Before our trip to Canada my Mom had sent me a newspaper article rating about a half dozen cupcake shops in and around Hamilton.  The article came with instructions that we would hit up each and every one to do the taste test ourselves.  A bit grandiose of a plan, and inevitably we didn't set foot into even one of those places while I was home.

Another missed culinary opportunity was that we didn't go for poutine while we were home.  NY Fries may not do an authentic version, but it's delicious and readily available.  Fries in Germany come with mayonnaise or curry ketchup, so the craving for fries with gravy started growing.

I could have just made a batch myself.  I just feel that baked french fries aren't always worth the trouble and I don't like to deep fry only because I don't know what to do with the oil afterwards.  (Really, what do you do?  Throw it down the toilet?) So, I had a brilliant idea.  I really convinced myself that I had invented this, but it turns out, not so much.  Regardless of it's origins, this Gnocchi Poutine hit all the right spots, in a kind of refined way.  

1 pound gnocchi
1/2 cup crumbly cheese
1 cut of beef - I used a rib eye because it was on sale, but you could use a blade steak and it would still be tender and delicious because of the long cooking time
1 onion, sliced
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup water
salt & pepper

1. In a heavy pot, heat 1 T olive oil over medium high heat
2. Season your cut of beef with a generous coating of salt & pepper
3. Brown the beef on each side until there is a nice brown crust, about 3-5 minutes per side.  
4. Remove the beef and set aside.
5. Add the onion and sauté until semi-transluscent, about another 3-5.
6. Add the red wine and let it reduce for a couple minutes.
7. Add the beef back to the pot, add some water and put a lid on it. Turn the heat down to a simmer and leave it alone for at least an hour.  After that, feel free to toss and turn it and add more water if necessary.  Leave it in for another couple hours or until the beef comes apart with a fork.
8. Remove the beef and shred it with a fork.
9. Add your choice of thickener, I used gravy powder, to the stock and allow to thicken to a gravy.  
10. Add the beef back to the pot and stir.

Meanwhile, cook the gnocchi according to the directions on the package.  I used fresh so it only took a couple of minutes.

Add some gnocchi to a bowl, add the cheese and top with gravy. It was so yummy that I got over the fact that I'm not as brilliant as I thought I was when I "invented" this dish earlier in the day.  If I was ever feeling ambitious, I might sauté the gnocchi in a little brown butter to give it a bit of a crunch.  Give it a try and let me know what you thought!

Poutine can't help if it's an ugly duckling, so the picture might not do it justice.  Trust me, it was good!
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I received some of my father-in-law's old Nikon lenses the day we celebrated Christmas with Aaron's side of the family.  They weren't a gift, but only because they weren't wrapped.  It would have taken me years to collect these, and I'm so happy that we're able to use them.  Thanks Peter!
I'm going to give Mary credit where credit is due.  She birthed Jesus. But, she didn't take the time to put up a pine tree in the little manger, even though guests were arriving imminently.  No, society had to wait until the Germans came up with the idea to do so.  At first they thought to decorate an oak tree, but then decided that pine was perfection as it pointed towards heaven.  Anyway, give it a few hundred years and this country is full fledged, teenage boy, eager beaver about Christmas.

We really noticed, a few weeks before our vacation in Canada, that people window shop here.  It's not a saying folks, it's the real deal.  Throngs of people, out on a Sunday, just shopping in windows, not spending a cent.  The windows, as such, are decorated to the nines.  It's really pretty.  

Then there are the Christmas markets.  These guys are a hit.  So many friggen people just milling about, sipping mulled wine, or hot chocolate as the case may be.  I had a bad reaction to the mulled wine in Denmark and dare not venture down that path again.  Claudia thinks it's the best hot chocolate ever, and she would be right.  It's the best hot chocolate ever.  

Everything adds up to a genuine holiday spirit.  Everyone wishes one another a Merry Christmas, and they're happy to say it.  We're happy to be here, revelling in it all.  I'm grateful that I was able to see family and friends so close to Christmas, as the distance between us would surely have felt much wider had I not. 

Frohe Weihnachten and Merry Christmas!    
Papa with his girls at Gore Park.
Bread Bar with the BFF.
Meeting Figgy, aka Charlotte, for the first time!
German Vintage Finds! Tinsel made out of tin. I kid you fucking not.
The best hot chocolate. In a commemorative mug.
Carousel at the Christmas Market.
Münster at Christmastime.
Eloise looks like a little Polack with her bangs hacked. God I love her. So does Claudia.
I'm fighting a cold and it's winning.  Our apartment is in pieces and I'm trying to get in the Christmas spirit.  Canada is a blur of a memory and there is a permanent drizzle all around us back here in Münster.  I'm hoping for a burst of energy to happen any time now so I can upload some pictures and tell some stories of the last few weeks.  Or maybe accomplishing just one of the above two is a more attainable goal.  Please bear with me.  This website will be mucho interesting again in no time.  Here's to hoping!
Babcia was crying as I said good-bye to her today.  I couldn't, in good conscience, leave her in tears. 
"Babcia, how am I supposed to leave you when you're crying?" I said.
"I don't like your hair" she replied.

I will miss her.  Really, truly. 
New Mothers, hold your babies tight.  One day, before you know it, they will be four going on snarky and jaded.

Let's set up this scene, shall we?

Driving away from the terminal after dropping Aaron off to leave for Scotland.
Me: I miss him already!
Claudia: Why?
Me: I don't know, I just do.
Claudia: Uh, we're still in the airport Mommy.  There are planes ALL AROUND YOU.
Me: True, but . . .
Claudia:  I think Daddy's going to get trapped, like, in a jail. 

Dear Daughter,
Your mother is a highly impressionable and superstitious woman.  Please keep your insights to yourself from now on. And no, you can't have ice cream because you finished all your french fries.  It doesn't matter how loud you yell "BUT POTATOES ARE HEALTHY!"  That only works on Grandma. 

    A settled couple who Aaron and I know very well are in the midst of a complete surface renovation of their home.  New paint, new table varnish, new floors.  The floors are probably everything they always wanted.  Made with local wood (go Local!) it IS pretty. In fact, too pretty.  To the family who had them installed, those floors are horizontal art.  When friends were invited over, they did the obligatory oohs and aahs before sitting around a table that was, unfortunately, sitting atop an old sheet, lest the chairs scratch the new floors. 
    I can understand the anxiety, and I don't begrudge them that.  I have a new couch that means the girls and I won't be snuggling up to watch movies and eat popcorn on it for some time. 
    What bothers me is this hesitation to really live in our houses.  Instead we act like visitors, on edge waiting for the inevitable first scratch of the surface.  What is the point of filling our homes with items we find too precious to use them comfortably?  Let me reiterate that I am asking this of myself as much as I do of others.
    I've been craving comfort for a while now.  I've always striven for it, but the more time I spend longing for it, the more aware I am that it's something that has been lacking in my life.  I hope that it rests somewhere inside of us and that we can bring it out wherever we may be, regardless of our surroundings.  I worry that the ability to do that is so Buddha-esque that by the time I reach that place it will be when I'm sitting in a diaper that the night nurse has just put on me.
    Anyway.  I am in Canada at the moment.  In my mother's home.  In a couple of days I will be calling the Delta Hotel in Toronto home.  A couple days after that I will call my mother in law's place home.  And then, do I return to Germany and call it home?  I am so hesitant to call it that.  I want a place where I am comfortable, a place that will be hospitable to daily conundrums, but I'm not confident that I can do that in any form of temporary lodging.  Aaron is in Glasgow at the moment, being interviewed for a permanent position. Will Glasgow be the place where we finally throw our boots?  Even permanent loses its meaning sometimes.

    Isn't self actualization fucking cloying?  I'm off to remedy this with a healthy dose of rest and relaxation.  By which I mean a benzoid and a glass of wine.  By which I probably actually mean a cigarette and cold coffee.  I'll still take the benzoid though.  Those things are great.