Sushi

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The first time I made sushi was in about 2004 at my friend Danny’s apartment. To be honest, I am not sure that I had ever eaten before, or certainly not often. But that was a special time in my life when I was more adventurous than usual, so I decided to give it a …

When the sun is shining …

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Go outside!

It’s a simple concept, but easy to forget. The weather forecast for the Aachen region in January is typically rainy and 5? (40 ?). However, the sun usually peaks out for awhile most days. I have learned that when I notice the sun shining, that means that it is time to take a walk or a bike ride. I am lucky enough to have a very flexible work schedule which allows me to do this just about any day.

Lately it has been quite rainy in the afternoons and evenings, and even some pretty hefty storms overnight, but the mornings have often been clear. Today after we finished breakfast, Clare, Meg, and I took a walk to one of our favorite spots – the Milchtankstelle (milk vending machine), where we got some fresh raw milk and eggs, and also some fresh veggies from the adjacent farmer’s stand, which are currently simmering on the stove as lentil soup. We get to walk by the happy cows and chickens on our way, and spotted some pretty flowers and bushes on the way back.

Pumpkin Pie

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I mostly used this recipe from Sally’s baking addiction for this one, but I made a few modifications of my own. She swears that a pinch of black pepper makes it magical, but I am still skeptical. I also used the same pie crust recipe that I usually use, the same one from my mom. …

Happy Thanksgiving 2020

Meg, Clare, and Spencer say cheers

Because of the Corona virus we celebrated Thanksgiving just the 4 of us this year, but it was still nice. Since Clare and I were both working from home, we decided to celebrate it on Thursday, even though the kids had school that day. That way we would not be so out of sync with the Americans on the other side of the big pond. We scaled back a bit on the food, but still had some of our favorites – a Turkey breast from the butcher, Clare’s famous sweet potatoes topped with caramelized pecans, green bean casserole, Fran’s cranberry relish, Kartoffelknödel (potato dumplings, a German standard, instead of mashed potatoes), gravy, and pumpkin pie.

Thanksgiving plate

I only had 1 pie plate at my disposal, so I took some advice from the internet and made some decorations – in this case, the Aachen cathedral, because I didn’t have any leaf cookie cutters. Everyone loved the pie. I think it is perhaps my best ever. It was even worth the second-degree burns on my fingers. You see, I wanted to pre-bake the pie crust a bit so it wouldn’t be soggy. The interwebs recommended using pie weights or dried beans in parchment paper. I had neither. So I looked around the kitchen, and spied my ceramic pour-over coffee maker. I thought that would work great to keep the pie crust down. It did. But immediately after taking the pie plate out of the oven, I took off my oven mitts, and then proceeded to pick up the coffee filter with my bare hands! I immediately realized my mistake, and threw the coffee filter across the room, breaking it against the wall. It would have made a great sitcom scene. I ran my hand under cold water, put the filling in the pie, and put it in the oven, and then took a little break. But like I said, the pie was so good, it was worth it. Maybe Santa will bring me some pie weights 😉

After dinner we watched a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and then we had a Zoom meeting with the Goold family, which was really fun.

2020 has been a tough year for everyone in the world, but we have been really lucky in so many ways. I am very thankful for the fact that we found some time to travel in between lock downs and Corona waves, and that so far we have avoided the virus. We are also lucky to still have jobs, and that they are flexible and allow us to work from home much of the time.

The sun rises

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The view of the sunrise from our 3rd floor (counting from 0) apartment is frequently really beautiful. In the fall it seems to be the best – this is partially because of the time of the sunrise, I am usually waking up and getting the kids ready for school while the sun rises. It may very well be beautiful at 4 in the morning in July, but I am still asleep then. One important aspect to a beautiful sunrise is a partially cloudy sky. If it is totally cloudy, you see nothing, and if it is totally sunny, it is pretty boring. Here are some of my favorite sunrises from this fall.

Fancy Monday

Spencer felt like dressing up fancy today so I decided to join him. Sometimes it is nice to put pants on while working at home, even though you don’t really need to.

Halloween 2020 (Deutsch)

Jack-o-lanterns
Jana, Meg, Samaya, Lisa, and Celia

Meg plant diese Halloweenparty schon seit einigen Monaten. Wegen Corona ist der Feier fast nicht stattgefunden; Deutschland fĂŒhrt neue KontaktbeschrĂ€nkungen am 2. November ein. Da Halloween erst am 31. Oktober stattfindet dĂŒrfen wir legal feiern. Aber auch nicht nur im gesetzlichen Sinne sondern auch nach alltĂ€glicher Vernunft habe ich mit den anderen Eltern abgeklĂ€rt, dass ich das Risiko des Feiers nicht wesengtlich grĂ¶ĂŸer finde, als in die Schule zu gehen, weil die MĂ€dels alle in derselben Klasse sind, und die waren damit einverstanden.

In einem normalen Jahr wĂ€ren die Kinder in der Nachbarschaft mit dem Spruch “sĂŒĂŸ oder saueres” herumgegangen. Aber 2020 ist leider kein normales Jahr. Stattdessen hatten wir genĂŒgend SĂŒĂŸigkeiten und Snacks vorbereitet. Clare und Meg haben Halloween thematisiertes Essen viel recherchiert. Meg hat auch einige AktitiviĂ€ten vorbereitet, inklusiv ein Schnitzeljagd in unserer Wohnung. KĂŒrbissschnitzen stand auch auf dem Plan, und die MĂ€dels haben sich viele andere Spiele auch ausgedacht. Das Wetter war außergewöhnlich schön bei 16 grad, dass es ermöglichte, die KĂŒrbisse auf dem Balkon zu schnitzen, und das entstehende Chaos das Esszimmer fernzuhalten.

Die letzte AktivitĂ€t der Nacht war S’mores – die typisch amerikanische SĂŒĂŸigkeit mit einem Marschmallow zwischen Butterkekse und eine Schokoladetafel. Da wir kein Lagerfeuer in der Wohnung (oder auf dem Balkon) haben dĂŒrfen, haben wir das mit Kerzen versucht, mit ermĂ€tigtem Erfolg.

Halloween 2020

Jack-o-lanterns
Jana, Meg, Samaya, Lisa, and Celia

Meg has been planning a halloween party for several months. Because of Corona, it almost looked like it wouldn’t happen. Germany is introducing stricter contact regulations Nov. 2nd. So legally, we are still allowed to have a party. And ethically, all the other parents and I agreed that the level of risk for the party was not much higher than the girls going to school, since they are all in the same class, and still going to school five days a week (although they do wear masks in the school).

In normal years, the girls would have gone trick-or-treating, but not this year. Instead, we had plenty of candy, and halloween themed food. Meg and Clare did a great job researching fun ways to present food. We also had plenty of fun activities – Meg put together a great scavenger hunt, we carved pumpkins, and the girls found plenty of other fun things to do as well. We lucked out with the weather – it was partly cloudy and about 60F most of the day, which meant that we were able to carve pumpkins on the balcony, which is a lot less messy than inside.

The last activity of the night was making s’mores. We can’t really have a campfire in our apartment, so Clare got a big candle to roast marshmallows with. This worked okay, but soon degraded into simply playing with fire. Good thing for parental supervision.

Greek breakfast

Greek pastries

Today was our last breakfast in Greece. For the first parts of our trip on the islands we mostly ate simple food we got from the grocery store. In Athens there were so many cheap and tasty takeout options that we mostly did that. A taxi driver told us about the excellent pastries that Greeks usually have for breakfast, so we tried them in Athens. They are layers of filo dough with various fillings such as spinach, cheese, mushrooms, meat, or some combination. They also have some sweet ones with cream or chocolate. They also have their own version of sesame seed bagels, which Meg really liked. The pies are very filling, which was good, because we did a lot of walking in Athens.

The Greeks also make several different tasty coffee drinks. Greek coffee is similar to Turkish coffee. The grounds are very fine, and simply left at the bottom of the cup. It is surprisingly smooth and not too bitter. They also make several different frozen coffees. We enjoyed the blended frappe.

Meg and Clare with frappes, waiting at the airport

Villa Artemis

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We ended up altering our original plans for our trip to Greece a fair amount because of COVID-19. We had originally scheduled to take the train from Aachen to Frankfurt on Monday, spend the night there, and then fly out of Frankfurt Tuesday morning. After Frankfurt got classified as a risk area, we no longer had any desire to hang out in downtown Frankfurt, so instead we just got up at 4 a.m. on Tuesday and drove 2.5 hours to the airport. Clare was nice enough to drive.

Our itinerary in Greece also changed. We had booked a flight from Athens to Naxos on Tuesday afternoon, which was cancelled, which meant that we had to stay one night in Athens and take the flight on Wednesday morning. We decided not to stay directly in Athens, but closer to the airport, and ended up in a gigantic villa (for a ridiculously cheap price). The kids really loved it (even though there was no wifi). Luckily we had brought a little bit of food with us, because it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Clare tried to find a grocery store while the kids and I went swimming, but didn’t have any luck. So we had a dinner of plain noodles with oil, salt, pepper, and oregano. Spencer added peanut butter to his, and discovered that it was quite tasty, so we also followed suit.