German culture, Germany, holidays

Christmas 2021 is officially history…

We had a cold, but sunny morning yesterday, so I took the dogs for a walk and took a slightly different route home. While I was out and about, I noticed that my neighbors who had real trees had put them out to be collected.

The rest of the message offered local information and the advice to make sure all of the ornaments were off of the trees.

I read in our local Facebook group that this is usually an annual fundraising event done by the youth fire brigade. Unfortunately, due to the escalating cases of COVID-19, that event was canceled. It wouldn’t have affected us, since we have fake trees. It definitely looks like Christmas is officially done in our little town.

It amazes me how quickly time passes. This was our eighth Christmas here since we moved back to Europe, and our tenth overall. It was a little less weird than last year. At least we got to go to a Christmas market in 2021. Still, this COVID-19 lifestyle is a bummer. Even though I got a booster last week, and am “legal” to do as much as anyone can right now, the prospect of going out and doing things is unappealing. So I spend my days at home, hoping for better, less restrictive days soon.

Below are a few photos from yesterday’s walk around the neighborhood. It was nice to see the sun, at least. It’s pretty cloudy today, and I’m feeling kind of blue. But maybe we’ll get out for some fresh air. Bill just had some bloodwork done and was told he is deficient in Vitamin D. I’m not surprised. Vitamin D is the “sunshine vitamin”, and there is precious little of that in Germany this time of year.

I look forward to better weather… and lower incidences of COVID-19. Someday, I want to travel again, and enjoy our long weekends.

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coronavirus, German culture, Germany, holidays, staying home, Wiesbaden

Happy 2022!!!

We had a rather quiet New Year’s Eve, with fondue, Riesling, and the news of Betty White’s passing just 18 days before she would have turned 100. Last night was almost like most nights, save for the five minutes of fireworks. I may be exaggerating a tiny bit, but only a TINY bit…

Officially, fireworks were banned for New Year’s Eve, because officials wanted to cut down on people injuring themselves and flooding the hospitals. As you probably know, COVID-19 is still a big problem and the hospitals are overwhelmed. I’m surprised in light of that, officials haven’t banned driving on the Autobahn, which I would imagine is potentially just as dangerous as lighting a bottle rocket. In any case, I knew there would be a few fireworks, because someone always has them. And there were a few fireworks, but it was really not a normal Silvester by German standards.

Last night was our tenth German New Year’s Eve. It will go down in history as the quietest one yet. The loudest and wildest one we ever experienced was in 2007. I could have sworn there was a war going on outside of our house in Pfäffingen. The night sky was literally alight with fireworks, and I could see our neighbors furiously setting off things that went crash and boom. Our late beagle, MacGregor, was absolutely terrified, poor thing!

Noyzi seemed a little perturbed by the noise and both dogs were curious, but they weren’t really scared. Our neighbors were in the street wishing Happy New Year to everyone… It was overall a pleasant evening. Below are some photos from our first try with the new fondue/raclette grill. It was a success! We really had fun making fondue. It was easy, festive, and even a little romantic! I should have bought this machine a long time ago.

Right at the stroke of midnight…
This is a pretty good representation of our fireworks display… It went on for a few minutes.

One other thing I would like to mention… My German friend tells me that the cookies our landlord brought us– yesterday’s featured photo and reposted below, actually have some local significance. The little macaroon behind the 2021 is a Bethmännchen pastry, which is a Frankfurt tradition at Christmas that has been around since 1838. The cookies are made with made from marzipan with almond, powdered sugar, rosewater, flour and egg. The recipe has not changed in the entire time this cookie has existed!

What a thoughtful gift!

2022 is already off to a good start. Bill made delicious cheese soufflés for breakfast!

I actually taught him to make these because we had them on our honeymoon in Virginia at a B&B. They aren’t hard to make and they make for an elegant breakfast dish on special occasions. We also have two leftover, and they will keep.

Well, that about does it for New Year’s… I am going to go write a more serious post on the main blog, and then I’ll probably watch a bunch of movies or something. I think Bill is going to cook a nice dinner, which I’ll probably document in photos if it’s pretty enough… and it probably will be!

I hope everyone had a great New Year’s Eve and an even better New Year’s Day. Maybe this year, we’ll get to do more traveling!

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Germany, holidays, housekeeping tips

The last day of 2021… (cross post)

This post also appears on the main blog, since I have different readers there. The featured photo are cookies brought by our landlord.

I’m getting a late post up today. I was actually thinking of taking off the last day of 2021. I didn’t have anything earth shattering on my mind that I felt compelled to write about. Bill had the day off, and we were both kind of tired. Bill was especially tired, since he never gets a full night’s sleep. So I worked on reading my book, and he took a nap. Later, he’ll fire up the fondue/raclette grill set I got him for Christmas, and we’ll try it out. He’s already used the new hot tea pot I got him. He’s drinking tea as I write this.

Bill and Arran, preparing for tonight.

Arran took a nap with us, while Noyzi tried to steal my brand new fuzzy slippers. I think he thinks they’re small animals. I might let him take them, but he’s already eaten a couple of toys. The emergency vet is the last place we want to go tonight.

I managed to accomplish a couple of other chores, too. After I worked on trying to rid the toilet of lime scale and calcium stains, I went on Amazon.de and bought some citric acid, as well as cleaning soda and salt. Today, I tried the acid on a really terrible hard water stain in the shower that I’ve never been able to get rid of. I poured the acid on the stain and, wouldn’t you know it? That stain was gone in minutes! There’s no trace of it. I think it’s a wonder drug. It’s hard to believe it’s taken seven years to figure this out. Vinegar is good, but citric acid is the bomb! And it’s cheap, too!

I also climbed up on a stepladder in the shower and knocked the calcium off the shower head jets, so the nice rainfall spray won’t squirt all over the place anymore. Now, the new shower head is as nice as it was in September, when it was installed.

I heard that fireworks weren’t supposed to be sold in German stores again this year. Like last year, the government wants to discourage people from setting off fireworks, because they don’t want people getting hurt and needing to go to the hospital, thanks to COVID. I suspect there will be fireworks, anyway… Germans are law abiding people, but they love fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I think that’s pretty much the only day they are allowed to be set off, at least by the regular rank and file folks. I seem to remember that there were fireworks last year, despite the ban on them.

Our New Year’s celebrations are usually pretty boring affairs. We spend them much the same way we spend any night at home… listening to music, drinking wine, and talking.

I’m hoping 2022 will be a better year for everyone… although 2021 wasn’t, for me, a particularly bad year. I’ve had worse. But this COVID-19 shit needs to be fixed. Hopefully, 2022 will bring us some breakthroughs.

In any case… I want to offer sincere thanks to everyone who’s been reading my blogs. This main site, in particular, has really taken off this year! In the past month or so, I’ve had an explosion in traffic. That really does my heart good, and makes writing this blog worth the time and effort.

The travel blog has been somewhat less trafficked this year, but I can understand why. I haven’t been traveling as much… nor have many other people! I’m sure the traveling we have done may even be a downer for some folks. I know some people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), and it can be depressing to look at other people’s travel posts when travel is so potentially risky and definitely stressful. I am very grateful, though, that we finally managed to go to Croatia. I hope we can visit again. There are more places I want to see. And with any luck and maybe God’s grace, if you’re into God, that is– maybe COVID-19 will be more under control by this time next year.

I’m still making music, too… Been getting better with my guitar skills and can even play some songs. There are some times when I find myself playing things completely spontaneously. I still have plenty of learning to do, which is a good thing. And I’ve also found someone to collaborate with on YouTube, too, which is very rewarding. Maybe I’ll put up a new song or two, now that I have new gear. Maybe I’ll try to learn bass guitar and banjo, too… if the virus continues to spread, I might have to do something else to pass the time.

Well… I don’t have much else to say, except…

I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year’s Eve, and a very fortuitous New Year’s Day… and 2022!

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Christmas, Germany, holidays, staying home, Wiesbaden

Christmas victuals…

After we opened our presents and cleaned up all the pretty paper and bows, Bill got to work on making dinner. He had plans to sous vide a couple of Cornish hens stuffed with wild rice and clementine dressing, using the Anova Precision Cooker I got for him a few years ago. Accompanying our hens would be mashed potatoes, peas, and homemade cloverleaf rolls. For dessert, we had the trifle Bill prepared on Friday. Of course, there would also be plenty of wine, music, and canine company.

The sous vide process took about four hours, and involved sealing the chickens in special bags, which Bill found under the tree yesterday, along with a handy stand for the precision cooker when he’s not using it. After four hours at 150 degrees, Bill would put the hens in the oven to broil, so the skin might crisp.

I think I prefer the baking or broiling method of cooking Cornish game hens. But Bill only uses the precision cooker for steaks, most of the time, so he really wanted to try this method. Supposedly, it keeps the meat from getting too dry.

The end result of Bill’s experiment turned out to be basically okay, except I thought my hen was a little underdone. A little more time in the oven quickly fixed that issue, and I’m perfectly well today, so I obviously didn’t get sick from eating underdone chicken. I do think the chicken stayed moist and flavorful, but the glaze Bill used got a little too brown. I guess I’m a purist when it comes to these things. We also enjoyed a couple of nice Italian wines we purchased through Sommelier’s Choice, an Italian purveyor. A representative is in the wine group I run.

I think my favorite part of the meal were the rolls, which were perfect. I’m proud to report that I taught Bill how to make rolls. When we met, he could cook only a few things. Now, he’s become a real chef. Or, at least in our house, he’s a chef. I seem to have retired from cooking. I used to be pretty good at it, back in the day. I also loved the dessert, although I didn’t come close to finishing it! We have leftovers.

We used the good china and silverware, which we probably ought to break out more often. We also lit candles and a fire, which made the living room look cozy. However, curiously, I neglected to wash the tablecloth. It got a good cleaning this morning.

I got Bill a fondue and raclette grill for Christmas. I did hesitate on that, since I don’t eat a lot of cheese. I do like very specific kinds of cheeses– they have to be mild and melted (it’s a texture issue). If you go to Switzerland for raclette, the whole restaurant smells like ass. I do enjoy fondue, though, and would probably love raclette made with cheese that smells less like ass or a barnyard. Maybe we’ll have a chance to try it today.

I bought Bill a fondue cookbook, as well as a really beautiful cookbook with Alpine recipes, featuring Austrian, Swiss, French, and Italian favorites. Actually, I went a bit nuts on cookbooks, just like I always do. There were SIX of them under the tree! I just couldn’t just pick one or two. I buy them, but we don’t use them very often. I just like to have them around. Some of them are genuinely fascinating. For instance, a few years ago, I bought Bill a copy of The Flavor Bible. He loves it, because it offers a scientific look at cooking. Anyway, now we’re going to need another bookshelf.

I would count this year’s Christmas as one of the better ones. Bill got to talk to his daughter on Skype, and he got to see his cute grandchildren… especially his granddaughter, who is apparently quite a ham. And his daughter is expecting another baby in 2022. Bill told me that when he was talking to her, it felt like everything in the world was alright. That’s a wonderful way to feel, especially in these troubled Corona times.

Below are some pictures from our Christmas dinner…

I hope you all had a nice holiday meal! I look forward to 2022… and some exciting new travels.

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Germany, holidays, Sundays

A leap of faith…

Although my travel blog has kind of tanked thanks to COVID-19, I decided to go ahead and renew my subscription for the next two years. I use the WordPress business plan, so it wasn’t cheap to renew. I spent $521, but that’s good until July 2023. For all I know, we could still be here that far down the line. Or we could be living somewhere else… probably in Europe. That seems to be where Bill’s best prospects for employment are at this point in time.

Bill got home from his latest TDY from Hell yesterday. On Thursday, he’ll get his second vaccination. Then, on June 9th, I’ll get my second shot… and then, maybe I can get back to reviewing restaurants and visiting exotic places. There are so many areas I still want to see. At this point, our plans to travel will come down to what places are open and which ones will give us the least hassle.

I suspect that our weekends at home may soon be coming to an end. I look forward to getting out more, if only so I can take more pictures. I’m getting tired of seeing the same ones on my photo feed every day. And I’m tired of only writing about what happens in Breckenheim.

Incidentally, Noyzi is fine after last week’s pet toy scare. He spent a couple of days pooping out the toy he partially ingested and never had a single moment’s trouble.

Today is Whit Sunday (Whitsun or “White Sunday”), a religious holiday that is celebrated in Germany, along with Whit Monday. I had almost forgotten about it, until I noticed the “three day holiday” mentioned in The Local, a useful online news source for English speakers in Germany (I think they have different editions for countries all over Europe). I finally broke down and bought a subscription last year. For the most part, I’m glad I did. It helps me figure out life in this country that isn’t really home, but has sort of become home. Or, at least it helps me keep informed about what the rules are now, regarding COVID-19.

Whit Sunday is the Christian High Holy Day of the Pentecost, which is celebrated 50 days after Easter. According to Google, “…it commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.” I don’t think too many Germans are very religious these days, but they do love their holidays. That’s probably why they still celebrate religious holidays like Whit Sunday and Whit Monday and close all the stores. Germany is pretty unusual in that stores are still closed on Sundays, although plenty of Germans don’t subscribe to religion or identify with another faith, like Islam or Judaism.

I hear my landlord’s grandchildren outside. That’s not unusual, though. They come over a lot.

The sun is finally out and the weather is slightly warmer… although it’s still unseasonably chilly for May. It’s hard to believe that in two months, it’ll probably be hot again. One thing I do appreciate about Germany is that the summer heat doesn’t last for too long, especially since air conditioning is not a given, especially in people’s homes.

Anyway… thanks to today’s purchase, this blog will be around for the next two years at the very least. Unless, of course, I croak or wind up in jail or something. I don’t have plans for either of those things to happen, but you know what they say about life being what happens when you’re busy making plans. 😉 As I learned once again this week, you never know when things can suddenly change.

I think one of our first trips will be to Stuttgart, so we can finally see the dentist. Beyond that, I have no idea where we’ll end up going. I’m just so glad to finally see the COVID-19 infections dropping and things slowly opening up again. The constant lockdown has been extreme, and I know for me, it’s been hard on my mental health. I’m also getting a little too comfortable with being a hermit, and that’s no way to live. So here’s to two more years… and the prospect of breaking out of this COVID-19 exile.

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Germany, holidays, restaurant reviews, takeout

Takeout Easter from Little Italy of Wiesbaden!

When Bill and I first discovered Wiesbaden in 2018, we found Little Italy, which is a tiny Italian place in the downtown area. From our first visit, in October 2018, we were warmly welcomed at this place, which has a very friendly manager who speaks perfect English. Before COVID-19 struck, we were semi regulars at this restaurant, especially on Sundays at lunchtime.

Unfortunately, vaccine rollout has been very slow in Germany. We’re still kind of on lockdown. Fortunately, we were spared the “hard lockdown” Chancellor Angela Merkle wanted to impose over the Easter holiday, but things are still pretty much closed all over the place. It really sucks and I’m tired of it. But at least I’m not sick.

Anyway, the other day, Bill noticed that Little Italy was offering a special holiday menu for Easter. Since it’s been months since we last visited this restaurant, we decided to order for Easter. It wasn’t really for the holiday, per se. Bill and I are not very religious at all. But this was a good excuse to have some professionally prepared food. Below is a screenshot of Little Italy’s Easter menu, priced at 45,90 euros per person.

Bill loves lamb. I don’t care for it, so I was happy to see they were offering a filet of sole roulade. We both like duck, so the duck carpaccio antipasto was a hit. I am also a fan of profiteroles. He sent off an email order to the manager, who confirmed quickly.

This afternoon, when Bill went to downtown Wiesbaden to pick up our order, he encountered pretty tough parking… It seems that despite the lockdown and Mrs. Merkle’s pleas for everyone to stay home, a lot of people were walking around the city center. Consequently, parking was in short supply. Luckily, the folks at Little Italy had everything packed up nicely. Bill said when he went into the restaurant to get our food, the manager had his phone and was glad to see him. I think he was getting ready to call Bill to see if/when he was coming!

Below are some photos from our Easter repast, which was a very nice and welcome change of pace. The dogs thought so, too… I only wish we could have enjoyed it in person. But Bill broke out the wedding china and silverware and all was lovely, even if the Beastie Boys were playing over the HomePod at one point.

The duck carpaccio was surprisingly good. It was served chilled, with a sundried tomato chutney that married beautifully with the duck breast. The duck was sliced thin, making it easy to enjoy. The portion size was generous. I think of the three courses, I liked the duck carpaccio the most.

Bill loved his lamb. I didn’t try it because I don’t care for lamb. But he also mentioned loving the potatoes, and he has some left for tomorrow’s lunch. Likewise, I managed two of the filet of sole roulades, generously stuffed with spinach cooked to perfection with almonds and Parmesan cheese. I enjoyed the way this was presented, with the garlic risotto and cherry tomatoes. It was excellent. Little Italy also sent along some homemade bread, but Bill forgot to put out the bread plates.

I love profiteroles. This dessert was good, but it could have been better. For one thing, I’m pretty sure the chocolate sauce was good old Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. I remember it well from my childhood. The pastry was tasty, but nothing extraordinary. I have had better… but for the price and convenience, I’m not complaining. I know if we were dining at the restaurant itself, we would have probably had something that doesn’t travel so easily, yet was a bit more impressive.

I’m really hoping that COVID-19 restrictions will loosen up soon. I am so tired of being locked down. I want to get out and do things again. But today’s Easter meal was a nice reminder of what’s to come when the virus is finally beaten into submission… and trust me, it will be. This isn’t the first pandemic. It just feels like it to us.

Anyway, many thanks to Little Italy for yet another nice Sunday meal, and to Bill for ordering it, paying for it, and picking it up. He even did the plating. I found myself a real keeper… And I hope that soon, we can go back to enjoying restaurants in person instead of just at home.

For us, Easter will always be meaningful, not just because it’s the day Christ rose from the grave, but also because it’s the day his ex wife delivered divorce papers while they were visiting Bill’s dad’s house in 2000. She wasn’t expecting Bill would agree to the split, but he did… and twenty-one years later, he’s living a sweet life. So Happy Easter, everybody! I hope you had a great day!

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holidays, Ireland

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today, I received a package I had been eagerly awaiting. It came from County Clare, Ireland, and was decorated with stamps and stickers. The lady, name of Anne, who had sent me my order from Luka Bloom, had drawn little musical notes next to my name, which she had written in cursive that looked a lot like my own… especially after I’ve had a couple of beers.

The mailman asked me in German if we didn’t have a post office box. He was a young lad and I hadn’t seen him before. He’d also caught me off guard when he spoke German to me and I was standing there in a nightie with no bra on. I responded in English and he understood, just at about the time that I mentally translated what he’d said. No matter, since I wouldn’t have been able to speak German back to him. Isn’t it cool that my Irish music got to me on St. Patrick’s Day? Especially since I wrote to Anne to ask her to send it to Germany, even though I have a U.S. billing address and there was no way to add a different delivery address in their order form. It was no problem to make the change– and if I hadn’t, God only knows when the APO would have sent it to me.

So who is Luka Bloom (born Kevin Barry Moore)? He’s a fantastic indie folk musician and the brother of Christy Moore, another great indie folk musician. I was introduced to Christy Moore by an honest to God Irishman with whom I used to work at a Presbyterian church camp in Virginia. Funny thing is, my Irish friend, who lived near Belfast and most definitely not a Brit, was a Catholic. He ended up marrying one of the other counselors, a lovely Black woman from Stafford, Virginia. They have been together now for over twenty-five years and have six or seven children… I’ve lost count!

My Irish friend sent me a mix tape when I lived in Armenia and it had some of Christy Moore’s music on it. I liked it so much that when I got back to the States, I sought it out and stocked up my music collection.

Anyway, Christy Moore recently plugged his brother’s latest album, Out of the Blue. I am more familiar with Christy Moore’s music, so I decided to pre-order the new album, as well as a couple of others that looked interesting. As I’ve gotten older, I often find myself drunken downloading music or buying CDs from street musicians others I don’t know well. I’m very seldom disappointed in the results, but then I have very eclectic musical tastes. Luka Bloom’s new album, by the way, can be downloaded. I decided to get a CD because he was signing them. I also bought a CD that I couldn’t download, and another came with a download I got from the site.

Other than listening to my new CDs, I have no other special plans for today. I might not even have any whiskey or beer, because I’ve kind of been enjoying letting my body go booze free. I’m hoping Bill will be home sometime between tomorrow night and Friday night. After that, I suspect my teetotaling will conclude. I haven’t been totally faithful to the wagon during this latest marathon TDY, but I have found that I’ve not really wanted to drink alcohol so much… which is a relief, given my colorful family history.

I’ve found that I like Luka Bloom as much as I do his brother. Right now, I’m typing this and listening to one of the albums I bought, remembering when Bill and I took our cruise from Scotland to Northern Ireland with a stop in Carlingford, which is in the Republic of Ireland.

Our guide was a local guy named Dermott who bore a passing resemblance to Joel Osteen and had a charming Irish lilt. He told us about how Carlingford has an annual Leprechaun hunt (April 17th) to raise money for the town. Then, he started talking about Northern Ireland vs. the Republic of Ireland.

It turned out Dermott was Irish, but was born and raised in Newry, on the northern side of the border. He spoke of how in the 80s, the border checks were brutal. Guards would literally take cars apart, looking for bombs and contraband. Then he said he hoped one day Ireland would be reunited– it became clear that Dermott had Nationalist leanings. That got a rather disgruntled reaction from the elderly Brits who were on the cruise. Bill and I had no real skin in the game, except for our own Irish heritage. Turns out that other than the Irish surname I got from Bill when we married, I am actually more Irish than he is.

Then, Bill proceeded to annoy the Brits, who just wanted to get away from Dermott (I got the sense they thought he was an ingrate). Dermott was talking about Irish folk tales. Bill happens to love Irish literature and actually studied it in college. And then it seemed that he knew more about it than the guide did… The guide had heard the stories from his father, while Bill had studied it at American University and written papers on it… I got the sense that the other cruisers were irritated with both of them by the time that excursion. Luckily, there was a lot of booze on the boat.

Bill and I have been to Ireland a couple of other times. We went in 2016 for our 14th anniversary. One of my funniest memories from that trip was running into a bunch of 12 year old boys on a crowded train to Kilkenny, where we were going to tour the Smithwick’s Brewery. The kids were hilariously witty. When they found out Bill had been to Iraq and we were from America, they asked all kids of cheeky questions. The poor beleaguered “den mom” who was with them kept giving the look. But I swear, we about died laughing when one of the kids said, “Nobody vacations in Ireland! It’s AWFUL!” Then, a few minutes later, he asked us if we considered Canada our “goody two shoes neighbor to the north.”

The third time we went was to Dublin, to attend a marathon concert featuring Paul Simon, James Taylor, and Bonnie Raitt. The six hour concert, in and of itself, was reason enough to love our visit. But we also stayed in a fabulous hotel– the Merrion– and we had high tea. It was a marvelous time. I really miss travel… especially carefree travel. Here’s hoping that COVID-19 will be arrested soon, so we can go back to Ireland and raise a pint with those lads who were on the way to Kilkenny, who are now closer to 18. Seems like whenever we go to Ireland, we make at least one new friend and many new wonderful memories. At the very least, I come home with new stories… perhaps more than I do in some of the other places we’ve been.

From Luka Bloom’s latest album, Out of the Blue. I’m listening to this as I type this.
And one by Luka Bloom’s brother, Christy Moore. Believe it or not, this was the first version of “Fairytale of New York” I ever heard. It’s a cover… but it’s a damn fine cover!

Well, that about does it for this wistful post. I sure am ready to fast forward to our next trip. But barring that, I’d just like to fast forward to seeing Bill again. I have really missed him.

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German culture, Germany, holidays

Karim’s Brasserie for New Year’s Eve!

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!

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Germany, holidays

Happy end of 2020!

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.

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holidays

Crosspost: Christmas Eve already!

This post also appears on my main blog, because I have different audiences…

I know a lot of people think this year has dragged on. For me, it’s flown by. It’s hard to believe that a year ago, we were in Nimes, France, celebrating Christmas 2019 with my good friend Audra and her husband. Audra and I grew up in the same small town and attended the same small college. We have both ended up living in Europe, although Audra has gone native and will probably stay in France. I, on the other hand, will probably leave Europe at some point. Or, I’ll probably leave Germany, anyway. I don’t know when, and I’m not in a hurry to go anywhere.

I like living in Europe. I’m grateful we were able to move here well before the pandemic started. We’ve had a lot of fun over the past few years, despite some of the hassles. I don’t really miss life in the United States. I do miss a few people and some of the conveniences of living in my homeland, but the German lifestyle appeals to me. I like that life isn’t just about working. I like that the leaders seem to care about the citizenry. I like that our town is clean and the people are nice.

So homey… but Noyzi sure sheds a lot!

The weather could be better, but it’s not bad here. It’s noticeably milder these days than it was during our first time here. Of course, that’s probably because of global warming, which is kind of depressing. But in the meantime, global warming makes winters less snowy and icy, on the whole. We do have lots and lots of rain, and that’s turned our backyard into a sloppy mess. But it’s fenced in, and we have plenty of privacy. The dogs get to enjoy a few minutes out there to do their business without the need of a leash. We also have a really nice and considerate landlord. He likes dogs, and yesterday brought us three bottles of bubbly and a box of chocolates, as well as free firewood.

Bill and I have a lot to be grateful for, even if 2020 has been a most unusual and horrifying year for so many people. We did have some losses, but we’re both still basically healthy and happy… and a few genuinely great things happened, too. The highlight was Bill getting to see his daughter again after fifteen years and meeting his son in law and grandchildren.

He’s getting braver.

Also… I think Noyzi the Kosovar street dog was meant to be our dog. He’s settling in well and enjoying being a pet with his own big, hairy bed, and his own private water bowl, because he doesn’t like drinking from the one in the kitchen. Noyzi and Arran aren’t buddies yet, but I have seen a few sparks of playfulness. He’s becoming a goofy clown. I notice he sniffs the air when something is cooking and he silently sneaks up behind me when it’s time for us to eat. I’ll feel his big nose tap me on the back as if to say, “Don’t forget the Nozyi snack tax.” It’s been very rewarding to watch him adapt and enjoy things that so many dogs love… like walks and treats and belly rubs.

Arran, lying on what used to be Zane’s rug. He’s finally the boss.

Arran is still very spry and engaged with life, despite being about eleven years old. He still loves his walks, food, sleeping with us, and cuddling with Bill, who is his favorite person. I’m grateful that I caught him heading downstairs last night before we went to bed. He needed a potty break, big time!

Bill and I are also learning guitar. A year ago, I didn’t own a guitar. Now we have four of them, and Bill is shopping for an electric version. I was even talking about picking up bass guitar last night. If this pandemic goes on for much longer, I might have to go for it. I’ve managed to make some nice vocal recordings, too, even if they aren’t as popular as my blog is (which isn’t saying that much).

I’m also grateful to all of you who continue to read and comment on my stuff, even when I go a little off the rails. Thanks for giving me a reason to write. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas. I may or may not write tomorrow. Depends on how bored I get, and if inspiration strikes.

Our neighbor is giving stuff away. I was tempted by the wine pitcher. It doesn’t match the ones in my collection, though. In this neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to see people putting stuff out for the taking. One lady had a small library on the outside of her window sill for many weeks. If my German were better, I might have taken a couple of books. I don’t remember seeing people do this in BW.

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