Clare‘s birthday

We celebrated in Thomas and Uli‘s garden. They got Indian take out that was so good. Then we had carrot cake. It was a good start to 43.

Late May

This May has been cold and wet, but there have also been some rainbows. When the clouds clear, we ride to some local parks. Rob and the kids play Ping Pong or basketball and I play Pokémon Go.

Thomas and Uli Shared some rhubarb from their garden. Among other things, I made a tasty rhubarb infused gin and tonic.

Meg got a starter for a sourdough „friendship cake“ and cared for it all week before baking it and sharing new starts with other friends. We flavored ours with a cinnamon bun ribbon swirled in and cinnamon Creme cheese frosting with a pecan smiley face. It was very tasty and a fun rainy day project.

It feels like summer is finally here

After almost a month of grey clouds and rain, the sun is shining and it is warm. We are so ready!

Meg helped me get a COVID Schnelltest so we could go shopping at Bauhaus with Uli to repair their tomato house at their garden. They are watching my plants during my US visit, including growing a tomato I started. It’s good to have friends. Thomas made us a delicious lunch while we worked.

Meg also has a friend spending the night today. We had a sushi feast on the balcony and watched a movie. Spencer is at another friend‘s house.

I also included a picture of Spencer‘s soccer practice. It’s far away because we are not yet supposed to go in the arena yet. But I walked by and got a picture because we don’t want to miss too much.

On my walk, I also found some roses that remind me of my childhood. It turns out that many of the special plants my mom‘s family liked are also popular in Germany. Mom says it is a Florabunda and that she started it from a start from her Aunt Margie. Fun to see it again here.

Happy German Father‘s Day Rob!

Germans celebrate Father‘s Day on Himmelfahrtstagen, or Ascension when celebrated in English. Typically guys go on a hike or bike ride. Here are some pictures from our ride to and hike around the Würselener Wald. The rapeseed fields are so photogenic! Clare made strawberry rhubarb filling and Rob made a delicious pie. Following are pictures from the next day when Spencer chose to join us. You can see he is thrilled.

Happy Mother’s Day

Enjoying ice cream by a fountain

It seems like Meg gets more excited about Mother’s Day each year. With the Corona pandemic, the kids have only been going to school every other day, and most activities are still cancelled, so Meg had extra time to work on gifts for Clare. She made a variety of different cards and paintings and such. I really like the pop-up style of cards she has been doing lately. They are really fun and creative.

One new idea Meg had this year was to make a room service menu. There are so many stories and movies in which kids make breakfast-in-bed for mom on Mother’s Day. The thing is, Clare doesn’t really like to eat breakfast in bed (and I agree). So instead, we just had breakfast at the table, but made it a bit special, and we let Clare decide ahead of time what she wanted. She decided on omelettes. I made the omelettes, while Meg made a fresh fruit salad.

After breakfast, we migrated upstairs to give Clare all of her presents.

Even though the weather in the week leading up to Mother’s Day was mostly wet and dreary, Mother’s Day itself turned out to be beautiful – almost too warm in fact, at about 26C (79F). We decided to take a bike ride to the park we recently discovered in Bardenberg. They have a nice table tennis table and basketball court, a large field great for picnics, and a sort of rope swing from a tree which Meg really likes. Spencer surpassed Rob at soccer and running a couple years ago already, but Rob frequently can still win at table tennis. It seems unlikely that will be the case for too much longer.

We also finally got to try out the new ice cream place – Delzepich. They have had a store in Aachen for a number of years, and are quite famous, but only recently opened a store in Würselen. They make the ice cream fresh every day, and when they run out, they close. They sell out nearly every day, and there is almost always a line. The lines are a lot longer at all places right now because of Corona, and you are not allowed to eat the ice cream within 50 meters of the establishment. Basically, they don’t want crowds of people without masks on, and you have to take off your mask to eat. No problem, we found a bench by a peaceful little pond full of turtles and fish. The ice cream was quite good, although I think that I might like Peppone better, and the line is usually shorter. Clare happened to have a gift certificate from as part of her going away present from her work colleagues, so the ice cream was already paid for (and we still have some money left, so we will be forced to go back 🙂 )

Uno de Mayo

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Clare really wanted to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with a Mexican feast this year. We decided to do it a couple days early – on May 1st. It is a bit hard to come by Mexican ingredients here, but there is a Mexican grocery store in Aachen. It is mostly intended for restaurants, so has stuff in pretty big quantities usually, but that’s okay. They are also usually only open Monday through Friday 9-5, but fortunately Clare had some time to stop by.

Per our usual dinner party strategy, Rob focused on cleaning house and drinks, while Clare focused on the food; Meg focused on decorations and games to play. Spencer spent the night at a friend’s house, so he wasn’t around.

The menu included:

  • Tortilla chips with Vegan Queso Dip, salsa, and guacamole
  • Jalapeno poppers
  • Black beans
  • Pulled chicken
  • Rice
  • Mexican cabbage salad
  • Traditional margaritas
  • Virgin mandarin orange margaritas

For breakfast Thomas and Ulli made fresh blue corn tortillas with their tortilla press, and we used them, along with a bunch of the other leftovers, to make huevos rancheros.

Happy Easter

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This was our second Easter during the global pandemic. In 2020, our trip to the United States was cancelled. In 2021, our stay at a vacation rental in the nearby Eifel national park was also cancelled. Nevertheless, we tried to make the best of our staycation. We had some tasty food like hard-boiled eggs, chocolate candies, and a lamb cake, which reminded me of a pound cake, but in the shape of a lamb.

We had hoped to do a bunch of hiking, but it turns out the weather was pretty bad most of the week too, alternating between snow, sleet, hail, rain, and graupel. Meg organized a board game marathon. We played a number of rounds of Settlers of Catan, The Game of Life, Azul, King Domino, Skyjo, Hell, Set, Uno, and Monopoly Deal. I think Meg won the tournament overall. There was one game of Hell where I won in 2 rounds. We all seem to have different games that we excel at, which is fun. At some point during the week Meg and Spencer invented Supersiedler, in which they played Settlers of Catan just the two of them, but they used all four colors, so each person played with both colors, and they played up to twenty points. Also a good variation.

  • Easter card front
  • Easter card poem
  • Easter card back

Meg also made an Easter card, which you can see above. She wrote the poem herself.

The easter bunny
 he is so funny
 he likes to hop
 and do the pop
 the kids find his eggs
 and they run with their legs
 he eats carrots
 just like parrots

Good Friday = Hot cross buns

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One of the great traditions I learned from my mom is hot cross buns. I have taken the tradition from her and been making them with the kids for several years now. As a kid I remembered having them for Easter, and at some times during Lent as well, even though one should technically be fasting. The last couple years I had been waiting until Easter to have them, but I learned last year that I had been doing it wrong – they should actually be made and eaten on Good Friday, so that is what I did this year.

Meg and I had lots of fun making them. Spencer helped out with the frosting part. I also decided to put the recipe on the website too, in case you want to try it at your house. They came out particularly good this year.

In addition to hot cross buns, we also made cream cheese mold cookies. I am actually not sure what they are called. My mom made them with Meg a couple years ago when we were visiting them in Michigan, and Meg thought they were super cool. My mom gave us a couple of her candy molds so we could make them ourselves. Clare tried to make them with Meg once last year, but they ran out of powdered sugar and gave up. We also used up so much powdered sugar that we had to ask a friend for some more for the hot cross bun icing.

Cream cheese mint delights
Cream cheese mint delights

We made green mint trees, lemon yellow stars, orange sunflowers, and red almond roses ( and also some yellow roses, because the stars didn’t come out very well). I remember my mom making these for church events when I was young, but I don’t really remember helping. After some trial and error with the consistency, I realized that I needed to take the mention of “play-dough” in the recipe seriously. The dough needs to be quite stiff in order for it not to stick in the molds.

In addition to tasty treats, we also have been enjoying all the magnolia trees in bloom. Clare and I took a long walk today while the sun was peaking out and snapped a few pictures.

Meg the Prankster

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Meg has been pretty excited about April Fool’s day for a couple years now. This year was no exception. She stayed up late and also woke up early to organize all sorts of different pranks for us to discover. They were mostly all harmless and fun. She really enjoyed it. Probably the best prank, which is not pictured, was putting some dry pasta underneath the toilet seat. Then when you sit on it, it cracks loudly, and you think for a moment that you have just broken the toilet, until you see the cracked pasta on the floor.

Fun with food

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Taking pictures of food is fun, isn’t it? I wanted to share a few fun food pictures we have taken over the last couple months, which I have neglected to publish.

Egg explosion!

This morning I made hard-boiled eggs, and one exploded while cooking. Clare liked it anyways. (I had actually been going for soft-boiled, but they cooked a bit too long).

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Exploded egg

Colorful plate

I heard somewhere that it is healthy to eat a variety of differently colored food. My plate yesterday had green, orange, purple, white, and brown. I don’t think it gets much better than that.

Taco Town!

One of my favorite tv shows is Saturday Night Live, and I enjoy watching old skits on YouTube. I have also introduced the kids to these. They particularly like the fake commercials. One of our favorites is the Taco Town commercial, which is making fun of Taco Bell creating ever bigger combinations of food. Clare recently found a Mexican store in town and bought a bunch of hard taco shells, so I got inspired to try the soft and hard shell combination. It works really well. I have not added blueberry pancakes yet though.

Artful plating

Meg has become a big fan of artful plating of food. Here are a couple of her recent creations.

Smiling roll

Awhile ago we got a roll from the bakery which ended up having a bit of a strange shape. It looked like it was smiling at us. We were certainly smiling after eating it.

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This roll’s looking at you kid