Brownies

Brownie with caramel sauce
Brownie with caramel sauce

I had to test this recipe a few times before publication ūüėČ Being homebound for the COVID-19 is a fine time to bake, if you can find the ingrediants. Meg has been super productive and today one of the things she set her sights on Brownies.

Ingredients
125 g butter
3 Tablespoons Coconut oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 packets vanilla sugar
3 large eggs or 4 small ones
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour
200 g diced dark chocolate bar/ chocolate chips

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350¬įF (175¬įC). Prep pan with either parchment paper or oil and flour. I used a 9″ round springform pan.

Melt oils together in a glass bowl. Stir in sugars. Whisk in eggs. Add salt. Sift in cocoa powder and flour and fold into batter. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into pan.

Bake for ~20 minutes. Adjust baking time by testing center with a toothpick. When it comes out clean, it is done. Let cool. Dust with powdered sugar. Nom nom nom nom.

Brownies
Brownies

Happy Easter 2020

Meg’s 2020 Easter decorations

2020 Easter is not like most others, but we managed to make it as nice as we could. In particular Meg went out of her way to try to make it as nice as possible with lots of decorations, and she even came up with some fun games for us. She hung up some candies from our loft, which we had to jump and touch, in order to get them. We also had a race trying to hold easter eggs on a spoon. Meg was the only one who didn’t drop the egg.

We also kept up some old traditions, in particular making hot cross buns. Meg helped a bunch. She has been practicing making pizza dough the last couple months, and she is getting pretty good at kneading. We are lucky that we had enough flour and yeast, which have been hard to find during the Corona-virus crisis. We also lucked out with the weather. It has been sunny and around 70 F all week long. We enjoyed our Easter dinner of ham, green beans, and potato dumplings on the balcony.

Bike ride to the town castle

Fedibbletys at Burg Wilhelmstein

The weather in our neck of the woods has been really nice lately – sunny with highs around 70 most of the last 2 weeks. While the playgrounds and beer gardens are closed, at least we are still allowed to get exercise outside in groups of 2, or with the immediate family. We have been taking advantage of that to try to get out and enjoy the fresh air as much as we can.

Shortly after we moved to Germany we bought bikes for all of us. The one that we got for Clare turned out not to be a good fit, so she hadn’t been biking at all. Last summer I bought some extra bikes for visitors, and upgrades for the growing children. Clare agreed to try one of these extra bikes, and it has worked out quite well. With the extra time on our hands she was able to test it out without any particular destination or time pressure, and after a few test runs, was willing to try a longer ride. I had done this ride a couple times before – once with Meg, and once with the Soule-Reeves when they visited last summer. It is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) each way, mostly on bike paths.

Rob under strangely grown tree at the castle
Meg loves picking wildflowers

When we got there, we had a little snack we had brought with us and Meg gave us a bit of a tour around the outside (the inside was closed because of Corona restrictions, but contains a fancy restaurant, and open-air amphitheater, and a mini-golf course). Meg had been there recently for a treasure-hunt birthday party, and showed us where the treasure was. Hopefully we will find more time soon for family bike rides.

View from the castle

Banana Bread – Muffin Recipe

I’ve been making this recipe long enough that I have made it my own and want to keep track of the recipe. Spencer loves these muffins with cream cheese. These have been a good treat to make during the COVID-19 isolation, until we ran out of cream cheese.

Ingredients
1/3 cup (75 g) melted butter
3 very ripe bananas, peeled
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla sugar packet
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 Preheat the oven to 350¬įF (175¬įC), and spray oil in a silicon muffin pan.

2 In a mixing bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Mash bananas into melted butter.

3 Stir in the sugar, beaten egg, and vanilla sugar (or extract).

4 Mix in the baking soda and salt. Sift and mix in the flour in 3 half-cup portions.

5 Pour the batter into your prepared muffin pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 350¬įF (175¬įC), or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If you prefer it as bread, you can use a loaf pan, but then it bakes longer ~ 45 minutes.

6 Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for a few minutes. Then remove the banana muffins from the pan and let cool completely before storing, if there are any left after devouring them while still warm.

Originally inspired by this recipe: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/banana_bread/

Meg’s project week

Rosa rosado rosina

The last week has been anything but usual for most of the world, including at our home in W√ľrselen, Germany. Schools have been closed since Monday, and throughout the week more and more businesses closed. Rob’s company recommended working from home as of Monday. Clare stayed home Monday, but went in Tuesday, only to find out that the entire research institute was closing as well.

Magnets, meal plan, and manners chart
Magnets, meal plan, and manners chart
Spring has sprung
Spring has sprung

Last weekend Clare put together a fantastic schedule mimicking the kids normal school day, comprised of 45 minute blocks with some 5 minute breaks, and a couple longer breaks as well. We also came up with a bunch of different types of school-related activities for the kids to do. Both of the kids were going to have assignments from their teachers, but they didn’t come immediately. I had to pick up Meg’s assignments from the school in person on Tuesday. Spencer’s assignments came via e-mail on Wednesday and Thursday. While we waited for these assignments, we thought of some ourselves, such as logic puzzles, typing lessons, and art projects. Meg came up with several projects on her own as well. Some she had already started before the Corona virus changed all of our lives, such as the small greenhouse she got for her birthday. Meg had also been pushing hard to use her whiteboard for meal planning for many weeks, which we finally implemented just a few weeks ago, once I found some magnets to hold it up on the refrigerator. After the first day home, which involved a fair amount of fighting and complaining, I also asked Meg to create a behavior chart, which she accomplished lickety-split.

One silver lining for us was the weather – it is definitely feeling like Spring here, and after several weeks of clouds and rain, the sun finally came out. We let the kids play at the park for “recess” until Wednesday afternoon, when they officially closed all the playgrounds. Saturday we walked to the farm stand to get more fresh milk, eggs, and butter, and strawberries (yes, local strawberries in March – much earlier than normal). We saw a few other people out walking, but definitely much emptier than a normal Saturday here. Clare went shopping on Tuesday afternoon. She reported that the store was not as busy as normal. They have not implemented maximum number of people at a time like in some places. But they were out of many things, without much rhyme or reason as far as we can tell. Like other places around the world, toilet paper seems to be in high demand. In fact, apparently someone in W√ľrselen smashed a car window recently to steal toilet paper out of it. They were not out of canvases though, so Clare picked up a couple so Meg could paint some. Meg decided that we needed a pretty picture in our bedroom. She has dubbed the painting “Rosa rosada rosina”

Crazy times. We are getting through it though, and Meg has been super helpful. She remains cheerful (most of the time), and we really appreciate all her various projects.

Pizza pie

Half margherita half pepperoni pizza

Today Meg and I tried out a pizza recipe from her favorite cookbook that my mom got her a couple years ago. They were a big hit. I think we will add it to our normal rotation.

Putting on the toppings

Putting on the sauce
Punching down the dough

Happy Birthday Meg

Galaxy Cake

Similar to Spencer’s birthday, we celebrated Meg’s birthday first at home, and then with friends. For her birthday dinner, she decided on French toast and fruit salad. To celebrate with friends, she picked a place in the Netherlands called Clip n Climb, which was the location for one of her friends’ parties last fall. This year she requested a galaxy cake. Two of her friends asked for the recipe, so it was definitely a hit. That’s another notch on Clare’s cake-making belt. Even though she claims to not be good at it, she has a track record of some pretty incredible cakes.

One of the climbing adventures was a timed one – Meg did it about 10 times in a row, getting faster each time. I think her first one was over 40 seconds, and she eventually got done to about 15 seconds!

Happy birthday Spencer

Ice cream cake for an 11 year old

This year we didn’t really celebrate Spencer’s birthday directly on his birthday, because his birthday was over Carnival weekend, and we instead went to Berlin for a long weekend. Instead we adjusted the schedule a bit, but kept some of the traditions. We had Spencer’s family birthday dinner of Schnitzel, K√§sesp√§tzle, Broccoli and ice cream cake with Dave and Ellen on the 18th. Then on Friday the 28th Spencer and most of his soccer team, plus his best friend from school Andre celebrated at the local laser tag place. It was legen — wait for it — dary!

Bundestag

Our last day in Berlin was probably my favorite – we took a tour of the Bundestag, including the dome. The Reichstag building was built in 1894 and housed the German parliament until 1933, when it was damaged by fire, and the Nazis dissolved parliament. The fire was an act of arson, which was blamed on a Dutch Communist, but was likely done by the Nazis themselves as an excuse to dissolve parliament. It wasn’t until 1999 that it began to house parliament again. Tours are free, but need to be booked well in advance, which Clare took care of. She was able to reserve a tour in English, which was helpful for her parents to understand what was going on. Some other interesting aspects of the restoration include leaving some of the graffiti left by Soviet soldiers after the end of World War II.

Suit up

Fedibbletys at MacLaren’s Pub in Berlin

One of the benefits of the Welcome Berlin card we bought for the public transit was some discounts at some restaurants – we were able to take advantage of these several times. One of the options was at MacLaren’s Pub, a restaurant created after the pub of the same name from the tv show How I met your Mother. We had just recently finished watching the show together as a family, and the kids were very excited to go there. The 5 minute walk from the subway seemed longer in the wind and rain, but it was worth it. They had all sorts of cool memorabilia, and pretty good food and drinks too. Spencer and I wanted to suit up for the occasion, which meant that we both bought new ties at the mall of Berlin.