Wild blueberries

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Yesterday Meg and I joined our friends Thomas and Ulli for a little hike in Belgium to pick wild blueberries (in German Heidelbeeren); they had discovered a big patch of them while hiking last year. Even though it was a little bit later in the year than peak time, we still managed to find quite a few blueberries.

Meg made muffins today – a recipe out of the cookbook that grandma Felty got her several years ago. They were very tasty! She shared them with some neighbors as well as her fellow scouts.

Blueberry muffins

Thanks Thomas and Ulli for taking us out for some adventure!

Father son weekend

Prost

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
Prost

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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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

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 🙂 )

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.

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.

Ein Prosit zum Oktoberfest!

Clare, Rob, and Meg dressed up for Oktoberfest

Last year we went to the local Oktoberfest celebration in Würselen. Oktoberfest is really a Munich festival, but breweries and festival workers have realized the potential to make money throughout Germany, and it gets celebrated now even in the Rhine region, though not like in Munich. Some people even dress up in traditional Bavarian clothing, even though it is also not traditional for the region here. Last year I got a jacket while I was at a conference in Graz. Clare ordered a Dirndl, but it was too small, and there was not enough time to return it.

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Spencer and Meg setting the table

This summer we got her a new one. There are no large gatherings allowed right now, so instead we just invited our downstairs neighbors who lived in Bavaria for several years for a traditional Bavarian Frühschoppen, with weißwurst, pretzels, obatzda, daikon radish, and wheat beer, at 11 a.m. (yes, this is the tradition). I made the Obatzda from scratch, but the pretzels were just frozen, though we have decided that they are actually just as good as from the bakery (but not as good as at the Bergkirchweih in Erlangen). I also added an American twist with an apple pie for dessert. The kids were very helpful cleaning the apartment and decorating. Meg also did a great job entertaining their 4 year old daughter.

It has been quite rainy lately here, so this afternoon when the sun came out Clare and I took a little walk to get some milk in our fancy clothes. One couple we walked past commented on our clothes, and even asked if my mustache was real (it is).

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Clare and Rob in Oktoberfest attire

After we all had a little break, we played a game of Risk and had some leftovers – Spencer ate two weißwurst at brunch, and an additional six while we were playing Risk! (Naturally the game ended in a combination of yelling, tears, and nearly fisticuffs. I guess that is what you get in a game of world domination.

Welcome to Pula

View from the balcony in Pula, Croatia

For the most part our trip has gone really well in spite of Corona measures. Perhaps the worst part is border crossings. Today we waited over 90 minutes to cross from Slovenia to Croatia. It was incredibly hot in the car, as you can see by the sweat dripping down Spencer’s face. Fortunately I read some of Surely you’re joking Mr. Feynman for entertainment.

Spencer sweating while waiting in line at the border

Lake Bled, Slovenia

The Fedibbletys at Lake Bled, Slovenia

On Tuesday, we wondered south from Austria and we all encountered a new to us country: Slovenia. Beautifully clean and bio diverse.

Radstadt, Austria

Our first country outside Germany was Austria. We stayed in the Salzburg countryside and went hiking on a trail called Wild Waters and then to Therme Amanda (no pictures of that).