Karim’s Brasserie for New Year’s Eve!

Advertisements

Well, we made it. 2020 is over. We had a pretty typical New Year’s Eve, except we didn’t have as many fireworks. One thing we did this year that we don’t usually do was order dinner. As a matter of fact, in 2020, we ordered takeout on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. It’s not unusual for us to dine out on Thanksgiving, but we usually cook on the other days. This year, we decided we preferred to help out the local restaurants and spare ourselves from cooking and cleaning.

For New Year’s Eve, we went a bit more casual and didn’t break out the china. Karim’s Brasserie, a Moroccan restaurant in Wiesbaden, was offering a New Year’s Eve menu. They had a couple of options available– chicken or lamb. Bill likes lamb, but I don’t, so we went with chicken. For 36,50 per person, we could eat for days. Seriously, they really loaded us up with great food! Here are some photos!

We started at about 7:00pm with the appetizers. I was, of course, very familiar with the hummus, since we are big fans of it. Karim’s version was very light and creamy, yet delicately flavorful. The Zaalouk, otherwise known as Moroccan eggplant salad, was a nice change of pace for us, since we rarely eat eggplant. Neither Bill nor I are big fans of eggplant, but this was pretty good. Bill loved the Moroccan carrot salad, which was slightly sweet and offered a contrast to the spicy M’hammara, paprika cream with pomegranate syrup and walnuts. Bill especially loved the M’hammara. He likes spicy foods. The Laban by Khyar was basically a Moroccan version of t’zaziki. It consists of yogurt, cucumbers, and mint.

The chicken was delicious! It was very tender and juicy, and fell right off the bone! It was such a pleasure to try it prepared in a different way. There was a time when Bill wouldn’t eat apricots because they are supposedly bad luck for “tankers”, which is what Bill was when he was in the Army back in the early days. I love apricots, having gotten acquainted with them in Armenia, where they are very popular and delicious! They went so well with the chicken! Glad we have leftovers!

After a bit of time digesting, we tried the desserts– typically nutty and fruity, but not too sweet or heavy. It was a good way to end a fabulous New Year’s Eve repast. We will be grazing on the leftovers for days. I think we got a lot for our 73 euros. I look forward to the day when we can dine at restaurants again. Bill and I ate at Karim’s Brasserie once when we were moving to Wiesbaden and liked the food very much. We probably ought to go there more often, or at least get takeout. This was a great change of pace for us. I think it was my favorite of all three of our holiday takeout meals of 2020.

I learned about a German tradition yesterday when someone in the Pets of Wiesbaden Facebook group posted that they had come into possession of a female piglet who was wandering around Clay Kaserne, one of the two U.S. military installations in Wiesbaden. I had never heard this before, but apparently in Germany, it’s good luck to encounter a pig on New Year’s Eve. Typically, Germans give out pigs made of marzipan with a penny or a four leaf clover in its mouth. Alternatively, sometimes people put a freshly washed piglet in a basket and pass it around. Anyone who touches it will have good luck and a “happy year”.

I can’t be sure, but it sounds like the piglet who was found yesterday might have been intended to participate in this custom and somehow escaped. She was found on the Army post and advertised on Facebook, as none of the surrounding farms would claim her. Eventually her rescuers found her a farm to go to. I’m not absolutely sure, but it sounds like she’s headed to a sanctuary. I sure hope so, anyway. Anyway, a lot of people got a kick out of seeing her, and I learned something new. I’m sure the military police are now checking the fence around Clay Kaserne to see if there are any breeches. It’s more likely someone brought her on post, but it’s possible there’s a hole somewhere.

According to the link I shared earlier in this post, we violated German tradition by having chicken on New Year’s Eve. Evidently, it’s verboten to eat poultry in Germany, due to a very old superstition. However, people in the Rhein area apparently didn’t get the message, as a lot of people do eat goose on New Years’s. I am not in the habit of eating goose, anyway… but I never turn down chicken unless it’s prepared with the food I never eat– mushrooms.

Toward the end of the evening– later than he’d intended, since he’d forgotten– Bill called his mom and we visited on Skype. It was great to talk to her. I also chatted with a cousin. I probably should call my mom today, too.

Bill brought our landlords champagne and a bag of lentils, which are also considered good luck/good health promotion on New Year’s in Germany. We had a very short fireworks show that lasted about twenty minutes, since fireworks weren’t on sale this year due to COVID-19. It suited us fine, since Bill was struggling to stay awake. We also had some snow, although it was all melted by the time we got up today. It was kind of strange watching fireworks go off as it snowed. This morning, we slept in… it was the first time in a long time I woke up after sunrise!

So far, 2021 is off to a good start. I pray that it’s a better year than 2020 was! Happy New Year, everybody! Keep the faith, and stay healthy and sane!

Happy end of 2020!

Advertisements

Can you believe it? New Year’s Eve is finally upon us. The year 2020 will go down as one of the worst ever for a lot of people. It wasn’t too bad for me, personally, and it didn’t drag on for me. In fact, we had some very good things happen this year. But I do know that many people have been waiting for this day in a year that, for most people, was like no other.

The last few months of 2020 have been punctuated with losses for Bill and me. I lost a cousin, a cousin’s spouse, and our old friend, the Mad Scientist of Entringen. Bill lost his dad, who was also my father-in-law. But Bill gained one of his daughters, his son-in-law, and two grandchildren. We both gained a new family member when we adopted Noyzi. We got to do some unique traveling, and we went to places we probably would not have gone to if not for COVID-19 and the need to stay kind of local. This was also the first year in quite a few that I didn’t fly anywhere. We’re both learning guitar! This year, I started with no guitars in my house. Now, I have four of them! I’m not a great player yet, but I make improvements every day.

I don’t know what’s in store for us in 2021, although I do look forward to the end of the Trump era. I also look forward to some smart scientists making better vaccines and medications to fight COVID-19. And there are a few things we’ve been doing this year that I wouldn’t mind continuing, like working from home for Bill and fewer TDYs.

It looks like we’ll be staying in Germany for at least the foreseeable future. But if there’s one thing we have learned, it’s that nothing is for certain when you work in government contracting. We’ll see what Biden has in store for us. If anything, I hope it’s more civility and decency than what we’ve been seeing from Trump and his peeps.

I don’t think we will see too many fireworks this year. I believe there’s a curfew tonight. People are supposed to stay inside from 9:00pm until 5:00am tomorrow. If folks have fireworks left from last year, I’ve heard it’s okay to set them off. But there weren’t any for sale this year… which means that this will be a quieter Silvester. Supposedly, this is to prevent crowds and injuries that would send people to the overworked hospitals. This doesn’t really affect Bill or me, since we always have a quiet New Year’s and, at least for the past couple of years, haven’t even made it to midnight still conscious. But I expect we will enjoy some champagne and we’re planning on having Moroccan food takeout.

So… on with the end of 2020. Let us all hope for better days in 2021, even the new year is always kind of weird at first. Happy New Year to you all! We have some snow right now, so I think I’ll go enjoy it until it turns to rain.

German Christmas #9

Advertisements

I just counted the number of Christmases Bill and I have spent together in Germany. We’re now up to nine. That’s 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and now, 2020. Bill spent a few more Bavarian Christmases here before we knew each other, when he was a lieutenant in the Army. Technically, we were in France last year for Christmas, but we still put up the tree at home and opened presents in Germany… so I count that as a German Christmas, too.

Yesterday’s Christmas was very nice. The best part of it was the lack of drama, which is a feature in almost all of the holidays I’ve spent with Bill. We really get along well, so being together on Christmas is a pleasure. There’s no fighting. Bill and I have both experienced enough holiday fights to last us the rest of our lives.

Anyway, our day went like this. Arran woke us up at 5:30am, as he always does, to go out for a pee and have his breakfast. Bill came back to bed and Arran snuggled into my arms. I slept until about 8:30am; these days, that is unheard of for either of us. We got up and had breakfast, then opened presents. I always get Bill more presents than he gets for me, so our gift exchange is always lopsided. This year, I decided to get him some really silly things. Here are a few photos.

There were other gifts, of course. I got Bill new shirts, a singing bowl (got one for myself, too), an Anova vacuum sealer and bags for his sous vide (a gift from several years ago that he uses a lot), and a really cool puzzle from Thailand made of wooden shapes. Bill got me a guitar repair kit, a couple of music books, a couple of t-shirts from Prairie Artisan Ales (in Oklahoma), and a guitar amp, which he gave me earlier this month to use with my new guitar.

My mother-in-law sent me a digital picture frame for the computer and, for both of us, a very interesting looking cookbook by a TV chef from eastern North Carolina. I was not familiar with the chef, but the pictures in her book make me think we’ll have a lot of fun with her southern recipes. We got so many new books that I am going to have to buy a new bookshelf.

My favorite gift of all, though, was a video Bill had sent to me by Vartoush Tota– otherwise known as Mary Basmadjian. Mary Basmadjian is the “Funny Armenian Girl”, and her videos are all over Facebook. I happen to love her comedy because I lived in Armenia for two years in the 1990s, teaching English as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I haven’t been back there since 1997, but I’ve been wanting to go. So Bill requested a video shout out from her, including a script that he wrote. It was a total surprise and I loved it! I didn’t think I would get such a kick out of a “shout out” video, but I totally did!

This was my FAVORITE gift!

After we opened gifts, Bill went to one of our favorite local restaurants, Villa Im Tal, and picked up our Christmas dinner. We usually like to cook for holidays, but since COVID-19 has impacted restaurants so much, we’ve ordered food for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I’m not sure what we’ll do for New Year’s, though. Maybe that holiday will be a bit low key.

Anyway, this was our fabulous meal… Bill broke out the china and fancy silverware for it, too.

I’m not sure why Bill ordered duck for me. I think I would have loved the prime rib just as much. I did taste it, and it was sinful! I liked the duck too, and we do have leftovers for today. The biggest surprise for me, though, was the soup. I didn’t find the color of it very appetizing. I have a weird thing against beige foods, I guess. But– after the first spoonful, I was eager to finish the rich, velvety soup. The croutons were surprising. Some of them managed to stay crunchy even though they were saturated. There was also salmon in the soup, which balanced the base. It was delicious. I’d love to have it when it’s not take out. I also liked the dessert very much– cubes of chocolate cake artfully arranged with fruits and cream. God, I miss dining out, but this was a nice compromise. I think Bill said it cost about $160.

Villa Im Tal is also offering a New Year’s Eve dinner, but the choices for that don’t look quite as appealing. They involve a lot of liver and caviar. If we did order one (and I guess they still have availability, since they included an ad for it in our order yesterday), we’d probably go for the middle choice.

We finished off the evening by watching a few Rankin & Bass children’s specials from our childhoods. These were classic Christmas shows that came on TV every year. They probably still do…

If you were an American kid in the 70s and 80s, you’ve probably seen this.

We watched three specials, but had to quit after the third… There’s only so much Rankin & Bass I can take in one sitting. I switched to reading more of John Bolton’s book, which I hope to have finished very soon. I’m ready to start a new book that has nothing to do with politics.

All in all, it was a great Christmas. Noyzi and Arran had fun, too. Especially at dinner time! Bonus– I also got some housework done, so I don’t have to do it today.

One last thing… I made a music video the other day. It’s a pretty Christmas song that Olivia Newton-John did for the collaboration effort, Liv On, with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky. I thought it was a moving and unusual holiday choice, so I decided to cover it. I used photos and video from our 2016 Ireland trip… Wish I could be there now.

Hope you had a nice holiday, too!

Crosspost: Hugo and Viva put things in perspective

Advertisements

This post also appears on my main blog, The Overeducated Housewife.

I was really struggling for something to write about today. I wanted to write something nice… something non-depressing. I wanted to write something different than my usual stuff. As I was enjoying lunch with Bill, I happened across a new video posted about a disabled dog I’ve been following on Facebook. His name is Hugo, and he has a Facebook page all of his own.

I first became aware of Hugo when my German friend, Susanne, shared his story with me. Hugo was born in Romania, where there is a big problem with stray dogs. Someone very cruel wanted Hugo dead, and decided he should die in an incredibly inhumane way. This person took Hugo to a pile of snow, tied up his legs with wire, and left him there to suffer as he waited to die in agony. No one knows how long he was left like that. Although the dog did manage to free himself, unfortunately, when he was found, all four of his feet were necrotic. The vets in Romania could see that Hugo was a fighter, so they decided not to euthanize him. But all four of his paws had to be amputated, leaving him with stumps that didn’t want to heal too easily.

Hugo’s story… in German.

For six months, Hugo was unable to stand up, and he lost a lot of muscle. He was eventually adopted by a German woman who lives in Baden-Württemberg. Unfortunately, the stumps were miserable for Hugo. His new “mom” tried everything she could think of to help him. One day, she asked for ideas about how to cover his stumps on Facebook. A local shoemaker named Daniel came to the rescue and made custom shoes for Hugo. The shoes made all the difference. Hugo can now walk and run, although the shoes have to be repaired occasionally. Daniel did this work for free– unless you count the chocolate he was given by Hugo’s grateful family, who make it a habit to adopt special needs dogs.

On December 12, Hugo’s family visited the Tierheim (animal shelter) in Heilbronn, where they found a little dog named Viva who has no hind legs and gets around using a “wheelchair”. Hugo came along for the ride so he could meet Viva. Apparently Hugo liked Viva just fine and was happy to have a new “sister”. Viva became part of Hugo’s family, along with an existing blind dog named Bertl. Another dog, still in Romania, will soon be joining these three. And how are Hugo and Viva getting along? See for yourself! Bertl is also in the video, but plays a supporting role.

When I saw the video I linked above, my heart just melted. These two dogs don’t seem to realize that they’re in any way “handicapped”. They’re happy as they can be to be able to play together in a loving home. And they’re able to play pretty much as if they were both completely normal dogs.

Maybe I should think about Hugo and his friends next time I’m feeling depressed and incompetent. A lot of people would have euthanized Hugo when they saw how badly injured he was when he was found in Romania. But he was given a chance and he’s risen to the occasion. The same goes for little Viva, who is certainly living up to her name. Both of these dogs have indomitable spirits, and they have been able to thrive thanks to the loving care of good people who were willing to find a way to surmount what must have seemed like insurmountable problems.

There are some really terrible people in the world. People who have no qualms about screwing over their neighbors to get what they want. People who would resort to violence and threats to get their way. People who are abusive and mean, who lie, cheat, and steal, or commit violent acts against innocents.

But there are also people who would help dogs like Viva and Hugo, and do whatever it takes to give them a good and loving home with an excellent quality of life. And there are kind people like Daniel who want to help, and create special shoes that not only helped Hugo, but also provide a precedent for another animal who might be in the same predicament. My heart is so full after watching these two beautiful animals play together, so happy and carefree, and really wishing for nothing more than what they already have. We could all learn a lot from them.

Incidentally, our own rescue dogs are doing great, too. Noyzi, our pooch from Kosovo, is getting more and more acclimated by the day. This morning, I let him out to pee and he got a sudden burst of crazy dog and went tearing around the garden at top speed. You’d have to see him in person to understand what that looks like. Noyzi is a big boy, so he can cross our backyard in just a few strides. But he’s quick and agile and can turn on a dime. He was especially animated this morning, and kept dive bombing Bill’s empty garden plot, which is still full of soil. When he was finished getting the tickles out of his feet, he came back inside and relaxed, very contented and happy.

Noyzi has discovered people food. He’s a fan.

I have never once regretted adopting any of the dogs we’ve had. Noyzi has been especially rewarding to get to know. He’s come so far in just under three months. He’s still afraid of Bill, but every day, he’s a little bit less so. It’s obvious that he loves having a family and a nice warm bed of his own. It’s an honor to be able to provide that for him.

Goodbye, Mad Scientist…

Advertisements

As I have mentioned more than once in my main blog, 2020 has been a hell of a year for a lot of people. Between us, Bill and I have lost three loved ones in less than two months. I lost a cousin and a different cousin’s spouse. Bill lost his father. My cousin and Bill’s dad both died in November. Last night, we found out that we also lost a good friend in a guy we have been calling the “Mad Scientist” since 2008.

I found out about the Mad Scientist’s death by chance last night, as I was looking up his Greek restaurant, Agais, in Entringen, Baden-Württemberg, a place where Bill and I enjoyed many meals and lots of wine. It was where I tried retsina for the first time, and learned to enjoy t’zatziki, a yogurt and cucumber sauce much beloved by anyone who enjoys Greek food. It was also where I learned the Greek word “γιαμας” (pronounced “giamas”), which is roughly equivalent to the English expression, “cheers”.

I became a late convert to Greek cuisine, having tasted it for the first time in Vaihingen (a part of Stuttgart near Patch Barracks) at a little place called Taverna Faros. Taverna Faros had wonderful food, and we ate there a bunch of times during our first six weeks in Germany back in 2007. At the time, we were living in the Vaihinger Hof, a rather crappy but cheap hotel located in Vaihingen, which, over the years, has hosted many people moving to Stuttgart. I’m not sure the Vaihinger Hof is still open these days, since Air BnB has provided alternatives to living in hotels. But we were there for six weeks, and got very familiar with the restaurants in Vaihingen, since there were no kitchen facilities at the Vaihinger Hof.

Taverna Faros was where I tried dorade and gyros for the first time. Unfortunately, the proprietor was rather abruptly forced to shut down because he allegedly didn’t pay his taxes. The place where Taverna Faros once was is now known as The Auld Rogue. It’s a very popular Irish pub, and if you explore this blog, you’ll see that Bill and I visited there many times when we lived near Stuttgart from 2014-2018. Every time I went in there, I remembered that it was once a Greek place, and later became a disco, which we never visited.

Anyway, in the fall of 2007, after six weeks in the rather dirty but lovingly staffed hotel, we finally found a house in a little town called Pfäffingen. It was just a few miles west of the great city, Tübingen. Agais is located in a little village called Entringen, which we frequently drove through on our way to the military installations in the Stuttgart area. It was about 2 kilometers north of Pfäffingen.

Since I had recently discovered a love for Greek food, I told Bill I wanted to try Agais. We kept passing it every time we had to go to Patch or Panzer Barracks, and I was very curious about the food. So one night, we stopped in for dinner. It was probably in 2008, since we moved to our house in November 2007 and it took us awhile to get acquainted with the area. I remember when we walked in, there was no one there. But then a smiling Greek guy with wild, curly dark hair appeared.

Our old friend.

At first, he thought I was Greek. If you were to see me in person, you might be as baffled as I was by that. I’m short, blonde, and very buxom, with blue eyes. Personally, I think I look very Celtic, which stands to reason, since my people were mostly from the British Isles. But the Mad Scientist initially spoke Greek to me. When I reacted with a baffled expression, he realized we are Americans and switched to English. He welcomed us heartily, and we sat down at what would become our usual booth (the only one in his restaurant, actually). He turned on Greek music– from Zorba the Greek. The walls, painted white and bright blue, were covered with personal mementos.

I remember after enjoying our first nice meal at Agais, I told the proprietor that I thought we’d be regulars. He said, “I think you should.” When we got home that night, Bill said the guy reminded him of a “Mad Scientist”. So that’s what we’ve called him ever since. His wife, Renate, is German and cooks the food.

Of course, the Mad Scientist had a name. I think he went by the name John in Germany, but I found out last night his real name was Ioannis. He was born December 27, 1938 and died on November 9, 2020, just one day after we lost Bill’s dad. I don’t know what ended John’s life, but in recent years, I did notice that he was not as vibrant as he once was. I don’t know for certain, but I suspected that he might have had a stroke during the five years we were out of Germany. I say this because when we first met him in 2008, he spoke perfect English. When we saw him again for the first time, back in 2014, he struggled to speak English and, in fact, may have even had some trouble with German, which he’d also previously spoken perfectly.

During our first two years in Germany, we stopped by Agais many times. We also brought visitors there. Those first couple of years, John was quite healthy. He told us that he used to work in Canada as an engineer. He moved there with his first wife, whom I think was Greek. Their marriage broke up, so he married a German woman, who brought him to Germany to live. That marriage broke up, and he married another German woman, the one we know as Renate. They had a son who, during our first tour, was attending the university in Tübingen. Sometimes, we’d see him in the restaurant, helping out. He looked a lot like his dad, complete with the wild, curly black hair.

Although I’ve had Greek food I’ve liked better, Bill and I loved to visit Agais because we could always count on an entertaining evening. John loved to chat about all subjects, and we’d talk about everything from American politics to Greek/Turkish relations. He learned how we liked our food, and we could always count on getting pistachio nuts and candy at the end of the meal, as well as ouzo. John was also famous for giving out eucalyptus drops, which will clear out your sinuses and are great to have around whenever you’re sick with a cold or the flu. I carried them around in my purse for years after we moved the first time.

In 2009, we had to leave Germany a year earlier than we expected. We never got the chance to say goodbye to John and his wife. I always regretted that, since they’d shown us such a good time when we were in Germany the first time. The five years we were back in the States, I thought about them a lot.

Just before we moved, they had opened up a “vacation apartment”. It still operates today. I remember on one of the last visits we had before we moved “home”, we happened to dine there at the same time John and his wife were hosting several obnoxious German couples. I wrote about that incident when it happened and the story can be found on this blog. The short version is, these couples were staying in Entringen and had been dining at Agais all week. They had sort of taken over John’s restaurant, dictating which music he should play, and running him ragged. I noticed they were casting derisive looks at Bill and me.

I understood much less German then than I do now, but I could tell at least one of them was making fun of us. And we also heard them disparaging the Swiss. When they finally left, John asked us if we understood what they were saying. Bill said we hadn’t. Chuckling wickedly, John said, “Those people have been here all week for marriage counseling. They’re here in a last ditch effort not to get divorced!” Apparently, there is or was a marriage counselor in Entringen of some renown, and the annoying jerks at the table near us were there to receive services.

When Barack Obama got elected, I remember John was excited. He said he was glad to see a black man in the White House. Then he added, “But I think he might get shot.” We were shocked at the time, but given the fact that John was an older man who had lived through the Kennedy administration and watched America from afar, I could kind of see where he might have gotten that impression. Fortunately, Mr. Obama survived his time as our president.

In September 2014, Bill and I finally visited our old friend again. We walked into his restaurant, and it was unusually busy. His wife saw us and recognized us immediately, giving us a huge grin and a welcome. It took John a couple of minutes, but then his eyes widened and he smiled and said, “You are back in Germany!” It was at about that time that we realized that he was not the same man he was in 2009. But we made a point of visiting him occasionally when we were living in Jettingen, which was probably a 15-20 minute drive from where he was.

I wish we’d had a chance to see him once more before we left the Stuttgart area about two years ago. I would have liked to have been able to say goodbye. Unfortunately, we never got around to it. The last time we saw him was in September 2018. I noticed that over the years, the portion sizes were smaller and the prices were a bit higher. And he’d stopped handing out pistachios. I don’t think it was necessarily because he was trying to be stingy. I think business had gotten rough for him, especially after he got sick (and he did confirm that he was sick for awhile). But his English did improve, even if it wasn’t as fluent as it once was. And we still loved to visit his restaurant, remember old times, and make new memories.

It looks like his wife is carrying on with the restaurant and apartment, although Germany is now back in lockdown mode until at least next month. On their Web site, it says they’re doing some renovation work. I hope she can keep the place going during these tough times.

Agais is the one place that bridged our two stints near Stuttgart. It’s the one constant of both time periods, a place where we were always warmly welcomed. A lot of the restaurants we used to love to visit during our first stint went defunct long ago, but not Agais. And we could always count on John and Renate to show us a nice time. I will always remember the “Mad Scientist” fondly. He was a very good man.

Thanksgiving 2020…

Advertisements

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Cem Klein Mediterrané, a local restaurant, was offering a takeout Thanksgiving deal. Bill and I were lucky enough to get to try Cem Klein in July of last year, before they changed locations. They used to be located in the Sonnenberg area of Wiesbaden. They are now at the Rheinblick German/American golf course. I guess, since they are now dealing with Americans all the time, they were prompted to offer a special pandemic deal for our Thanksgiving holiday. I noticed in their Facebook ad that they were willing to accept dollars or euros and, in fact, would not charge Americans tax on the meal.

Bill and I like to cook, but there are only two of us and we only have so much refrigerator space. We decided to try the restaurant’s deal, which included turkey, stuffing, yams, green beans wrapped in bacon, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and cranberry gravy. The price was $55 for enough food for two, and it was super easy to order, pick up and clean up afterwards. We also have leftovers. Here are some photos:

Cem Klein did a fine job on this meal and the price was right! If we’re still here in 2021 and they offer another Thanksgiving deal, we may have to order it again. It was nice not to have a huge mess to clean up.

The dogs enjoyed hanging out with us all day, listening to music and drinking wine… especially Noyzi, who is slowly getting used to being a pet and being friends with Bill. Every day, more and more of his personality comes out. Yesterday, Arran decided to play fetch with his new toys. He left one unattended while he ran around the house being silly. Noyzi casually got up from his bed, picked up the toy, and put it in his bed, then snuggled up next to it. It’s such an endearing habit, watching him hoard toys as if they’re his buddies.

I really do miss getting to travel and enjoy Europe, but the weather has been pretty gloomy lately. Yesterday, it was foggy, damp, and cold all day. Bill said when he picked up our food, there were people playing golf. I don’t know how or why. It was pea soup thick yesterday! I kind of like this weather in November, though. It’s weird seeing people back home wearing shorts and t-shirts. It didn’t used to be that way, even in the South. The warmer temperatures worry me.

My German friend, Susanne, asked us if we’d ever used a Romertopf, which is a German version of a Tajine (clay pot). I had, but Bill had, and he used to own a Romertopf when he was in Germany back in the 1980s. I decided to get us a new one so we can try our hands at clay pot cooking. It arrived yesterday.

Anyway… that’s our Thanksgiving. It was low key and pleasant. Bill will work this morning, then take the rest of the day off. Then it’s time to prepare for Christmas, which means I’ll be shopping online. Whoopee!

Our halls are decked again…

Advertisements

I didn’t do any writing yesterday because I wanted to put up the Christmas crapola. I usually put them up around Thanksgiving, but one of our neighbors already has up their Christmas lights. I like the way the lights look and didn’t feel like waiting. So I hauled our two trees up the steps from the basement and did the yearly decorating ritual.

Christmas in Germany is usually kind of a magical time of year. There are usually markets, which have rides, ice skating, food, and lots of unique gifts for sale. This year, thanks to COVID-19, the markets won’t be happening. Wiesbaden won’t have its adorable market in the big square, pictured above. Our little town of Breckenheim won’t have its one night event where everyone gathers for Gleuwein (hot mulled or spiced wine) and Lebkuchen (gingerbread). I suppose some people will still do that privately, but one of the nicest things about living in Germany is the community spirit here. I love going to fests and seeing people enjoying themselves. Thanks to the virus, we can’t this year. Just across the Rhein River in Mainz, though, there is hope for a new vaccine that will help us get back to living.

I have not left our neighborhood since early October. I don’t even remember the last time I was in downtown Wiesbaden. I’m reminded of the first time we lived in Germany and almost never visited downtown Stuttgart. I never even got a good look at that city during the first two year stint we spent in Germany from 2007-09. Now, I know Stuttgart pretty well, thanks to all of the traveling and exploring we did when we lived there the second time.

Last night, I told Bill that I would probably spend some money this year on Christmas. Last year, we spent money because we traveled to Nimes in France to see my friend Audra, and her family. This year, we can’t travel, so maybe it’s time I bought some stuff that make being at home better. I’m sure the economy could use the stimulation.

Here are a few photos from yesterday’s decorating drill…

Why do I have two Christmas trees? It’s because when we moved to Germany in 2007, I somehow forgot to pack our Christmas decorations. We ended up buying a fake tree at the PX in Stuttgart. That little tree, which really should be plenty for a couple like us, has followed us around ever since. I remember it was pre-lit with 220 bulbs, which I cut off when we moved to Georgia in 2009. Then when we moved to Texas, we got rid of our original tree, which I bought from Rose’s discount store in Fredericksburg, Virginia (we were broke in 2002). I got the new tree– the lovely fake Costco version which is so much easier to put together because the branches don’t detach.

I have never had a “real” Christmas tree. Mom didn’t like them because they were messy. I also used to love decorating for Christmas, but now I can see why Mom gave me that job when I was growing up. It’s tiresome, especially when it’s only for us. However, I do like to look at the lights. Mom also ran her own cross-stitch, needlepoint, and knitting business in Gloucester, Virginia, which she’d have to decorate for Christmas. She’d get a florist to come to our house and put up real pine garlands on our porches and hang pine wreaths. It was very pretty, but I’m sure it was expensive and exhausting, too. Incidentally, my mom made our stockings, too, although we never bothered to hang them when I was a kid. I can remember some years, my mom had me wrap my own presents! And I actually suck at wrapping presents, so they looked pretty terrible.

I guess it makes sense that I’d be kind of spiritless at Christmas. My mom always treated the holiday like a chore. She was also a musician, so she’d be busy playing Christmas music at church or with other ensembles. My dad was always in different singing groups, too. The holiday season was very busy for them, and probably wore them out, thanks to their businesses (dad’s picture framing and art selling business complimented mom’s). I would like to enjoy Christmas more, but for many years ,it was a source of angst for a lot of different reasons. But I do like the music and the lights… and this year, I will miss the markets very much.

Well… I may not catch the Christmas spirit this year, either… unless you count the spirits in Harris Gin. But at least the lights are pretty to look at, and we have Noyzi to help us celebrate. Noyzi was more upset about the unfamiliar boxes in the living than the trees. Go figure that dog!

“Be welcome here…”

Advertisements

Tomorrow, Bill and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Normally, we travel for our anniversary. This year, we can’t go anywhere, thanks to COVID-19. I decided to buy a few new attachments for the air fryer I purchased at the beginning of the pandemic. We don’t use it very often, in part, because the noise from it seems to bother Arran somewhat. But we have discovered that we can use it in the laundry room and Arran doesn’t mind.

Last night, Bill made air fryer brownies that turned out great. This morning, we had a sausage, egg, spinach, sun dried tomato and cheese casserole made in the air fryer. Noyzi is getting braver and now hovers near me at mealtimes, hoping I’ll share with him. I don’t mind doing that because he’s so polite, and it does help him be less fearful.

After breakfast and starting another load of laundry, Bill and I put leashes on Arran and Noyzi and started on our walk. The sun is shining and the temperature is mild. It’s the perfect day to enjoy fall weather. As we were heading down the “Weg” to the main drag, a tall, slim, older German woman approached. She was wearing black slacks, a purple blouse, and a big black sweater. I noticed she also wore black gloves. Bill and I had just been talking about how Germans seem to bundle up a lot more than we do, even when the weather is nice.

I noticed the woman’s face as she looked at Noyzi, who is a very handsome and striking specimen. Noyzi was shying away from her noticeably. He was nervous enough that he dropped a single nugget of poop, but then he calmed down while Arran hung nearby, eager to keep walking. I fought the urge to pick up the poop as the German woman started talking to Bill. She quickly ascertained that we weren’t German when Bill opened his mouth to speak. She switched to careful, halting English, asking if we were the “new Americans”. It so happened that we were standing right next to a house that reportedly contains Americans. I guess native Breckenheimers talk about who’s who, and who’s new.

Bill explained that no, we weren’t “new” here. We moved to Breckenheim in late November 2018, and we live at the top of the hill. The woman wore no makeup. Her straight, silver hair was pulled into a ponytail. I don’t know how old she is. She appeared to be older than we are by some years, but she was very fit looking. In her hand, she held a bundle of some type of herb– perhaps thyme. I’m not sure, because I stood farther away from her than Bill did.

The woman didn’t wear a face mask. Neither did we. It’s probably a good thing, as she was very soft-spoken and I’m not sure we would have been as able to hear and understand her. She was very intent on sharing a message with us. She told Bill that today is a special worldwide holiday. She didn’t know how to say it in English. Bill thought maybe she meant it was like Remembrance Day, but having looked up holidays for November 15th, I don’t think so. I have no idea what she was talking about. She said it was a worldwide holiday, but is especially recognized in Europe. It was the first I’d heard of it after living here for several years.

Edited to add: My German friend Susanne tells me that today is Volkstrauertag (people’s day of mourning), and the lady was probably on her way to the cemetery or church, both of which we have in our area. I kept thinking maybe she was referring to Advent, but it’s a bit early for that. Volkstrauertag happens two weeks before Advent starts, and it commemorates members of the armed forces of all nations and civilians who died in armed conflicts, to include victims of violent oppression..

Regardless, of what the actual holiday is today (now I know– Volkstrauertag), she seemed very keen to talk to us about world peace. She spoke about how there’s no such thing as an enemy. We’re all people and we all deserve peace. Bill told her that he’d been to Iraq. I heard her say, “And you survived.”

She went on some more about having regard for our fellow man, avoiding war, and remembering those who died at war. And then, as she started to walk away, she said “Be welcome here.”

Bill turned to me and I could see the tears in his eyes. He was clearly moved. He said, “Well… that was a message.”

It’s not the first time we’ve run into someone who has imparted a message to us in an unusual way. Five years ago, I was stunned into peace and calm by a Buddhist monk we happened to run into at an Italian restaurant near Munich. It turned out he was a famous Japanese peace crusader named Toyoshige Sekiguchi. He was traveling the world, promoting peace and nuclear disarmament. I didn’t even speak to him, and yet he had a profound effect on me just by being who he is and being in my presence.

We lost Bill’s father a week ago and, naturally, Bill wasn’t able to attend his dad’s funeral on Friday. He was emotional about that last night. We spent some time talking and I was doing what I could to assuage his guilt and soothe his grief. He was still pensive and a little moody this morning. Perhaps that’s why got our special message as we walked the dog.

Bill is normally a very approachable person, but he was especially open-hearted today, which may have been why that woman felt the need to speak to us. Or maybe she stops everyone to talk about peace and loving everyone. It was a good message, though, and seemed kind of appropriate under the circumstances. Maybe she wanted to tell us her message because we represent Americans and most Americans around here are with the military. She might have thought Bill was a war monger, although he’s definitely not your stereotypical military man. In fact, I’d say Bill is not even like the typical guy. He’s unusually in touch with his feelings about most things. Maybe she figured we support Trump, though we definitely don’t.

I think a lot of people, with good reason, think that everyone in or affiliated with the military is a war monger. Most servicemembers I know want war less than anyone does. And anyone who knows Bill knows that he’s a gentle, caring, considerate, and kind man. I, on the other hand, graduate of social work and public health master’s programs and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, tend to be a bit feisty. Go figure that!

Anyway, we had a good walk. Noyzi has really come to love the daily walks. He still won’t let Bill put his leash on him, but he will let Bill walk him. And today, since I came along, I got a special treat in the form of butts. As I was putting on my shoes, Noyzi came up behind me and stuck his big nose right in my ass, as if he was greeting a new canine friend. Then, he came around as I was tying my laces, stuck his butt in my face, and backed up, swinging it side to side as if he wanted to use my nose to scratch his behind. He didn’t actually reach my nose, thank goodness, but he did seem to offer me his butt for sniffing. I guess he’s getting more comfortable here. I may have to teach him not to goose me in the ass when I’m tying my shoes, though.

A couple of nights ago, we ordered Greek takeout from Akropolis Restaurant in nearby Delkenheim. Bill wasn’t feeling like cooking, probably because he’d lost his dad and couldn’t go to the funeral. I was tickled because they sent him away with a small bottle of ouzo! I’ve had better gyros, but the rest of the food was pretty good. We had plenty leftover for lunch yesterday, too.

I wore my favorite dog walking shirt today. On the back, it says in German “Life is too short to drink shitty beer.” I was kind of glad it was covered up with a sweater today, after talking to that very deep and spiritual lady.

I’ve got the lockdown blues…

Advertisements

It’s November, and in November, Bill and I typically plan a Veterans Day weekend trip. Our wedding anniversary is November 16th. This year, it’s number 18, which is nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, this year we aren’t going anywhere because we’re in lockdown lite status, thanks to the stupid coronavirus.

Before everything shut down again, I had been toying with the idea of going somewhere local. Actually, months ago, I bought tickets for Keb’ Mo’, who was scheduled to play in Mainz on our big day. Mainz is only about twenty minutes from where we live. But Keb’ Mo’ rescheduled for April, thanks to the pandemic. Hopefully, the show will go on, because I miss live music and I’ve been wanting to see Keb’ Mo’ for ages!

I think of this song as our theme… especially when there isn’t a pandemic.

So then I thought maybe we could do what we did last year. Last year, we booked a really nice room at the Jumeirah Hotel in Frankfurt and had a nice dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Then, the next day, I accompanied Bill on a TDY trip to Wroclaw, Poland. I hadn’t actually wanted to go on that trip because when I tag along on TDYs, I tend to get kind of bored. But since it was our anniversary and I do like Poland, I relented. And we flew to Wroclaw and had a pretty good time there. I’m now really glad I tagged along. Wroclaw is a cool city, and I didn’t know then that this year would end up being such a cluster fuck.

Frankfurt does have nice hotels and restaurants. We could have stayed in another one this year and given Noyzi the chance to meet the people who take care of our dogs when we travel. But COVID-19 has ramped up so much in Europe that restaurants aren’t allowed to do dine in service and hotels can’t accept travelers for tourist purposes. Shops are open, but everything is stricter than it was a month ago, and if the infection numbers don’t go down, they will lock down even more.

I think about how I wanted to move to Germany because of the travel opportunities. I have to admit that we’ve been able to take advantage of a lot of them over the past six years. Prior anniversary trips included Baden-Baden, Ireland, cruising in Scotland, the southern Caribbean, and even an amazing meal at the Alte Post in Nagold, which was a town near where we lived before we moved to Wiesbaden. Unfortunately, the Alte Post is now closed, but it was a wonderful place for food. This year, we’ll have to make do with each other.

Oh well. We have a lot to be grateful for, especially in 2020. Germany has been so good to us. We have gotten to see and do so many things, most of which I’ve chronicled in this blog. And now we have a new dog who is rewarding us every day by being awesome and sweet. I’m sure we’ll get to travel and eat good food again someday.

Thanksgiving is coming up, too. I was thinking this year, maybe we’ll order a meal from a restaurant. Cem Klein, which Bill and I tried before it moved locations, is offering a Thanksgiving deal this year. And we like to do our part in keeping the restaurants going. In fact, I think I’m going to nag Bill into getting some takeout today or tomorrow. I’m getting tired of his cooking, anyway. 😉

I’m kidding… This week, he got really daring and made injera, a type of east African sour bread. Here are a few photos and a link to the recipe. Bill likes exotic stuff more than I do, and his time working for AFRICOM really introduced him to new cuisines. Of course I’m grateful that I have a husband who cooks and does it so well. But I do miss the dining out experience and trying new and exciting dishes. I especially miss the desserts.

Well… maybe instead of planning a fancy trip, I’ll buy an electric guitar. That’s the next big purchase I’d like to make in my quest to be a pandemic era guitarist. We’ll see what happens. One thing is for certain, though. This year, we’re going nowhere fast.

Toilet seat hunting… one way to crap off the week…a

Advertisements

This post was written in November 2018.  Sorry for the confusion!

On Monday of this week, I wrote a tale of woe about the toilet seat in our upstairs bathroom.  The bumper on the old toilet seat in our current house busted the other day.  Bill decided to get a new seat.  Off we went to the Toom in Herrenberg to find one.

Bill was armed with the measurements he’d taken of our current commode.  We spent several minutes perusing the impressive array of toilet seats available at our handy German hardware store…

There’s a whole wall of seats.  They range from the colorful to the plain.

Bill found a couple of contenders.

I was amused by all the beach scenes, especially since I grew up pretty close to the ocean and miss it.

This one was in 3D!

I probably would have preferred the zebra.

I was eyeing the toilets jealously, but then remembered that our new house has new toilets… or so we were told.  To be honest, with all the houses we visited, it’s hard to tell who said what.  Suffice to say, I don’t think the toilets in our new house are “water saver” types like the one in our current house’s upstairs bathroom.

Bill paid about 30 euros for the new seat, then we headed into Herrenberg for lunch.  We could have had lunch at the Toom, since they have a full scale snack bar there.  We got to town a little bit later than optimal for lunch.  It was about 1:30pm, which is getting close to “pause” time.  I’m going to miss Herrenberg, so I took a few pictures.

I took a photo of this store because I hope someday to visit and buy a table here.  They have some really beautiful custom made tables in this shop on the main drag through town.  It’s called Lieblingsholz.

Closing down the Saturday market.

A charming sign…

Just before we stopped to take a picture of this sign, we stopped at our favorite local pizzeria.  It was closed today, just as it was last time we were in Herrenberg.  I was looking at the sign and an elderly German guy came over and asked us if we wanted to “have a coffee”.  I was actually talking to Bill when I said, “What did you say?”, but I guess the guy thought I was talking to him.  It turned out the German gent spoke perfect English.  He told us about a really nice bakery down the street that serves coffee.  We were very charmed by his inclination to help us find coffee, even though we were looking for lunch and have lived near Herrenberg a total of six years over two tours!  It was such a nice, welcoming gesture, though!

Herrenberg kind of feels like home.  I fear Wiesbaden may not feel that way to me, because it’s so crowded and people have more money there.  But I have met people from Hesse who live down here near Stuttgart and I have met a guy who is married to someone from Stuttgart who lives in Hesse.  So I guess we’ll find some friendly folks regardless.

Yesterday, Bill stopped by our vets’ office in Herrenberg to pay for the dentals we had them do on our dogs and take care of the VAT form.  One of the vets had recommended that we stock up on wormers and flea and tick pills, so it would be on the VAT, too.  I’m going to miss our vets, too.  They’ve taken great care of our boys and I’ve gotten to know them fairly well, for professional purposes, anyway.  I told them I wouldn’t be surprised if we came back to the area at some point.  This is the place for guys like Bill.

We ended up at Hanoi Pho.  We have eaten there once before and I remembered liking the food.  I liked it today, too.

Shot of Bill after he asked our waiter what the lady next him was having.  She had a bowl full of fried stuff that looked just right for me.

But I ended up having shrimp with vegetables and peanut sauce.  Unfortunately, this had a couple of mushrooms in it, but Bill came to my rescue.  It was otherwise very good and lightly spicy, if not a little heavy.  

Bill went with pho made with beef and noodles.  In the picture, you can also see the mushrooms he took from my dish.  Thankfully, there was just one cut into a few pieces.  It didn’t affect the flavor of the dish.  Bill used some red chili sauce in the pho and it was apparently very potent.  He ate the whole thing and even threatened to drink the broth.  As we were leaving, he was wiping his eyes and nose because the sauce had brought on the waterworks.

The proprietor dropped hints that he was ready for a smoke break when he brought us our bill unrequested.  It came to about 25 euros.  We were about finished anyway.  Bill had to go look for a wrench so he can install the new toilet seat.  Then he said, “I guess I better get some wine, too, since we only have two bottles.  One is Moldovan and the other is semi-sweet.”

My response was, “Oh God, yes, get some wine.”  That’s my Bill.  Always a provider.  He’s been busy today, taking care of some minor maintenance issues like changing lightbulbs and offloading trash.  When he removed the old toilet seat, the bolts were so rusted that one snapped clean off.  It was definitely time for a new seat.  Hope the new tenants like it.

Tada!  After Bill installed this snazzy new seat, he fetched a bottle of wine.  I have now christened the new seat and it’s a vast improvement over the old one.  

If you got through today’s post, I would like to share with you some glorious photos from a couple of sunrises this week.  I think the view at our current house is the best part of our experience here.  I’m going to miss it, too.

These were from Tuesday…

And these were from this morning.  For about twenty minutes each morning, especially when it’s going to be cloudy, we get amazing sunrises and sunsets at this time of year.  Unfortunately, the view from our new home will include a lot of rooftops.  We weren’t as lucky in finding a rural location in Wiesbaden.

I took these on Tuesday with my digital camera, which is capable of zooming.  I loved the big blackbird.  He sits in that tree all the time, looking for rodents.  Sometimes it’s exciting to watch as he and his buddies swoop into the fields, competing with the many cats that prowl the area.

I’m not sure what tomorrow has in store for us.  I suspect I’ll be purchasing some rugs at the PX.  Maybe we’ll stop by the Auld Rogue or something.  Next weekend, we’ll be in Baden-Baden resting up and celebrating our anniversary.