Banana Bread – Muffin Recipe

I’ve been making this recipe long enough that I have made it my own and want to keep track of the recipe. Spencer loves these muffins with cream cheese. These have been a good treat to make during the COVID-19 isolation, until we ran out of cream cheese.

Ingredients
1/3 cup (75 g) melted butter
3 very ripe bananas, peeled
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla sugar packet
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C), and spray oil in a silicon muffin pan.

2 In a mixing bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Mash bananas into melted butter.

3 Stir in the sugar, beaten egg, and vanilla sugar (or extract).

4 Mix in the baking soda and salt. Sift and mix in the flour in 3 half-cup portions.

5 Pour the batter into your prepared muffin pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 350°F (175°C), or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. If you prefer it as bread, you can use a loaf pan, but then it bakes longer ~ 45 minutes.

6 Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for a few minutes. Then remove the banana muffins from the pan and let cool completely before storing, if there are any left after devouring them while still warm.

Originally inspired by this recipe: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/banana_bread/

Meg’s project week

Rosa rosado rosina

The last week has been anything but usual for most of the world, including at our home in Würselen, Germany. Schools have been closed since Monday, and throughout the week more and more businesses closed. Rob’s company recommended working from home as of Monday. Clare stayed home Monday, but went in Tuesday, only to find out that the entire research institute was closing as well.

Last weekend Clare put together a fantastic schedule mimicking the kids normal school day, comprised of 45 minute blocks with some 5 minute breaks, and a couple longer breaks as well. We also came up with a bunch of different types of school-related activities for the kids to do. Both of the kids were going to have assignments from their teachers, but they didn’t come immediately. I had to pick up Meg’s assignments from the school in person on Tuesday. Spencer’s assignments came via e-mail on Wednesday and Thursday. While we waited for these assignments, we thought of some ourselves, such as logic puzzles, typing lessons, and art projects. Meg came up with several projects on her own as well. Some she had already started before the Corona virus changed all of our lives, such as the small greenhouse she got for her birthday. Meg had also been pushing hard to use her whiteboard for meal planning for many weeks, which we finally implemented just a few weeks ago, once I found some magnets to hold it up on the refrigerator. After the first day home, which involved a fair amount of fighting and complaining, I also asked Meg to create a behavior chart, which she accomplished lickety-split.

One silver lining for us was the weather – it is definitely feeling like Spring here, and after several weeks of clouds and rain, the sun finally came out. We let the kids play at the park for “recess” until Wednesday afternoon, when they officially closed all the playgrounds. Saturday we walked to the farm stand to get more fresh milk, eggs, and butter, and strawberries (yes, local strawberries in March – much earlier than normal). We saw a few other people out walking, but definitely much emptier than a normal Saturday here. Clare went shopping on Tuesday afternoon. She reported that the store was not as busy as normal. They have not implemented maximum number of people at a time like in some places. But they were out of many things, without much rhyme or reason as far as we can tell. Like other places around the world, toilet paper seems to be in high demand. In fact, apparently someone in Würselen smashed a car window recently to steal toilet paper out of it. They were not out of canvases though, so Clare picked up a couple so Meg could paint some. Meg decided that we needed a pretty picture in our bedroom. She has dubbed the painting “Rosa rosada rosina”

Crazy times. We are getting through it though, and Meg has been super helpful. She remains cheerful (most of the time), and we really appreciate all her various projects.

Pizza pie

Half margherita half pepperoni pizza

Today Meg and I tried out a pizza recipe from her favorite cookbook that my mom got her a couple years ago. They were a big hit. I think we will add it to our normal rotation.

Putting on the toppings

Putting on the sauce
Punching down the dough

Happy Birthday Meg

Galaxy Cake

Similar to Spencer’s birthday, we celebrated Meg’s birthday first at home, and then with friends. For her birthday dinner, she decided on French toast and fruit salad. To celebrate with friends, she picked a place in the Netherlands called Clip n Climb, which was the location for one of her friends’ parties last fall. This year she requested a galaxy cake. Two of her friends asked for the recipe, so it was definitely a hit. That’s another notch on Clare’s cake-making belt. Even though she claims to not be good at it, she has a track record of some pretty incredible cakes.

One of the climbing adventures was a timed one – Meg did it about 10 times in a row, getting faster each time. I think her first one was over 40 seconds, and she eventually got done to about 15 seconds!

Happy birthday Spencer

Ice cream cake for an 11 year old

This year we didn’t really celebrate Spencer’s birthday directly on his birthday, because his birthday was over Carnival weekend, and we instead went to Berlin for a long weekend. Instead we adjusted the schedule a bit, but kept some of the traditions. We had Spencer’s family birthday dinner of Schnitzel, Käsespätzle, Broccoli and ice cream cake with Dave and Ellen on the 18th. Then on Friday the 28th Spencer and most of his soccer team, plus his best friend from school Andre celebrated at the local laser tag place. It was legen — wait for it — dary!

Checkpoint Charlie

Clare, Dave, Ellen, Meg, and Spencer at Checkpoint Charlie

For our second full day in Berlin we first headed to the Berlin wall museum at Checkpoint Charlie. I think we all really enjoyed it. There is a huge amount of artifacts and information about the wall packed into a relatively small space. Other than the occasional piece of the wall here and there scattered about Berlin, it is nearly impossible to notice the differences between West and East anymore.

Carefree day

For our first full day in Berlin, we headed out to Potsdam to visit the famous palace of Sans Souci, which means “without worry” in French. Frederick the Great spent his summers there in the 18th century. The entire park houses several different palaces. Sans Souci was Frederick the Great’s favorite palace. It is actually not that big for a palace, with only about a dozen rooms. We took the train from Berlin out to the park. We arrived near the new palace, but had timed tickets for Sans Souci, which is on the other side of the park, so we had a pretty long walk to get there. Fortunately it wasn’t rainy.

After the tour of Sans Souci we had a little snack of leftover rolls from breakfast and some fruit, and then found a bus that took us back to the new palace for the tour there. We stopped at the museum shop there to get a cookbook that Meg liked, and then we got a tour of the new palace, which is much bigger than Sans Souci. Frederick the Great had it built to display the wealth and power of the kingdom of Prussia. Emperor Wilhelm the second spent much of the last several years of his reign during World War I here. One of the many interesting facts we learned was that Frederick the Great allowed common people to tour the palace even while he was in power, so long as they were dressed appropriately (which for women apparently meant wearing a dress 6 feet wide).

After the tours we had a tasty lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in Potsdam, then made a brief stop at the Nauener gate before heading back to our aparment in Berlin near the Brandenburg gate.

Fedibbletys at the Nanauer gate

We had to change trains from the S-Bahn to the U-Bahn at Zoologischer Garten, and I managed to drag everyone to the Kaiser Wilhelm remembrance church, which, while only a few blocks away, seemed long for tired legs. I think it was worth it though, to see the contrast of one mostly-destroyed church from WWII, and the new church right next to it, which is bathed in blue light from the stained glass windows.

Great swimmers

The swim club has an internal swim meet every December. In January they present the awards. Meg was really excited for it. Last year she got 3rd place, and this year 2nd. Her times were: 56.40 50m freestyle, 1:10.22 50m breast, and 1:09.84 50m backstroke. This was Spencer’s first year, and he didn’t make it into the top three, mostly because he was just getting over from a nasty cold, but he still got a medal. His times were 47.78s 50m freestyle, 1:06.72, 50m breast, and 1:05.13 50m backstroke. We are very proud of both of our swimmers!

Cologne Christmas market

Fedibbletys with good luck ashes on their noses

We ended up being very busy in the Advent season with a number of activities for the kids, so we did not get to as many christmas markets as we had hoped. A colleague had mentioned to me that one of the several markets in Cologne remained open until January 6th, so we decided to check it out a few days after Christmas. Clare needed to get her screen replaced on her iPhone, so we used the Apple Store appointment as an excuse to get there (turns out it was only the screen protector that was cracked after all!). The kids had been asking to go ice skating in London, but we said no because it was super crowded. So this time we said yes. Clare was patient while the three of us went skating. It was certainly one of the most pleasant skating experiences of my life. With mulled wine and smoked meat wafting through the air, surrounded by pine trees, in the historic downtown of Cologne, with the cathedral in the distance. It was worth the price.

Stone Henge

Sunrise at Stone Henge on the winter solstice

After seeing 2000 year old civilization in Italy in October, we decided to go back even further in time in December to visit experience the druidic magic of the sunrise during the winter solstice at Stone Henge. Clare found a tour which would take us from London to Stone Henge, where we would get to stand right in the middle of the rocks, a privilege only 1% of visitors to Stone Henge get. Usually you can only look at the stones from a path around the perimeter.

Before our adventure to Stone Henge started, we had a few adventures along the way. Clare had booked an apartment in London back in June, and shortly before the money was due for it, she had the feeling that it might be a scam, after reading a review that it was a fake address. So she ended up booking 2 rooms in a regular hotel instead. It started to seem more and more like National Lampoon’s European Vacation. We had also booked train travel from Aachen all the way to London, taking the Eurostar train from Brussels to London. But then we learned that the French train service was on strike, and there was a pretty good chance that our train from Aachen to Brussels might be cancelled. So at the very last minute we decided to drive to Brussels instead and park there. We ended up parking at the best parking garage ever – Park Indigo. Not only was it freshly painted and clean, but it had hanging foam dividers between each parking spot, and classical music playing. And it was only 15 Euro per day, half the rate of the parking at the train station, and only 3 blocks away.

We arrived safely on Saturday afternoon as planned, after a very enjoyable train ride. After checking in at the hotel, we went to the London Eye, the big ferris wheel by the Thames. Spencer didn’t want to go, so he and I went bowling while Meg and Clare went on it. Then we had some tasty Korean mexican fusion street food, headed back to the hotel, and called it a night. Sunday morning we woke up at 3 a.m., quickly got dressed, and headed out in a cab to the place where the bus was picking us up. We got on the bus right around 4 a.m. and arrived at Stone Henge around 7 a.m., where we had about a 20 minute walk to the stones. Meg was wearing her new scout jacket, which is waterproof and quite warm, and was eager to show us all how she is a better hiker than us, and kept walking ahead, in spite of my requests not to. When we got to the stones, the Druidic ceremonies were just about to start. I set my backpack down for a minute to pull out my camera, and then Meg was gone. A minute or two later Spencer and Clare came back to me, and we could not find Meg, but the ceremonies were starting, so we just walked towards the stones. Soon we were crowded in by hundreds of people, and there was no turning back. Meg ended up finding a security guard, and ended up watching most of the ceremony with them. After the ceremony was ever it didn’t take too long to find her, and she didn’t seem that worried about the whole thing. It seems she had even a better spot for viewing the ceremony than the rest of us. That is one independent girl!