of the 10 gold-filled boxcars…

Gold Bullion

(The pictures in this article are from the website, Wikipedia and the Slovak site http://www.Tatranci.SK)


January 29, 2010


When I went to Paris last spring, the most delectable indulgence discovered was a cookie called a Macaron (note the one “o”, not two: the macaroon is a completely different animal). In Paris you can actually buy les Macarons in stores dedicated to them, of which the most famous is Pierre Hermes.  These sublime concoctions are displayed in cases like beautiful jewels and are made in the most incredible colours and flavours.  Lines form out the door to purchase these extravagant treats, even though one cookie costs 2 euros, and a slender box of 7 costs 15 euros.

Pierre Hermes Shop, Paris

I thought that only the French would take such time and care to perfect these jewelled morsels, and so what a pleasant surprise it was to discover that in my grandmother’s 80 year old Slovak cookbook was a recipe for them, called Pusedle.  I’ve also learned that macarons were around in France in the late 1800’s.

Pusedle literally translates into little pile, as best I can tell. The cookies are made up of two little piles of baked meringue filled with a creamy ganache center.  When baked, the meringues are like little parachutes, smooth and round on the outside side, with crinkly edges and hollow shells on the inside.

In the Slovak recipe, the pusedle are not coloured. However, in Paris, the cookies were coloured with food colouring or chocolate, and then filled with a wide variety of flavored ganache fillings such as lemon, chocolate, olive oil and vanilla, fleur de sel and caramel, litchi and rose, pistachio, earl grey tea, etc.


I have two versions of the recipe for the Pusedle – so take your pick. The latter recipe is more like the French Macaron. The fillings are the same for each.


2 eggs whites

250 grams sugar

1 teaspoon vinegar


4 egg whites

400 g sugar

4 tbsp lemon juice

400 g ground almonds

1 package vanilla sugar

Lemon filling:

4 egg yolks
2 lemons – rind and juice
250 g. powdered sugar
2 spoons vanilla sugar
125 g.  Butter

Pusedle Steps:

  1. Whip the egg whites to a stiff snow.
  2. Gradually add the sugar, then lemon juice, ground nuts and vanilla sugar.
  3. Mix well, and then spoon a little onto a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet into little piles – the pusedle.
  4. Bake at 300 degrees F for 20-25 minutes
  5. Cool these little pusedle

Filling Steps:

  1. Mix the egg yolks with lemon rind, powdered sugar, vanilla suar and butter
  2. Mix until smooth and foamy
  3. Spread with a thick layer of the filling onto one pusedle
  4. carefully place two pusedle together

You can watch Martha Stewart make macarons here:

These cookies are best eaten within a day of making them; this should be a problem for you.  The weather can affect the pusedle – if it is too humid, they will crack and sink.  Set the eggwhites out (separated) at room temperature for at least 8 hours before whipping them.  This will help make smooth and glossy cookies.