Tomorrow is May Day, and I don't think I will ever tire of the crazy way Germans celebrate the most innocuous of holidays. Tonight I should be having a bonfire to scare off witches and dance into the morning. Or, Dance into May.
Traditionally, tomorrow would also see the arrival of the May Pole, or maybe even my secret admirer would put a mini one in my garden to let me know he's sweet on me. The day is meant to be spent outside, welcoming spring. Apparently people go into the woods and forage for sweet woodruff
to make a sort of tea. I could not make this stuff up if I tried.
Instead, I'm off to Enschede, in the Netherlands, to shop. May Day is also Labour Day in Germany. And as old habits die hard, I will pull the Southern Ontarian card and book it over the border where the world hasn't shut down to go for a bike ride.
Here's a little old lady tip, courtesy of the Babcia, for helping dough to rise:
- Turn on your oven.
- Check that it's getting warm in there.
- Shut the heat off.
- Put in your dough to rise, leaving the door ajar.
If you follow these steps exactly, your dough will rise perfectly and you're on your way to making bread. However, if you're anything like me you'll take Step 2 to heart and singe the top of your hand on the heating element as you check if the oven is warm enough. (It is.) I gather it's a pretty bad burn since I didn't actually feel it happen but rather HEARD it happen. And now that I've hopefully whet your appetite, a recipe. For bread.
The Joy of Cooking: Dill & Cheddar Cheese Bread
Heat until warm (105° to 115°F):
1 1⁄2 cups milk
Add to it and stir until the butter mostly melts:
1⁄3 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup (1⁄2 stick) butter, softened
1 tablespoon salt
Remove from the heat. Combine in a large bowl and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes:
1⁄2 cup warm (105° to 115°F) water
2 packages (1 1⁄2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
Stir in the milk mixture. Add and beat until smooth:
1 large egg
1 1⁄2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar (6 ounces)
1 T fresh dill
Beat in well:
3 cups all-purpose flour
Add and continue beating and stirring until the dough begins to leave the sides of the bowl:
2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
Knead the dough about 10 minutes. Transfer the bread to an oiled bowl and turn it to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75° to 85°F) until doubled, about 1 hour. Grease two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Punch down the dough, divide it in half, and shape into 2 loaves. Place in the loaf pans and let rise again until nearly doubled, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Brush the loaves, if desired with:
Bake about 30 minutes. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Remove from the pans to a rack to cool completely.
I halved the recipe because I only have one loaf pan, and it still turned out better than expected. Meaning, I expected something along the lines of dried out play-doh and this wasn't that. Seriously impressed with myself about this. I think the burn gave me battle courage and the bread surrendered. Or something like that, I don't really know how to talk tough.
My father in law is all about cultural experiences. Exploring bike trails, eating local cuisine and apparently clicking in at 200 km/h on the Autobahn. He also isn't the greatest at accepting criticism, so we all just sat back, silent as could be, as he hurled a minivan towards the coast. A two hour drive magically became a one hour drive and we all took turns patting Peter on the back for getting us to the sea in such great time.
We settled on a place called Dangast, a small cove town on the Jade Breast Bay. I don't remember the German name, but it does actually translate to Jade Breast, because of it's shape and the colour of the water. The weather was chilly, with the threat of rain looming, but we made the most of it. The girls and I rolled up our jeans and headed into the muddy water. My tiny girls were able to stay above ground while their not so tiny mother sank into the mud with each step. I convinced myself that I was at the spa getting some kind of clay treatment. My mother in law was just convinced that I was nuts.
Eloise took no time in getting soaked in muddy water. I had no choice but to take off her sopping jeans and fashion a makeshift sarong out of my scarf for her. We thought this was a pretty good improvisation until a stranger came up to Aaron and gave him a new pair of pants for Eloise to put on.
I may or may not still have clay imbedded under my toenails.
I'm hoping that posting a lot of pictures all at once will make up for the fact that I've had no inclination to attend to this blog of mine. This spring chicken is in a funk. Funk, funk, fuck, funk. I hid a secret message. I'm clever that way.
I felt a certain affinity with this bird. He kind of has this WTF look about him, that I've also been sporting lately.
Castle & Woods.
I decided to go the ambitious route for Easter eggs this year. The girls and I went to the market to pick up ingredients to make natural dyes. Our home smelled of cabbage and beets. If you ask Aaron, this is not a good thing.
My favourite was the cabbage. I was not expecting that kind of blue.
Claudia went to school on her birthday with carrot cake for the class. They lit birthday candles for her and sang her happy birthday "in two languages!". But the best was seeing her face when Granddad and Grandma came and picked her up after school. I think Peter may have had his breathing compromised from the ferocious bear hug he received. It was a really great visit, and so much fun to show them around Münster at this time of year. I think the girls loved their two worlds colliding. I liked having a spotless kitchen for five days. Thanks Donna! xoxo
I really want to watch "Chubby Indian Kid teaches How to Dougie" but Germany won't let me. Can some North American watch it, then recreate it on video and send it to me? Thanks in advance.
On our way to and from Austria, we made stops into the cities of Rothenburg and Bamberg, both in Bavaria. Rothenburg is a strictly maintained city from the middle ages and is flocked to by more tourists than you can shake a stick at. The main town attraction is a pastry called Schneeballen, which is essentially leftover pastry crust rolled into a ball and dusted with sugar, chocolate, you name it. It was disgusting.
Aside from tourist shops, a medieval torture museum (that didn't accept human donations, the nerve!) and a toy museum, the only thing left to do was to find a quiet place for the kids to run around and play hide and seek. This was our favourite part of town, with pretty views and a desire to steal candy coloured houses to call my own.
I'm not a fan of posting pictures of myself unless I resemble my 23 year old self, or it has inherit comedic value. This one has the latter. Aaron, bless his heart, is a full foot taller than me. His remedy for this is to bend his neck so that it level with mine. This results in near dislocation of my own head, but at least we're in the same frame, right?
Severed nerves do not make for the best facial expressions.
Walk with me a little. We leave Rothenburg, go to Austria, sing DoReMi, turn around and land in Bamberg. Destination chosen because of its halfway to home location and its Rauchbier. This beer is brewed with smoked hops, and essentially tastes like Polish sausage. We attempt to find a legit place that both brews and serves its beer with hearty Bavarian fare. Tada! We find it. All hustle and bustle, suspenders and pretzels. We find our seats, order our beer and are handed our menus. Oh, mother of God. We hardly understand a thing on this menu. We know, by now, that Schwein means pig, but all those extra words surrounding it could mean boiled testicle on a bed of raw onion. We had to ask for help. Worst decision ever. Our waitress was, excuse my language, the nastiest bitch we have encountered to date. Holier than thou German bar wench. "Umm, can you please tell us what - schweintesticleonion - means?" For which we received a glare that turned the children to stone and the reply of "Don't you have your guide book with you?" HUH?!?
So we quickly grabbed our beers, asked for the bill, waited for the 5 cents change, which was Aaron's idea as he didn't want her to think we were tipping her five whole cents, and ran into the courtyard. From there we spotted a second dining room and came up with a plan. We would go in there, hope that our wench didn't see us and try to order again. Enter scarier looking wench than the first. Start to sweat as she approaches the bar man and whispers in German. He stares our way, and starts moving towards us. "We just want a pretzel!" I blurt out. He asks where we got the beer from. I'm not above crying at this point, but decide that tattling might prove to be more useful. "The waitress on the other side doesn't want to serve us! She asked us where our guide book was!" Tattling totally works. He handed us an English menu, gave the girls "sweeties" and waited on us himself. The meal was delicious, the beer even more so. We're never going back.
I have an immense dislike, teetering on repulsion, of old school muppets. Their flat mouths and droopy eyes, have me shoving my face into a pillow whenever one appears. So when Eloise came in the room saying "Mommy, I have new eyes!" I was really hoping that she was wearing my glasses or some experimental make up job. Instead, to my horror, I got this.
Claudia cried as her sticker book went up in flames. That'll teach 'em.
I love the Sound of Music. I still have the recorded from tv VHS movie my Mom made me when I was a child. I sing My Favourite Things to Claudia. I was Sister Sophia in our Grade 8 production of the play. I had to remember the line "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned" while holding Nazi auto parts. Anyway, I wanted to go to Salzburg.
Aaron picked us up in Frankfurt and off we went. After a few stops along the way, (more about those later), we had the Alps (I think?) in our line of site and soon enough we were finding our way to our hotel.
Except, by hotel, I mean Pension. I still don't quite know what that is, but it's somewhere between a hostel and a low run hotel. We got out of our car in the pouring rain, stepped over some broken beer bottles and found ourselves across the street from a porn store. My open mind was not to be deterred, so we unloaded our bags and went out for dinner. It was so much fun taking the kids outside every ten minutes so they could scream, whine and complain in the great outdoors. Alas.
We walked back to the hotel/Pension and waited for sunrise. Turns out, you want to spend the money for a hotel in the old town. The difference was quite literally night and day. I swear the hills were fucking alive with the sound of music. We strolled, we picnicked in a valley, we weren't all yelling at once. It was a strange sort of happiness.
We didn't do any Sound of Music tours or anything like that, but we did run into a few of the places where scenes were filmed and learned a lot along the way about the real Von Trapp family. The obstacles they had to overcome are truly awe inspiring. I mean, they somehow managed to get a five year old to cross the Alps? I can hardly get Claudia to walk to school. These parents had balls of steel.
I have confidence?
Crisp Apple Strudel
This is Edelweiss until a botanist tells me different.
Easter Market goodies.
If my Deutsch is correct, these horses make 160 euros an hour. Fancy.
I'm hiding in another room. Our water heater has gone kaput, and the man who is here to install the new one should have chosen ballet as a career path. He is SCREAMING at Aaron in German because the water heater is exactly where it is supposed to be, but he's having trouble reaching it. I'm just going to keep typing until he's left, because I'm quite frightened and don't wish to leave the room. If he was a stay at home Mom, I would offer him a coffee, hug, bubble bath - SOMETHING to calm him down, but I don't think any of those would work. I am now on my knees (not really) praying that God intervenes and the puzzle piece will just snap into place.
Oh, it is suddenly quiet. Maybe Aaron stepped in and gave him a hug? I hear tools being packed. YES! Guten Tag Handy Man! I don't want to believe in divine intervention, but I do say that is what just happened. Phew.
I can't finish posting about Canada with an ode to whining about my age. These two beauties make sure that I keep things in check, and appreciate each day for what it is.
My smiling niece, Charlotte. She's kind of perfect.
I was lucky to come home at the same time that a benefit dinner was being held for my early childhood friend Michelle. Michelle's sister Monica and I have been attached at the hip since I was born, and have seen each other through a lot. Last summer, Michelle suffered a heart attack while at work and was unconscious for twenty minutes before she received CPR. She was 23. She remained in a coma for months in hospital. When she regained consciousness, the injuries to her brain had became apparent. She is going down a long road to recovery. Eager to help in every way, her friends organized the most amazing evening in her honour, a "Celebration of Life". Michelle had never looked more beautiful.
That is Michelle in the centre of family and friends who love her. Happiness and optimism belongs to all of us. No matter what we've been through, or what we have yet to see. Your outlook changes with a smile.