We got our first Ararat Box…

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Several weeks ago, I was hanging out on Facebook when an Armenian guy I follow posted about ordering Ararat Boxes for his staff as Christmas gifts. He described the boxes as being full of yummy treats from Armenia, as well as a great fundraiser for good causes benefiting Armenia. Since I spent two years living in the Republic of Armenia as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I was interested in finding out more about Ararat Boxes.

So what are Ararat Boxes? They are boxes filled with snacks, stickers, and other goodies made in Armenia. The official Web site says that they put in 18-20 different items, everything from candy to teas and coffees. Every month is different and you don’t know what you’ll get. You can purchase the boxes once, or do a monthly subscription. When I showed the Web site to Bill, he decided he wanted to try it. He bought a three month subscription for the 2kg box ($49.95 for a single box, less if you subscribe). There’s also a 1kg box available that costs a bit less ($29.95). Shipping is available worldwide, and costs $15 for the big box and $10 for the small one. You can pay easily on the Web site, which calculates everything for you. The boxes come directly from Yerevan, Armenia, and come covered in bubble wrap, adorned with Armenian stamps and script that looks like a bunch of coat hooks.

An ad for the Ararat Box.

This project was created by Renderfrost, which is a large IT company based in Armenia. Renderfrost has over 10 million worldwide users and is one of the biggest video platforms on the planet. It currently employs 80 people. Last year, people from Renderfrost came up with the idea for Ararat Box as a way to support small businesses in Armenia. They traveled around the country, visited 150 different businesses, tasted over 1000 products, and selected items that would be featured in the box. Each month, different vendors are featured, which means the boxes change. Ararat Box is also involved in charities, and donated 400 boxes to children in Artsakh, whose fathers are currently engaged with the military on the front lines of Nagorno-Karabakh.

We received the January edition of the box yesterday. It got hung up in Belarus for some time, waiting at the customs office. Here are a few photos.

Of course, there’s no wine or brandy in these boxes… bummer! Those are my favorite Armenian exports of all. But I was pretty heartened to see all of these cool Armenian snacks. When I lived in Armenia, one of my side projects was using Armenian produce to create recipes and potential products. I worked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on that, and they even gave me a stovetop electric oven to use, which was a pretty big deal. Most of us had to rely on propane stoves and makeshift ovens crafted from big pots and kerosene heaters. You get pretty innovative when you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer in a developing country where there is no reliable electricity or running water. Things have gotten much better since the 90s, though.

A review in Armenian. I must admit I only understand a little of this these days.

I remember that back in the 1990s, most of the snacks available in Armenia came from Turkey or Iran, unless you wanted to buy something local at the shuka. It was very possible, for instance, to buy beautiful local fruits. Armenia had some of the most gorgeous produce I have ever seen. Or you could buy sunflower seeds or dried fruits and nuts. But chips and candy and the like were often sourced from other places. Although it was interesting to see the kinds of products you could find in Yerevan in the 90s, (I once found a package of Chips Deluxe cookies priced at the AMD equivalent of $7), it’s good that Armenia now has its own products.

Each box comes with a handy guide in English, explaining about the products and the best ways to enjoy them. Bill and I have so far tried a few of the snacks, all of which are of good quality. We look forward to seeing what will come in the next two boxes. I have a feeling we could extend the subscription!

Although I can’t deny that I was ready to leave Armenia in 1997, it will always have a piece of my heart. Living there changed my life for the better and really opened my eyes to the world. I still have friends from Armenia, as well as so many memories. It’s great that I can share the culture with Bill and we can enjoy these products together. And, on a more personal note, it really does make me excited to see the place where I did my service obviously improving in leaps and bounds. It makes me feel like I really did contribute something by going there and bearing witness to how things once were, compared to how they are today.

Edited to add… We just got our February box. Yes, it arrived just one day after the January box. We are now flush with Armenian snacks. Here are a few more photos!

My online shopping life… or, the pandemic has made us learn new things.

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It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, Bill and I were preparing to journey to France to see my friends Audra and Cyril and celebrate Christmas with them and their family. This year, we don’t go anywhere. I’m serious. I haven’t left our neighborhood in over two months. It’s getting old.

But I’m trying to keep my spirits up. The other day, I ordered chocolates from Neuhaus. I was a victim of Facebook advertising, which kept showing me pictures of Belgian chocolate. Then I remembered that once upon a time, when I was still a working woman, I actually used to sell Neuhaus chocolates.

I worked at a place called Henry Street Chocolatier, which was located in Williamsburg, Virginia. They sold high end chocolates from Neuhaus and Joseph Schmidt, a now defunct confectioner out of San Francisco, California that specialized in making chocolate truffles. They also had locally produced pastries and coffee by First Colony, an outfit out of Norfolk, Virginia. I think First Colony as I knew it went out of business, but they also used to sell coffee to The Trellis, a restaurant where I worked a few years later. It looks like First Colony was sold, so the brand still exists, but it’s not the same people running it.

I ended up buying a shitload of chocolates. I bought a 500g ballotin of Neuhaus truffles, a 500g ballotin of regular chocolates, and a wine tasting chocolate set. Neuhaus also has champagne and coffee tasting sets– those are chocolates specifically selected to be tasted with wine, champagne, and coffee. Wine is not included in the sets, but you do get a nifty booklet in several languages.

I also bought wines from Georgia, Croatia, and Hungary, but they haven’t arrived yet.

Friday night, Bill and I discussed my desire to buy an electric guitar. I showed him the one I wanted, which is quite pricey. I ended up ordering one of those yesterday as my own Christmas present. I tried to get it through its manufacturer’s Web site, but the sale wouldn’t go through. Like, it wouldn’t even attempt to go through at all. So I found the guitar I wanted on another site and did successfully order it. I don’t think the charge has been processed yet. Hopefully, it will go through. Sometimes the credit card companies are very cautious when you live in Europe and have an American billing address. If it actually gets to me, I’ll post a picture of it.

I have about half the cash needed to pay for the guitar waiting in a savings account I usually use for traveling. We aren’t doing any of that, so it makes perfect sense to just get the guitar I want. It will give me incentive to keep practicing. Not that I need incentive. I made some real progress with my guitar playing yesterday, finally managing to awkwardly play several difficult chords in the same shape. No, they aren’t perfect, but a few months ago, I couldn’t even attempt them. Now, if I’m very careful, I can actually make them ring out somewhat. Anyway, Bill is going to buy me an amp, and once he’s learned a bit more on his guitar, he’ll probably buy one he likes, too.

We also ordered sushi from Tam’s Kitchen. It was a cold, rainy night, and didn’t really seem like sushi weather, but I was dying for some. And here in Breckenheim, we happen to have a really great sushi guy who does deliveries. I think he’s actually a caterer. I don’t think he has a restaurant, per se. But you can order sushi and it will be super fresh and delicious. So that’s what we did Friday night. I think Tam is actually from Vietnam, but he sure has a way with raw fish.

Last night, I watched the memorial service done for my cousin, Karen, who died a couple of weeks ago. She was the third family member I’ve lost since mid October. I learned some new things about my cousin, who was eighteen years older than I am. We weren’t very close, but she was very much beloved by her family and our extended family. Watching the video made me miss being at home somewhat, although I think during this pandemic, I’d rather be in Germany.

And Noyzi and Arran are doing fine. Noyzi is particularly adorable these days. He has a new habit of silently showing up, ghostlike, when it’s time to eat. I slip him a little snack from the table, which is probably not a great thing to do… but he’s so sweet and basically well-behaved that my heart melts a bit.

I suspect today will be more of the same stuff. It’s cold and wet, and Germany is still locked down. Oh, I guess they call it Lockdown Lite, since stores are still open, and it’s been extended until January 10th. But there’s nothing to do anyway, and the weather is icky. So we’ll stay home, listen to music, and buy stuff online. 2020 has mostly sucked… but in some ways, it’s been kind of awesome. I miss traveling, but it’s also been nice to find new ways to occupy my time and spend money. And we are grateful we still have the money to spend. Maybe it will help some people stay in business.

Early birthday present…

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These arrived yesterday…

My birthday is Saturday. Father’s Day is Sunday. Bill has a birthday in July. That’s why I decided to buy expensive Ass Clown Brewing Company insulated travel tumblers.

Ass Clown Brewing Company is located in Cornelius, North Carolina, which I think isn’t too far from Charlotte. I see from the map on their Facebook page that they’re in an area not too far from Interstate 77, which I used to travel somewhat often when I lived in South Carolina. I became aware of their company when Bill and I lived in North Carolina seven or eight years ago, but we were never able to visit their brewery to try any of their beers. I love the name of their company, though, so I followed them on Facebook.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed they were advertising the above tumblers. I asked them if they would ship them to APO. They hadn’t heard of APO, so I had to explain it to them. Those of us affiliated with the military or U.S. government get APO access– meaning we can receive mail at a post office box as if we were still in the USA. That means we can buy stuff on Amazon.com and other sites without having it sent to our German home address. It saves a lot on shipping and duties. Not all U.S. businesses will ship to APO, because it’s a bit of a hassle. The package has to go to the post office and the sender has to fill out customs forms. That’s a pain in the ass.

So I asked the good people at Ass Clown Brewing Company if they were willing to ship to APO. After a somewhat lengthy chat on Facebook messenger, they said they would. I think I ended up paying about $72 for these two tumblers, mainly because they’re large and we had them personalized. We also had to pay sales tax and shipping, of course. But I’m pretty excited by them because they look great, and I love getting new gear from craft breweries. We kind of collect this stuff. The beer cozies and stickers were extra schwag they threw in. I don’t know how often we’ll use these. I prefer drinking beer from glasses or stone mugs. On the other hand, they might make my next road trip more fun.

Now, I kind of wish I’d ordered t-shirts, too. I have a feeling I’m going to need them as the temperatures rise here in Germany. I do still have my two air conditioners that kind of work… I have noticed more places in Germany are installing air conditioning as global warming becomes more of a problem. Twelve years ago, it never got that hot here, but I can remember some truly brutal recent summers. I’m just glad the house we’re in now has rolladens on all of the windows. It’s definitely cooler in this house than it was our last one.

Tomorrow, Bill is taking me away on my birthday getaway. It’s just two nights, and we’re not even leaving Hesse. I kind of don’t want to go… but I kind of do want to go, because I’m tired of being bored. I just dread the hassle. Anyway, I should have a somewhat more exciting blog post when we get back from our little “staycation”. Maybe soon, we can venture down to Stuttgart for a trip to the dentist. God knows, we both need a good cleaning.

Farm Fresh Too…

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A couple of months ago, when we tried and failed to adopt a dog, I joined a bunch of local Facebook groups. My purpose for joining was to spread the word about the dog we tried to adopt who escaped from his pet transport taxi driver and later got hit and killed by a car on the Autobahn. Well… now we’re waiting on another dog to join our family in a few months, but I’m still a member of the groups I joined when we were frantically trying to recover the one who got away.

As a fortunate consequence of joining the local Facebook groups, I’m starting to learn about stuff in the area that I never knew about. One place that came on my radar is the Birkenhof Hofheim, which is a farm that offers fresh produce as well as a 24/7 refrigerator where one can purchase fresh food. Germany is wonderful about making fresh food available at relatively affordable prices. Although there don’t seem to be quite as many farms up here near Frankfurt as there were near Stuttgart, they do exist if you look.

Our last home, in Jettingen in Baden-Württemberg, was near several farms. I wrote about our first experience shopping at the farms a few years ago. Up here in Breckenheim, we’re not as close to so many farms, since it’s a more industrialized area. Still, at this time of year– smack dab in the middle of “Spargel (asparagus) season”, there are plenty of stands selling strawberries, blueberries, and all sorts of other delicious produce.

Thanks to the pandemic, the Birkenhof Hofheim isn’t fully open until May 29th. Under normal circumstances, the farm offers fresh delights that can be served at a table. They also have fun activities for kids. When the farm opens up again, special rules will have to be followed– masks worn when using the toilet and everyone has to provide contact information in case someone gets sick and you have to be notified. After three or four weeks, they discard the information.

I was happy enough to get out for a little while today and get some photos… as well as some farm fresh treats for our table at home. They had everything from corn cobs and charcoal for your grill to milk, flour, and eggs. There was paper and a pen for tallying up the cost of your goods, all of which were clearly priced. They had bags for packing your stuff, and a money box for you to put your cash. The whole thing is secured by cameras, so don’t think of taking anything without paying. We bought about 21 euros worth of stuff.

This trip was also handy because it turns out the farm is very close to the Tierklinik Hofheim, which our former vet in Herrenberg (near Stuttgart) says is one of the best veterinary hospitals in Germany. When Zane was having his first issues with mast cell cancer, the vet down there was telling me about this clinic and how she could refer us there if need be. I remember looking it up and thinking it was so far away. Little did I know, we’d eventually be living about twenty minutes away. So now I kind of know where it is, in case I have to take Arran or our next dog there sometime.

It was nice to get out of the house… only the third time since March! I’m getting braver. We’ll definitely be back to the Birkenhof Hofheim for more fresh treats soon! I love visiting the farms and am glad to find one up here near Frankfurt, the only German city with lots of skyscrapers.

Dutch delights!

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In January 2019, Bill and I decided to spend MLK weekend in The Netherlands. It was the first time we’d been in that country since June 2015, when Bill had a conference in Apeldoorn. I was lucky enough to join Bill on that 2015 trip, after which we visited Amsterdam and Haarlem for the first time. I also got stoned for the first time– on my 43rd birthday! Count me among those who favor legalized pot!

We thought The Netherlands was so beautiful and we live fairly close now… significantly closer than we did when we lived in the Stuttgart area. I found us a little vacation home in Vijlen, a little hamlet near the Belgian, German, and Dutch borders, and not far from the beautiful city of Maastricht. When we visited Maastricht, we ran across a chain cheese store called Henri Willig. It offered a dizzying array of cheeses and other Dutch treats, like honey waffle cookies and chocolate, and condiments, like garlic mayonnaise and mustards. We went home with a couple of cheeses and some waffle cookies.

Last weekend, I decided to order from their store. I can’t travel right now… but I can keep enjoying products I love, right? So I chose a couple of cheeses for Bill (and for me if they aren’t too sharp or offensive), garlic mayonnaise, chocolate, mustard, waffle cookies, cheese and garlic waffles, and even some hand cream. Everything arrived last night, and I’m now sitting here having coffee from a roastery in Berlin and a waffle cookie. Yes, I know they have a Dutch name… Stroopwafel. Anyway, you get the idea. We always seem to get them when we fly on KLM, the official Dutch airline.

In other news, this week the restrictions got a little bit looser in Germany. My neighbors, who have been deprived of a proper wine stand for weeks now, decided to gather outside by the bank of trash cans with wine. I noticed they practiced proper social distancing as they drank wine and used trash cans as bar tables! Because Bill and I are in the military community, the restrictions are still tight for us; we are under General Order Number One, which until a couple of months ago, was a mystery to me. Now, it’s the law of my life, since I am a lowly “dependa”. In fact, I’m worse than a “dependa”. I’m a contractor’s wife. 😉

They were enjoying themselves.

I have heard that people in Landstuhl and Kaiserslautern are allowed slightly more freedom. They are under General Order Number Two. That means they can travel a bit further and participate in a few more activities.

I got a laugh out of this photo, which was taken down near Stuttgart. My German friend says it’s technically correct in German, but to English speakers, it’s pretty funny.

Other than that, it’s been a regular week here… nice weather that is harder to enjoy due to the stupid pandemic. But it could be worse by far for us. I’m glad that Bill and I still love each other. I also got a guitar yesterday, which I’m learning how to play courtesy of videos on the Internet. So maybe I’ll come out of this a better person. Or at least a more skilled one.

My Scottish friend, George, and I will also probably record more music. We’ve done some good collaborations in the past. This was the most recent one… I would love to someday be able to play guitar like he does.

And Bill has been brushing up on his German skills with Duolingo. When we first moved here in 2014, I used that application every day. I finished the whole thing twice, and finally quit using it, having learned a little bit of German. I still can’t speak it, but I can understand more than I once did. I think the lessons have now been expanded a lot more. Maybe I should get back on the Duolingo wagon myself. If this keeps up for much longer, I probably will.

My ass is getting a lot of presents lately…

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I have not made it a secret that Bill loves to cook for me. Lately, he’s been knocking himself out. I don’t have a lot to talk about in terms of traveling or eating at restaurants, but I do have some enchanting food pics. I’m beginning to think I should send Bill to chef’s school.

We’ve also found a few new online sources of food and beverages. Good thing he doesn’t mind fat chicks. It’s hard to believe that when we met, I was the better cook. Some of my friends don’t think Bill is real. Trust me, he is… and common sense would have told me to stay away from him. Fortunately, for once I didn’t like practicality stand in the way of a good love story.

Feast your eyes!

I am now at the tail end of my updating project. Hopefully, I will be finished updating old posts today or tomorrow. And then, everything that gets posted on the Facebook page from this blog will be fresh— fresh as Bill’s baked bread!

So much for social distancing…

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Bill and I decided to visit our local Globus today. For those who don’t know, Globus is an enormous store– a hypermarket to end all hypermarkets. We didn’t have them near Stuttgart, but they’re elsewhere in Germany and we have one a few miles from our house. I used to think the Real, which was once German Walmart, was huge. Globus puts the Real to shame… or, at least it puts the one we had in Jettingen to shame.

I don’t like going to huge stores, so this was only my second or third time at our Globus. We went there to restock our liquor supply and pick up a few other things. Also, I wanted to see how crazy things were after people were advised to “social distance” because of the Coronavirus. Here are some photos from our trip…

We ended up having an impromptu gin tasting in the liquor section. A guy was hawking Upstairs Gin, which comes from Heidelberg. They had a few varieties. We tried two, and bought bottles of each. The guy spoke excellent English and was taking care of us and a German couple, who said they could speak English… to which Bill told them in German that we speak a little German, too. It occurred to me that this would never happen in the United States. A lot of states don’t allow liquor to be sold in grocery stores and/or require it to be sold in a government controlled store. It depends on where you are. In South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas, we had liquor stores. In Virginia and North Carolina, we had “ABC” stores run by the state government. Or, of course, we could shop on military installations or online. But there we were, tasting gin at a huge store that sells everything but toilet paper… at least when there’s a virus running amok. Gin is all the rage in Germany these days. They’ve got some good ones.

New gin.

After we went to Globus, we decided to have lunch. It had been some time since our last visit to Spirit of New Orleans, our local Cajun restaurant run by an Army veteran named John and his wife. We’ve been there a few times, since it’s located very close to where we live. Last time we were there to eat in, John was having kind of a bad day. But he was in a good mood today. I had barbecued ribs and Bill had fried shrimp. It was all delicious, even if I did need a good flossing afterwards…

Today’s visit to Spirit of New Orleans was fortuitous, because as we were finishing up, another American came in. His name is Ernie and he works in the area. It turned out he and Bill both took advantage of the National Defense University’s cybersecurity program and graduated during the same year. So we were chatting, having a great time. Ernie says he’ll be moving back to the States soon, but not as soon as he planned, because the government has frozen everyone for the next 60 days. Coronavirus has put a hitch in a lot of plans… and is making finding toilet paper quite a project.

It was great to see John again, and have some Cajun food. The ribs were spicy and wet, and really hit the spot. The fried shrimp were also good. And John even brought out what he called moonshine, which he gave to me in a glass he says his mother in law made for him. Whether it was shine or Schnapps, it lit me up! Between the liquor tasting at the grocery store and the house shot at lunchtime, I’ve definitely enjoyed a midday repast I never could in the United States. Total bill for us was about 55 euros… not bad, considering that we also took wings to go.

After lunch, we went to the Lidl, because Bill wants to make a Guinness Cake and needed some cream cheese. Globus is humongous, but they were out of plain cream cheese. All they had was flavored. Luckily, Lidl had what we needed. We got our cream cheese and some Gruyere… but I couldn’t help but notice that like the Globus, the pickings were slim. Check out these photos!

After we got our cheese, we went to the drink market to turn in our empty beer crate and pick up some more… as well as some Guinness for the cake.

This was the first time I’d been out of the neighborhood in awhile, so today was kind of fun. I’m hoping that when the weather turns permanently nice, we’ll start doing the fun stuff we did two years ago, before we had to move and things got weird in Wiesbaden. That is, of course, if neither Bill nor I get deathly sick from Coronavirus…

I don’t understand the toilet paper hoarding. I think Rewe still had some on Friday, but the two markets we went to today were completely out. I don’t understand why toilet paper is so important now. People have lost their damned minds.

Bill will probably do some teleworking next week. That suits me fine. I’ve missed him, so having him at home will be great.

I suspect that if this toilet paper shortage continues, people won’t have to be encouraged to “social distance”. The smell will keep people apart. Maybe it’s time to buy a Bum Gun.

I sure hope people are hoarding and using birth control, too…

The bed’s too big without Bill.

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Sigh… Bill left a few days ago for his latest TDY. It’s only been since Monday, but it’s the third or fourth TDY he’s done since the New Year. You’d think after 17 years, I’d be used to this, but I hate it when he leaves town. I’m kind of a loner and usually end up spending a lot of quality time watching TV.

This morning, I finally decided to take my car out of the garage. It’s been ages since I last drove anywhere, and given that I almost hit the house as I was backing out of our little garage, my lack of practice really shows. Our house, like a lot of German houses, has a very small garage that fits the Mini Cooper perfectly. But backing in and out of it is a bit tricky.

We live very close to the Rewe, so I could actually walk there, but I knew I needed to pick up a few things. Also, I had a crapload of empty plastic bottles to deposit. I drink a lot of water, especially when Bill isn’t around. When he’s not home, I try to stay off booze. This week, I’ve had a bottle of wine and a couple of beers. So you can imagine, I went through a lot of mineral water with gas this week!

Now… ordinarily, this trip to the store wouldn’t be a big deal, except our Rewe was recently renovated because we got a brand new drink market. The construction workers spent all last year turning what used to be a field into a lovely new drink store, and they freed up lots of space that used to be taken up by drinks for the older grocery store. The work was done in early December, and yet I still hadn’t been in there. Let me just say, I was really pleasantly surprised at how nice the store is now. It’s a huge improvement. They have a much larger meat counter, a cheese counter, and a much bigger frozen foods section. There are more aisles and the crappy beer selection they used to have is greatly expanded in the drink market.

I took a few photos after I found the bottle depository, which is now in the drink market. I got 5,25 euros off my order, y’all! The bottle depository is also a hell of a lot nicer. It doesn’t mess up as much as the old one did and you can even get directions in languages other than German.

Germans are pretty serious about recycling, so everyone brings back their bottles for a “Pfand”. That’s the money you deposit for each bottle. I remember, as a kid, I used to collect glass bottles and turn them in for money. Then we moved to redneck Gloucester, Virginia, where everybody just took their trash to the dump. Here in Germany, you have to separate everything into different bins and I’m back to turning in bottles for cash.

I noticed that the store was stocked with pasta, toilet paper, and detergents. All week, I’ve heard that Germans have been panic buying everything– especially pasta, face masks, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer (and just a note from your friendly MPH– washing your hands is a better solution). Germans have a funny term for this type of purchasing– Hamsterkäufen. Yes, it’s akin to the fuzzy rodents known as hamsters, who are known for packing their cheeks full of food. In some places, Germans are likewise buying out stores because of the Coronavirus. But maybe they’re not so panicked in our neighborhood.

I picked up a few items I needed, along with a new rubber chicken for Arran. The cashier got a kick out of the toy and gave it a few squeaks before ringing it up. Arran was delighted to have a new plaything to destroy. He went freakin’ nuts with “crazy dog” when I gave it to him. But I think my most exciting score was sushi. Our new improved Rewe has sushi now! That will be a welcome change from the chicken I’ve been eating all week.

I think we’ll get through the next few days, while Bill visits his long lost younger daughter in Utah. They haven’t seen each other since 2004. There’s a long, painful, convoluted story as to why they’ve been apart for 15 years. I’ve written about it a lot in my original blog. I like to keep this one relatively tame whenever possible. Anyway, I suspect there will be an exciting reunion. He’ll meet his son-in-law and grandchildren. I’ll sit at home and eat sushi from the new and improved Rewe.

I suppose I could get braver and drive somewhere else further afield, but I think I’ve had enough excitement for one day. Besides, Arran went nuts when I left for the store, and I was only gone for about 30 minutes or so. I’ll wash the sheets, do some more writing, and maybe even record a song. I love it when I’m a busy bee.

Coronavirus craziness in Germany!

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I haven’t been writing on the travel blog much lately for a few reasons. One is that I’ve been updating the formatting on this blog so that the old posts are readable. This time of year, when the weather sucks so much that I don’t want to venture out, is the best time to be doing that chore.

Another reason I haven’t been writing much is because Bill has been going on incessant TDYs lately. He’s currently in the United States, and this is his third TDY since the beginning of the year. I don’t really go out much on my own. I could. I’ve got a car and still can drive. In fact, this week, I have both cars! But I have no reason to go anywhere and no desire to deal with the hassles of emerging, even though it would probably do me some good.

And that brings me to the third reason I haven’t been writing much… Coronavirus. To be clear, I’m not worried about it much myself. I don’t mingle with many people and, even if I did get sick, it’s not like many people would miss me. I mean, Bill would… and Arran would… and maybe a few friends and family members. But no one really depends on what I do, so if I bit the big one, it’s no big deal.

I haven’t heard that Germany has been really badly hit with the scourge yet, but that hasn’t stopped people from panicking. Today’s featured photo was taken on Saturday, when Bill went to the Globus to buy some groceries. The entire Italian product section was stripped bare. A local chuckled when she noticed Bill taking a photo of the empty shelves.

My German friend, Susanne, says that she was forced to buy “fancy” toilet paper with flowers on it instead of the plain white she favors because there’s no regular toilet paper in the stores. Even the organic markets are being affected by panicked Germans who are hoarding stuff. Yes, it has been in the news— officially reported that even though health ministers in Germany are warning against it, people are buying out the stores.

The same thing was reported by the commissary on post. Bill went there the other day, too, and he said it was a mad house. Local officials even made an announcement about how stock was depleted faster than expected and that they were working to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

My German friend wonders why people are buying so much soap and paper products just now… and why they aren’t more concerned that there aren’t many isolation beds in this country. They’re all confined to major cities, too.

I did read one interesting account of a man who got Coronavirus after having been trapped on the Diamond Princess cruise ship for two weeks. He started getting sick on the chartered plane ride back to the States, then went into quarantine. He’s now better, and well enough to write an article for the Washington Post. That isn’t to say that people shouldn’t take precautions. Of course they should. But really, the most important thing is to practice good hygiene and have common sense. Wash your hands. That’s the most important thing. Don’t touch your face, especially if you haven’t just washed your hands. And cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze… then wash your hands again.

I’ve been thinking about taking a walk to the Rewe. I haven’t been in there since they renovated it, following the grand opening of a new drink market in December. Bill always goes and leaves me at home. There are a few things we need at home, though, and it would do me some good to get out. On the other hand, if I do go there, will there be anything left to buy? Or will I be reminded of 90s era Armenia, where everything is behind a counter?

Maybe I’ll find out… if the weather holds. If it doesn’t, I’ll keep eating leftovers.

Every girl’s crazy ’bout a kilted man…

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Three months ago, Bill and I were in Glasgow, Scotland, about to embark on our fourth cruise on Hebridean Princess.  While we were in Glasgow, we stopped into a kiltmaker’s shop and got Bill fitted for a kilt of his very own.  We decided to do it because we both love visiting Scotland, especially on Hebridean Princess.  Kilts are very welcome on that ship.  On all of our previous cruises on Hebridean Princess, Bill wore his dress blues on the formal nights.  The uniform, like kilts and tuxedos, has always been well-received on the ship.

Bill retired from the Army in 2014 and there comes a point at which it gets harder to do justice to the Army dress uniform.  I also learned that it might not even be appropriate for a retiree to wear the uniform on a cruise, though I doubt anyone would “bust” Bill on such a British cruise.  On each of our voyages, we have been among a very small number of Americans, none of whom have been affiliated with the military.  In fact, we have found that the Army uniform is quite a conversation starter, especially among the Brits who have also served in the military.  However, I was dying to see Bill in a kilt and kept pestering him to get one.  He finally gave in and indulged me.

While we were in Berlin, the finished kilt arrived.  Our very kind neighbor accepted our box for us while we were out of town.  Bill got the whole package, which included everything except a shirt and a belt and buckle.  Last night, he tried on his new Scottish duds.

Bill decided not to put on the Ghillie brogues (shoes), although they were included.  Below is a video I made of the kiltmaker showing us how the shoes should be tied.  He also didn’t put on the kilt pin, which was included.

 

The tartan used is County Donegal, since our last name is Irish.  Bill’s surname originated in Donegal.  The jackets are made in Donegal.

 

It took just under three months for the kilt to be made.  I think it’s because the tartan we used had to be ordered.  Otherwise, we probably would have had the kilt in late October or early November.  The kiltmaker made the kilt by hand and the quality is excellent.  It set Bill back about 900 GBP (approximately $1300).  But again, everything except the shirt was included in that price, even socks.   And Scots are not supposed to wear underwear under the kilt.  On the other hand, Bill is Irish.  😉

Anyway, for those who are wondering who made this marvelous outfit, here’s the link to the man responsible.  We are very pleased with the finished product, even though we probably could have had it made faster and cheaper at one of the other, larger kiltmakers.  I would highly recommend James Robertson Kiltmaker if you’re ever in Glasgow and looking to be kilted.