Sunday, September 27, 2009

Soup For Dinner--Split Pea Soup

The weather has started to turn colder here in Germany, although thankfully not as cold as last year. The trees have just started to change color, and as I walk to the store the first fallen leaves crunch underfoot. The air is cool in the morning, warming in the afternoon. I love the crisp feel to the air, the colorful leaves, the anticipation of the upcoming holiday season. Fall truly is my favorite time of the year.

One of the things we have found about living overseas is that traditions are very important to keeping a sense of who we are, especially for the kids. No matter where we live I will find a pumpkin (or something pumpkin like) to carve for Halloween and later bake into pies for Thanksgiving. I will put up a tree for Christmas, fake or real depending on where we live and the availability fresh trees. We invent things that we do as a family that cement our togetherness, our belonging to each other. Dessert night on Wednesday, movie night on Friday these are part of our weekly family traditions, our family cement. This fall I am adding one more: soup night. At least for the winter. Once the weather warms again it may become taco night or maybe pizza night.

Today for dinner we had split pea soup with brotchen. It was yummy. Brotchen are small crusty rolls you can buy all over the place here, similar to bolillo rolls back home. They were perfect with hearty soup. Three out of four kids liked the soup, Grayson just like the bread. Even Cody liked it, which was a surprise since he hated it in the past. As I was cooking I realized that I really enjoy soup when it's cold outside. It is just such a warm, cozy kind of food. Why not add a soup night? Quick discussion with David and it's set we will have a soup night each week this fall and winter.

I realized one other thing. I really like soup and have often ordered it when we eat out, but I really only know how to make two kinds of soups: bean with ham (split pea is a variation on this since it is basically the same soup except with split peas instead of beans) and chicken vegetable soup. There are so many more kinds of soups out there I would love to learn to make. Indonesian Soto Ayam, spicy Thai coconut soup, caldo de rez, minestrone, the list goes on and on. As I try new recipes I will post each week and let you know what the kids think of the recipes.

The recipe I used (and mostly followed) tonight came from If you don't know epicurious and like to cook you must go there now, go ahead this blog will be here when you get back. I have known about this site for a long time and used it frequently even back in the states, but after ALL of my cookbooks ended up in storage (please, please, please, let them be in storage) instead of at post it became a lifesaver. My favorite thing about it the user reviews. Immediately I can see what other people thought of the recipe and what changes they made.

I chose a very simple recipe tonight. To me split peas are a rustic kind of dish and should not be fancied up too much. To view the recipe click here. I followed the recipe, well mostly. I had some left over ham from a few days ago so I used the ham bone in place of smoked pork hocks. I also had saved the juice from the pan when I cooked the ham and used that and chicken stock instead of water. The only other change I made was to not puree the soup. I like split pea soup when it it is creamy with peas just falling apart but not perfectly smooth. There is enough left over for my lunch tomorrow. Life is good!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How did this happen?

Monica said I had to the post this. The following is from an excerpt from an e-mail conversation between Monica and myself. I am the one speaking.

"I just got back from shopping at the base commissary and while I was there watching all the young (mostly pregnant) moms try and keep the little ones from tossing every damn thing into the cart I realized I had turned into one of those women we love to hate. You know the ones going grocery shopping without kids clinging to her, has makeup on, has taken a shower in the last 24 hours, hair combed, no baby food/poop/vomit on her clothes, cute shoes (they are really really cute found them last week and am wearing them constantly they are so cute) cute skirt not blue jeans or sweats. How the hell did this happen? I am confused."

This is a warning to certain members of my family and you know who you are: If your comment has anything to do with getting old I WILL hunt you down!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Well Crap! No More Chocolate For Me!

It is about 6 weeks or so until the Marine Corps Ball. I don't have the exact date but it is always around the same time of year. On whim I decided to try on the dress I am planning on wearing this year and it won't zip!

No matter how much I tried to suck in my stomach, no matter how hard I pulled I could not get the skirt to zip all the way. I see a lot of salad in my near future.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bagpipes Wanted

This morning we were listening to kids music on the way to drop the kids off at school. I know again with the kids music, but this is the first year I have ever driven the kids to school everyday so it has never been a topic before. One of the songs featured bagpipes. Immediately the cry went up, "I want to learn to play the bagpipes! Mom can I have bagpipes for my birthday?"

To which I replied, "Nope! Bagpipes are expensive."

With out missing a beat Colin came back with, "That's OK Aunt Brenda can buy me some in Scotland where they are cheaper, she's going there this summer. Mom can I e-mail Aunt Brenda tonight?"

So my globally nomadic children have learned two things:
  1. Things are usually cheaper in the country in which they are made. (Exception being coo-coo clocks which are just God-awful expensive even here in Germany! More on that later.)
  2. Keep track of where family/friends are from, and where they are living or visiting now. You never know when it might come in handy.
Oh, and on a final note, Donnie and Brenda consider yourself warned. Your greedy nephews will sending some begging your way soon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Overheard Converstaions

This morning I popped in a Wiggles CD on the way to school and braced myself for the usual round of complaints from the back seat. Instead I heard this:

"Remember, a long time ago, when we liked this music?" asked Alonzo.
"Yeah" replied Colin
"Remember how we used to watch them on TV and dance?"
"Yeah! Wake up Jeff!" Lots of giggles following this statement.
"Oh! Mom can you turn the music up? I like this song." asked Colin.
"You mean you used to like it, back in the old days." Alonzo reminded his brother that they were too old for such foolishness.
"Yeah I USED to like it, turn it up."

The rest of the trip passed in a blur of Fruit Salad, Yum Yummy and Captain Feathersword rocking on the sea with all three kids singing along. I am sure this afternoon will return us to our battle stations but the break from the hostilities was very welcome.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Proud, Amused, or Concerned?

We listen to a lot of kids music in the car on the way to school. Alonzo and Colin at the advances ages of 7 and 9 consider themselves far too sophisticated for such juvenile music. I turn on the radio and they immediately start with the "That's for babies!" but Grayson is only 4 and singing songs is important for is language development so the kids music will be staying for a while longer. I put my foot down a week or so ago and told them if I heard the dreaded "for babies" complaint they would be grounded when they got home from school instead of going out to play. I thought that would put a stop to some of the complaining but they have a new tactic: improvisational lyrics. This morning's edition was In The Ocean.

In the ocean, the mighty ocean the blue whale sleeps tonight.
When he farted, the tsunami started,
And that is how he died!
In the ocean the mighty ocean the dolphin sleeps tonight.
When the farted, the hurricane started,
And that is how he died!
In the ocean the mighty ocean the tuna sleeps tonight.
When he farted, the vortex started,
And that is how he died!

This was sung very loudly, with great gusto, drowning out the music coming from the radio. When we arrived at school they were trying to think of more oceanic catastrophes to endanger more innocent sea life. I am not sure if I should be proud of them for thinking ouside the box or just disturbed.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Rock Climbing Felsenmeer

This weekend we discovered a new favorite thing to do as a family. Rock climbing! About 45 minutes outside of town is The Felsenmeer, a huge boulder field that runs uphill. If you look carefully in the picture below you will be able to see the boulders snaking uphill between the trees. The rocks continue all the way uphill to the top. It took us around two hours to climb to the top including a short break for a quick picnic lunch.

What was great was the size of the boulders and the slope of the hill. The rocks were big enough to make it fun and challenging to climb and the slope was not so steep as to make it too scary for me (and Grayson). Once we reached the top Cody took a break by sitting on a huge carved column. It was carved by Romans sometime in the fourth century. It is estimated to weigh around 27 tons. I want to know how the Romans were planning on moving this thing.

While we were all hanging out at the top looking around we noticed bikers using the boulders for some trick biking. They were hopping up and down on the rocks like wheeled kangaroos. It was pretty amazing to watch. I could almost see Alonzo thinking "bike+pogo=cool bike tricks. I can bike, I can pogo, I can do this!" I am hoping he doesn't break anything major when he gets around to trying this for himself.

Of course what goes up must come back down so after we caught our breath we headed back down the the bottom where the car was parked. Cody climbed back down over the rocks but the rest of opted to follow the side trails through the woods and walk rather than climb down. maybe next time we will climb instead.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Cody finally got a much needed haircut. I think he looks nice but he wasn't too impressed with the results as you can see from his reaction when I tried to take a picture. What do you think?