Wild waters

Today we hiked part of the Wilde Wasser trail in Schladming Austria. It was very steep at times, but it was really beautiful, and we were rewarded with a beer garden at the top. The weather was perfect. We finished around 15.30, and it started raining around 16.30.

Fedibbletys at Riesach waterfall

Independent in Dachau

Independent burritos

This year we celebrated independence day with another expat from Trenton Michigan in Dachau, near Munich. We took a long walk in the woods, had lunch at a beer garden, and then had burritos for dinner. It was great. Thanks to the Gallagher family for being such great hosts.


Clare and Rob at the Indemann

Today we went to the Indemann. The rest of the family had been there before, but this was my first time. It is a large metal structure about 150 feet tall in the shape of a man, in the town of Inde. From the top you have a great view of the gigantic coal pit nearby, and the power plant which uses the coal from it.

Germany has pledged to stop using coal by 2038. In the meantime, there are still some very large active brown coal mines near us, which continue to eat up little villages. According to some of the signage we read that 7,500 people have been displaced because of it (not that many compared to the 1.3 million people displaced by the damming of theYangtze River in China) . When the mining is all done, they will turn the pit into a lake, which they have done in several other places in Germany, with quite a bit of success. It is very interesting to see the coal pit right next to windmills and solar panels – very much a view into the past and future of energy production.

The Indemann is a very interesting mix of art installation, viewing platform, and theme park – there is a large playground, a mini-golf course, and a soccer golf course. Spencer and I played a round of mini-golf. During Covid-19 times, it is required to wear a face mask to ascend the structure, which Clare and I did. The kids forgot their face masks at home, but weren’t that interested anyways, so they played on the playground.

Happy Mother’s Weekend

Last weekend we spent much of the time celebrating the button in our family – that is, the person who holds everything to together – Clare. Meg made several projects for her, including one that was a school project, plus several she came up with on her own, or saw on youtube. While Clare was at work the kids and I went shopping a couple times in downtown Würselen to get some presents – including ordering some flowers, and some fancy Belgian pralines.

Tortellini, Salmon with carmelized soy-honey glaze, white asparagus with lemon butter sauce, and mache salad (Feldsalat)

Clare requested scallops for her special meal. I went on Friday to the local fish monger, but they were out. They said they would have some on Saturday. I went back Saturday, and they still didn’t. So I got a nice salmon filet instead. Clare got some fresh asparagus from the local farm stand, and we had a nice meal. We decided to eat on Saturday instead of Sunday, because it was fresh.

On Sunday, Meg woke up around 7 o’clock to get all the surprises ready for Clare, including making french toast. I went out to get rolls from the bakery for pulled-pork for dinner. I was also going to pick up the flowers from the florist we had ordered earlier in the week. I ended up not getting rolls, as the line at the bakery was half-way down the street, and it was starting to drizzle a bit. so we ended up having our pulled pork sandwiches on english muffins instead, which was still good. Clare also bought fresh strawberries and rhubarb at the farm stand. There was just enough for 2 pies. The strawberries were so sweet that I halved the sugar. I also need to remember to thank my mother for teaching me how to make pie. We shared one of them with our friends down the street at typical “Kaffee und Kuchen” time. They provided the coffee, which is always very tasty. It was the first time we had visited anyone in nearly 2 months! (thanks Covid 🙁 )

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.

Happy Easter 2020

Meg’s 2020 Easter decorations

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.

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

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.

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.

Magnets, meal plan, and manners chart
Magnets, meal plan, and manners chart
Spring has sprung
Spring has sprung

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.