Cake Maker

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Meg has been wanting to learn how to decorate cakes. Our friend Sarah is very good at it, and volunteered to teach her. She made a fantastic lemon cake with raspberry jelly filling. Sarah’s daughter Natalie and their friend Sofia helped a bit as well. To give you an impression of how good the cake was, note that even Spencer liked it, who usually only likes ice cream cake. Thanks Sarah!

Building a PC

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Spencer has been wanting a gaming PC for probably close to a year now. He has been saving up his allowance and birthday and Christmas money. Clare and I decided to also chip in some, and that it would be fun to build a PC instead of buying one pre-made. We also decided to do it while we were visiting the USA, since electronics are generally cheaper there. Spencer and I both did a bunch of research, and ended up putting together a decent PC. We put it together with his uncle Drew, who has quite a bit of experience building PCs.

RGB is all the rage these days, so there is as much RGB as possible! – 3 fans in the front of the case, the RAM, the CPU cooler, and even the power supply. We did get a bit unlucky with the graphics card. The first card we ordered on Amazon.com got cancelled. Then we decided to order one on Newegg.com instead. We ordered it on July 3rd. It said that customers typically receive it in 5-17 days. A label was created on July 9th, but no other status updates yet. If we don’t get it by the time we leave for Germany, we will have to cancel and order one in Germany I think. Luckily uncle Drew let us borrow one from his gaming rig, which he doesn’t spend too much time using these days, since he is busy wrangling his three young children. We made a few mistakes along the way, like installing the m.2 SSD into the wrong location on the motherboard, and not ordering a Wifi/bluetooth module. Drew fixed the first issue, and we are still waiting on an order for the second issue.

Specs:

Case Corsair airflow
CPU Intel Core i3 10100f LGA 1200
CPU CoolerVetroo V5 White CPU Air Cooler w/ 5 Heat Pipes 120mm
Graphics card MSI Nvidia GTX 1650 dual
Motherboard –ASUS Prime Z590-P LGA 1200
RAM Corsair vengeance rgb pro 16GB (2x8GB)
SSD Western digital blue 1tb m.2
Power supply Corsair CX650F RGB

So far Spencer was able to get about 85 or 90 FPS on Fortnite, which is a big improvement over the 30 FPS playing on the Nintendo Switch. We decided to spend more on the motherboard and less on the CPU, so that it would be easier to upgrade in the future. Hopefully it will last for a number of years. Spencer was very excited to show his friends his new PC.

Meg’s 4th grade graduation

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July 2nd was Meg’s last day of elementary school. In August, she will be heading off to the Gymnasium for 9 years, and then likely off to university (perhaps in Paris) where she will prepare to be a programmer for space ships (unless she changes her mind along the way). Several of her classmates will be joining her at the gymnasium, while some will be going to different schools.

This is my second elementary school graduation ceremony so far. Spencer had his two years ago. That was before Corona, so it was quite different. In spite of Corona, the school was able to put together a very nice ceremony for the kids. The class performed a cup song, which was very cool.

In addition, Meg got a certificate for a Math competition she entered. She made it to the third round (along with 1000 other kids out of 23,000 who entered from North Rhine Westphalia). We are very proud of her. (Spencer also did really well in the math competition he entered (49 out of 50 points).

Spencer’s 6th grade final art project

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Every year there is an art competition from the Lion’s club which Spencer’s school participates in. It is an international competition, so the students have to draw something without words to demonstrate peace through helpfulness. This year’s theme was “we are all one”. Spencer chose to make a jigsaw puzzle with the colors of the rainbow, and a hand with different skin colors representing the diversity of the world, and how we all make up part of the puzzle that is our earth. He worked a long time on it, and I think it turned out really nicely.

Spencer’s art project

Meg’s 4th grade art

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I think that Meg’s art teacher in elementary school has been really great. She has introduced them to a bunch of different artists and techniques. My only complaint is that we never see most of the art until the end of the school year. Meg brought home all her creations this week, and I decided to digitize them as well as hang them up on our walls. Meg’s favorites are the one of the moon and the earth, and the waterlilies in the style of Clause Monet. My favorite is their school building in the style of Hundertwasser.

If you click on the individual images there is some more information about each creation.

Father son weekend

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Last weekend I spent some extra time with Meg. This weekend she was on a camping trip with the scouts, and I got to spend some extra time with Spencer. We had beautiful weather! We slept in a bit on Saturday, and then had breakfast on the balcony. Our friends Thomas and Ulli are plant sitting for us while we are in the USA, so we brought the rest of our house plants to them at their garden plot and had lunch. We brought our new table tennis paddles with us and played for quite awhile in the nearby park. We also enjoyed the zip line there, which is one of the best around.

The European cup soccer matches are going on right now, so in the evening we watched Denmark against Wales, and then Austria against Italy.

Spencer and Rob say cheers
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On Sunday we had more great weather. We had breakfast on the balcony again, and then went to the park to play a little bit of soccer. I fell at some point and seemed to injure my toe a bit. Getting old is tough. Spencer then had a soccer game with this team, the first in about 10 months. It was just a friendly game against the 2008 team from his club, VfR Würselen. Unfortunately I ended up missing a bunch of the game because I had to pick up Meg from her scout trip, but I did get to see him play for about 30 minutes. It was the first time they played a game with 11 versus 11 on the full field. Some of the older boys were a good head taller than the younger boys. Nevertheless, they played very well. Spencer’s coach commented to me personally afterward that Spencer did very well. He has grown so tall in the last year. In another year, he might be taller than me!

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Big day for Meg

Meg had a busy day today! She woke up early to get prepared for her class field trip to the Würselen forest. I helped her pack a snack. Then she rode to the bakery to get some rolls, rode to Jana’s house, and then rode together to Aquana to meet the rest of their class (and stopped by our apartment to get a jacket, which she had forgotten). She had school a little bit longer than normal to celebrate the end of their Pausenengel time (the group of kids who are responsible for keeping watch during recess). They got the kids ice cream to celebrate.

Once she arrived home she had just a little time to take a shower and finish packing for her scout trip to celebrate the summer solstice. I did my best to put her hair in a French braid, (which was unfortunately not very good). I bought extra bug spray for her, and she is planning on mostly wearing long pants and shirt the whole weekend, so hopefully she won’t get too many bug bites. It looks the weather will cooperate, with highs around 25C (75F) and partly sunny.

Meg’s future

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Meg recently had an assignment at school to make a drawing of how she saw herself in the future, as if looking through a keyhole. She plans to be a programmer for NASA. She drew herself watching a rocket launch.

Looking into Meg’s future as a NASA programmer

Her class also made drawings to represent them leaving elementary school to go off to secondary school in the fall. Their class mascot is the penguin. They voted to make the best picture the official one. The voting turned out to be a tie, with Meg and Felix winning. They then worked together to incorporate the different elements of their pictures together. Meg was not excited to have to work together with Felix, but she handled it well. The end result was actually better than I thought it would be. I had imagined that having 2 people work on the same painting would end up looking like a painting drawn by two different people, but they did a pretty good job of matching styles to make it look coherent. Here you can compare for yourself (drag the arrows in the middle to switch between Meg’s original on the left and the final result on the right).

Meg’s drawing vs. the final image after collaborating with Felix

I think Meg’s penguin is much cuter, but I do like some of the elements from the final result, like swapping the subject names for the names of the kids in the class. Subject names as stickers on a suitcase makes a little bit more sense in my opinion, but having the kids names is nice as a memento. I think Meg is going to miss Mrs. Gehrmann. She was really a great teacher. It is amazing to see how much Meg has grown in 3 years.

Daddy daughter day

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Meg was feeling a bit sad that all of her friends were busy this weekend, and Spencer was having his friend André over for the night. I am having a bit of a hard time to adjusting to the new old normal that is coming now that Corona regulations are being eased, so I guess I haven’t been as aggressive about making plans as others. Also, we are getting ready to visit the USA, and have a bunch of other stuff on our plate. Normally on a Saturday we would spend some time cleaning house, but instead, I thought that Meg and I could use a daddy-daughter day.

Meg and Rob by a statue in Aachen

My house shoes (some imitation Birkenstocks) have started to wear out, and I had been thinking about finally replacing them with some real Birkenstocks. I looked on Amazon a bit, but eventually decided it would be best to visit the store in person in Aachen, partially so that I could be sure to get the right size, and also partially to support local businesses, which have been affected so much by the pandemic. I asked Meg if she would like to come along, and she agreed. Originally I thought that we would drive or take the bus, mostly because I thought it was supposed to rain today, but then when I looked at the weather forecast again in the morning, I saw that it was not supposed to start raining until late evening, so I convinced Meg to ride our bikes instead. It is about 7 km (4.5 miles) each way – not a short ride, but really not too bad. The worst part is going from Würselen into Aachen, which is fairly steep. Once you are into Aachen, it is pretty flat.

Meg by Kanpai running sushi restaurant

We had to wait about 10 minutes to get into the Birkenstock store, because they are only allowing a certain number of people in at a time due to Corona regulations. But once we were in, we were both able to try on some sandals, and ended up both getting a pair. After the Birkenstock store we got some Sushi, at a place where we could eat outside. It was very tasty. Then we went back in the direction of the Birkenstock store to get some Boba tea. We ran into my old boss right outside the store, who gave us some tips. It was nice to catch up with him a bit. I miss going to the office some. Meg got some macha tea, and I had a sip. I avoided the bubbles, because I remember not liking them. After some prodding, she convinced me to try them again, and I decided that after fifteen years or so since my last Boba tea experience, it was possible that my tastes may have changed. I remember the bubbles being just weird, and I didn’t like it. This time around, I sort of tried to taste the boba, but found it relatively tasteless. Then I tried chewing one, but I couldn’t really get it between my teeth. Then I squished it using my tongue, and I got a taste explosion of mango, which was quite nice. I then realized that in my first attempt, I had just swallowed them whole, so it just sort of felt like this weird, slimy, tasteless thing going down my throat. Now I actually understood how to eat them. I am still not a huge fan (mostly because of the price – $5 for a drink that has neither beer, whiskey, nor coffee, my 3 favorites), but I gained a new appreciation. Thanks Meg!

GluEcke Boba tea

After we got the Boba tea, we went to Kaufhof to look for some clothes for Meg. We found her a dress and a skirt on sale. Then it was time to head back home. On the way home, we took the longer, yet less steep route through the Würselen city garden. Meg had some baggy jeans on, and was using some velcro straps around her legs to make sure her pants didn’t get caught in her chain. One of them fell off as we were riding back, and a nice woman on a bike behind us picked it up and gave it to her. Always nice when strangers help each other out.

Meg and Rob modeling their new Birkenstocks back at home