What We Ate: December

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Although nothing can be as delicious as this chunk of love right here, December saw a good bit of deliciousness emerge from my little green kitchen. I don’t know if people read blogs anymore, or if posts like this are of interest to anyone, but I want to try to write these each month as a way for me to continue to collect good food and find inspiration for those weeks that I feel like I have zero idea of what to feed my family.

I have been so happy in the kitchen these days, feeling like I am finally finding my place not just as a cook, but as a cook for a family of two adults and two toddlers (Drew is the easiest to feed these days…). My mother gave me Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat for Christmas this year (delivered at Thanksgiving) and it has literally changed how my food tastes. Before I received the book, I was finally learning to remember just to add salt to my food while cooking, and to cook by taste. But Samin (the author… the Netflix series for this book makes all of us feel on a first name basis with her, I think) has only solidified those practices for me, as well as taught me some entirely new habits. I am making a lot of the same meals I always make and they already tasted good, but suddenly they are noticeably better. Salt and Samin are changing my cooking and we are all very happy about that.

Chicken paprikasha hit in my household, although it was a bit spicier than suits my toddlers’ pallets. Still, it made a great lunch for my husband the next day and with buttered egg noodles dotted with chopped parsley, what is there to complain about?

Honey-Oat Pain de MieIt took me finally realizing that I spend $4.45 on a loaf of bread at the market every week for toast to decide that I should just make bread myself. I am no expert (although bread is on my list of things to learn about this year), so this recipe is pretty fail-safe, and it is delicious. Soft, hearty, complex flavor (I do half whole wheat/half all purpose flour, which makes it more flavorful, I think), and perfect for toast in the morning or even just a slice of warm bread out of the oven at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Smashed and loaded crispy potatoes:  My family loves potatoes, and I thank my mother for that. They are so delicious, so versatile, and yet so simple and familiar. These have the taste of the baked potatoes I remember eating at lunch when I was ten, but the texture of the best breakfast potatoes that have a crispy outside, soft center, and are accompanied by a pile of crunchy bits that are the highlight of the whole meal. I served these with a roast chicken, and then a few days later, pan fried in a bunch of butter (I have recently upped my butter purchases to two pounds a week and sometimes we don’t even make it seven whole days…) for leftover night and they were just as good, if not better, the second time around.

Speaking of… leftovers. I am finally understanding how to use them a bit better, or even how to create a complete meal with leftovers. My favorite means of leftovers is roast chicken. I have been using this recipe for months now, and it is, by far, the best chicken I’ve ever had, again and again and again. (Although last week topped them all, as I salted the chicken the night before, and oh man. So good.) It makes wonderful leftovers, too, especially if you make sure to scrape all the juices and greases out of the pan into the leftover container. One of my favorite things to accompany leftover night these days:

Quick, essential stovetop mac and cheeseI am weird and don’t like macaroni and cheese. I make the classic baked macaroni and cheese, topped with breadcrumbs, and only taste it for the sake of flavoring. I can’t even be tempted by the boxed Annie’s mac and cheese that my children love far more than the baked, homemade version. But this mac and cheese is actually one that I like to eat. I’m still not sold on it, but my husband absolutely loves it and it is so easy and seems like a better option (maybe?) than the boxed stuff. At least for dinner.

And I would be remiss to mention December if I didn’t end with the food event of the Lacy year: Christmas. A few weeks before Christmas, I arrived at my local farmer’s market meat stand, planning to just get my few meats for the week when I saw the recipe they posted on the glass case for Prime Rib in a Salt Crust. My innate need to eat something delicious for Christmas and to try something new and exciting-sounding sprang up and I locked down a 5+ pound piece of bone-in prime rib. The whole time I worked on it that day, I was terrified I would waste the money and have to serve my family and friends cereal for dinner. After the allotted cooking time, the thermometer read correctly, and I took the meat out to let it rest. After breaking the salt crust and cutting into it, my heart sunk as I thought there was no way it was done. So I quickly texted my mother a picture, and she responded with: “It is perfect. Exactly how prime rib should look. Send me some!” Music to an Odell daughter’s ears when their accomplished mother wants to eat their food. And it was, as she said, perfect.

 

Honorable mention goes to the potato gratin, which is my grandmother’s recipe, and the taste of Christmas for the Odells. Margaret was with us for Christmas, so we especially enjoyed getting to share that taste together.

 

I also made this beast of a coffee cake for our happy little Christmas breakfast, and it tasted anything but beastly.

Christmas is one of my favorite days of the whole year, and we marked it well. On to simpler, but just as tasty eats in January!

 

She treasured all these things

“…but Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
(Luke 2)

I wash the pile of dishes that seemingly accumulated overnight. Can one breakfast really produce so many?

Sticky plates, stacked glasses, a crusty egg pan and a quarter-inch of coffee left in every mug. Cherry jam, scrambled eggs, toast crusts, orange peels, all signs of a meal eaten and enjoyed and then quickly left behind for whatever is next on the little people’s agenda.

My counter alone can create chaos in my mind and in my heart.

The water warms my hands. Children scramble up and down the big, wooden tower stool that is not just a stool, but in their minds, an airplane, a car, a drive-thru window. They are busy. I am busy.

I can feel busy all day, if I allow it. The needs are tyrannical, the wants desperate, the emotions all too sudden. I think they call this the trenches of motherhood. Three children, three and under.

She treasured all of these things.

I stop suddenly, quieted by this thought.

A journey to Bethlehem, no bed for her to give birth, a stable, labor, transition, pushing and bleeding and moaning, and then a baby. A star, angels, shepherds, this new baby to feed, to learn, to take care of. And all of this so far from home.

If anyone had reason to feel chaos and mess in her life and in her spaces, it was her.

She treasured.

My son comes in, eager to tell me about his project in the playroom. Almost every word that comes out of his mouth is double the necessary volume, and this morning is no exception. But I don’t notice the volume. I notice his chubby little toddler hands, more baby than child. I notice his eyes, bright and excited, and full of life. I notice his cheeks, his belly, the cute way he says words.

She treasured.

There is something to this treasuring and pondering. It quiets and slows down even the most chaotic and scattered of mornings.

I often wish we were given more glimpses of Mary’s motherhood. This is one of the few we have. When the angel came, she offered a perfect “yes,” a fiat of unreserved, open-handed willingness and receptivity to the Lord’s will. Whatever you ask, Lord. And here we have this image of Mary, quietly sitting back and observing, soaking in the scene, pondering the details.

She treasured.

Perhaps this treasuring is the symptom, or the result, of a heart and a soul given completely to God’s will. The peace and the quiet come in a resounding “yes” offered to God in the midst of all of these moments. Yes to the sticky fingers, yes to the bumped toe and the bruised forehead, yes to the moments of correction and discipline, yes to the request to read another book, yes to the interruptions to all of our to-do’s and all of our chores and all of our feelings of “I just need a minute.”

When we can look at these moments, and at these children, with a heart that says “yes” to God and to these little people, they become more than chaos, more than interruptions, more than the feeling that something is going to break and fall apart forever; they become treasure. They are a being, a moment, a chance to treasure and to ponder.

These babies, so full of life, so full of curiosity and delight, with little toes and fingers and with questions and curiosities and with the wonder of the world in their eyes, they are our own Christ-children. We all know the day-to-day chaos, the constant noise and interruptions, even the bigger stables and mangers in our lives, those places in our lives that are nothing like we planned or hoped. But in the midst of all of these, if we can only learn to say “yes,” we will see treasure.

I put down my sponge and follow my two year-old into the playroom. He shows me the eggs he is scrambling, and I sit on the floor, silently watching him break and pull apart the velcro egg halves, beating them in a bowl with a whisk.

And I treasure.

Finishing Germany

This post seems unnecessary, but is necessary for me to close the chapter on my records of our European adventure. The last week of our time in Germany was mostly comprised of quiet days, trying to stay cool and slowly packing up our life and getting our apartment clean.

We did some swimming in the Isar River, crossed Asamkirche off our list of churches we had yet to visit, and finally tried the authentic French boulangerie I had been wanting to check out.

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After Aunt EA bought Edith a traditional Bavarian dress, it never came off and it was too funny watching her march around Munich looking like a local.

By that last week, with the heat and my pregnancy advancing, I became more and more uncomfortable and had less and less energy, so it was great to have the kids a bit more experienced when it comes to trams, subways, elevators, escalators, etc., and they needed much less supervision and help with the transportation side of things.

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Saying goodbye to the city was an odd experience. It is anticlimactic but also strange riding on that last tram and subway, leaving your little apartment for the last time, knowing that it is quite likely the last time you might see the streets of Munich. Our time treated us well, and I am so glad we braved the adventure.

I am so proud of the children and how beautifully they handled the adjustments, the new experiences, and the long days we often placed in their lives. The journey home ended up being 21 total hours from the time we left our apartment to the time we arrived at our front door in South Bend, but the children were wonderful and, of course, excited by all the “big airplanes.”

My dad asked the other day how the adjustment from “fun and frolicking” to being back home was going and I told him that we are now frolicking. However wonderful and fun Munich was, Munich was not frolicking. It seems we have all breathed a collective sigh of relief to be home and in our element again. Life is settling into a routine again, although it does feel like another shakeup is right around the corner!

I am so thankful for the trip we were able to take, the memories we made, and all the incredible places we saw. I’d like to try to keep the blog semi-regularly updated, at least with a few photos, for family members especially (hi, Grammy!). We’ll see how successful I am.

Garmisch Partenkirchen

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Can you ever have too many photos of mountains? I doubt it.

On Monday, we checked the Bavarian Alps off our list of places to see, taking the train to Garmisch Partenkirchen, a resort town in the shadow of the tallest peak in Germany, Zugspitze. Particularly after the weather ended our hopes to go up the tallest mountain in Salzburg, I was really wanting to see some Alpine views. Originally, we thought we would just go explore the town, but after doing some more research, I discovered there was a more toddler-accessible trip we could take. So we braved the peaks and even a trail from one cable car to another. We asked a lot of them, and the children rose to the occasion and did wonderfully, even in moments of exhaustion and a little weeping.

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To begin the trip, I kicked four college-age girls out of the children’s space, telling them I had two small children and asking if we could have this spot. It was so nice to have a lower table, chairs closer to the floor, and a little space next to the table for JH to do his typical up-and-down and to walk around a little, as the sleepier he gets, the more wiggly.

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From the train station, we took the Zugspitzbahn, the cog railway that takes tourists to the base of a few different mountains. The countryside is so picturesque, with low barns scattered throughout the fields and cows and goats dotting the grass.

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From the ground, we took a cable car to Osterfelderkopf (6,749 feet), a summit that lies right below the summit of Alpspitze (8,622 feet). The kids were very pleased about the cable car; much more pleased than the adults! When it started Edith said, “It’s like a hot air balloon!” and then a few minutes later, “It’s like we’re in a big airplane!” The view was, of course, spectacular, but the ride is not for the faint of heart.

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At the top, we enjoyed the views of mountain peaks, green valleys, and paragliders while eating our lunch at the restaurant.

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After lunch, we did some walking around at the summit. The kids love climbing the rocks, I loved the Alpine flowers, and EA braved the observation deck that juts off the mountainside.

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From Osterfelderkopf, we took another, shorter cable car ride to Hochalm. From that station, we had about a 30-minute walk on a gravel trail to the cable car that would take us back down to the bottom of the mountain. The lady at the info desk told me it was stroller and toddler-friendly, and while we managed and enjoyed some spectacular scenery, the path was perhaps not as friendly for a *double stroller* with two 27+ pound toddlers in it. We made them walk a few times, and at this point in the day, they were both completely exhausted and did not appreciate time on their feet. Grumpiness and some crying aside, I am glad we did it, and we even kept to the ideal time table so that we could make the 4 p.m. train back to Munich!

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Here is the view looking back up the mountain towards Alpspitze, where we departed on the cable car.

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One of the first scenes on the hike was these cows that were wearing huge bells around their necks. You could hear the sound from far off, and it was such a quintessential (stereotypical?) Alpine view.

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The ride back down the mountain was in smaller, round cars, or “baby cable cars,” as Edith called them. We made a hurried walk to the train from the car so that we could make it down to the town of Garmisch with an hour to explore and grab an ice cream cone. One day, I would like to go back and see more of the town, as it is quite lovely. I did get to see a few of the painted houses I had seen in photos.

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I am so glad our mountain adventure was such a success, and that we decided to do it. There is nothing like some Alpine air and gorgeous views, and getting out of the hot city was just what I needed to make it through another week in 90 degree heat and no air conditioning!

 

A Sunday afternoon at the museum

On Sunday morning, when I asked EA what she wanted to do, she said, “Go to the museum with you.” I couldn’t say no (which I was likely to do, thanks to exhaustion and sore feet) and we decided to bring Edith along for a special “girls’ trip,” as she kept saying. Edith was absolutely delighted to be included, particularly to be skipping her nap. It was so cute to watch her skipping up to the museum, excited about every little thing like the “spinny doors” at the entrance.

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We went to the Neue Pinakothek, the modern art museum in Munich, as I was particularly wanting to see Van Gogh’s famous sunflowers.

After lunch, we headed to the art. Edith did a wonderful job in the museum, whispering the whole time, answering my question “what do you see?” with sweet little observations, and generally leading the charge (too quickly for EA!) through the museum.

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Here are a few Van Gogh favorites.

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And Monet waterlilies.

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Augsburg

On Saturday, EA and I had the special treat of meeting our great aunt, the famed Aunt Pennie the German opera singer who we learned of growing up but had never before met. After a highly-successful career in opera, she is now retired in Augsburg, a city just north of Munich. It was very special for us to meet her and to get a little taste of her life and her city.

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We started at the Golden Hall in Augsburg’s town hall and then walked around the city a bit, where we stopped at the market for lunch. Aunt Pennie is the youngest sister of our beloved late grandmother and Pennie has some of our grandma’s mannerisms and ways of saying things. We loved getting a glimpse of Grandma in her.

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After lunch, we toured St. Anne’s church, a medieval church that was originally part of a Carmelite monastery built in 1321. Martin Luther stayed there while he was being questioned by Cardinal Cajetan. The church later became Lutheran.

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These are the famous Luther steps, the steps Luther walked up and down from his room in the monastery. A very interesting place.

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From the city center, we went back to Aunt Pennie’s apartment where we admired her beautiful balcony garden and learned more about her life, her opera career, and family history.

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We are very glad we got to make the trip and meet another part of our mom’s side of the family. Hopefully one day we can return!

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Catching up: last week

We are in the last days of our adventure, and I am determined not to fail the blog entirely. With EA here, we have been packing our days full and trying to use every moment we have to either explore…or nap.

The end of last week was less than ideal, as it found John Henry and I in a children’s hospital for a nasty cut on the back of his head.

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After our big Nuremberg day on Wednesday, we decided Thursday would be the ideal day for a slow morning, a grocery store run, and some nice long naps in the afternoon. We had some especially sweet sibling views that morning.

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Ironically, it was this moment, Edith comforting John Henry after he pulled the stroller over on himself (the boy is so impulsive) that turned into them falling over backwards and John Henry cutting the back of his head on the bottom window ledge. The blood was shocking enough and I felt uncertain enough of what he needed that I let the grocery store employees call the paramedics, who suggested I take him to the clinic to get it cleaned and taken care of. So I consented to a European ambulance ride and felt so grateful to have EA there to take Edith and my stroller and my groceries home.

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John Henry was so brave and a complete trooper through the whole experience. Here he is, delighted by both the ambulance and the medical glove elephant. As we only have service on our phones when we have an internet connection, I was not yet able to get a hold of Travis and had to make these decisions on my own. I discovered through this experience just how much of a teammate he feels to me; I don’t need him to make decisions for me, but I rely on him to be with me in decisions like the ones I had to make for our child.

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The medics had told me it would be about two hours total, but JH and I ended up waiting six plus hours before a doctor saw us. Upon arriving, they assessed his head and determined it didn’t need immediate attention. So we registered and then went to the waiting area. Thankfully European children’s areas are usually pretty great, and this one delighted John Henry and kept him busy for most of the time we waited.

Surprisingly, the hospital did not have public wifi, which I had been counting on, so I wasn’t able to keep in touch with EA or contact Travis. This was okay for the first hour or two, but in the late afternoon when I went to check on our place in line and the receptionist informed me that there were still eight people in front of us, I burst into tears and asked if there was any way I could get some internet so that I could contact my husband who didn’t know where we were or how his son was doing. The very kind receptionist took pity on me and offered me the use of her personal phone.

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By about 5:00, they finally saw John Henry, cleaned his head up, and glued the cut closed. He didn’t cry all day besides the initial bump and I was very proud of him taking this whole day like a champ. I suppose stitches and large cuts and trips to the ER are inevitable with him considering how he lives his life, but I am hoping the next incidents occur where I can call my husband and speak the language.

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Friday morning we decided to check off the final church in the old city on EA’s list of places to see and then grab a sausage at the “Wurstlkönig,” the “sausage king.” We entered the old city through a new to both of us gate, my favorite of all of them. Sadly, the church was closed for cleaning and John Henry must have been still suffering a bit from the day yesterday and was a total, weeping grump, so we called off our plans, sent EA to the museum, and headed home for rest and shade.

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That night, we took advantage of our live-in babysitter and Travis and I went out to celebrate our five year anniversary, a little early.

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I had read that Munich is a great place for Turkish food, and Travis happened to have a classmate from Turkey in his language course. He asked her where we could find some authentic Turkish food, and she directed us to this place, which serves manti, a special kind of Turkish dumpling. They drench the dumplings, filled with beef, with tomato sauce, yogurt sauce with garlic, and a butter paprika sauce. There are then different topping options, and I went with pastrami (recommended by the waiter) and olives. The food was absolutely delicious, and it seemed appropriate to celebrate with Turkish food, as Turkey is the place that began this whole adventure in the first place.

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After dinner, we headed over to a favorite Italian spot for gelato. The walk through the center of the old city was quite lovely, and as it was only the second or third time I have seen the city at night, I especially enjoyed it.

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Travis’ words when the waiter placed these in front of us: “The best part is that I get to eat all of this myself.” Truer words have never been spoken. I’m glad that at year five, we have two little vultures who eat our ice cream, but I am also glad I didn’t have to share this with anyone.