Every year at Advent, when the pandemic isn’t forcing everything to be closed, our little town of Breckenheim has a little Christmas Market. They only have the market for one night, and it mostly consists of local clubs selling Gluhwein, hot apple wine, beer, and funnel cakes. There are usually also a couple of little stalls selling crafts.
Four years ago, when we moved to Breckenheim, we happened to be here on the night they did the market. However, because we were up to our armpits in boxes, we missed it that year. In 2019, we made it to the market, which I remember to be a really fun time. Back then, we only had Arran, as we lost our sweet Zane to lymphoma on August 31 of that year.
In 2020 and 2021, the market was canceled because of COVID. I remember last year, we did make it to the Wiesbaden Christmas Market, but in 2021, a lot of the smaller markets were still called off because of the pandemic. This year, they seem to have come roaring back! Some people live for the Christmas Markets. I could take them or leave them, to be honest. I think they’re lovely to look at, and I enjoy the food and some of the shopping, but I don’t necessarily feel like I have to go to a bunch of them.
It was fun to go to the Advent Market last night, though. We brought Arran and Noyzi with us, because Arran seems to have been regressing a bit since he’s been getting chemo. Twice, we’ve gone out and found that he’s torn up something. I suspect it’s because the steroids make him obsess over food. He made a huge mess last week when we went to see James Taylor, and he made a more minor mess on Thanksgiving. So this time, we decided we’d just take the boys with us and give Noyzi some much needed exposure to crowds.
It was pretty chilly last night, but thanks to a new alpaca sweater from Novica and an Irish flat cap, I stayed pretty warm. Bill and I took in the sights and sounds, as we sipped mulled wine and watched lots of eager children play as they waited for Santa Claus to arrive at 5:00pm, sharp. After the Santa visit, there was a church service held at the big beautiful church by the Dorfplatz. We didn’t go to the church service because it would be in German and we had the dogs with us. But we did watch Santa come in, announced by sirens and a guy from the local biker club escorting him with his chopper.
We also ran into one of the other American families who live in our town, and we had a nice chat with them until it was time for Santa. Noyzi was pretty well behaved, although he was a bit spooked by all the kids and the noise. Arran ended up being filmed because he was barking at the huge Maine Coon cat who has adopted our village and shows up for all of the events. I don’t know who she belongs to, but she’s very friendly and doesn’t care at all about Arran’s crotchety beagle barks. I think this will probably be Arran’s last Advent Market, not that he attended a lot of them before he got cancer…
Noyzi, on the other hand, needs some training so that he can go out in public more often. He loves people and is very friendly, but he still gets pretty scared of things he’s not used to. After about an hour, though, he did calm down and seemed rather pleased with himself. Arran was over the market within a few minutes and was very happy to go home, where he could worship Bill in private.
Below are some photos and videos from our outing. We tried to stay out of trouble by hanging out on the periphery.
Since we moved to Germany in 2014, our Thanksgiving celebrations have been decidedly less traditional. There’s only two of us, and we have small German appliances, so it hardly makes sense to roast a turkey. Yes, I know we could just do a breast, but I like dark meat. I think in 2020, we ordered a Thanksgiving feast from a local restaurant that was obviously catering to Americans. Otherwise, we’ll often go out to eat somewhere, since it’s not a holiday in Germany, or we’ll have something more mundane.
This year, Bill’s co-worker invited us over for Thanksgiving. I almost didn’t go with Bill, because I expected a couple of important packages. The one I was most worried about showed up in the morning. I was also waiting for dog food, which we really need. Sure enough, it showed up after we left. It’s sitting at our neighbor’s house as I write this. I’m surprised they didn’t just leave it on the stoop, like they usually do.
Bill’s friend’s house is enormous and beautiful, with charming, traditional accents, as well as the amazing international furniture one tends to find when one lives abroad for many years. My mom also collected some beautiful pieces when we lived in England. I inherited a couple of pieces, but they’re in storage.
Bill’s co-workers have a living room with a gorgeous view of the village, a large dining room, a terrace, and a lovely front lawn. I was there one other time, and had occasion to use one of the bathrooms in another part of the house. I even spotted an indoor pool! They had it covered up. Bill and I haven’t had a chance to buy a lot of nice furniture. Maybe someday, we’ll get lucky and acquire some, although now that I’m half a century old, it seems almost pointless. For instance, I always wanted to buy a home of my own, but now it seems like a bad idea, as Bill talks about permanently retiring. A house seems like something a person should buy when they’re young.
As nice as our house is, and as high as our rent is, my guess is that Bill’s friends are paying even more… But it seems fitting, as they have enough furniture to fill their home, and the furniture they have is good quality. We have a bunch of stuff that could be right at home in a college dormitory. I have to admit it. I was coveting their house, even as I realize that I’m allergic to dusting, and if I had a house that nice with lovely furniture in it, it would be cluttered in a heartbeat.
We had a very convivial group last night. Several of the guys were folks Bill knew early in his Army career, back in the era of Desert Storm. Now, several of them have managed to land in Wiesbaden, where they can talk about old times, sometimes to hilarious effect. One of the guys brought his huge dog, a female Hungarian street dog who weighs about 150 pounds. He said she can’t be left alone with his other two dogs, who are also from the streets of Eastern Europe. We bonded over our street dogs from Eastern Europe, as Bill and I have Noyzi, from Kosovo (and Arran, of course). The guy also has horses, which was another reason for us to bond. I spent most of my childhood in a barn. It’s probably obvious to some people.
An enormous street dog from Hungary who was bred to fight wolves. Her name is Ki (pronounced “key”) Oma.
Ki Oma was very sweet and friendly, but apparently she wants to fight other dogs. So she gets to travel a lot. Her master actually bought a van so he could transport her more easily. We were commiserating, as I drive a Mini Cooper and we can’t get Noyzi, our enormous street dog, into the back of that.
Another couple brought their dog, a very sweet shepherd named Izzy. She and Ki Oma didn’t interact, so there wasn’t any fighting.
It was really nice to hang out with people last night. I enjoy Bill’s friends/co-workers. Hopefully, I didn’t turn anyone off too much. Two of the guys brought their wives—one was from France, and the other was German. And one of the guys was, himself, half German. Two of them were even born in the same hospital in Stuttgart! It’s plain to see how long Americans have been living in Germany. There’s a very long history, and quite a lot of Americans are actually half German, too. Some have managed to find themselves making a home here, instead of our chaotic homeland.
At one point, we were talking about Mormonism, and the French lady was fascinated. She seemed okay with giving up alcohol, tea, and coffee… but maybe might have drawn the line at the temple garments (special underwear) required for the ultra faithful who have taken out their endowments. It probably wasn’t the most appropriate dinner conversation… but then it devolved into war stories, most of which were hilarious.
Bill and his buddies from way back… I had to take a photo so I could share it with another one of the gang who wasn’t there… He became Facebook friends with me because of a mutual friend. I knew the mutual friend from college, and he knew him from the Army, and he knew Bill from being in this cohort of Desert Storm veterans (although Bill didn’t fight in Desert Storm). The world is very small when you come from a military friendly state like Virginia.
We ended the evening with a photo of the four guys who spent time in Germany in the late 80s, early 90s. It was great to see everyone so happy and healthy. I’m grateful to be here, and I was grateful for the invitation last night. It was a lot of good food, good conversation, and bonding. A fun and festive time was had by all.
When we got home, we found that Arran hadn’t invaded the basement, like he did when we saw James Taylor. But he did tear up the box that held our pizza stone. I feel like he’s been regressing since he’s been getting chemo… acting like he’s 5 years old again. But then he makes up with us in the most adorable way. Noyzi, as usual, stayed out of trouble and camped out in his room.
When we woke up in Ribeauville on Saturday, November 19th, I looked at Facebook to see if there were any announcements about James Taylor’s show. I didn’t see any emails from the ticketing venue, or on James’s social media. That meant we’d be going home a day early.
I was a little sad to be going, since I really had wanted to go to Riquewihr at least once, if only to get macaroons. Bill didn’t want to go to Riquewihr, because it was in the opposite direction of home, even if it was just two miles. He said he’d go look for the macaroons in Ribeauville. So he went out, picked up more croissants, and FAILED to find the cookies I wanted. Instead, he bought three bags of other cookies.
Maybe I should be ashamed for feeling this way, but I was a little disappointed. What he brought back were not what I wanted. Then it occurred to me that I could probably order the macaroons, which is precisely what I did (they arrived this morning). So I got over my disappointment, and we started packing up to go home. As I was walking the dogs to the car, my hands full of whatever else I could carry, a French woman approached me, speaking rapid fire. I said in English, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak French.”
She nodded and smiled, then backed away. I soon realized what she wanted. It was mid morning and the parking lot was already pretty full. She wanted our parking spot. I saw her lurking in the lot, just waiting for us to move. I always hate it when people do this, even though I understand why they do it. I wasn’t the one driving, and we weren’t quite ready to leave. She finally gave up at some point, after Bill had done a sweep of the Riesling gite, and came back to the car. By then, there were a couple more lurkers, just waiting…
It was probably a half hour later when we were on our way home, after a quick stop at the Daniel Stoffel Chocolatier outlet on the way out of town. Bill went in and picked up some goodies for us, and his daughter’s family.
Our drive home was almost totally uneventful. Arran went to sleep, and Noyzi was a perfect gentleman in the back. Maybe we have finally broken him of his habit of barking in the car. The only strange thing that happened was that, as usual, I witnessed public urination at a rest stop. I vented about that here. Below are a few shots from the drive home. As you can see, Arran was relaxed.
When we got home, our landlord came over to tell us our off kilter dishwasher, which had come off its foundation, wasn’t fixed yet, because the repair guy needed a part. Yesterday, he said the repair guy was sick, but would be able to fix the machine when he was well again. He said we should just be careful using the machine. When I told him we hadn’t been using it, because the dishwasher had given me an error code last time I ran a load, he said if the repair guy couldn’t figure it out, he’d just get us a new one. I am still stunned by how different he is, compared to our former landlady. They are like night and day!
I did the requisite load of laundry and a few other chores, then we got ready for the show in Frankfurt. We had to pick up our tickets at the box office, I guess to thwart scalpers. I pictured a long line of people, but when we arrived at the Jahrhunderthalle, we were pleasantly surprised by the ease of parking, the short distance to the venue, and the short line to get our tickets. Then we enjoyed some libations while we waited for the doors to open.
James Taylor had a stripped down band for this show. There was no keyboard player, and no opening act. We had second row seats, which was a first for me. I saw my first James Taylor concert in 1990. In fact, that show, when I was almost 18, was my very first “rock” show– if you could call it that. I remember I went with my parents and one of my sisters, and I paid $18.50 for nosebleed seats.
For this show, I paid 82,50 euros which I thought was very reasonable to see a guy who has won 6 Grammys and spent more than 50 years enchanting people all over the world with his wonderful guitar playing and angelic voice. While we waited for the show to start, I noticed the music that was playing. I recognized songs from albums by James’s daughter, Sally, as well as backup singers Kate Markowitz and Andrea Zonn. I downloaded Kate’s album from the concert hall. I already had Andrea’s.
This was the fourth time I’d seen James Taylor play, but there was a difference between this show and the others. For one thing, there weren’t drunken, idiot women standing in front of us, dancing and shrieking the whole time. There were no huge screens showing close ups of James and his band. And while he forgot a few words, he still played and sang beautifully. I was charmed by his efforts to speak German to the crowd, as well as the encouraging message he had for anyone “in recovery” from drug and alcohol addiction, as he has been since the mid 80s.
James told us some of the stories behind some of the songs he performed, including “That’s Why I’m Here”, from his 1985 album by the same name. I remember that he had dedicated that album to Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Imagine going to an A.A. meeting and seeing James Taylor there! But anyway, “That’s Why I’m Here” was a song he wrote in memory of his friend John Belushi, who died of an overdose in 1982. James was a pretty serious addict back in the day. He’s still addicted, of course, but no longer indulges. Before he started singing, he said, “If you like getting fucked up, that’s okay. I just can’t handle it myself anymore!” Everybody laughed.
At the beginning of the evening, I thought James looked a little pale, perhaps because he’d had COVID. But as the show went on, he was more and more animated, at times jumping around the stage. I enjoyed watching him interact with his band, most of whom had been with him for many years. Dorian Holley was the only one on stage I had not seen with James before. I suspect he’s the replacement for Arnold McCuller, James’s longtime backup singer who just retired from life on the road. I enjoyed Dorian’s singing. He has quite an impressive resume. James listed the people Holley’s sung with, which includes the late Michael Jackson. That actually surprised me, because he didn’t look old enough to be one of Jackson’s backup singers… but then, Michael was well known for enjoying and employing young performers for his shows.
James’s long time guitarist, Michael Landau, was well within view of us on the right side of the stage. He stood up and flexed his legs, I smiled at him, and he smiled back. That was kind of a cool moment. One thing I love about European concerts is that I seem to have a much easier time scoring good seats here. Another thing I love about European shows is that most people don’t act stupid at them… at least not at the shows Bill and I attend. And you can get a beer or a glass of wine without mortgaging your house.
At one point, James was introducing a song from his 1971 album, Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon. A man in the audience held up a vinyl copy, which James immediately offered to sign and bite. The guy rushed up to the stage with his album and presented it to James, but then they needed to find a pen. Another guy came up and said he had something that had been signed by a bunch of famous singers, including Johnny Cash. He requested an autograph, which James was happy to oblige. In fact, at the break, I ran out to go to the restroom, and when I came back, James was still on stage, signing autographs and shaking hands. I was very impressed. I wondered if he needed to pee as badly as I did! It struck me as a very humble and generous gesture toward his loyal fans.
I decided not to try to get an autograph myself. I would be honored to have James’s signature, of course, but autographs don’t really mean that much to me. Earlier in the show, someone yelled out that his dad loved James. James made a comment reminiscent of what he said on his Live album from 1993. Basically, he reminded the guy that they don’t know each other. It made me think how strange it must be for performers to be “loved” by people who don’t know them. James himself reminded us that he is a deeply flawed person, as we all are… but what impresses me about James Taylor is that he’s clearly worked very hard to become much better. He’s clearly not the same person he was in the 70s or early 80s.
At the end of the show, of course there were encores… and James and his band encouraged people to get up and come close to the stage. It was one of the most intimate concert experiences I’ve ever had. I think the only one who topped that was James’s somewhat less famous brother, Livingston, who puts on a FABULOUS live show and is extremely approachable. I remember seeing Liv in 2003 at the Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, a couple of months after I saw James at Wolf Trap in Bristow, Virginia. James’s show was MUCH bigger than Liv’s was, and we had those drunk women in front of us, careening around sloppily as they slurred the lyrics of James’s best songs. I remember thinking Livingston’s show was so much better, if only because there weren’t any obnoxious drunks there. But Liv also engaged the audience and was thoroughly entertaining. This most recent show by James, while slightly pared down, was akin to Liv’s show, only it was in a much larger, yet still intimate, venue.
In any case, we obviously had a wonderful time! I’m so glad we went. It was the perfect ending to our 20th anniversary weekend. And yes, even though James will be 75 years old in March, he’s still a hell of a great performer. I think the money we spent on this show, even with its delays, was well worth euro cent.
Dorian and Kate dance!
Getting out of the Jahrhunderthalle was very easy. Bill was happy about that. But then we hit a Stau, so Bill went through Hofheim to get us home. And when we got home, we were confronted by a big mess caused by Arran. He got into the basement and raided our dry goods, and peed and pooped on my rug. Fortunately, he was no worse for wear. We have thoroughly dog proofed down there, as we’re going to someone’s house for Thanksgiving dinner today. Noyzi had nothing to do with the raid. He was tucked in bed when we got home. He’s very classy for a street dog.
Well, that about does it for this series. It wasn’t a super exciting trip, but we had a good time… and it was great to have Arran and Noyzi with us. I’m so grateful to be here on many levels, and for so many reasons. I’m glad James Taylor is still with us, too. And before I forget, below are a couple of clips from the show.
I really had good intentions for getting away on Friday. I thought maybe we’d go to Riquewihr, if only so we could buy some macaroons. The wine route in Alsace is just so beautiful, and even though we’ve done it so many times, it never gets old. But the weather was kind of drizzly, off and on. We’d have sun for awhile, then it would start raining. The dogs were pretty good. We really only heard them throwing a fit once, and we waited about a minute before they shut up.
One of Bill’s co-workers was hoping for a photo or video of Bill tasting cheeses. Ribeauville actually has a wine and cheese bar, and it was open during our stay. However, it was only open for takeaway; the “bar” part was closed. Bill went there and brought home a few stinky selections, which he videoed himself tasting for his daughter, whom he’s just now getting to know again after many years of separation. That’s a long story, of course, which can easily be found in my main blog.
Speaking of Bill’s daughter… she is the mother of three very young children. I saw a shop with some cute stuffed toy storks. Alsace and parts of Germany are pretty well-known for the population of storks that live there. Their huge nests are easy to find on top of buildings. The locals even make it easy for the birds to nest. I made a note of the shop and, after lunch, we went there and picked up some toys for Bill’s grandchildren, as well as a a gnome for our own house.
For breakfast on Friday, Bill went to a different patisserie– one with a medieval theme. He picked up more croissants and an artisanal loaf of bread that he said tasted of sourdough. I don’t like sourdough much, so I left him to it.
We took another walk around the town, thinking maybe we’d taste wines at Louis Sipp, which has a couple of tasting rooms… but they weren’t open when we were in the mood. So we explored some other parts of town– areas we had never been to on previous trips. Ribeauville seems like a really small town, but there’s actually a lot to it besides the charming main drag. I love the way the village looks, and found myself taking many pictures. But I don’t think I’d want to live there, because everyone is kind of packed in. I don’t like sharing walls with people, and I enjoy having a yard. It’s nice to visit such a quaint place, though, if only to remind me of how much we enjoy our current “mansion” in Wiesbaden.
We had lunch at Schaal E’ Sucre, the cute little restaurant we had tried to get into on Thursday. It was crowded again on Friday, but there was a table for two open. There was one waiter working the entire room. He was very friendly and smiley, and he spoke English, which was nice. This little eatery has a very simple menu, with salads, pasta dishes, quiches, sandwiches, and soups. I was torn between the bacon and cheese open sandwich and another Quiche Lorraine. I decided to have the quiche, just so I could compare it to the previous day’s. I could probably eat quiche every day… although that wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do.
The quiche was a bit browner than the quiche I had at L’Ami Fritz. However, it definitely had more of a “professional” pastry look, like it was made by a pastry chef, rather than someone’s mama. It had a different flavor, too. I didn’t taste the “musty” cheese. I liked both quiches for different reasons. I preferred the cheese and the look of the quiche at Schaal E’ Sucre, but I liked the texture and bacon in the quiche from L’Ami Fritz. Bill ended up getting the bacon and cheese sandwich, which was also delicious! I could tell he had trouble finishing it, as it also came with a big salad, like my quiche did. We never even touched the bread, although we did enjoy an interesting Riesling/Muscat blended white wine.
Naturally, we were talked into having Quetsch (plum) tart, with chantilly (whipped cream). I noticed that Schaal E’ Sucre also offered a wide variety of waffles. We definitely left there satisfied, and although I loved that place when it was Chez Martine, I think it’s in good hands, now. When we left the restaurant, it was raining.
We decided to stop by a wine shop to get some vino for home. Sadly, that was not a good shopping experience. There was a lone woman running the shop, and she wore a sour expression on her face. Bill asked if she spoke English or German. She responded with a flat “No.” Okay, fine. I distinctly said, more than once, “No Gewurztraminer”. That should be translatable in French. She also had a list of available wine packages. We pointed to one that consisted of Rieslings and Pinot Blancs. She packed a box for us and pretty much didn’t so much as say “kiss my ass” to us as we left.
When we got home the next day, and unpacked the box, we found three bottles of Gewurztraminer. I guess that will teach us to trust a salesperson with a sour disposition to pack wines for us before we check labels. Fortunately, tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we’ve been invited to someone else’s house. Guess we’ll bring over some wine for them. 😉 And yes, Bill did tell his friend/co-worker that we got the wrong wine, and he was fine with us bringing the Alsatian Gewurztraminer. Someone at the party will surely enjoy sweet French wine.
Once again, we were too full for dinner, so went hung out with the dogs as I watched James Taylor’s Facebook page to see if the show would still be going on in Frankfurt Saturday night. Yes, it was a very “chill” break in Alsace, and we could have done more with our time, but really, it was just nice to be with Bill and the dogs, enjoying a different country. And, even though we had a disappointing experience with the wine lady, Ribeauville is still so beautiful…
I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of Ribeauville.
Arran’s medications make him hungry. They also make him need to go potty more often than usual. Consequently, on all three nights of our stay, Bill got up in the wee hours of the morning to take him and Noyzi out for walks. Then, he’d come back to bed, and try to go back to sleep. The apartment where we stayed was easy to keep dark, so on Thursday, we slept until 8:00 AM. We almost never do that anymore!
Our morning habit, whenever we visit France, is to get baked goodies from the patisseries. I am a big fan of FRENCH croissants– and yes, they are different to me than the ones we can get in Germany. Kugelhopfs are also very popular and prevalent in Alsace, as well as in parts of Germany and Austria. Personally, I can take or leave the Kugelhopfs, although I will admit to thinking they look very pretty. They usually include raisins and almonds, though, and I generally prefer my baked goods without fruit and nuts. One can also score delightful Pain au chocolat– flaky pastries filled with semi sweet chocolate– which are very decadent. I love chocolate, but again, the one must do French breakfast treat for me is the lowly croissant.
Bill went to one of the nearby patisseries and brought back the usual, then scrambled some eggs. We bought some clementine juice, ham, and cheese, at the local Carrefour grocery store, located very conveniently about a five minute walk from our gite. Once again, I was marveling at how flaky and delicious the croissants were, and kind of wishing we had more of them. But the last thing I need is a plentiful supply of baked goods!
After breakfast, we all took a walk around Ribeauville. It’s a very pretty little village, not unlike other pretty villages in Alsace. Riquewihr, which is only two miles from Ribeauville, is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. However, I prefer Ribeauville, because it feels more lived in to me. It’s obvious there are a lot of locals in Ribeauville, even though it’s a tourist destination. Riquewihr feels a little more touristy to me, and it has a lot more tourist oriented businesses. For that reason, I like to stay in Ribeauville, and visit Riquewihr and some of the other, more famous towns, like Kaysersberg, which is where Anthony Bourdain, sadly, took his life in June 2018. Of course, I also like Ribeauville, because we know Yannick, and he’s very cool with our dogs.
I took lots of pictures of the town, as usual, because even though we’ve been to Ribeauville so many times, it’s always a pretty town. We usually go there in the winter, rather than the fall. We’ve only managed one visit in the late spring, when everything is open, but crowded. Once the dogs were sufficiently exercised, we took them back to the gite and went looking for lunch.
As I mentioned before, only a few restaurants were open during our visit. The ones that were open had plenty of business. We were wanting to go to a little lunch spot that was once called Chez Martine, but now has new owners and a different name. Schaal’É Sucré offers a menu that is very similar to that of what Chez Martine used to have, only now it’s open later and is run by men instead of women. On Thursday, it was clear that it was every bit as popular as its predecessor was, as the dining room was completely full when we stuck our heads in, looking for a bite.
We ended up eating at Caveau de L’Ami Fritz, a restaurant that is affiliated with the hotel of the same name. We have eaten at L’Ami Fritz before, and I remembered that the dining room is in a very charming “cave”. I also remembered liking what I had there the first time we tried it. The dining room was full of people when we arrived, but everyone looked very happy. Bill and I sat down and enjoyed some local specialties.
I had Quiche Lorraine, while Bill went for pork and Baeckaoffa, basically cheesy potato casserole made with Munster. The quiche was delicious, although it was made with a slightly “musty” cheese. I am very particular about cheese, and this one just bordered on “offensive” to me. Still, I managed to eat the whole thing, anyway.
We also enjoyed a local Riesling. Bill had asked for a 28 euro bottle, but when we got the bill, it turned out they had given us a 55 euro selection. Oh well. I suppose he could have complained, but we enjoyed the wine and we could afford it. And of course, we had dessert, too… Chocolate mousse for me, and a myrtle tart for Bill. He had leftovers from the Baeckaoffa, so we had that packed up and brought it to the apartment. I probably should have done the same with the mousse. It was a very generous portion.
By the time we were finished with lunch, it was early afternoon and a bit drizzly. I decided to have a rest and try to read more of my latest book. Naturally, that led to a two hour nap. 😉
Our lunch was so filling that we ended up staying in for the night, eating a light snack at dinner time and, of course, enjoying more wine. It’s a lovely thing to go to France to recharge! I liked the French weather lady’s dress, too. I also notice the fine for not cleaning up after your dog has gone up a bit.