Sunday, August 2, 2020

Germany Week!

Guten tag! This week we explored Germany! Fun fact, in high school I was in the German club during my senior year of high school. Why? Because my friend Lee was in the club and it looked good on my college applications. I never took German and rarely attended the events, but it was fun to say I was in the club.

I've visited Germany a few times now, and it really is a fantastic country. Each region is so different and provides unique entertainment, scenery, and food.

There's definitely a trend here where the crafts have fallen off a bit. With both camp and pool happening every day, we have less time for crafts. It's been so wonderful having these summer activities right now. The one craft we did attempt this week was making a cuckoo clock, since they were invented in Germany. I say attempted, because it didn't really hold either of their interests, so this was all we managed to get.

This week we took a field trip to a German market to get an apple strudel. It was about an hour away, and this should tell you a lot about our family. We are willing to travel for food.*  The market was small, but cute. There was a deli counter filled with German cheeses, meats, and baked goods. The rest of the shop was filled with all sorts of German goodies like sauerkraut, spaetzele, and candies. There was a whole section devoted to mustard! 

We also watched a few videos on Germany and German culture, including ones on German Christmas markets (a huge favorite of ours!), gingerbread houses, and skiing.

I already mentioned we went to a German market to grab some apple strudel. While there we also picked up a piece of Black Forrest cake and took both pieces to a park to eat. 

To be honest, they were both pretty, but not amazing. We decided to make our own strudel, and it was delicious. Look at how well Dan made this strudel dough! The test is whether you can read a newspaper through the dough, and Dan succeeded. 

The rest of the menu was: veal schnitzel, kaesespaetzle, brats with sauerkraut, homemade pretzels, kartoffelpuffers, and potato salad (forgot to take a picture). 

We opted for Beyond Meat sausages for our brats. They were delicious. Especially with the authentic kraut and mustard.

Dan made these yummy pretzels using sourdough discard. They turned out great! A kartoffelpuffer is basically a giant latke (potato pancake). It's delicious on it's own, topped with apple sauce, or even a fried egg!

Another great week in the books. Next up, India!

See our other country weeks here.

* In fact, without exaggeration, we once stopped in Florence just to get a sandwich. True story.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Greece Week!

After a staycation in the States last week, we headed off to Greece this week.

We focused mainly on ancient Greece, rather than modern-day Greece. Zahara is already interested in Greek mythology, so we led with that. We only did one craft this week, but I loved it! We made Greek pottery using this very simple technique. I found images online of Greek pottery and traced the shapes onto a blank piece of paper. Then I colored in the shapes using orange and red crayons, and colored over the whole thing with a black crayon. The kids could then create their own images by using a toothpick to scratch off the black color.

We also watched this video of an artist creating a Greek amphora; Zahara did an amazing job following along. I was so impressed with the final results.

As I said, Zahara is interested in Greek mythology. She learned a little through a school program called BrainPOP, and she also read Percy Jackson. This week we discovered and binged a new-to-us kids podcast from National Geographic called Greeking Out. Each episode tells a different myth in a way that is approachable and fun. The contents can get a little dicey, but we listened with both kids and it was great.

We explored a few more BrainPOP lessons on Ancient Greece to learn more about the original Olympics, democracy, and Athens. We also followed up with a viewing of the classic kids movie Hercules. To be honest, I used this time to workout and cook, but the kids loved it and asked for a repeat viewing. 

We had lots of delicious Greek food this week. We ate at Trapezaria, where we had a real feast. We had various spreads (taramosolata, hummus, and melitzanosalata); spanikopita; grilled halloumi; saganaki (cheese flambeed table-side); falafel, and galaktoboureko for dessert (custard in phyllo dough--so good!).

We also made some great food at home. Our menu: Greek salad, fava, moussaka, tomatokeftedes, tzatziki, kolokithokeftedes, and gyro.

We had to make some adjustments to some of the recipes to make them kosher. We made the moussaka with fake meat and real bechamel. I've never had this before and I really liked the flavor. We made tzatziki with non-dairy yogurt, and then ordered shawarma from a local kosher restaurant to make a gyro. It's not a perfect match to a real gyro, but it was really good. 

For those who are interested, based on the article from Spoon University, the main differences between a gyro and a shawarma are twofold. 1) A gyro is typically made from pork or lamb, and a shawarma can be made of almost any type of meat. The spices on the two meats are different, with shawarma having more intense spices. 2) A shawarma is never topped with tzatziki. 

There were so many other things we didn't get to this week, like baklava, and yaya's cookies from my friend Rachel, and reenacting some of the original Olympic games (I was thinking javelin with pool noodles). But, this was a great sneak peak into a beautiful country with an incredible history. 

Next up, Germany!

See our other country week adventures here.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Dear Asher: 4 Years

Dear Asher,

Happy 4th birthday! This seems like a real milestone. You officially aren't a baby any more under anyone's definition. You're a big kid now. 

This has been a great, if strange, year. Obviously, the biggest event this year was, and continues to be, Covid-19. This has had a huge impact on you since school was canceled back in March. What an adjustment this has been for all of us! Your school did an amazing job of trying to keep you connected, but Zoom and 3-year-olds are a tough combination. You were much happier outside playing in our back yard, watching your sister do her remote work, or cooking or doing activities with me. Because you weren't so keen on alone time, it made it really difficult to work. Thankfully, you're a pretty great companion most of the time, and I cherish the extra time and snuggles I got with you.

You are such an affectionate kid. The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is wait for your alarm clock to turn green (best invention ever!) then come into our room and ask for snuggles. You'll climb in and give us lots of hugs and kisses. It's one of my favorite parts of my day. You're also really into the idea that you and I will be married when you turn five. I'm not sure where you got this idea, but at least once a week you'll mention it and start planning the decorations for our wedding. We've talked about the fact that I'm already married, but you don't seem concerned.

You were talking a lot last year already, but this year you've taken it to a whole new level. You never stop! You are so curious, always asking who, what, where, when, and why. And then, you'll ask some more questions. Lately though, your questions are really philosophical. In reference to coronavirus, you asked why Hashem (G-d) would make bad things happen to people. Great question, bud. You're not all serious though. Your sense of humor is fantastic, and your comedic timing is great. You not only crack yourself up, but you crack us up too.

You and your best friends (David, Elnatan, and Adam) love superheros. You love dressing in costume and running all around the house fighting bad guys. I don't love your ability to turn absolutely everything into a weapon (baby carrot guns??), but I do love your creativity. 

You're a fantastic helper. You still love cooking and will often help us make dinner or lunches. You love cracking eggs, measuring ingredients, stirring, and of course taste testing. You're a very adventurous eater, always willing to try anything. We love that about you! You usually like what you eat--you're an eating machine! Daddy and I are terrified about what your teenage eating habits are going to look like.

It's not all sunshine and roses though. You do have a temper and are starting to deploy it more. Generally, you're a super happy kid. But, lately, you'll get really frustrated if we're not doing what you want. You're very stubborn and will sometimes refuse to do things you are perfectly capable of (e.g., pulling up your pants). Totally normal, but we are all relieved when your gorgeous smile comes back though.

My absolute favorite thing from this year though is watching the relationship between you and Zahara grow. You play so well together and are really mindful of each other's feelings. Not 100% of the time, but way more than before.

Asher, we love watching you grow into the young man you are. We can't wait to see what's in store in the coming years. Happy birthday! We love you to the moon and back!

See Asher's other birthday wishes here.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

USA Week!

As we continue our country weeks, we had to take a stop in the United States over the July 4th holiday. This was a tough week to plan our menu--there are so many great options. But we narrowed it down to some great choices. 

We spent most of this week relaxing and didn't do a ton of crafts. Our neighborhood pool opened up, so we spent every day at the pool. We did make this cute statue of liberty costume though. Couldn't have been easier, and Asher really enjoyed it.

Aside from swimming in our pool, which feels pretty American, our biggest cultural activity was watching Hamilton! I've actually never seen it before; Dan and I were supposed to go see it live at the Kennedy Center this fall, but sadly that's been canceled. The Disney recording was so fun to watch with the whole family. I was pleasantly surprised at how interested the kids were. Zahara and Asher both were asking really good questions. We were pausing the show roughly every 15 seconds--but it was worth it! Our collective favorite moments were with King George V. We can't stop singing his songs!

We went with some standard American fair, but also tried out new foods, including two Native Americans dishes. Here's what we landed on for this week's menu: Cincinnati chili; barbecue chicken with corn on the cob and potato salad; peach cobbler; deep dish pizza (ordered in from Armand's); chicken wings with baked beans; salmon with seaweed and blackberries; chia seed pudding, and corn chowder. 

Somehow I completely forgot to take pictures of the corn chowder, but it was delicious. Sadly, the Native American food was not to our taste. The chia pudding wasn't bad, but it was a bit slimy. I preferred mixing it in my oatmeal rather than on its own. The salmon...wasn't good. I didn't enjoy the flavor combination at all.

Everything else was perfect. So summery and delicious! Also, I know Cincinnati chili looks weird (spaghetti with chili?), but do give it a try. It's really good.

Next stop, Greece!

See our other country week adventures here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

France Week!

Ooh la la. This was a delicious week! Yes, I say that every week, and yes, that might have something to do with the fact we're picking our favorite food destinations. Nevertheless, France outdid itself. 

We learned about French impressionism and how artists like Monet changed the style of art through displaying deliberate brushstrokes. We attempted this style on foil canvases with q-tip paint brushes. I got the idea on Pinterest (I don't have a specific link), and this was a huge hit. First of all, it's so easy to do and the kids LOVED it. Secondly, I was really surprised how much information Zahara learned about Monet and impressionism, and how well the art turned out. 

We ended up doing these paintings all week. To make your own, just wrap a piece of cardboard (we used old cereal boxes) in foil. Paint any scene you want using finger paints and q-tips.

For one of our snack times, we made the Eiffel Tower. I drew the tower on a plain piece of printer paper (it doesn't need to be perfect). We used dates, Pirates Booty, baby carrots, and Veggie Straws, but you can use anything. Ideally, one of the snacks should be straight to make up the sides of the tower.

Once again we turned to our favorite Nat Geo Kids videos to learn more about France. We watched this one about the Eiffel Tower. We also watched the movie Madeline, which was a fun treat since Zahara has read the Madeline books.

We took a field trip this week too! We went to visit a French bakery near us, The Fresh Baguette, and actually had a nice lunch outside. Our county is starting to loosen restrictions around Covid, and now some restaurants are open. We are still not comfortable eating indoors yet, but are more open to the idea of eating outside at a table that is physically distanced from other tables. We wear masks unless we are eating, and make sure the waitstaff wear one too. It's not an every day event for us, but it is nice to have a little more freedom. Thankfully the numbers of new infections in our area are going down (largely due to enforced mask policies), so we are able to take on this risk. 

We had a hard time narrowing down our food menu this week, as you might imagine. Here's what we ended up with, but I suspect we'll need to circle back to France sometime soon. Coq au vin, duck a l'orange, French onion soup, creme brulee, potato salad with herring, barigoule of spring vegetables, nutella-filled crepes, and macarons (Trader Joe's frozen ones are awesome!).

The coq au vin and duck a l'orange were fantastic. I don't know if I've had either of these dishes before, but I would absolutely make them again. I was surprised how much I liked the duck breast versus the legs. They were so juicy and tender.

French onion soup is one of my favorite dishes, but it's hard to find kosher because traditionally it uses beef stock and cheese. We substituted veggie stock and it still tastes rich and delicious--especially when served in Dan's homemade sourdough bread bowl!

The creme brulee turned out great, and the kids liked watching Dan brulee it with our kitchen torch. To make the crepe experience a little more French, we watched this video of a typical French creperie at work. We made sure to fold our crepe in the traditional style. 

The potato salad and the veggie dish were not great. It's nice to experiment, but these didn't really work for us. The almond croissant, quiche and chocolate eclair we had at the bakery made up for it though.

Au revoir, France! Thanks for the calories memories. Next up, USA!

See our other country week adventures here.