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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
2020 Easter is not like most others, but we managed to make it as nice as we could. In particular Meg went out of her way to try to make it as nice as possible with lots of decorations, and she even came up with some fun games for us. She hung up some candies from our loft, which we had to jump and touch, in order to get them. We also had a race trying to hold easter eggs on a spoon. Meg was the only one who didn’t drop the egg.
We also kept up some old traditions, in particular making hot cross buns. Meg helped a bunch. She has been practicing making pizza dough the last couple months, and she is getting pretty good at kneading. We are lucky that we had enough flour and yeast, which have been hard to find during the Corona-virus crisis. We also lucked out with the weather. It has been sunny and around 70 F all week long. We enjoyed our Easter dinner of ham, green beans, and potato dumplings on the balcony.