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!

Happy pi day!

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Today I made pizza in celebration of pi day (although I made it square, because that fits our pans better). I used the special pizza flour, which made it really elastic. I also tried my hand at tossing the dough instead of rolling it out, which worked fairly well. I made about 1/3 plain cheese for Spencer and 2/3 veggie for everyone else, with onions, yellow peppers, mushrooms, and onions.

Pizza Pie!

It has been really rainy here the last several days. Last night there was some a big of lightning combined with hail. The forecast for the next several days looks similar. However, in spite of the rain, there are frequently some brief dry periods. Yesterday after dinner we took such an opportunity to take a short walk. It was still a bit chilly and windy, but at least not raining. We saw some daffodils blooming along the way.

Tipiuhr

Würselener Wald
Die gesammelten Sachen
Die Tipiuhr am Ende

When the sun is shining …

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Go outside!

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.

The land of rape and honey

Life has certainly been different the last several months with the restrictions in place to try to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Germany we have been fortunate to not be confined totally to the indoors. Going outside for walks, while keeping a minimum distance from people outside of your household has been encouraged. And we were lucky to have some really great weather too – during most of April we enjoyed highs in the 60s to 70s. We have tried to take the opportunity to get outside almost every day. Just a few minute walk from our house and we are walking through fields – all kinds of different fields – strawberries, lettuce, sugar beet, barley, and lots of rapeseed, which is used to make Canola oil. Canola is a new-fangled marketing term for rapeseed oil, because for some reason, people didn’t want to buy rapeseed oil (well, besides the name, they also did some selective breeding in the 1970s to make the oil look and taste better). They grow lots of rapeseed in Canada, and thus they re-branded it as Canola oil. In fact, the town of Tinsdale, Saskatchewan was known as “the land of rape and honey” until just a few years ago. The industrial band Ministry learned of this fact and thought it was funny, thus they used it for the title of their third studio album (I had a dubbed version of this album on cassette tape when I was in middle school). One final note, in Germany, rapeseed oil is currently primarily used for the production of biodiesel.

Bike ride to the town castle

Fedibbletys at Burg Wilhelmstein

The weather in our neck of the woods has been really nice lately – sunny with highs around 70 most of the last 2 weeks. While the playgrounds and beer gardens are closed, at least we are still allowed to get exercise outside in groups of 2, or with the immediate family. We have been taking advantage of that to try to get out and enjoy the fresh air as much as we can.

Shortly after we moved to Germany we bought bikes for all of us. The one that we got for Clare turned out not to be a good fit, so she hadn’t been biking at all. Last summer I bought some extra bikes for visitors, and upgrades for the growing children. Clare agreed to try one of these extra bikes, and it has worked out quite well. With the extra time on our hands she was able to test it out without any particular destination or time pressure, and after a few test runs, was willing to try a longer ride. I had done this ride a couple times before – once with Meg, and once with the Soule-Reeves when they visited last summer. It is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) each way, mostly on bike paths.

Rob under strangely grown tree at the castle
Meg loves picking wildflowers

When we got there, we had a little snack we had brought with us and Meg gave us a bit of a tour around the outside (the inside was closed because of Corona restrictions, but contains a fancy restaurant, and open-air amphitheater, and a mini-golf course). Meg had been there recently for a treasure-hunt birthday party, and showed us where the treasure was. Hopefully we will find more time soon for family bike rides.

View from the castle

Colorado skies

Clare mentioned recently that she has been trying in vain to capture the beauty of Colorado skies. Sunday she took a couple pictures from the berm behind her parents’ house, and I think she captured some really great shots. It is indeed a very beautiful place.

Camping at the Akropolis

No, not the Akropolis in Greece, the one in Aachen! it is on the Lousberg, a big hill in the middle of the city. Apparently the columns known as the Akropolis used to be part of a restaurant which was destroyed in WWII, and they decided to leave the columns as ruins. It was really beautiful and peaceful there. You can not tell that you are in the middle of a city at all.

Meg’s scout troop celebrated its 5 year anniversary recently, and I was fortunate enough to be able to join in on the festivities, and even stay the night, which was a treat, since usually the parents are not invited on campouts with the scouts in Germany. The last time I was camping with the scouts in Germany was about 20 years ago, with my guest brother Emmi. Not much has changed it seems. They still have great big tents called Kohte (from native american “Dakota”), and Jurte ( English Yurt). The tents are canvas and built in modular sections which you button together. This design means you can button  several together to form a really big tent. They had Jurte together for the main gathering tent, which included a stage for the kids to perform skits and songs, and a firepit, around which we sang songs until 3 in the morning (well, Meg and I went to bed around 11, but many stayed up later).

I am really proud of Meg for being such a great scout, and thankful I got to share the experience with her.

Leaf pile


It has become an annual tradition to make a big leaf pile to jump in. This year may be the biggest pile yet. This year Meg’s friend Natalie just happened to come over while we were making it. The kids also did a much bigger portion of the raking this year. Yay!

 

Sledding and snowboarding

Meg, Spencer, and I went sledding today. It was a great day for sledding, with pretty good packing snow, and temperatures right around freezing. Spencer learned how to “snowboard” on a sled down the hill. He convinced me to try it as well, and I made it all the way down once, but mostly just fell. Falling as an adult hurts more than a kid, so I only did it a couple times, and stuck to sitting down mostly. Here’s a video of some of our runs