Last weekend was the first-ever Markel Family Spargelparty!

When I first came across the idea of an asparagus celebration in one of my Duolingo lessons, I think my family thought I was joking when I said it was something we should do this spring. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I could run with the idea of a meal centered around asparagus…(and it even makes a pretty centerpiece, especially when you have all three colors Eckert’s offers!):

I picked five recipes, all of which were at least somewhat new. There was an asparagus tart, bacon-wrapped asparagus bundles, cream of asparagus soup, asparagus and bacon quiche, and sautéed asparagus with (homemade!) Hollandaise sauce. Many of recipes included lemon, nutmeg, or a combination, and I discovered both are great additions to asparagus dishes. The overwhelming favorite was the soup…it was smooth and delicious.

It was a very spring-y meal!

I offered to incorporate asparagus into our dessert, as well (perhaps an asparagus cheesecake?), but no one took me up on my offer. Instead, I used a mix from Dr. Oetker to make a Käse-Sahne Torte. German Girl in America’s website was very helpful in translating the directions on the box, and I also followed her tips of using plain Greek yogurt instead of the quark, which you can only find around here sometimes, and serving it with fresh strawberries. It was the perfect end to our celebration of spring!

For years I’ve told my children the story of how they ring the church bells in Germany when the asparagus season begins…I’m glad I found a way for us participate in this tradition of celebrating the arrival of spring in a uniquely German way here at home!

Es ist endlich Spargelzeit!

Yesterday, we did something new…we went to Eckert’s and picked asparagus!

I was really curious about this whole process. I had no idea how asparagus grew (I figured either in single stems like grass, or in bunches like celery…they grow singly). I also had no idea how you harvest them…do you cut them, or just pull them out of the ground? (They give you a flat spade-like tool with a straight edge that you angle next to the asparagus, and then give it a push through).

It ended up being a beautiful day to be out at the farm…we had a break in the weather, it wasn’t even that muddy, and we really enjoyed the tractor ride (plus our driver was really, really nice!).

I’m so glad we got to have this new experience, and I’m really looking forward to enjoying the, um, fruits of our labor, if you will, when we have our first-ever Markel Family Spargelparty…stay tuned for details!

Six Months of Duolingo

Just over six months ago, I started making an intentional effort to complete at least one Duolingo German lesson every day. I had had a Duolingo account for literal years (I think I signed up just to see how the process worked before having the children use it in school) without ever actually using it myself, but last September, I decided I wanted to give it a try. It was part of a broader effort to connect to my heritage (see my fashion and cooking posts), I think.

I studied German for four years in high school, so it’s not like I was unfamiliar with the language, but it had also been over two decades, and I was a fairly lazy German student, so I had a lot to learn (and relearn)…I basically knew just enough to get myself into trouble in Germany!

It’s been an interesting process. There have been days where I couldn’t put a sentence together correctly if my life depended upon it (I really struggle with word order in German…I always have), and other days where I it all just made sense, and I could have kept going forever. I still have a hard time remembering the gender of words, but that is no surprise. I do think my vocabulary has grown quite a bit, though, and in general, I feel more comfortable with the language, which is kind of the point.

I’ve come across some bizarre and hilarious sentences along the way:

The bear, in particular, has been a constant source of amusement:

There have been some very relatable translations:

And some that I wish weren’t quite so relatable:

Duolingo contains some deep truths hidden within the lessons:

I even came up with a great idea for a Spargelparty from the lesson on asparagus (stay tuned for that one!):

I’ve hit milestones along the way (my current streak is up to 187 days):

It might not seem like much, but I’ve cleared all of the lessons in just one unit, which is quite an accomplishment to me (see my above struggles with learning German):

I’ve also advanced to the Diamond League (once):

Last night was my big achievement, though:

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not done with learning German, not even with Duolingo. This achievement came from passing all of the checkpoints (which took way less time than I was expecting!), not all of the lessons, and I’ve just gotten started with the collection of stories (which are quite fun!). But I really feel like I accomplished something, both in realizing that I must have retained more of my high school German than I thought, and in committing to continuing my education as an adult. I’m really looking forward to learning more, and maybe someday, I’ll actually get to put my new skills to use!