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.
Thanks to Melanie for introducing these drops of deliciousness into our lives over a decade ago. This recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook, but they use margarine to make this recipe vegan and Clare likes butter.
1/4 cup/ 55g butter 1 1/2 cup white flour 1/2 cup cornmeal 2 tsp. baking powder 1/4 tsp. baking soda 1/2 tsp. salt 2 tblsp. brown sugar packed 1/2 c. pumpkin puree (not sweetened) 180 mL (3/4 c. plus 2 tblsp.) apple cider or juice
Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C).
Cut butter into small pieces and place in a medium bowl.
Sift in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the brown sugar and mix until lump free.
In another bowl, combine pumpkin puree and cider/juice.
Pour pumpkin purée mixture into flour mixture and stir briefly just until well blended.
Put parchment paper on baking sheet and drop biscuits by 1/4 cups onto baking sheet.
Bake for about 20 minutes until puffed and very slightly brown around the edges.
Our family enjoys these biscuits alone, or with cream cheese and/or apple sauce.
On our walk today, we got up close and personal with two festive plants. Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant with poisonous berries. It forms balls in the tree branches. Now is a good time to cut them out of trees because they are highly visible without the leaves. Holly is both a bush and a tree, with pretty silver bark. Only the female holly plant produces berries.
As part of our St. Nicholas day celebration, we made Christmas cookies. Also pictured is Spencer preparing his shoes yesterday for St. Nick’s visit. It gives an idea of how much his feet have grown since we arrived (and that we still don’t really know how to dispose of old shoes). We all help with the cookies, but Meg has really taken on learning Rob’s Christmas cookie recipes, passed down from his mom. The peppernuts have been in his family for at least 5 generations, counting Meg and Spencer making them.
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.
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 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.
Meg plant diese Halloweenparty schon seit einigen Monaten. Wegen Corona ist der Feier fast nicht stattgefunden; Deutschland führt neue Kontaktbeschränkungen am 2. November ein. Da Halloween erst am 31. Oktober stattfindet dürfen wir legal feiern. Aber auch nicht nur im gesetzlichen Sinne sondern auch nach alltäglicher Vernunft habe ich mit den anderen Eltern abgeklärt, dass ich das Risiko des Feiers nicht wesengtlich größer finde, als in die Schule zu gehen, weil die Mädels alle in derselben Klasse sind, und die waren damit einverstanden.
In einem normalen Jahr wären die Kinder in der Nachbarschaft mit dem Spruch “süß oder saueres” herumgegangen. Aber 2020 ist leider kein normales Jahr. Stattdessen hatten wir genügend Süßigkeiten und Snacks vorbereitet. Clare und Meg haben Halloween thematisiertes Essen viel recherchiert. Meg hat auch einige Aktitiviäten vorbereitet, inklusiv ein Schnitzeljagd in unserer Wohnung. Kürbissschnitzen stand auch auf dem Plan, und die Mädels haben sich viele andere Spiele auch ausgedacht. Das Wetter war außergewöhnlich schön bei 16 grad, dass es ermöglichte, die Kürbisse auf dem Balkon zu schnitzen, und das entstehende Chaos das Esszimmer fernzuhalten.
Die letzte Aktivität der Nacht war S’mores – die typisch amerikanische Süßigkeit mit einem Marschmallow zwischen Butterkekse und eine Schokoladetafel. Da wir kein Lagerfeuer in der Wohnung (oder auf dem Balkon) haben dürfen, haben wir das mit Kerzen versucht, mit ermätigtem Erfolg.
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.