Uncategorized

I knew it couldn’t last forever…

Last night, just before bed, I ran my hands over Arran’s body. That’s when I found the enlarged lymph node near his left “armpit”. I checked his other nodes. The ones in his back legs, which were enlarged when I first found out about his lymphoma, were not swollen. I thought I could detect a little swelling in the nodes under his jaw.

It’s possible that this isn’t lymphoma roaring back to life, but I think it probably is. I’ve noticed Arran is a little shaky lately, too.

He has a vet appointment on Wednesday. It will be his 16th week, I believe… and he’s already done better on chemo than I ever thought he could. He made it to his tenth anniversary.

I don’t know how much longer he has, but I suspect his time is drawing close. I’m kind of ambivalent about it. Yes, of course, I will miss him. I love him dearly. When we lose him, it’s going to leave a huge hole. But I also miss traveling freely, even just to go out to dinner. I miss being able to sleep through the night without having to let him out or feed him. He is about 14 years old, too.

What makes this worse is that Bill has to go away again this week. I think Arran will be okay, but the new swollen lymph node gives me an ominous feeling.

On the bright side, he’s still eating and able to jump on the bed by himself. All he has right now is a little trembling and a swollen node. But I think it’s time to prepare for the inevitable. And here I was thinking, before I found that swollen node, that maybe we could get him one last dental. He definitely needs one.

Anyway, if you can spare some good vibes, I’d appreciate them. I just want it to be smooth sailing until the end.

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gadgets

I feel like making our German house “smarter” is making me dumber…

Yesterday, I wrote about how I’ve been “upgrading” our German house, adding new “smart” devices to make things “easier”. I installed new smart light bulbs in several lamps, bought new gadgets from Amazon and Apple, and invested in smart power strips and outlet covers. I’m sure I’ll be glad I did all of this, once we’ve figured out the learning curve. For now, I’m wondering if I should have my head examined.

Installing the new light bulbs was easy. It was just a matter of screwing them into the lamps and setting them to our Internet connection via an app on my phone or tablet. But now, I have to get used to a new routine. If I want to use the lamps with the new technology, I have to have my phone or tablet. The bulbs are numbered, and not necessarily in a logical way. I’m sure I’ll eventually get it so all I have to do is tell Alexa what I want. However, before that happens, I have to learn how it all works.

Meanwhile, I bought a new HomePod Mini, because most of my media is on Apple. I do have some stuff on Amazon, but for some reason, I can’t seem to download MP3s on Amazon in Germany. I have been able to do it in the past, but I can’t do it now, for some strange reason.

Now, my big HomePod, which we’ve been using in the living room for years, works fine. It accesses my music from my big iMac desktop. Silly me. I thought it would be easy to do the same with the HomePod Mini sitting next to my computer. But no… it seems to work best if I have Apple Music. I don’t want to subscribe to Apple Music. I prefer to buy the stuff I want. I don’t want a subscription service having access to my collection and possibly replacing stuff I own. And I don’t want to “rent” my music.

Why does my HomePod work fine with the computer, albeit not wanting to play stuff I didn’t download from Apple, but the Mini doesn’t? I can use AirPlay to play music on the Mini, but it doesn’t sound as good as my computer speakers do.

I may end up moving the new Mini and the future new HomePod into our entertainment room and pairing them for better sound in there. I did get the new Mini to work with the TV in my bedroom, but I think I’d need another one, because otherwise, the sound just comes from the one speaker. It’s not better than the TV speaker is.

Surprisingly enough, I’m finding Amazon Alexa a lot easier and more function than the HomePod Mini is. It’s also significantly less expensive. I’d probably just as soon use Alexa, but so much of my music is through iTunes, and it’s all very proprietary. I bought another Echo Dot for our entertainment room, just because it’s so easy to use and doesn’t cost that much. Just plug and play.

I’m a little troubled by the HomePod Mini and how difficult it is to just get it to play the music I already own. I hope the full scale HomePod that is coming out soon won’t be like that. Otherwise, it might end up being a door stop… or an expensive speaker.

But at least we have new and better lighting. I do like that about the new light bulbs, especially since I bought a new reading light last week just so I could finish my latest book… which was an actual book, rather than Kindle. I should probably embrace old fashioned books more, since using Kindle kind of compromises privacy and gives Amazon suggestive selling information. But doggone it, it’s just a lot easier to use Kindle. The backlighting makes it so much easier for me to read, and the print is larger. I can read it after dark, too.

I’m beginning to think this whole project would be a lot easier if I was 20 instead of 50. I think something happens when you get older, and lose patience with learning new technology. However, I do see value in learning the technology, because pretty soon, everyone is going to use it. I don’t remember the last time I used a landline telephone, for instance. I don’t remember the last time I watched regular TV. I think pretty soon, anyone who doesn’t own a smartphone is going to be shit outta luck.

Pictured is the blue HomePod Mini. Mine looks just like it, and so far, is just about as functional as the photo is.

Edited to add on January 26th…

I ended up adding most of my music to my phone, and now the HomePod Mini seems to work. I didn’t put any music on my phone because I so often use it for photos. I guess now, I can retire my worthless iPod Touch, which doesn’t have enough storage.

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gadgets

Making our German house “smarter”…

While we wait for the weather to get less yucky, I’ve been focusing a bit on making our house more comfortable. I mentioned on my main blog yesterday that I’ve been investing in some new technology. In the past few weeks, I’ve acquired two new Alexa Echo Dot devices. One is in my office, and the other is in my bedroom. I have an Alexa Studio in the living room. I don’t use it very much. I bought it mainly because sometimes Siri on my HomePod goes kerfluey and it makes a good backup.

I have some Amazon music purchases that I can’t play on the HomePod, and some Apple purchases that won’t play on Alexa. I don’t want to subscribe to a streaming service, so I have two “assistants”. For years, I’ve managed to avoid succumbing to temptation regarding the Dots, but finally gave in when I realized that Alexa does more than music. But then, so does Siri.

Anyway, after Bill gave me a Dot for my office, I got one for the bedroom… then I realized it might be interesting to be able to control our lights from my phone. I bought three new smart power strips, some smart outlet plugs, and smart light bulbs.

All of these items can be connected via a phone app to the Internet. Then, I can make them do things I never thought I’d be able to get them to do. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Last night after dinner, we tried out the new smart bulbs. I bought four of them, so we put them on the four lamps they fit. Then we connected them to the Internet via the app. Now, I can adjust the color, intensity, and even set them to music. I can program them to turn on and off on a schedule. I didn’t have to plug the lamp into a smart outlet, either. All we had to do was change the light bulb and pair it with the phone and/or tablet.

I remember when we first moved to Germany in 2007, we quickly learned that using US made lamps in Germany is pretty simple. All you have to do is use a plug converter and a German bulb and you’re good to go. That’s not the case with other electronics. I once fried a computer because I forgot to change the voltage switch from North America to Europe. The voltage in North America is 110 volts; here, it’s 220. So, when you don’t change the voltage settings or use a transformer, you can end up blowing up your device.

Our former landlady, who accused us of “dumping” an American fridge in her house, obviously didn’t know that we have different voltages in the USA. That crappy fridge, which was there the day we moved in, was plugging into the wall. If it were an American appliance, we wouldn’t be able to do that. The plug itself is different, so it wouldn’t have fit the outlet. And the voltage is different, so we’d need a transformer, which would not be worth it. High voltage transformers are very expensive and, in my experience, don’t work very well. They tend to trip the circuit breakers.

This is less of a problem with computers. Nowadays, they are built to automatically detect electric current and adjust accordingly. That wasn’t always the case, though, and it’s still not true for a lot of electric devices. That’s why most of our American small appliances are in storage.

We need to do some more study and find out all of the things we can do with our gadgets now. Today, I have a new HomePod Mini coming to me. I’ll use it in my office for now, for when my computer gets overwhelmed and music stalls out. Then, I’ll probably move it when I get a new desktop computer, which will probably be pretty soon. I also ordered a new HomePod, which was recently “souped up”. That will get to us in March, when it’s available in Europe. I will move the old HomePod to our entertainment room and hook it up to the TV, so we can get better sound.

I still wish we had a couch for in there. First world problems…

Anyway, if people are reading this blog looking for information about actually living in Germany, I can reassure you that many of the techie comforts of home are easily found here. Sometimes you have to wait a little longer and pay a little more, but you can still get most of that cool stuff here. A bonus is, some homes have some pretty awesome features you won’t find in a lot of US homes, like heated floors, saunas, and indoor pools. But, most of them don’t have closets, which is a real bummer.

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Uncategorized

A big DUMP of snow…

Bill and I had made some tentative plans to get out of the house today. Mother nature had other plans. It started to snow last night at about 5:30pm or so… I had noticed a little snow in the afternoon. I hadn’t seen it actually falling, but I saw the evidence on the ground. Still, I was unprepared for the dumping of white stuff we got last night. I think we got about four inches or so, which is significant.

When we still lived in Jettingen (near Stuttgart), we typically got at least one good snowfall every winter. Usually, it snowed even more often than that, with the ice and snow hanging around for weeks sometimes. Up here in Breckenheim, it rarely snows. When it does snow, it’s not much, and the stuff melts quickly. Not so this time…

According to The Weather Channel, it’s possible we’ll get a little more snow this evening, although it’s kind of sunny and cold today. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to snow more. They’re calling for “snow showers”, because it’s not that cold outside. I think that’s what we were supposed to get last night, but as you can see, Mother Nature had other ideas. Don’t want to go out in that!

Arran has never been a fan of snow, so he’s just been going out to do the bare minimum. He got a walk today, too. Noyzi, on the other hand, seems to enjoy snow as much as his predecessor, Zane, did.

Noyzi enjoys the newly fallen snow. It’s early afternoon, and most of it hasn’t melted yet.

I enjoy snow. I think it’s pretty. I don’t necessarily want to go out in it, though, so that means I’ve been finishing up my latest book this afternoon instead of venturing out, like we’d hoped. SIGH… I don’t really enjoy this time of year in Germany. But, at least with each passing day, we get closer to spring. And our next trip, which could be as soon as next month, gets closer as each chilly, damp, and cloudy day passes. We’ll see what happens. It depends on Arran, and whether or not he can be boarded safely.

It’s always fun to have snow for a day or two, if only because it’s unusual… and it gives me a reason to wear the new coat I spent a boatload of money on last month.

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holidays

Milking MLK weekend for all it’s worth…

I can’t believe we’re already in the middle of January 2023. Time sure is flying. Ordinarily, we would have used Martin Luther King Day weekend for a short trip somewhere. But we haven’t been living in ordinary times for awhile now. Last year, we had COVID to deal with. This year, it’s Arran’s cancer.

Actually, we probably could have gone somewhere. He’s not so ill that he can’t be boarded. All he needs is Prednisolone every other day, a vet visit every other week, and Endoxan twice a week, every other week. This week, he just got the Prednisolone, which would have been easy for our regular boarding facility to manage. I just don’t want to board him if I can avoid it, because I know he’d rather be with us.

Noyzi loves being boarded, but I don’t want to drop him off and take Arran with us. That’s a hassle. Taking Noyzi with us is also difficult, because takes up the whole back end of our car. It’s better if he gets boarded. It’s hard to shop when the dog takes up all the cargo space. At this point, we have plans to go to Stuttgart at the end of March. The dogs will be boarded for that.

It was a lot easier to travel when we had Zane, as he and Arran could share the back seat. Zane also didn’t mind going to the potty on the leash. We did manage to get Noyzi to poop on the leash when we took him to France, but it took awhile. On the other hand, Zane was a lot louder and naughtier than Noyzi is. We were more likely to get yelled at by locals when we traveled with Zane.

The weather in Germany was pretty gloomy this weekend. We’ve had rain every day. While it’s not super cold, it is pretty windy and blustery. I still have a touch of cabin fever and would like to get out and do something fun. Then I look at the depressing weather and decide to hibernate.

It’s not all bad, though. I used the fireplace last night, which is always nice. I wish we had seating in the living room that makes the fireplace easy to enjoy. I like this house a lot, but the downstairs layout could be better. The living room is like two rooms that open into the dining room.

I was thinking the other day… I’d like to turn the dining room into an extension of the kitchen. Put in a pantry and a wine fridge, and move our spare fridge upstairs. Maybe install a kitchen island. and more counter space, and put in a door to block the kitchen from the living room. Too bad this isn’t my house and I don’t have tons of money. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Bill and I spent the weekend watching movies, listening to music, drinking wine, and talking. He tried out making calzones with the empanada makers I got him for Christmas. They tasted good, although his presentation technique needs some polish. I’m sure he’ll get a chance to practice. He also tried a couple of new recipes from one of the cookbooks I got him.

I have been giving some thought to places we’d like to visit this year… I know Bill wants to go to Spain and/or Portugal again. I’d like to go to the Baltics, or maybe Finland. I’d also like to visit Brno in the Czech Republic. There are more exotic places we’d like to go, as well. They would require flying, which I’m still not sure I want to do unless I have to. I do know, however, that I’d like to venture out beyond the usual countries… France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and the like.

For now, though… we’re at home. At least Bill got lots of sleep, which he really needs. Below are some photos… The first, second, and fourth are of the calzone experiment. The fifth is of some Bearnaise Sauce Bill tried to make using a new recipe out of a Michel Roux cookbook I bought him.

The last photo is a bottle of wine a friend bought that comes from Bauerwein.de, a winery in the Pfalz. They have lots of wines with funny names. There’s one called Bullshit, and another called If You’re a Terrorist, Racist, or Just an Asshole, Don’t Drink My Wine. I could list more, but some of the names are really long and I have another blog post to type. I’m thinking of ordering a bunch. If we’d had nicer weather, maybe we would have paid them a visit. Their outfit is about 80 minutes away from us.

I’d really like to kick the travel blog back into gear in 2023, although I don’t have plans to publicize it much. I can see there are a lot of people who are better at this than I am… and make YouTube videos, and shit. I just put songs on YouTube. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Health

He made it to ten years! Happy “gotcha day”, Arran!

Since I’ve been writing about my dog, Arran’s, canine chemotherapy progress in this blog, I think this is the right place to share the happy news. Our sweet Arran, who was diagnosed with B cell lymphoma in October 2022, has now officially been in our family for ten years! He is officially now the dog we’ve had for the longest time. I feel quite certain that if it weren’t for our local veterinarians, our sweet Arran would no longer be with us.

Naturally, I’m very happy that Arran has spent ten years with us. Our other beagle, Zane, was getting close to his tenth anniversary when he, too, got lymphoma. We lost him on August 31, 2019, just one week after he was diagnosed with cancer. I think Zane’s lymphoma was both more advanced and more aggressive than Arran’s has been. We never had the opportunity to try chemotherapy with him.

I donโ€™t think Zane was quite as strong as Arran is. I also believe Zane came from a puppy mill, while Arran came from hunters who apparently were trying to breed the perfect hunting dog. He wasn’t the perfect hunting dog for them, but he is a very strong, resilient dog, who is very attached to us. Consequently, he’s really been fighting to stay with us.

Below is a photo I took on the day we adopted him, January 12, 2013. He’s sitting next to Zane in the house we were renting in Sanford, North Carolina. We had lost his predecessor, MacGregor, to a very aggressive spinal tumor on December 18, 2012. Arran was named “CD” by the rescue, and “Marley” by his first adoptive family. We decided to name him Arran after a beautiful island in Scotland we saw on our tenth anniversary cruise in Scotland. The news about MacGregor’s surprise spinal tumor had interrupted that wonderful and long awaited trip. I was still enchanted by how beautiful Scotland is, and how much at home I felt there. Arran, likewise, is beautiful, colorful, funny, mischievous, and very special… like the Island of Arran is.

I don’t know exactly how old Arran was in the above photo, but I would guess he was at least four, as he was previously adopted and returned to Triangle Beagle Rescue out of Raleigh, North Carolina. From the very beginning, our “Tribeagle” been sweet, adorable, and loving. He’s also been quite a troublemaker at times, and a real scrapper. I would say that his tendency to get into trouble is one reason why he’s still with us today. Below is a photo I took this morning. He was hunting for crumbs until the table.

He’s now at about week fourteen of his chemo. As you can see from the video, taken a couple of days ago, he’s still very interested in living… and eating! We owe a lot to our vets in the neighboring village of Wallau for providing such excellent and affordable care.

Our rascally “chowhound”, Arran!

When we decided to get treatment for Arran’s lymphoma, I really only hoped we’d get to celebrate ten years with our loving hound. As I look at him right now, he’s waiting impatiently for me to finish typing this, so we can take a walk. He’s still obviously very invested in living his life.

Obviously, not every dog will respond to treatment as well as Arran has, but we sure are glad we gave it a try. And now, we’re just going to focus on enjoying having him, for however long we can.

Arran on the day we brought him home from Raleigh, North Carolina. It was exactly ten years ago, today!

Anyway… I thought I’d just share the news. We have hit an unprecedented milestone. And for that, Arran deserves a walk with his big Kosovar pal, Noyzi. He sure is a fighter! And he’s still so very beautiful to me, even if he does pee on the floor and get us up at 3:00am for his breakfast.

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laws, trip planning

Firenze, Italy sends Bill New Year’s greetings..

Some of my regular travel blog readers might recall that Bill and I took a trip to Italy last spring. I blogged about the trip in sixteen parts, which also included stops in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. We visited Parma, Modena, Florence, Pisa, Viareggio, and several adorable towns in Tuscany, as we visited several Chianti Classico wineries. That was the most recent of our more epic European trips, and I’ve found myself looking back on it wistfully. I am REALLY in need of a trip somewhere. But other events are in the way, to include our dog Arran’s chemotherapy, which is still going surprisingly well.

I’ve even been giving some thought to visiting Italy again in 2023. I follow the Meet the Wengers YouTube channel, which is a family vlog run by an American woman named Katie, who married a German man. They have three adorable and apparently well-behaved children. Recently, she posted some videos about the family’s fall trip to Verona, a city I haven’t yet visited in Italy. Her videos make me want to go there and explore.

One of a few videos the Wengers have done about Verona… Now I want to go, too.

Well, yesterday, Bill got a reminder of our most recent trip to Italy. It came in the form of a traffic ticket. We drove to Florence, mainly because we wanted to bring some food and wines back to Germany, and because I didn’t want to deal with flying, due to the pandemic. Having a car makes travel in Europe a little bit more liberated, as it means not being dictated by timetables or established routes. However, car travel comes with its own hazards, which include traffic cameras that take photos of those who break the rules.

In our case, the infraction occurred on April 27, 2022, when Bill mistakenly drove our Volvo through a restricted area. It seems that many towns in certain Italian cities don’t allow non-residents to drive on certain streets. We had a bunch of bags, since we were on a long trip. The hotel we stayed in was on the third floor of a building and kind of hard to find. Bill was disoriented as to where we were supposed to go, although it turned out there was a very large parking garage near the hotel.

Long story short, the cameras caught Bill driving where he wasn’t supposed to go. Naturally, we were both completely oblivious to the infraction. Some Italian cities that have these rules against non-residents driving on restricted streets, will allow travelers to register their vehicles before their arrival. I think the city of Bologna is one of those places. Bologna is another city I haven’t yet seen. Maybe we’ll go there next time and avoid Florence! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yesterday, Bill had to sign for a letter at the post office on our local military installation. It was in a window envelope, and came from the city of Firenze. Inside the envelope was the notification of the driving infraction, written in both Italian and English, and a complete rundown of the law that was broken. There was also a schedule of the fines to be paid. It’s 68 euros if Bill pays within six days. If he delays payment between 6 and 60 days, it goes up to about 95 euros. If he doesn’t pay within 60 days, it goes up to 176 euros.

At first, Bill thought the ticket read that he would have had to have paid within six days of the infraction, but obviously he hadn’t been notified at that time. Upon closer examination, he read that he can still pay the reduced fine, since he just got notice. It’s done via bank transfer, as most things here are.

We’re just glad this didn’t happen in Switzerland, as the fines are probably a lot higher there… but they probably also come within a couple of weeks, rather than several months, routed through The Netherlands. I don’t know why the ticket went through The Netherlands. Maybe it’s because the ticketing agency is outsourced.

I just took down all the Christmas decorations. I’m glad to have that yearly chore done. It’s a lot easier to take the decorations down than put them up; and for that, I’m grateful. However, I always find it a little sad to see my living room in its normal state. I like the homey look created by the Christmas lights. On the other hand, it’s less to have to deal with, and I also look forward to more daylight and better weather. I’m definitely ready to have some fun! So now, on with making some travel plans for 2023! We’ll be more careful about where we drive and park, next time!

Edited to add: The day after I posted this, Bill got a second ticket from Firenze for the same offense. He drove through that historic area twice! I’m glad he moved to a different area after dropping me off. Both tickets, paid at the lowest rate, were about 60 euros each– so, 120 euros for driving in the wrong places in Italy. Expensive lesson learned.

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holidays

Farewell to 2022… hello to 2023!

Bill took the featured photo today, after walking the dogs. Apparently, there were a bunch of people in the Dorfplatz, making merry as the year changed…

Well, well, well… another Silvester is now in the books. Thanks to the loosening of COVID restrictions, the locals were allowed to set off fireworks again last night. It started here as the sun set We could hear them popping in the distance. Poor Noyzi was pretty scared, although Arran, as usual, wasn’t bothered at all.

At about 7:00 PM, we tried to convince Noyzi to pee outside. I knew it was going to get really crazy later, so I wanted him to go. But people were setting off fireworks even at that hour, which really spooked him. Bill tried to talk him into going, but he refused. He finally relented when I put him on a leash and took him to a corner of the yard where he usually goes. I stood outside with him, and listened to the popping. Finally, after about twenty minutes, he relaxed and did his business. Good thing he did it, too, because he really needed to go.

After that, we sat at the Eckbank Gruppe and listened to music. Noyzi curled up under the table a couple of times, but spent of the evening in his “room”, where his bed is. That’s where he spends most of his time. Arran, as usual, stayed with us. He’s our Velcro dog, and seems to get energy from snuggling… especially with Bill.

When it was midnight, there were fireworks going off everywhere. Our new neighbors were in the street with their kids, setting off all manner of explosives. I videoed some of their antics, although at some point, the video went into slow motion. That was definitely unintentional. I was surprised it wasn’t more crazy than it was. I’ve seen rowdier New Year’s Eves, although they were further to the south, where people are a little more provincial. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We had pretty warm weather last night, too, which is unusual for Germany. I was able to comfortably be outside barefoot and without a sweater. That should probably concern me, but it made for easy viewing of the fireworks. I think people in Hessen are a little more sensible about fireworks than people near Stuttgart are. I may be wrong, though… It probably depends on the neighborhood.

My attempts to take still photos of the fireworks weren’t very successful or interesting, or else I would share them here. But below is a video…

This was the scene in our neighborhood last night!

Well, that about sums up our New Year’s Eve. I’m always kind of glad when the holidays are over, even though I dread taking down the decorations. I find the holidays kind of exhausting, even though it’s just Bill and me and the dogs celebrating. I also think I get kind of tired of how dark it stays here at this time of year. In any case, I’m just glad there’s no drama over here… just lots of food, drinks, music, and loud popping.

Bill is now preparing our New Year’s Day feast. I think he gets tomorrow off, so we’ll probably take care of some more chores. I think he’s going to put together my new office chair, which comes equipped with heat and massage functions. He sure is good to me.

I hope you had a very nice New Year’s Eve, and I wish you the best during this new year… health, wealth, safety, and happiness.

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holidays

New Years Eve 2022!!! We’re bracing ourselves.

I fully expect tonight will be an awesome display of German style pandemonium. For the past two years, the customary neighborhood fireworks displays have been prohibited, because of the COVID pandemic. This year, Germans are once again allowed to purchase fireworks for New Year’s Eve. And as Bill has just come back from the local Rewe, where he bought sparkling water, beer, and laundry detergent, he noticed that a lot of people were at the grocery store, stocking up on bottle rockets, firecrackers, sparklers, and other assorted pyrotechnics.

I suspect the fireworks will upset Noyzi, who has been spared the armageddon like New Year’s tradition for the past two years. Last night, he happened to go outside as someone set off a firecracker. It totally spooked him, and he tried to run back inside before he took a much needed whiz. I made him stay outside and do his business, even though so far, he’s been very reliable about not relieving himself in the house. Noyzi is still very frightened of a lot of things and will jump or try to flee at very little provocation. He has gotten a lot better, though. It’s been very rewarding watching him evolve into a much beloved dog who has a family and a home.

Arran doesn’t care about fireworks. I suspect he’ll sleep through the whole spectacle, as he usually does. He’ll probably fart a few times for good measure. In that way, he is decidedly unlike his predecessor, MacGregor, who was terrified of fireworks. I remember poor MacGregor, the first year we lived in Germany (2007). The people in our neighborhood were all out in the streets, lighting explosives like there was no tomorrow. MacGregor found a spot under my desk and shivered until it was over, hours later.

Even though fireworks were prohibited for the past couple of years, some local Germans still had a stockpile from years past. New Year’s is the only time of year fireworks are allowed to be sold, so I know those were explosives that weren’t spent in earlier years. For New Year’s 2020, we still got a short show. In 2021, it was even shorter still. But this year, I will be very surprised if the fireworks aren’t erupting for a very long time and in high concentrations. I’m glad we have a balcony, so we can watch them. We don’t set them off ourselves.

Hell, I would probably not be too upset if there wasn’t a fireworks show… as they are loud and disruptive, and they upset animals and people with PTSD. And the reason they weren’t allowed in the past two years is because every year, people get hurt. I read one article today that mentioned how it’s customary for people to start showing up in German hospital emergency rooms at about twenty minutes after midnight. Germans are, on the whole, careful and law abiding people, but something about Silvester makes some of them lose their fucking minds. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Alas, some of them also lose digits and limbs, or wind up with severe burns, because they handle fireworks improperly on New Year’s Eve.

I usually get quite tired before midnight these days, anyway… and Bill definitely does. But I know I can’t sleep through tonight. It will be impossible, unless I drug myself. And because my stomach has been giving me issues lately, I don’t want to take that risk. I’ll probably stick with my usual bubbly and call it a night… maybe read more of Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, which I started yesterday. I gotta say, after reading Paulina Porizkova’s book… or even Matthew Perry’s book… she comes off as a kind of a twit. I’ll probably enjoy writing my review. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I predict it will be pretty snarky. If you want to read my thoughts on Paulina’s and Matthew’s books, you can find my reviews on my main blog. The link is at the top of this page (or right here).

Today, we’re taking care of some “honey do” chores. I managed to get a new bookshelf for the cookbooks I keep buying (and rarely using) at Christmas. I put it in our living room, where it makes the room look better furnished. I was going to buy another one for Bill’s Jung books, but after I moved some of the cooking/boozing books from our upstairs shelf, I discovered a whole shelf was available for the Jung books. That’s probably enough for now, although I might get another one anyway, just because I also need to buy new bathroom rugs.

As I write this, the duvet covers are being washed, newly washed sheets are on the bed, a load of clothes have been washed, and Bill is cleaning out the kitchen cabinets. He’s looking for a moth infestation, after I noticed two tiny holes in his favorite wool sweater on Monday, when we went to Villa Im Tal for a Christmas lunch. I figure the holes come from moths, because I’ve noticed a few of them flying around, and I know we have old stuff that needs to be tossed. I’ve already thrown out a couple of things, to include a package of Jello pudding that dates from 2017. ๐Ÿ˜€

It will be nice to have a slightly less cluttered and cleaner house. Since I got a new vacuum for Christmas, I took the old vacuum to the basement and used it to tidy up a bit downstairs. I’ll probably move that machine downstairs permanently, at some point. It will live with my Tineco wet vacuum, which I’ll probably use after I finish writing this post. That vacuum is good for getting rid of muddy paw prints on the parquet floors. I don’t do it very often, though, because frankly it’s a waste of time and energy. The dogs are constantly tracking mud into the house, because this time of year it rains a lot. Today, we have pretty warm weather, especially for this time of year… but it’s a bit cloudy.

Anyway… wish us luck. I wish you a safe and happy new year. I look forward to some exciting and more frequent travel experiences in 2023, God willing. Of course, that will probably mean losing Arran, which will be very sad… On the other hand, as sad as it will be, it will also present opportunities that we’ve been missing. Much like the Germans have been missing their fireworks. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And, just like the Germans sometimes get into trouble when they set off explosives, so do Americans who travel in Europe. The silver lining is, those kinds of fiasco experiences lead to some epic travel tales. So stay tuned! Happy New Year! And tune in tomorrow, because I’ll probably have photos and video of whatever happens!

The featured photo was taken in Natural Bridge, Virginia, at my family’s homestead during our Thanksgiving 2014 celebration (last time I was home)… My cousin and his son are fireworks experts (seriously) and put on these shows for a living. A few years ago, they put one on for my cousin’s daughter’s summer wedding and pissed off half of Roanoke, Virginia. This is funny to me, because my dad never set off fireworks. I guess some of my relatives get their adrenaline rushes by lighting things on fire and watching them blow up.

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A Christmas treat at Villa Im Tal…

I know I have at least one reader out there in Internet Land who likes it when Bill and I go out to eat. There was a time not so long ago when that was a pretty regular occurrence for us. Unfortunately, COVID-19 and Arran’s sudden regression to puppy adolescent behavior have curtailed our fun in recent weeks. He’s been breaking into the basement, getting into anything remotely resembling food. It got so bad that I ordered a new baby gate last week and it arrived the other day. It’s about four feet tall, I think.

Bill installed the new gate and beagle proofed as much as he could today, as we had a 1:00 appointment to visit one of our favorite restaurants, Villa Im Tal, a beautiful restaurant in a wooded area on the outskirts of Wiesbaden. We’ve been there many times, but I think our most recent visit was last spring. When I saw that they had a special Christmas menu available, I decided to ask Bill if he was up for it. Naturally, he was.

The special menu was four courses. Everybody got the same thing, except for the main course. There was one vegetarian selection, or a choice of roast beef, sea bass, or roasted duck. The duck was the most interesting for me, while Bill went with the roast beef. We ordered and paid for the food a few days ahead of time, to help out the chefs in their planning. However, once we got to the restaurant, we still had to tell our waitress what we wanted.

The food and service were, as usual, superb. We started with two glasses of white champagne, fresh bread with Spundekรคs (a local mild cheese spread), then a beautiful sashimi salmon salad, with watercress, pomegranate seeds, turnips, and a honey mustard vinaigrette. Next came my favorite course, a delightful langoustine soup, with chili peppers, ginger, tomatoes, and croutons. That soup was so delicious! I would have gone there just for that course! It was a very comforting bisque that practically burst with flavor.

Next came our main dishes– Bill’s roast beef came with mushrooms and a barley risotto, and my duck included a potato knodel and spiced cranberries and red cabbage. Bill said the roast beef was excellent. I didn’t try it, because of the mushrooms. I did really enjoy the duck, though, which came with a savory gravy. We paired the entrees with a lovely Spatburgunder from Rheinland-Pfalz. Finally, for dessert, we had a Blood Orange Papaya Salad with mandarin sorbet, and white chocolate.

There were a lot of people in the restaurant, as well as a well behaved poodle who charmed a toddler girl. She put on quite a show as she came over to pet the friendly black dog. While we were enjoying our meal, I started telling Bill about how, the first time I visited Florence in 1997, I was with friends and ordered a steak. The waiter neglected to charge me for it. I called it to his attention, and he seemed ready to defend the prices. He was definitely surprised and very relieved when I let him know that he forgot to charge me for my dinner.

The same thing happened to Bill and I one time when we were dining at The Occidental in Washington, DC, years ago. The waiter was very grateful that we pointed out the mistake, commenting that we saved him a lot of paperwork. Wouldn’t you know it, the same thing happened tonight! The waitress forgot to charge us for our bottle of red wine! She was pretty happy when Bill reminded her that we’d had it.

Villa Im Tal is a nice restaurant, but it’s also child friendly. This dinner offered a kids’ menu, and I’m pretty sure they have one on their regular menu, too. But although it’s family ready, it’s also a very nice place to eat. The food and service are always outstanding. I always appreciate the friendly and professional staff members, many of whom speak English, and the beautiful woodsy setting, near a large riding facility that makes me miss owning a horse.

We prepaid for the food, which was 88 euros per person. I think the bill for the wine and sparkling water was another 100 euros, plus Bill threw in some euro cash as a tip. It was worth every euro cent, as Villa Im Tal is always a pleasure. Below are some photos from our delightful date…

When we got home, at about 3:45pm, Arran and Noyzi were very excited. And we were excited to find that the only casualty from our absence was some newspaper that Arran shredded. I threw it in the fireplace, possibly for a fire tonight. I know we’ll be back to Villa Im Tal. It’s definitely a favorite.

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