Monthly Archives: January 2012

Our First Visitors! [and other daily happenings 30.01.2012]

My parents are in town for a couple of weeks to visit us.  It is so much fun.  And so strange to have my parents come stay and visit me.  I’ve always lived in the same city as them so it is strange to have them come over to my house and stay the night.

walking in our village with the grandparents

We went for a walk today to visit the metzgerei.  We got some yummy sausage, salami, olives (for LOML), little hotdog things and this loaf of meat that was pretty tasty.  There was a new lady working the counter that spoke pretty good English.  I do not complain about any German’s English — there’s no way I could — as they speak English about 1.5million times better than I speak German.  .

The lady gave Big Ive a small packet of gummy bears.  They kept her happy on the rest of the walk back to the house.  We stopped and took photos of the church in town and the construction on the house/barn building near the church.  I took some other nice photos of my parents walking with the kids in the stroller.

Big Ive walking with Oma

at the bus stop in our village

Like usual, Little E was sleeping the entire time.  Every time she does that I wonder when this easy streak is going to end.  Like, it can’t stay this good forever, right?

village church

church door

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On Friday night I had to call in sick for band rehearsal.  Both Big Ive and Little E were sick, but Little E was far worse.  This cold or something hit her really hard.  It is so sad to see them sick.  It breaks my heart because there’s not much I can do.  We gave her acetaminophen or ibuprofen throughout the day and night.  She would have a short mostly happy reprieve for a little bit and then melt into her cranky, fussy, sick little self again.

I ended up sitting up all night with her on the sofa.  I had to hold her just so in order to get her to not cry for 30-60 minutes at a time.  That was the first time I have had to stay up all night with a kid.  Big Ive’s been sick before but nothing like this.  Or she was no where near as needy as Little E is.  Some time during the night I took her temperature and it was around 101.5 F.  Not terribly high, but higher than I’ve ever noticed in her.  About 3am the fever broke and she finally slept for 3 hours straight.  Then LOML was up to drive to the airport to pick up my parents.  And shortly after I went back upstairs to try sleeping a little longer Big Ive decided to wake up.  I got her back down and laid on the floor with Little E for another hour.

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Sunday afternoon my dad and I took a walk around our village.  I showed him the places we go and the things we do here.  It was nice to walk and chat with him for about an hour.

creek that runs through the village

neatly stacked woodpiles

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It was snowing today.  Not much, but enough to stick on the ground and look white.  My parents must have brought the cold spell.  It has not been this cold since we got here almost 2 months ago as it has been these past couple of days.  This desert kid thought she was doing so well not feeling too cold all this time…and then we went for a walk yesterday.  My legs were cold and I was starting to feel the cold seep through my layers.  Guess it’s time I invest in long johns or tights.

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Little E is so close to crawling.

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barn / house construction in town

barn / house wood pile

big tree up the hill near-ish the church

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Stuff Big Ive Likes To Eat

  • pickled beets
  • butter toffee cashews
  • artichokes
  • feta
  • olives
  • broccoli
  • zucchini
  • peanutbutter bread
  • yogurt
  • chocolate
  • black beans
  • kidney beans
  • mango
  • meatloaf
  • squash and leek soup

Not an extensive list.  But, it is one more point in proving my child is kind of strange.  : )

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Trains, Words and Playgroups [and other daily happenings 25.01.2012]

Dropped LOML off at the train station this morning.  He had a meeting for work in a town a few hours away.  That means I had to drive home by myself this morning.  I only took 2 wrong turns using the GPS.

1. I’m not used to the GPS.
2. Streets here in Germany don’t always look like streets until you’re right upon them and then it’s too late to slow down to make the turn.
3. It was dark outside.

The girls and I successfully made it to the bakery in a town a few kilometers away and then all the way back home.  Pudding brezels and fresh loaf of bread was our victory breakfast.

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Big Ive said “I love you” today.  And I could understand it.  She also said “Auntie” pretty clearly when we were talking to my sister Joy.  I tried to get her to say a bunch of other things, but she gets to this limit – 1 or 2 words – said clearly and then she purposely starts talking babble gibberish.  You can just watch her face and tell when she switches.  This sort of little grin takes over.

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Tried more cereal with Little E.  She’s not too fond of it.  I think it might be the texture–it’s not milk.  She’s so big and eats so much I feel like I don’t have enough milk for her by the evenings now.  And then she gets up to eat 2-5 times a night still.  Which solidifies my thought that she isn’t getting enough to eat during the day.  I think we got the correct power transformer figured out so I should be able to start pumping again and hopefully increase supply for her.

Or she could be getting that tooth.  Or going through a growth spurt.

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The girls and I went to a little playgroup this morning in our village.  There were 3 other 2 year olds there.  We sang songs (in German, of course), played legos, ate a snack, cleaned up and sang more songs before leaving.  Big Ive was tired from getting up early to take LOML to the train station that she almost broke down before the end.

I didn’t think we’d make it there this week as we had the washing machine repair person coming between 10 and 1.  He showed up at 9:15 and was out of here by 9:30.  That left us just enough time to get ready and walk down the hill to the old schoolhouse.

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Big Ive "helping" dad put the pantry shelf together

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Little E under the coffee table (right before she squaked at me to get her out)

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3 sleeps / 2 days until my parents arrive!

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[and other daily happenings 24.01.2012]

 A big HAPPY BIRTHDAY shout out to my Daddy!  He is 54 years young today.  Wish we could be there to celebrate with you, Daddy.  We’ll just have to have a late celebration when you get here to Germany this weekend!  I love you and miss you.

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I forgot to mention that Big Ive said the word ‘cars’ for the first time yesterday.  At least she said it intelligibly to me for the first time.  Who knows how many times in BigIve-speak she’s said it and I didn’t understand.

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LOML and I had a really good laugh right before going to bed last night.  I’m not allowed to blog about it.  But it was hilarious.  I know that’s not fair to you readers, but, I need to respect my husband.

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I was practicing my flute today while Big Ive played with her wooden blocks.  She was so happy to have the tv off and just stack the blocks again and again.  Sometimes I forget that the basic toys–wooden blocks, stacking cups, etc–can be the best toys for kids’ development and imagination.  Little E liked chewing on them, but she probably would have preferred smaller blocks.

because sometimes you need to sit on your chair when you stack blocks

It was fantastic to play my flute for a while.  It has been too long for me to play it.  I don’t have a good enough excuse for why I didn’t take the time to do it more often back at home.  There were a few passages I had to break down and practice over and over before I mostly got them.  I even had to bust out the pencil to write notes on the page.  It felt so good.

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We walked up to the big playground up the big hill today.  On Sunday after church LOML drove up there so we could see what it looked like.  There are some new nice houses up there.  On my walk up the big hill (holy cow that’s a workout…pushing 50lb of child and probably 20lb of stroller up a steep hill) I saw a house and barn that was being renovated.  There was still straw in the barn portion that they tore half out.  It amused me.

The playground is on a hill so they put a slide on the side of the hill.  It was fun.  Big Ive had a blast.  She was afraid of the small yellow slide initially.  I had to stand at the bottom of it and coax her down.  Once she went down all was good and she couldn’t get enough.

Little E incognito

On the walk down the hill back home we stopped at the convenience store type place.  They basically had a little of everything–produce, freezer section, refrigerated meats and cheeses, beverages, pastas, candy.  Big Ive and I went it and left Little E in the stroller on the street.  She was sleeping when we went in and awake when we came out.  Big Ive fell in the store so I had to buy her a little Kinder Egg chocolate.  It has a hollow egg shape for chocolate with a little toy inside.  Big Ive LOVES them.  LOML got a advent calendar full of Kinder chocolates.  She couldn’t wait for LOML to get home every evening to be able to open the next day’s chocolate.

We met a lady outside of the store.  She lives up the big hill by the big playground.  She asked if we lived here and if we liked it.  I told her yes, it’s a great place to live.  I think we have people noticing us in our big double stroller.  I don’t think many people in Europe need to utilize one of those (unless they have twins).  It was funny to me when she asked if I had 2 kids in it.  I wanted to respond, “like I would push this giant stroller around and ONLY have 1 kid?”  She was very nice and welcoming.

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I decided to try to capture some little moments every day or there abouts so I wouldn’t forget.  You know those little life moments that happen daily that kind of make you stop and smile.  Write them down for posterity.  Or for blackmail for the kids later.  Whichever.

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Baby has a stinky [and other daily happenings 22.01.2012]

Big Ive decided her baby doll had a stinky diaper.  She got out one of her diapers, the wipes, started unsnapping the doll’s onsie.  She even got the wipe out and started wiping the doll.  Good thing she’s not really diapering that doll–the diaper was the size of the doll.  :)

I love this kid.

Also….

Little E is almost crawling at 5.5 months.  She gets up on her hands and knees and rocks.  Sometimes she pushes up to her toes and hands.  She’s not crawling, yet, but she sure does manage to get around.  When we were in Hamburg last weekend LOML made his bet that it would be 3.5 weeks for her to crawl.  I said before my parents get here next weekend.  It is looking more and more like I’ll win this one.

I love this kid.

And I’m afraid of what this means for our future here in Haus Miller.  We are not prepared for a crawler.

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This morning at church Big Ive decided she needed to sit and lay down in the aisle.  I guess she couldn’t see the stage well enough from our laps.  We ended up in the toddler room during the sermon (not a big surprise there).  It probably didn’t help that I forgot to grab a binky for her before we left.

Church was nice.  It’s hard being the new person.  It’s hard not being involved.  It’s hard to just be a participant.  LOML did make a comment that it might be one of those things that you get out of it what you put in.  Meaning that we will have to make the effort to meet people, dig deeper in the Word, become involved.  It is not an easy demographic for this church as most of the families will be gone in 2-3 years time because of the nature of military life.

I think we’ll give it a good try for a couple months and see what happens.  There aren’t a whole lot of options here for English Christian churches.

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LOML and I laughed and laughed and laughed at something today.  The GPS has a pre-set addresses for their offices in Europe, the USA and Asia.  For giggles he told it to calculate our route to the Asia office, roughly 6000miles away.  It thought and thought — for about 10 minutes until we got home — and decided it wasn’t able to calculate that route.  Bummer.  We were thinking that might be our summer vacation plan.

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When we were at the butcher this past week we purchased what we thought was regular pork tenderloin chops.  Well…I cooked them this evening and it was NOT regular pork chops.  It ended up being pink in color and salty ham tasting.  : )  They were good, but not what we were expecting.  We’ll have to look at the name of regular pork chops in the grocery store and see if our village metzgerei has that.  We still like to support local.

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It was an extremely pleasant surprise to comfortably fit in my pre-pregnancy skinny jeans this morning.  I thought I’d give them a try and they fit.  Yay!  Seeings how I don’t have a scale the only way to track weight loss and fitness goals are the fit of my clothes and my stamina pushing the stroller up the hills in our village.

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Friday night we went to the little restaurant in our village.  The man waiting on us is the owner’s son.  His wife and 2 kids came in for supper while we were there.  They have a 6 year old girl and a little boy 1 month older than Ivy.  They got out toys and played with Ivy for a while.  The mom invited me and the girls to the playgroup here in our village.  We get to meet more people and become more immersed in our new culture on Wednesday morning.  I’m so excited.  LOML said he’s a little jealous.  I’m going to have to get crackin’ on my Rosetta Stone progress so I can say more than a few basic phrases.

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Little E started saying ma ma ma ma ma.  Or mum mum mum mum, whichever it is I hear.  She had said da da da da before.

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And now you are privy to a small amount of what goes on in my head during the day.  You’re welcome.

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Full of Firsts

This past week was very full of firsts for me. On Tuesday I finally got up enough
guts nerves to go to our village butcher (metzgerei) to buy a beef roast. After walking up the big, steep, winding hill (I had to stop half way to rest…pushing nearly 50 pounds of children in a double stroller uphill is hard work) from our house I found out they were still closed from their New Year’s holiday. The afternoon outing wasn’t all lost; I talked with the neighbor across the street, we went down a street I hadn’t been on, we played in the park, I met another mom and her 2 kids as they walked home from the bus stop after school. They live up on what we call “the American Hill” because all but 3 houses on the street up the hill are occupied by US citizens, most likely military. Nothing wrong with them or the hill. But I’m glad we live on the main street not in the middle of the American Hill.

On Wednesday I walked over to the neighbors house (I’ll call her Grammy) and invited her and her granddaughter to go walk with us to feed the goats we found on the outside of town. I packed some celery to feed them. Grammy and 4 year old “Rapunzel” came with us! These German goats are picky about what they eat, apparently. They don’t like celery! We are going to try again with apples.

On the way. Back home we stopped at the butcher. The lady gave the kids samples on some of her sausage / hot dog thing. Neither liked it so I got to eat both. It was good. I purchased a great roast, some feta cheese and a small bottle of peach iced tea. It was fun. They have a small kid table in the corner and Big Ive loved it. Little E was fast asleep in the stroller, like normal. (I am so thankful this baby has been so content and happy. I’m not sure if I would be as sane as I am if she were more work to handle on top of the non-stop Big Ive.) it was 4:30 by the time we got home so I didn’t get the roast in the oven.

Thursday was mostly a regular day at home. The weather was bad off and on all day so we only ventured out quick in the afternoon to walk up to the kindergarten to see where I needed to bring Big Ive on Friday after lunch. I guess you could count cooking a beef pot roast for the first time in Germany as my first for that day.

Friday was full and fun. We took the girls to their new German pediatrician first thing in the morning. In the process to become German residents they required us to get Little E a well check-they sent us a very official letter. So we just made an appointment for Big Ive, too, so she can meet the doctor and have her information on file. They did these little tests with Big Ive that I wasn’t expecting. Made her stack blocks, draw on a piece of paper with a pencil, kick a ball, say some words, climb stairs. Back home they have just asked a series of questions to determine if she is on target for development. She is 12.8k (28.25lbs) and 78cm (33in). Very tall and very skinny. Little E on the other hand is 9.3k (20.5lbs) and 67cm (26in…if I remember the conversions correctly…). Tall and very chubby. We lovingly call her our fat baby. She’s really not that little and not that much smaller than Big Ive.

After lunch the girls and I walked up to the village kindergarten so Big Ive could meet the kids, play a little and I could see the school building.  They didn’t have a slot available for her right away, but they will when she turns 2 in April!  It was a lot of fun watching her play with the kids and all the toys.  A couple of boys became her new best friends and were by her side the entire time.  The older one drew us both map pictures to take home.  It was sweet.

Little E sleeping the stroller like normal.

Then I made enchiladas.  Yum…  LOML managed to hunt and gather green enchilada sauce, green chilis and black beans.  It was good and almost like a taste of home.  We didn’t have the same kind of cheese, so they were a little different, but not bad at all.

And then.  AND THEN! I went to band practice for the first time at 8pm.  It was a lot of fun.  Our neighbor/landlord went with me and introduced me to the director and people there.  I brought my flute and bassoon.  The director said there aren’t bassoon parts for every song, but when there is one I get to play it.  For that night I just played flute.  I haven’t played in forever.  It took a little bit to get back into sight-reading all the music, but it was like riding a bike; you don’t forget the fundamentals.

All in all a really good week.

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Things I Love

Big Ive’s goofy babbling complete with hand gestures, inflection, facial gestures and giggling
Big Ive interpreting sign language in her own way
Little E’s baby dinosaur noises (which are mostly gone now)
Little E’s attempt at clicking her tongue resulting in faint T sounds
The curls that get so tight in Big Ive’s red hair from sweating while napping
Little E’s velvet soft skin
Sharing these little daily wonder moments with LOML
The rolls on top of rolls on top of rolls all over Little E (my hcunky fat baby)
Seeing Big Ive pretend to talk on any piece of electronic thT resembles a phone
The juxtoposition of fierce independence and utter need in toddlers
When Big Ive taps a seat to indicate she wants you or someone to sit there
Big Ive’s gentle sweet nature with her baby sister, her immense love for Little E
Little Eneeding to hold something in her hands as she sucks her thumb to fall asleep
The roll on Little E’s big toes

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Day at the Park

A look at our almost daily trip to the park down the street in our village.

Big Ive LOVES L-O-V-E-S the swing!

 


This past time she actually asked to get off the swing and go on the slide.

She always goes down the slide with one foot tucked up like that.

Little E in the stroller at the park.  Her usual location. She was actually awake this time. Normally she falls asleep in seconds during a walk.

First time playing with a stick in the sand.  She thought it was great.  We kept that stick all the way home to show dad when he got home from work.

 

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Cook’n With Class in Paris

me in the Paris kitchenPart of my Christmas present from LOML was a cooking class in Paris with the company Cook’n With Class (

http://www.cooknwithclass.com) (check them out, like them on FB).  It was a fantastic night.

It started out by having all of us ‘students’ meet the chef teacher at a designated subway stop at 5pm.  We then walked through the local market street, went to their kitchen to cook, then ate.  LOML joined us at about 9pm to eat the food.  It was really good.

We waited for 15 minutes for a couple to show up that was running late.  They didn’t make it until about an hour later.  It all ended up being just fine in the end.

The first stop on the market street was the cheese shop.  It was really full.  Since it was a holiday weekend the Parisians were stocking up on their favorite cheeses and other traditional ingredients for their New Year’s celebrations.  You could smell the cheese shop from the street.  Since there were 5 of us we decided to stop at the cheese shop at the end to see if there would be less people.

butcher in ParisThen we were off to the butcher.  In France they keep the heads and feet on the poultry, and sometime the feathers stay on the wings, too.  It was a different sight than what I’m used to from US meat shops.  The rabbits had their heads and eyes, too.  The chef gave a description of the kinds of meat available and some good recipes for each kind of meat.  It was hard to decide what we wanted to cook and eat.  They even had pigeon.  And foi gras, which is illegal in San Francisco…probably other places in the US, too.  People have issues with fattening up ducks just for their liver, I guess.  Which means we totally purchased some and had it as an appetizer.  No joke.

Next up was the produce market.  The French really like their food to be locally produced if possible.  Most of what we ate was in season, too, as the chef prefers to cook that way.  I noticed many types of potatoes, some strange cabbages, lots of fresh herbs and the biggest avocados I have seen in my life.  (NOTE:  The avocados were not local.)  I learned how to tell if a pear is ripe without bruising it.  And they have this little orange squash with a thin peel that you can eat (Potimarron squash).  We used that for our soup.

One of the people in the group had a seafood allergy so we stayed away from the fish, but we did go and look at the fish market stall to see what they have.  Seafood is the traditional food for the French for New Year’s.  I’m not sure why; the chef did not explain that.  The fish monger didn’t have much options left when we arrived.  They were going to be closed for 2 days for the holiday and hadn’t gotten in new stock.  There was talk of cooking the ugly monk fish, but they didn’t have any, so that was not an option.

Outside of the seafood place we decided on our menu.  By this time the missing late couple had gotten themselves un-lost and found us.

The Menu

STARTER
-squash soup (Potimarron squash)
-foi gras on fresh baguette

MAIN COURSE
-roasted leg of lamb with garlic, rosemary and thyme
-potatoes fried in clarified butter
-Swiss chard

DESSERT
-poached pears

CHEESE COURSE
-sampling of about 10 different cheeses with fresh baguette and unpasteurized butter

cheese shop in ParisThe Cheese Shop
Cheese shops in France are smelly.  You know you are approaching a cheese shop from a little way down the street if the wind is blowing in the right direction.  This cheese shop was smelly, but it wasn’t as bad as some I have walked by in Paris.  The chef explained the layout of Paris cheese shops and they types of cheeses.  They are grouped by region, type of cheese and age of cheese.  Almost all of the cheeses in here are made from unpasteurized milk.  (You can tell pasteurized from un- by looking at the consistency of the cheese.  The airy ones with holes are unpasteurized.  The solid looking cheeses don’t have those airy lacey looking holes, aside from cheeses like Swiss that naturally have holes.  This trick doesn’t hold true for soft cheeses, however.)  This kind of a store would not be allowed to exist in the States.  All of the cheeses are at room temperature on open shelves.  The employees handle the cheeses with bare hands.  The knives and cutting boards are out in the open floor.  The French view cheese as a living organism.  Most cheeses are only good for 2-6 weeks.  Some cheeses can be aged for up to 4 years.

The picture on here shows the blue cheeses and the white downy mold cheeses (think brie and Camembert).  The most pungent and sharp blue cheese we tried was the Roquefort.  If you are not a big fan of blue cheese I suggest you stay away from this one.  It is strong.  There was a cow’s milk natural blue cheese that both LOML and I enjoyed.  It has a more mild flavor and only a small amount of the blue coloring.  This is because it is a natural blue cheese; meaning the cheese is put in special caves and allowed to have the blue bacteria enter naturally.  Almost all other blue cheeses are injected with the blue bacteria.  They are almost always not cow milk, too.

They also have unpasturized butter available for purchase in bulk.  There were 2 large hunks of butter (imagine 1-2 gal buckets worth of butter) they would gouge off the amount you wanted.  This butter had a slightly different flavor and was a little more salty than regular pasteurized salted butter.  It had a slightly more yellow hue, as well.

And one more French cheese factoid: the French have their own versions of popular Dutch cheeses (Edam cheese, Gouda, etc) because the French and the Dutch were at war for a while.  The King of France said no Dutch products could be imported-including cheese-and the people would have to learn to make those kinds if they wanted it.

On the short walk up to the kitchen we stopped at a fantastic little bakery.  It has been in operation with the same wood burning oven for over 100 years.  This is where I learned about traditional vs. modern baguettes.  The traditional baguette is based on a sour dough starter–it is required to have a certain percentage sour dough–and made and baked fresh each day.  You can tell them apart because the modern baguette has those little indentation dots on the bottom where it was baked in a silicon mold.  The chef said the dough is prepared in advance and frozen in those molds.  They take it out of the freezer and straight to the oven.  The traditional baguette is about a million times better than the modern.  Usually the traditional is baked in wood burning ovens, too, and has a little bit of ash on it.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I could eat just fresh bread here in Europe and be happy.  ::sigh::

With bread in hand we walked to the kitchen a couple blocks away.  This company does baking classes and these market to table classes.  They have a big kitchen with a table that can seat 8 and then they have a baking room with a number of ovens and smaller tables.

browned lamb leg with rosemary and garlicCooking started with browning the leg of lamb on all sides.  I learned to rest the meat on the edge of the pan to get those sides where the meat won’t stand on its own.  The chef said that if you don’t have a pan big enough you can use a thick cookie sheet right on the stove.  We almost had to do that, but he ended up finding a pan that was just big enough.  If you start the browning on the fat side of the meat you do not need to add oil.  The fat will melt enough so the remaining sides won’t stick to the pan.  Nice tip.  Then we pierced the meat with a knife to stick cloves of garlic in it.  If you have never done this I highly recommend it.  I’ve done it a few times with pork tenderloin and pot roasts.  If you’re a fan of garlic this will get that amazing garlic flavor into the meat and really permeate it.  After that, a good rub of fresh thyme and rosemary with olive oil and salt and pepper and it was ready for the oven.

Then we started the butter clarifying.  We put 4 500g packages of butter in a big cast iron pot to melt and separate.  That’s almost 4.5lb of butter!  When it melts you see the white milk fat float to the surface.  Then you have to scoop it out, leaving just the clarified butter, which is then 100% fat, like an oil.  If you wanted a higher smoking point oil to use clarified butter is a good choice.  It can be clarified and then placed in the refrigerator to use as needed.  It will solidify when cooled.  The chef gave me the task of scooping all the milk fat out of the butter.

pears ready to be poachedWe peeled the pears to get them ready for poaching.  8 pears were poached in half white wine and water with 2 vanilla bean sticks (cut with beans removed into pear pan) and 1.5cups of sugar.  You can use red wine to poach, as well.  They recommend doing it the night before so the red color can fully color the pears.  Since we didn’t have time for that we used white wine.  It will give the same flavor either way.  Red wine just colors them.  It is purposely cooked under-sweet so you can reduce the cooking liquid to a fantastic syrup to drizzle over the pears right before serving.  Which we did.  Yum.  Such a simple dessert but so good.  You don’t have to add any more sugar to the syrup if you don’t want.  The pears are good just cooked, too.

orange French squash (Potimarron squash) with thin rind

Squash soup started with chopping onions, celery and a little garlic.  That went into a pot with melted butter to cook.  Onions, celery and butter are the base ingredients for just about every French soup.  Once they were done and tender the herbs, water, Potimarron squash (chopped with skin still on) and a fresh bay leaf were added.  These cooked until the squash was done.  Then the chef added a splash of walnut vinegar to balance the acidity of the soup and some saffron.  Then one of the other students used the immersion blender to blend it all smooth.  It was served with fresh cream to drizzle on top and fresh chopped chives for sprinkling.  The cream was necessary in this soup because of the intense flavor of squash due to us using the peel of the squash.  It cut that intense flavor.

The potatoes.  Oooo, my mouth is seriously watering thinking about these potatoes.  Potatoes were washed, then cut into large wedge, steak fry sizes.  We boiled these to get them almost all the way cooked.  Once they were drained and dried off they were put in the clarified butter.  It took about 10 minutes to fry the potatoes in the butter to get those perfect golden brown crispy edges.  These potatoes were like the perfect combination of buttery baked potato, french fry, and pan fried potatoes.  Freakin’ amazing.  I totally recommend it.

NOTE: You can’t save the clarified butter you fried the potatoes in for future use, unless you plan on frying more potatoes the next day.  It doesn’t work quite the same way as peanut oil.

I almost forgot about the Swiss chard.  I don’t think I’ve ever had it before.  It is a fall/winter vegetable in France so it was a local, in-season veggie for us to add to the menu.  We cut the white part from the green leafy part.  Then we chopped the white part into 1/4in pieces.  This was put in a large sauce pan with water to cover and salt.  It needed to cook a long time to soften before adding the leafy green part.  The green part was sliced into 1/4in pieces as well.  Once the white part was tender and cooked–it should absorb most of the water you add, drain if necessary–the green leafy part was added.  It cooks just a few minutes to wilt it.

If you want to make a pretty plating presentation with Swiss chard you can cook the white and green parts separate.  Then, in a small ramekin you layer the white part and then the green part and invert the ramekin on the plate.  It gives a neat layered look in a crisp round form.

I don’t have photos for all of it because my camera battery went dead not too long into the night, unfortunately.

It was really good food and it wasn’t hard to make at all.  Since we’ve been home I’ve made a pot of soup and it was really good.  I’m headed to the local butcher in our village later today to see if we can get a good pot roast.

Thank you, LOML, for a great Christmas present.  I had no idea you were getting this for me.  It was totally unexpected, but ended up being perfect.  Now I really want to go back for a baking class!  French macarons, here I come!

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The Heart of Hospitality

“Hospitality is a command we are given because we have been given a home. We welcome others because we have been welcomed. We build rooms in our lives for strangers, outcasts, and neighbors because we too were once strangers when the Son prepared us a room. Genuine hospitality is perhaps one of our most effective means of being salt and light. On multiple levels, the one who builds a room for a neighbor is preaching a sermon, and it may well be the only description of the good news those who behold the act will ever hear.”

http://www.rzim.org/usa/usfv/tabid/436/articleid/10636/cbmoduleid/1133/default.aspx

This quote sent in the A2J weekly newsletter this morning got me thinking.  Our house back home is currently being rented to friends of ours from the community.  As LOML and I journeyed together these past few years we felt our home was needed as a place of community, hospitality and fellowship.  It is in an ideal location downtown.  It is certainly big enough, especially now that the big renovation made it even more of a house for community.  We welcomed foster kids, friends, family, co-workers, people seeking refuge into our house.  Into our lives.  Into our hearts.  It was hard to think about our house not being used for these purposes when we moved away.  It was hard to think about not being able to do those things; we lost the built-in community by moving half-way around the world.

The A2J newsletter called our house the Miller House Community.  Our ground-work is fully functioning and flourishing even though we are not physically there.  We left with 2 of the 4 bedrooms filled (and the nursery with Baby B., of course).  It made me smile immensely to hear a good friend JS is now moving into one of the 2 remaining empty bedrooms.  He’ll join the Ks, the L-fam and T-dub who is renting the casita in the back yard.  Thinking back on the feeling of our house when it is full of people talking, laughing, discussing, sharing, it makes me joyful.  Even though LOML and I can’t be there to live in it and do hospitality with the City back home, we are at peace knowing our home is being used for that purpose.

Our 80-year old house has kind of gone through a redemption.  It has a rather dark history, all in the past 30 years.  In the early 1980’s it was featured in our neighborhoods annual home tour.  This means the house was in pristine form and the neighborhood committee asked the owner at the time if she would like to be included on the tour.  And between that time, and the time we purchased the house in 2006, it had been under investigation and eventually raided by SWAT for drugs and a possible pornography studio.   A long-time neighbor said the police were only able to get the drug charges to stick.  Without going into detail, I will say we found evidence of more than just drugs in the basement when we purchased the home.

The owner during the time the house was on the home tour had passed away and her brother inherited the property.  It does not look like he cared who rented it, what purpose they were using the home for, if it needed any repairs or upkeep.  He just wanted the rent money.  So our now-once-again beautiful home was left to basically smolder and fall apart piece by piece.

The house was in such disrepair when we tried to buy it the bank was not willing to lend because the condition of the house was so poor.  It was not livable.  There were holes in the floor you could literally fall to the basement through.  There was no kitchen, aside from a handful of cabinets and a sink.  The basement was filled with rubble and the remains of lots of water damage.  The hardwood floors had lost all of their finish and were terribly damaged by water.  You would have never known there had been a dance studio in the basement in the 1940’s.  The owner we purchased it from–a middle-aged man who inherited it from his father–worked with us to get it up to livable so it could be purchased.

In 25 years it went from Home Tour

> drug house and rented to whomever

> our house

> place of community.

This house may not have been the wisest purchase on our part, if I’m going to be really honest here.  It has stretched our budget many times.  My 14 months of unemployment in 2008/2009 didn’t help matters.  It was a struggle to stay current on our bills during that time.  Repairs and renovations have been expensive, even though we’ve done some of the work ourselves.  That’s part of the reason I joke we have a 27 point plan to finish the house–and each point as A, B, C, D and sometimes E, F, and G subpoints.  We just completed 4D.  :)  There are so many things that have remained on the ‘wish list’ side of our plan because they simply could not be afforded at that time (maybe never, who knows).  But I believe God has provided for us all along.  He had a better story for our lives than we could have ever written.  He knew that LOML would have his heart grow to embrace community and fellowship and gave us a house where we could do that.

All that to say it makes my heart happy to know our house is being taken care of, that it’s being used for good things and that community continues to grow.

“In the end, God has turned this house, and my heart for his ministry, to further His work, which is awesome. ” – LOML

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