Happy Mother’s Week 2022

This past Sunday we celebrated Mother’s Day. Alice was particularly excited for it. It was a very food-filled holiday.

French toast

Alice woke up early while the rest of us were still sleeping to make Nutella French toast sandwiches, which were very tasty. She also got Clare a “world’s best mom” mug to match my “world’s best dad” mug. Although we seem to have forgotten to take photographic evidence, she also picked some beautiful wildflowers, which reminded Clare of how she celebrated Mother’s Day as a child growing up in rural Indiana.

Huevos rancheros

After our first breakfast snack, we cleaned up and then started getting ready for brunch. Clare had requested huevos rancheros, so we made that. Our friend Thomas and Ulli joined us, and brought along their tortilla press. We also had mimosas and cappuccino.

Kaffee und Kuchen

After brunch, I prepared for the next meal – pie. It is strawberry and rhubarb season. I got fresh strawberries and rhubarb from the local farm stand, and made a tasty pie. I used a bit of whole wheat flour for a change, which gives it a different look, but it was still tasty. I also used some cheap margarine instead of getting expensive Crisco from Amazon. It turned out okay. Once it came out of the oven, we headed into downtown Würselen for CityFest, which was your average little street fair, with special food vendors, beer, political parties giving info about the upcoming election, a flea market, some bouncy houses, and live music. We walked through, then ended up in the city park for awhile before we walked back to enjoy coffee, pie, and cake (chocolate banana nut cake that Thomas made) on the balcony. (Alice found some friends at CityFest and decided to stay longer)

Special dinner

One of Clare’s favorite dishes is scallops. I got some fresh ones from the fish monger on Saturday, and prepared them in a simple garlic lemon butter sauce. I forgot to pat them dry before putting them in the pan, and almost ruined them by cooking them for too long, but Clare saved the day by suggesting I just take them out, drain the liquid, and put them back in for a minute. Spencer was a great help peeling potatoes and asparagus. Clare has gotten really good at making Hollandaise sauce, so she made some.

The card that Alice made

The celebration concludes this Saturday with a visit to the Aachen theatre to view a performance of Holst’s The Planets symphony

Koblenz

German corner, as seen from the fortress Ehrenbreitstein

After a long day of travel and touring castle Eltz, we had a more relaxing day to spend in Koblenz. As usual, Clare found us an amazing place to stay. One of the things that really surprised be about Koblenz is how quiet it was. For a town of over 100,000 people I had expected it to be a little bit louder and more boisterous. I really enjoyed the calm and quiet though. We stayed in the Neuendorf neighborhood, across the Rhine from the fortress Ehrenbreitstein. There was a bakery within walking distance, so naturally I got us some fresh rolls. We had a leisurely breakfast, then set strolled along the Rhine for 20 minutes to get to the little ferry to take us across the Mosel to the German corner ( das Deutsche Eck),

German corner

Das Deutsche Eck was created by Kaiser Wilhelm II as a memorial to his father Kaiser Wilhelm I, who united Germany in 1871. The statue is the largest in the world of its kind, weighing 63 tons, and is 45 feet tall (just the bronze statue, not including the base). It was destroyed in World War Two, but a new statue was made and placed there in 1993, nearly 50 years later)

Gondola

After gawking at the gigantic statue we got in line to take the gondola across the Rhine to the Ehrenbreitstein fortress. We ended up getting a combo deal which included the gondola both ways, admission to the fortress, and a one hour boat ride for only 23€ for the adults and 13.50€ for the kids. What a deal!

Fortress Ehrenbreitstein

The fortress has been around a long time, and was considered to be the safest place for the Kurfürsten from Trier. Not only does it have really impressive massive walls, but it also boasts great views of Koblenz. After touring around for a bit we had lunch in the cafe there overlooking the Rhine.

Art Exhibit

There were many exhibits of all sorts in the fortress, including an art exhibit by Monika Kropshofer, who had these really cool pictures printed on a sort of transparent corrugated plastic, with one picture on the back part and a different one on the front, creating a 3-D sort of effect. We all found them very fascinating.

Boat tour

After lunch we took the gondola back across and the river and then enjoyed the one hour boat ride up and down the Rhine and Mosel around Koblenz. The weather was great and we sat up top, but at some point it suddenly got very windy – so windy in fact that the glasses and plates on the tables started flying away and breaking. So we enjoyed the rest of the ride from one level below.

Old town Koblenz

After the boat ride, Dave, Ellen, Alice, and Spencer went back to the fabulous vacation rental and cooked some dinner there. Clare and I toured around old town Koblenz a bit more, popping our heads in churches and shops, and enjoyed a couple beers at the beer garden by the German corner. Then we enjoyed a little picnic along the Rhine before heading back in for the night.

Departure

The next morning Dave and Ellen got an early taxi at 6 a.m. to catch a train back to Frankfurt, and a plane back to Denver. We walked about an hour to the train station to catch our train back to Aachen, which was once again delayed. We ended up catching a different train in Cologne than our original scheduled one, and got back around 12:30, which left a couple hours to relax at home before we had to take Alice to meet up with the scouts for their annual Troop games campout, which is her favorite. She brought along her trumpet to play some songs, and had a good time, though as always, came home exhausted.

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Alice ready for her scout trip

Eltz castle

Burg Eltz from above

Tuesday morning we awoke early to make our 7:15 train from Aachen. For reasons I don’t fully understand, every single train we took over Easter break was either delayed or cancelled, and we were not able to complete any of the originally scheduled itineraries as planned. However, we did always manage to make it to our destination one way or the other. We first traveled from Aachen to Köln, then to Koblenz, and finally on to Moselkern. Our train to Koblenz was about 20 minutes late, which meant we missed the first train to Moselkern, and had to wait for the next hourly train. Clare, Dave, and I walked around Koblenz a bit to kill the time. The ride from Koblenz to Moselkern was very beautiful, with views of the Mosel river, vineyards, and lots of little towns along the way.

Clare had read that we should expect taxis to be waiting at the Moselkern train station to take us to Burg Eltz, which turned out not to be the case. Maybe only in high season. We were able to call a taxi though, and made it to the castle for a tour. The taxi dropped us off at the parking lot, and then there is a small hike down to the castle. We got our tickets and then got in line for the tour, which was about a 45 minute wait. The tour itself was also about 45 minutes. We learned all sorts of neat facts. The castle was not built as a military castle, but rather an economic castle, to collect tolls from merchants along the trade route. Shortly after being built in the 12th century, the castle was divided among three sons, and they each had their own separate houses on the grounds. One line eventually died out, and the other one sold their stake to the remaining Kempenich family in 1815, which has been the sole owner and operator of the castle ever since; apparently they sometimes still live there. At some point they remodeled to add passageways between the formerly distinct houses. One interesting fact about the castle is that it was not sacked by Napoleon, unlike most of the other castles along the Rhein and Mosel. The story goes that they never found it, since it is kind of tucked away.

The tour did not allow photographs, so I am including some interior shots from postcards. Some other fun facts from the tour we learned – the castle has 40 fireplaces and over 20 toilets (which just dumped outside). The kitchen had an open fire, and a neat ratcheted contraption to raise and the lower the level of pots and pans over the fire, to control the temperature. It also had two “refrigerators”, which were just rooms with really thick walls and heavy doors – the outside wall of the kitchen was over nine feet thick.

After the tour, we also visited the treasury, which housed all sorts of weapons, jewelry, fine china, golden chalices and other valuables the family had collected over the years. Then we decided to stop at the little cafe for a bite to eat. After a little chance to rest, we decided to hike back down to Moselkern. We kept getting different information about the length of the hike, but in the end it seemed to be about 3 miles or so. We had perfect weather, and the path was beautiful, with lots of wildflowers and early spring leaves coming out. The sound of the Eltz river going by, and the birds chirping was very calming. It was a very long walk for 70 year olds though. At some point it seemed like Dave and Ellen couldn’t make it, but eventually we did make it back to the train station, to wait for another delayed train.

After we arrived back in Koblenz, I make a quick trip to the Aldi we had discovered during our previous stop in Koblenz and picked up a few things to make dinner. I was going to get stuff to make peanut butter noodles, in memory of our Greece trip, in which that was the only thing we had available, but Aldi was out of peanut butter, so I just got some tomato sauce instead. Then we got a taxi to our final destination, the Rheinterrasse vacation apartment, which was absolutely beautiful. It would have been better if we could have stayed one day longer there to do a bit more relaxing, with the beautiful view of the Rhine, but we had too many other things we wanted to see while we were in Koblenz.

To be continued …

Happy Easter 2022

Easter dinner

This year for Easter Dave and Ellen came to visit. The original plan was that we would meet them in Frankfurt at the airport on Wednesday, then head over to Munich for a couple days, then back to Würselen for Easter Sunday and Monday. After two years of avoiding it, I finally caught Covid, and passed it to Spencer as well. Clare and Alice managed to avoid it; perhaps they have built up T-Cells in their immune system to fight it off. So Spencer and I stayed home while the rest of the entourage enjoyed Munich. By Saturday, Spencer and I both tested negative, and were starting to feel a little bit better. After a bit of train troubles, I finally picked up the travelers near Cologne on Saturday near dusk, and we enjoyed a dinner of pulled-pork sandwiches before heading to bed, with dreams of candies.

Sunday morning we had dyed eggs, hot cross buns, and candy. I only made a single batch of hot cross buns this year since there is still no flour in the grocery stores due to the grain shortage as a result of the Ukraine war. Since I didn’t really have a good sized pan to put them in all together, I decided to try putting them in a muffin tin, and they turned out quite good.

After breakfast, we took a walk past our new house, and enjoyed looking at all the flowers and trees in bloom.

After the walk we enjoyed another hot cross bun and coffee while we prepared dinner – ham, sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole. After dinner many of us took a little nap, then we played some poker.

Easter dinner
Easter dinner
Dave and Spencer playing poker
Dave and Spencer playing poker

On Easter Monday, Alice made French toast for breakfast, along with more hard boiled eggs and Easter candy. Then we went to our favorite walking place in the Würselen forest, and enjoyed the birds chirping and the spring foliage, along with a little picnic lunch. It’s nice to have family for the holidays.

Clare, Alice, Dave & Ellen go to München

Our whole family plus Clare’s parents were supposed to go visit München together, but a few days before we were supposed to leave, Rob and Spencer got sick and tested positive for COVID. Luckily it was not a life threatening case, but they were both sick for close to a week. Luckily, Clare and Alice were able to avoid catching it and we were able to travel with my parents to stay away from the apartment until the boys tested negative.

The (grand)parents arrived at Frankfurt airport and we travelled together by train. There was a delay due to a medical emergency on the tracks. It was annoying to be delayed, but not the worst day of our lives like it was for someone else. We did get a train an hour or two later and even found seats together, so it could have been much worse. We walked from the train station to our apartment in the Altstadt and saw many famous sites on our way into town.

April, April

Alice is a big fan of April Fool’s day. This year she repeated a couple tricks from the previous year, as well as added a couple new ones. When I went to put on my socks, I only found Clare’s socks in my drawer. When I sat down on the toilet, there was a huge cracking sound like a had broken the toilet (it was uncooked pasta underneath the toilet seat breaking – a repeat from last year).

Perhaps the best prank was when she suddenly came to me and said “dad, the water in the kitchen is running”, and I was greeted with this image of water bottles in shoes:

Happy 80th birthday dad

My dad is now an octogenarian. At 80, there are not many physical things I could give him as a gift. However, I can give him my time. I made the trip across the ocean to spend a week with my parents. It is the first time in many years I have gotten to spend significant time with them just by myself. They love seeing Clare and their grandkids, but it is also a little hectic, and not so conducive to having good conversations.

Since I can work from anywhere, I scheduled my days to wake up early to work for several hours, then spend time hanging out. On Monday, my dad and I met one of his friends at the driving range and hit some balls. On Tuesday, I joined him for some rubber bridge. I hadn’t played in years, so we played through some practice hands before hand.

On Thursday, Erika and Sadie came over for a special German dinner. I helped my mom make Rouladen, which is thinly sliced beef wrapped around a pickle, with a beef gravy. Mom made a cucumber salad, and I made carrot apple salad. I brought pre-made red cabbage with me from Germany. I also made spaetzle from scratch, now that I have gotten used to making it from instructions from Thomas and Ulli. I did end up catching a potholder on fire by accident!

Erika got a variety of different tasty cakes from their favorite local bakery – Tony Cannoli’s. We forgot to get a candle, so we used an app on Erika’s phone.

Friday I spent time with Sadie, helping her set up her drum set. She is very musical.

Two of my friends recently lost parents, and it really impressed upon me how important it is to spend time with my parents while they are still around. I also decided to take a little bit of video of some every day things, like making dinner. I probably should have also gotten a little video of playing cards on Sunday with Erika and Sadie, but I was too busy enjoying the moment. It was a rare occasion in which grandpa was not winning.

I’m so glad I made the trip. I look forward to celebrating my mom’s 80th birthday later this year.

Happy 11th birthday Alice

The girls enjoying boba tea

Friday we had a little birthday celebration for Alice with her friends back in Germany. She wanted an Asian themed party. They had sushi, boba tea, and ice cream mocha for dessert. One of her favorite presents was a penny board (a small skateboard). Several of the friends in the group have them, so they can all ride together.

Singing happy birthday