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Good intentions waylaid by a Stau…

We have nice weather today, and several fests are going on. I was thinking I might like to go to one in a town near us, since I knew there would be wine, food, and live music. But just after we got on A 66, we hit a Stau… that is, a traffic jam. We must have gotten to it pretty soon after a wreck, as a couple of ambulances passed us while we sat behind an endless processional of cars.

It was just after one o’clock when we hit the Stau, and about 1:45pm when we were finally moving again. We were both so irritated and hangry that we decided to just go to AAFES on post and pick up a few necessary items. I hadn’t been to the PX in many months… it’s probably been over a year. I needed to get some new makeup, because the stuff I’ve been using is probably from the pre-pandemic days. Bill also wanted to get shit bags for the dogs, and an Internet extender for the house.

By the time we were done shopping, we had spent well over $200, mostly on my cosmetics, because I don’t use cheap stuff. I usually buy Lancome, but there wasn’t any way to tell which shades things were, so I switched to Estee Lauder. Then we went to the Pizza Hut Express and got a pizza, which was pretty crappy. Pizza Hut used to be pretty good, back when you could go there and sit in the restaurant for dinner. Now, it’s kind of yucky. But it was handy to get it, since it was after 2pm, and we were both grouchy.

When we got home, the dogs were ecstatic. Noyzi goosed us both in the ass. Then I noticed a funny Carolyn Hax column in the Washington Post, about a woman who was pregnant and having to deal with her mother-in-law treating her like her grandchild’s vessel. For example, they’d go out for Thai food, and Grandma would say, “If that’s what Baby wants…”

My response was, “I’d tell her Baby would rather have a double gin martini.” For some reason, people thought that was a really funny quip. In honor of it, Bill made us gin martinis. See the featured photo for that. ūüėČ

Below are a few photos from the highly annoying Stau. We were used to those in Stuttgart. They aren’t so common up here in Wiesbaden. Good thing we didn’t have our hearts set on doing anything special or having lunch anywhere good.

And no, I did not commit Beleidigung today, although the impulse was there. The martini was made from gin we bought from Vom Fass in Wels, Austria. We finally finished the bottle.

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Germany, restaurant reviews

A marvelous afternoon at Little Italy…

Regular readers of my main blog may notice that I’ve been kind of crabby lately. I was especially irritable yesterday, since I was trying to write the blog post I posted earlier today while listening to kids outside my window shrieking and trying to respond to a private message. I get really cranky when I’m trying to write and can’t concentrate on what I’m doing. I probably should have been on ADD meds when I was a kid because I am very easily distracted. On top of that, I had a tension headache, and Bill was bugging me about going to AAFES. We did need to go to AAFES (military run department store), even though I hate going there, especially now that everyone has to wear face masks.

Military facilities are even more anal retentive about COVID-19 protocol than other places are. Although the guards have stopped giving drivers the third degree every time they enter the gates, there’s still a very strict mask requirement, entry and exit protocol, and handwashing detail. And while it may be necessary for sparing people from getting sick, I also remember that not too long ago, it was not uncommon to find the restrooms at AAFES in pretty disgusting shape. I have pictures of ones I encountered in Stuttgart as well as vivid memories of the remnants of other people’s dumps lingering in the toilets at the food courts. So while enforcing the over-the-top COVID-19 requirements may be a very good idea right now, they seem rather disingenuous to me after a lifetime of patronizing the BX/PX (AAFES).

I finally gave up on the blog post after trying to upload a few photos. I came back to my post, only to find that over half of it was somehow wiped out. After uttering a few choice words at the computer screen, I went downstairs, where Bill was busily “beagle proofing” (although Arran is probably more of a pointer than a beagle). He asked me if I was hungry. I legitimately wasn’t, although I knew that we were about to hit the dreaded “pause” hour of 2:00pm. Bill proposed picking up a pizza from Pizza Hut, because I had mentioned getting a pizza somewhere (I meant at a real restaurant). I used to like Pizza Hut pizzas, but they have really gone downhill over the past ten years or so.

So anyway, we went to AAFES. I dutifully put on the fucking mask and washed my hands, rushing to pick up the few items I needed… expensive Lancome face cream for my middle aged face, ponytail holders for my growing grey hair, and a couple of new dog toys for Arran to replace the ones he’s destroyed. I love that Arran is ten and still loves his toys. I don’t love that he only recently quit using my favorite rug as a Hundetoilet. God help us when the new pooch moves in, sometime soon. Bill picked up some more shit bags for the dog walking, of which we could soon be legally compelled to do twice as much of at some point soon (though I doubt it will be enforced).

As we were waiting in the obnoxious checkout line that stretched down the lotion and skincare aisle, Bill asked me what I wanted to do about lunch. I had no desire to eat in the food court, so initially, I said we should go by Five Guys and get takeout. But then I remembered Little Italy, a great restaurant I’ve blogged about several times since our move to Wiesbaden. There is a Little Italy on post. That’s not the one I’m writing about now. I am referring to a small restaurant in the heart of Wiesbaden, where they serve lovely Italian dishes, nice wines, and luscious desserts. Before the pandemic, we used to go there fairly often. Yesterday was our first time back since February, I think.

Bill made a reservation on OpenTable.de, noting that Little Italy does not take an afternoon pause. We got there at about 2:15pm. The proprietor, a friendly bald guy who speaks English, looked slightly panicked when Bill announced our arrival. Bill then noticed that the entire dining room was set as if there was going to be a large party. But when Bill said we had a reservation, he told us to find a table outside. The weather was glorious, so that was a pleasure to do.

A lovely young woman came over to take our drink order and have us sign the paperwork for contract tracing. Bill got me a glass of white wine from Sicily. He got himself a white wine from Lugano. Then, we both ordered dishes from the specials, presented on a chalk board in front of us. Bill had saltimbocca made of dorade. I had a salmon filet with rucola pesto, mashed sweet potatoes, and ratatouille (pisto).

While we were waiting for our food, a large group of well-dressed people showed up. I soon gathered that this was why the proprietor had looked a little stressed when we arrived. There were bottles of bubbly chilling in ice buckets until umbrellas near us. I had mistakenly thought they had set up a little wine stand, but no, that was for the people partying at Little Italy. Hopefully, none of them were carriers of the COVID-19 virus, since they weren’t wearing masks.

A tiny little blonde girl of about three came over to play with the Champagne bottles pictured in the gallery above. She had huge blue eyes and was sincerely adorable. We smiled at her while she played with the bubbly bottles and the nearby decorative water fountain. A few minutes later, I heard her shrieking as her mom struggled to contain her. Finally, mom put her in the stroller and methodically strapped her down while she wailed. I figured it was probably nap time for her… having been cranky myself a little while ago, I could commiserate, too.

I soon forgot about being cranky as we enjoyed lunch. I mostly enjoyed the bright colors of my dish, even if I’m not the biggest ratatouille or sweet potato fan. I managed to finish most of it, with Bill’s help. Bill really loved the dorade, which was accented with sage and bacon. He said he would definitely order it again if he had the opportunity.

As we were eating, the little blonde girl came outside. I watched her pick her nose while her grandmother smoked a cigarette. It occurred to me that kids are just so unabashed and unashamed about anything. Maybe watching that tiny girl explore the world around her without a mask is why I found this morning’s New York Times article about training kids to wear masks so very depressing. The masks have the effect of making communication and exploration more difficult, especially for the youngest among us. But, with any luck, there will be an effective vaccine or treatment that will make this brave new pandemic world less ominous and irritating. I always wanted to have children, but I am grateful I’m not a parent dealing with this pandemic stuff right now. I think it would drive me crazy.

For dessert, I had limoncello sorbet with mangos and pears, while Bill had tiramisu. Neither of us really needed dessert, but the weather was just so nice, and I was enjoying being out and about, watching people celebrate in a normal way. I used to take doing stuff on the weekends for granted. Now, when we get to have lunch somewhere nice, it’s a real treat. Maybe that’s one of the silver linings to the COVID-19 situation. I’ve often said that every bad situation has its positives. I don’t take a nice meal at a good restaurant for granted as I might have in 2019…

The bill was about 89 euros. Bill gave our lovely waitress a 100 euro note and said “Stimmt”. We really had a nice time. I hope we can do it again sometime soon. Then we came home and I set to work trying to wash the stench out of Arran’s Klo on my blue carpet. It’s now outside drying… and I fear that my efforts may have been for naught. Oh well… at least we had a good meal, and hopefully, we’ll stay healthy.

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coronavirus, Germany, Military, takeout

My first time out of the neighborhood since March 14th…

Bill and I had to go on post today. We both needed to get our vision tested for new driver’s licenses and I needed passport photos for a renewal. So, for the first time since March 14th, I rode in the car. This time, it was with face masks I bought from Amazon.de. They’re the surgical kind, since they were the easiest to get my hands on quickly. I bought a pack of ten.

As we passed the entrance to our neighborhood, I was reminded of a month ago, when the dog we had hoped to adopt escaped his pet transport and got hit by a car. We live very close to Autobahn 3 and Autobahn 66. A3 is literally right next to our neighborhood. I felt a little sick thinking about that poor dog disoriented, terrified, and lost as he ran away from what could have been the lap of luxury for him. He was so close… And it will probably be a while before we can get our next dog.

Maybe it’s for the best, since it’s hard to get the routine services we need. Bill needs to get new rear tires for his car, since we had snow tires put on them in France back in December. I need to get my car serviced. Arran, Bill, and I all need dental cleanings, which means a vet visit for Arran and the dentist for Bill and me. Germany is starting to loosen up some restrictions, but everyone has to wear masks now in any place where social distancing isn’t easy.

We did decide to order take out again last night. Our local Italian joint/sportsplatz, La Fonte, had pizza and pasta on offer. Bill said the family that runs the restaurant was sitting outside drinking wine as they handed over the orders. They were doing a good business. We’ll probably get more take out tonight, since I’m tired of Bill’s cooking and we want to support local businesses. I’m kidding, actually. Bill has turned into a great cook. But I do want to give some business to the restaurants, since they have provided me with content for so long.

The drive to post was even quicker than usual, since there wasn’t so much traffic. We got to the gate and a uniformed guy in a mask asked us the three important questions about whether or not we had been exposed to COVID-19, whether or not we had symptoms, and if we were ordered to be quarantined by a medical officer. We both said no to all three questions, then presented our IDs to be scanned touchlessly.

This is probably a European eye test as opposed to an American one. It’s probably harder to cheat on it, since it’s not letters. I remember doing one in Armenia that was different, too. It was a Russian eye test.

The PX opened for regular folks (as opposed to high risk folks) at 11:00am. We needed the optical shop. A sergeant was standing there in his mask, enforcing the wait time. Finally, at 11:00, we all washed our hands, donned our masks, and went in. Taking the eye exam was weird. It was a German style test, which meant telling the examiner where the openings were. I had trouble with my left eye until I realized that the steam from behind the mask was fogging up the lens. Once I let the steam dissipate, I could read everything properly.

After the eye test, we found the passport photo booth, where I got new pictures done for my passport. I was actually quite pleased with them, since the photo I’ve had since 2011 is horrible. In that picture, I look fat, hungover, and my hair is a yucky shade of dark brown. I gave up hair color several years ago, because the hard German water mixed with dye was turning it into straw. So now I’m back to my original blonde with silvery hints. And the new pictures done by a machine are prettier and have more natural light, even if I still look fat. The weird thing is, it’s just like taking a selfie with your phone. You think you’re going to look like you do on the monitor, but your image is reversed. But for some reason, it looks less ridiculous taken by the machine.

We went into the PX to pick up a few things… I got a new hairbrush, conditioner, and lotion for my horribly dry skin. I think I have eczema on my boobs, which is not very pleasant. The hard water and constant washing has turned my skin into leather. Edited to add: my German friend says there is soft water in parts of Germany, however in all of the places I’ve lived, it’s been very hard by American standards. It’s been hardest of all in Wiesbaden, where there was so much chalk on our taps when we moved in that we couldn’t turn one of them on and had to get it replaced. We also have to use salt in the dishwasher or else our dishes look terrible. Vinegar is useful for getting rid of some of the Kalk, but it’s an ongoing battle.

After about twenty minutes with the mask, I was ready to get the hell out of the PX. It wasn’t as stifling as I feared it would be, but the thing kept going into my eyes, requiring me to touch it to adjust it, which you shouldn’t do. Anyway… since this was a momentous occasion, I did get some photos…

Anyway… I’m glad to have that chore done with for now. I’ve been bugging Bill about our driver’s licenses and my passport for ages. We should have done it before this coronavirus mess started. Hindsight, unlike my eyesight, is 20/20.

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Uncategorized

Five Guys in Wiesbaden!

It’s raining cats and dogs today, and I needed to go to AAFES to pick up a few things. Bill has to go to Stuttgart tomorrow, so we decided to head into Wiesbaden for lunch and a little ‘Murican shopping on post. I kind of didn’t want to go into town because of the steady rain and unseasonably warm temperatures, but Bill was curious to see how our brand new Five Guys location was doing.

If you read last week’s post, you might know that we overheard an employee at Wiesbaden’s latest burger restaurant telling people that they would be opening their store on Thursday, January 30th. Bill and I have been to the one in Frankfurt a couple of times, as well as ones in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland. And, since I am a Virginian and we used to live in Northern Virginia, we have also tried one of the original Five Guys’ restaurants (the chain was founded in Arlington, Virginia in 1986), as well as the Five Guys outlets that have been springing up like kudzu all over the United States. The funny thing is, I distinctly remember reading back in 2002 or so that the Murrell family would never allow anyone to franchise their restaurants. Now, every time I turn around, a new one is opening. They’re probably rolling in money now.

Anyway, we noticed that today, there wasn’t that much of a line. The first time we went to the one in Frankfurt, there was a line out the door. I actually saw tables open, even though it was prime time for lunch. So, just because I do like a good burger and I wanted to visit this location before it turns into a total zoo, we decided to try it. Here are some pictures.

I was pleased to discover that the burgers we had today were just like the ones we’ve had in the States. In fact, even the pickles were right. Last time we ate at Five Guys, I didn’t like the pickles because they were sweet. Today, they used “spicy” ones, which aren’t actually spicy as much as they are sour.

I enjoyed the music playing– lots of decent rock from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, although it was turned up a bit loud. I told Bill that I wouldn’t enjoy working at Five Guys due to the noise, fast paced environment, and the extremely bright lighting. In fact, as much as I do like a good burger, I don’t even really enjoy sitting in their dining rooms because they’re so loud and bright. But I was pretty happy with the hot, juicy burger. The cheese was melted well and they got the order right.

Besides burgers, you can get hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, BLTs (bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches), and veggie sandwiches. They also have “freestyle Coca-Cola” with free refills, Evian water, and milkshakes. I saw a lot of people with shakes today. I might try one myself someday, although I would probably have to go there only for the shake. There’s no way I could have a burger and a milkshake in one sitting. I’d probably throw up from the excess. As it was, we didn’t even finish half of our one order of regular fries!

Some people complain about the prices at Five Guys. Our burgers were priced at 9,50 euros, which is admittedly higher than what you might find at, say, Burger King. But the burgers at Five Guys are all beef, never frozen, and aren’t loaded with way too much mayo. I don’t think we’ll go to Five Guys regularly, especially since I have a feeling it’s going to be super busy as it catches on in Wiesbaden, However, for the occasional burger, I don’t mind if I do… I hear Stuttgart’s location opens on Monday, so there’s no longer any need for anyone to make a road trip from down there to Frankfurt just so they can get their American style burger fix.

This is more my style.

After we ate, we dropped by AAFES, where I wasn’t able to find exactly what I was looking for. I got what I could find, then got in line. While we were standing there, ready to pay, I looked over to the entrance of the store and spotted a young man wearing a t-shirt that read “Fucking Slayer” as he held on to a handle of a baby carriage. Then, as the cashier was ringing us up, she talked to the customers ahead of us, who were waiting on a price check. The man said the cashier was good at multi-tasking, and the cashier said, “Yes, I am surprisingly good at multi-tasking. When it’s slow, I drop shit.” I guess nowadays, people don’t even try to stifle what are traditionally known as “swear words”.

At least I didn’t see any curlers today…

I am certainly not a prude when it comes to off-color language. I just thought it was kind of funny that she said “shit” out loud without batting an eye. That, and the guy’s profane t-shirt, reminded me of a time when a person could be kicked off an installation for wearing something like that in public. When I was a kid, certain clothes weren’t allowed to be worn… like, if a woman wore curlers or spandex in a shopping area on post, she might be asked to leave.

In my mom’s day, women weren’t even allowed to wear pants or shorts in the commissary or the officer’s club. Nowadays, when I go to AAFES, it’s like a live rendition of the People of Walmart. There’s nothing like a visit to AAFES to remind one of his or her ‘Murican roots. Ah well… I don’t really care too much about that issue. I just thought it was funny and interesting. As much as I curse, I would probably blush if I accidentally swore in front of customers. But I guess it’s not a big deal nowadays.

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Sundays

Another Sunday shopping trip…

Bill and I are taking a road trip to France for Christmas. We’re bringing Arran with us, so we’ll be staying in self-catered places. My friend, Audra, lives in Nimes, and we’ll be seeing her and her family, as well as stopping in Beaune on the way there and back.

I wanted to pick up a few things on the installation at Hainerberg yesterday– stuff like supplies for wrapping Christmas presents and such, and a few groceries, since I felt like making a dessert I hadn’t had in years, a cherry cream cheese pie. So we took the Mini out of the garage and went to AAFES and the commissary. The Mini needed to be driven, since it gets less action thanks to the new car. We ran into one of Bill’s co-workers at the PX, while we were standing in line to pay. Then we picked up our stuff at the commissary, and headed into Wiesbaden for lunch.

I wasn’t in the mood to screw around as we looked for lunch. It took awhile to find a parking spot. It was impossible at our usual garage, which became “Besezt” as we were driving up and down looking for a free spot. We were successful at the next garage, at the Kurhaus. We had to park on the second floor, though, because that garage was also packed. I was a little worried that it would be hard to find a restaurant that wasn’t crowded, but I needn’t have fretted. Little Italy was wide open at about 1:30pm. Better yet, when we walked inside, were immediately recognized and warmly welcomed!

I was impressed by the waiter, who even remembered what Bill had the last time we were there. To put this into perspective, without looking it up on the blog, I don’t even know when we were last there! I guess it was a couple of months ago. Little Italy has become a favorite restaurant, though. The food never disappoints; the service is good and very friendly; and it’s not hard to get in and out of there. Here are some pictures from our lunch.

Our lunch at Little Italy was nice and leisurely. At one point, they cranked up the music by mistake, and the older Germans that were in there with us started laughing. I’ve noticed that Germans seem to enjoy quirky, slapstick humor, and people who act like fools. I think it’s because the culture here is a lot more serious and uptight than American culture is. In many ways, I like it… but I do get a kick out of what they find funny.

Arran was happy to see us when we got home. After we let him out and fed him dinner, he went to lie down in the living room. Bill went upstairs for a moment, then came back downstairs looking a little pale. He said, “For a split second, I could have sworn I saw Arran upstairs, flitting past me, but he’s down here. So now I wonder if it was Zane.‚ÄĚ

“So you think that was Zane’s ghost?” I asked.

“Yeah.” Bill nodded. “I guess he’s going to hang around until we find a new dog.”

We usually get new dogs within a month of losing one, but it’s easier to do that in the United States. There, people don’t hold it against us that we’re Americans affiliated with the military. We also don’t travel as much or as often there. We decided to wait on getting a new dog until after our road trip to France, since we’re going to need to take time breaking it in. To be honest, as much as I want another dog, I feel a little apprehensive about the process of getting one. I guess that when the time is right, the right dog will show up.

It’s always heartbreaking to look at Facebook memories at this time of year. In December 2009, Zane joined our family as a young dog. In December 2012, MacGregor was dying of cancer. Both are gone now, and they were both wonderful dogs. I miss them… and I don’t know how another dog will fill Zane’s pawprints. But I also know that I’ve never regretted a single dog we’ve taken in, and somehow they all manage to be wonderful in their own special ways. I much prefer dogs and other animals to most people, too. Pets love you for who you are and don’t screw you over.

Bill’s mom is coming here next month, so I don’t know how much searching we will do in January. I suspect we might have a new friend in the spring… We’ll see.

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Uncategorized

A visit to little America– Ramstein Air Force Base…

Bill and I have now lived in our house for almost seven weeks. ¬†We’re mostly settled, although until today, there were still a few things that needed to find homes. ¬†Bill had some text books from his latest master’s degree program that had nowhere to go, and the small collection of actual books I have in Germany had taken up all of the space on the one bookshelf I had allotted to our shared office.

I always buy cookbooks at Christmas, but only a few of them get much action in the kitchen.  The matching bookshelf to the one in our office was, until today, located in our dining room.  It was holding all of the cookbooks we never use.  This past year, because I bought a couple of extra books, there were a few cookbooks that needed a home.  Also, we had some kitchen gadgets that needed storage.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been looking for a nice bookshelf for the downstairs. ¬†What I found on the local Amazon site wasn’t thrilling me, and I found nothing at all at the Wiesbaden AAFES. ¬†German mod style doesn’t excite me, either.

Then I realized that Bill’s desk chair would probably scratch the brand new flooring in our office if I didn’t find him a rug. ¬†Our Wiesbaden AAFES does not have a Turkish rug guy like Stuttgart has (and I’m actually pretty happy with the rugs we bought in Stuttgart in November– they’re much nicer than the ones I bought a few years ago). ¬†I thought maybe Ramstein would have a permanent rug guy at their PX, the way Heidelberg used to and Stuttgart still does.

Finally, I realized that my skin is no longer taking makeup like it used to. ¬†I have dry skin and when I apply makeup, it collects in my pores and makes me look even freakier than ever. ¬†I need to start using primer under foundation so it doesn’t get all cakey and gross looking. ¬†That meant a trip to the Lancome counter was in order.

Chili’s was also on the agenda…

With all of these items on my list, plus the prospect of getting some Southwestern Egg Rolls at Chili’s, I told Bill maybe we should go to Ramstein to see what was at the huge PX/BX there. ¬†We now live about 80 minutes from Ramstein, quite a bit closer than we did when we were in Stuttgart. ¬†Bill hates going there, but conceded that maybe it would be a good idea to see what the largest AAFES in Europe has to offer.

Ramstein’s Exchange is absolutely humongous. ¬†It was opened on September 23, 2009, which was just one week after we left Germany the first time we lived here. ¬†At the time it was opened, it was the largest AAFES in the world. ¬†I would not be surprised if it still is. ¬†It’s enormous, especially compared to every other AAFES I’ve ever seen.

By the way, we never did visit Ramstein during our first Stuttgart tour. ¬†Our first time visiting Ramstein was in 2012, when we took our very first Space A hop from Baltimore. ¬†We flew in and out of Ramstein on that trip, as well as the Space A trip we took in 2014 to Germany and France. ¬†I remember sitting at the bar in the now defunct Chili’s Too at the AAFES mall, talking to a soldier who had basically been forced to move from England to Germany due to mental health issues. ¬†It was an interesting and disturbing conversation. ¬†I wonder how that guy is doing and hope he’s okay.

During our 2014 visit, I recall being sad to be leaving Germany to go back to Texas, where Bill would then retire. ¬†I was worried about what would come next. ¬†We didn’t know at the time that¬†we’d be moving back to Germany¬†just weeks after that trip; we’d taken our vacation thinking it might be our last chance to enjoy Europe before Bill left the Army. ¬†Little did we know…

I remember visiting the PX during one or both of those Space A trips, but we didn’t buy anything there, since we were not stationed in Europe at the time. ¬†Back then, I noticed that half of the shops were vacant.

The next time¬†we visited Ramstein¬†was in June 2017, on our way to Belgium. ¬†We stopped by to gas up the car and had horrible burgers from Johnny Rocket’s. ¬†I didn’t go inside the mall because we had our dogs with us.

The vast food court at Ramstein. ¬†It’s probably got twice as many vendors as other AAFES food courts have. ¬†They had Chinese food and even Anthony’s Pizza, which used to have a location at Patch Barracks when we lived in Germany the first time. ¬†Anthony’s is long gone from Stuttgart, but Ramstein still has one, along with a Pizza Hut Express. ¬†There’s also a Ramstein “Hofbrau” restaurant that looked somewhat lame, but probably has good food.

I had to take a picture of the tiny sewing/knitting area. ¬†When I was growing up, AAFES had a decent sized sewing section, but not so much anymore. ¬†I don’t sew or do needle crafts, but my mom owned her own business selling knitting and needlepoint supplies. ¬†She taught many people how to knit. ¬†I was not among them.

Spotted at the Birkenstock Outlet… ¬†I think they’re pretty tacky, but I’m sure someone else loves them. ¬†My dad, rest his soul, would probably wear these. ¬†I noticed all of the store space was taken at Ramstein. ¬†I don’t think I saw a single vacant space yesterday. ¬†

Bill makes it a point to avoid Ramstein when he can help it. ¬†He says it’s too much like being back in the States. ¬†After today’s visit, I’m inclined to agree. ¬†It’s a shock to go to that base and see just how much American stuff is there. ¬†It really does feel like “home”. ¬†As crowded as our local AAFES can get on the weekends, the one at Ramstein kind of puts it to shame. ¬†It’s just huge– it looks like a legitimate American style mall. ¬†And besides the Exchange, there’s also a Birkenstock Outlet, a spa, a Swarovski store, and several fast food joints in the food court I’ve not seen in other places.

So… today, we went to AAFES at Ramstein, braving the nasty January rainy weather. ¬†I found the primer for my face. ¬†Then, we located a bookshelf for the cookbooks. ¬†I looked at the rugs offered by the Turkish rug guy, who appeared to have a temporary station under the escalators, but he didn’t have what I needed. ¬†The rugs were either the wrong color or size, or they were way too expensive. ¬†I found one really nice looking rug that would have worked for the area next to our bed that needs protection from our dogs’ toenails (they take flying leaps onto the bed, and that can cause scratches). ¬†It was priced at 1149 euros, which is way more than I wanted to spend on a rug that shares living space with dogs.

Bill’s area sporting AAFES’ finest… ¬†I probably wouldn’t have bought it under normal circumstances, but it works for now.

I did, however, find a rather psychedelic looking tie-dyed looking rug that would do the trick for Bill’s office chair. ¬†It was tucked away among a pile of cheap rugs at the Exchange and came a bit closer to matching the colors in the much nicer Oriental rug on my side of the office. ¬†Next time we visit Stuttgart, we’ll hit up the rug guy on Panzer. ¬†Hopefully, he’ll still be there.

After we shopped– and Bill traded gossip with a former co-worker he ran into who now works at Ramstein– we went to Chili’s. ¬†The Chili’s Too we visited at the PX in 2014 is now a Macaroni Grill. ¬†It’s just as well that the Chili’s Too was closed, since I don’t remember liking it much when we visited in 2014. ¬†The bartender had pissed me off for some reason. ¬†Fortunately, my memory fails me now. ¬†Also, I recall that location only had a limited menu.

The Chili’s we went to today offers the whole menu. ¬†To get to Chili’s, we had to drive to the Enlisted Club on Lawn Road. ¬†It’s right next to the bowling alley. ¬†When we arrived at the restaurant, which is in a building that also hosts a P.F. Chang’s, we were confronted by a crowd of people waiting to be seated.

I noticed a rather strange, sour aroma in the air that made me wonder if we should abandon our plans to get Southwestern Eggrolls and go somewhere else.  But the hostess said the wait was only ten minutes, so we stuck it out.

Bill checks out the well-used menu.  I found a piece of a straw wrapper in mine. 

The noise level in the Chili’s was really high. ¬†I felt a little like I was having lunch in an elementary school cafeteria. ¬†Babies were shrieking; toddlers were crying; kids were yelling; and adults were talking very loudly. ¬†I had forgotten how loud Americans can be in groups. ¬†I don’t say this to be disparaging. ¬†It’s just that I’ve noticed that since we’ve lived in Germany, Bill and I find ourselves speaking in lower voices when we’re in public. ¬†I think it’s partly because we don’t want to be too obviously American. ¬†I guess I paid close attention to all of those AFN OPSEC PSAs I used to see when I was in the Peace Corps in Armenia.

Anyway, it was extremely loud in there and very busy. ¬†I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be a quiet lunch, but there was definitely a lot more noise than I’m used to or had anticipated. ¬†But then, we were there in the afternoon, which is probably prime nap time for a lot of young kids. ¬†Some of them really sounded like it was time to nap.

I took this message to heart…

 

Although the ear splitting din in the restaurant sorely tempted me to get a Margarita, I decided to have a beer. ¬†Good thing I did, too, because our food got to us before our beers did. ¬†And when they arrived, they had, as my Irish friend Chris would say, “shitty wee heads” on them. ¬†Quite disappointing.

We decided to split the “Ultimate Dipper”, which is a platter of fried stuff… but it includes Southwestern Eggrolls, which is really all I wanted, anyway. ¬†Besides the eggrolls, you get Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers, Crispy Cheddar Bites, Signature Wings, and (Regular) Chicken Crispers. ¬†You also get six “dips”– basically different salad dressings like honey mustard, blue cheese, avocado ranch, and ancho chili ranch. ¬†Oh, and there are also a few celery stalks for all you health nuts out there. ¬†The two kinds of Chicken Crispers, by the way, weren’t really like each other. ¬†One was like beer battered chicken and the other was like crispy chicken drenched in sweet, spicy maple syrup. ¬†It wasn’t unlike General Tsao’s Chicken.

I’m glad we shared this. ¬†We didn’t finish it. ¬†Chili’s also offers fajitas, burgers, ribs, soups, and Tex Mex stuff, as well as steaks, salads, and at least one pasta dish. ¬†I mainly go there for eggrolls.

I think the waitress was surprised to see we didn’t need any refills on the “dips”. ¬†Neither of us likes to use a lot of condiments. ¬†A little dab’ll do ya.

Our waitress was very friendly. ¬†I have no complaints at all about her service, especially since the place was a bit of a zoo. ¬†For some reason, it took awhile to get our beers, so she brought us water in the meantime, which I appreciated. ¬†It was even still tap water, like you get in the States (although I like mine fizzy). ¬†However, I was kind of disappointed in the appetizer. ¬†The Cheddar Bites tasted like they’d been sitting awhile, and didn’t taste that good. ¬†Actually, the whole thing looked a little wilted and tired, like it wasn’t quite as fresh as it should have been. ¬†It reminded me of something I might extract from a box that came from the frozen food aisle at the commissary.

Also, I was a bit grossed out by the ladies room. ¬†At least one of the bathroom stalls had a broken lock, and another had the remnants of someone’s dump on the toilet seat. ¬†It didn’t exactly make me feel better after eating all that fried stuff.

Still, I did get my Southwestern Eggroll fix, which was really all I wanted. ¬†It was also a pretty cheap lunch. ¬†I think we paid about $26 and still had leftovers. ¬†And after that trip to Ramstein, I feel pretty certain I won’t need to visit again for awhile. ¬†In fact, it was kind of like a vaccine against visiting the States. ¬†It’s been four years since I last set foot in America. ¬†I don’t know when I’ll be going back, but I think I’m definitely content to stay in Germany for now.

I’m sort of kidding. ¬†There are certainly good restaurants in the States, and I do still have many friends and loved ones there. ¬†But every once in awhile, it’s good to be reminded why one should savor their time abroad. ¬†I remember missing Germany something terrible when we moved in 2009. ¬†I pined for it for five years, even though some good things happened during those five years away. ¬†I know not everyone feels this way. ¬†Some people cannot wait to move back to the States. ¬†Me? ¬†I think I love Europe. ¬†It really suits me. ¬†And while Chili’s is okay for the occasional Southwestern Eggroll, I think I’ll stick to European restaurants for now… ¬†There will surely come a day when I’ll be missing them again, too.

And now, perhaps it’s time for a Margarita in my nice, quiet, dining room.

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A decadent Sunday lunch at Little Italy Cucina Italiana in Wiesbaden…

Back in October of 2018, Bill and I visited Wiesbaden for the first time.  Our purpose was to househunt.  We stayed in Town Hotel Wiesbaden, a small hotel downtown, with our two dogs, so we tried several restaurants near the hotel.  Little Italy Cucina Italiana was one of the restaurants we dined at, and you can read my write up of that experience here on this blog.

Today, we needed to visit our local military installation for some supplies. ¬†I needed some high-end make up and Bill needed to get my car set up for fueling. ¬†We stopped by AAFES first, and ended up having a very entertaining and longwinded chat with the customer service guy, who’s lived in Wiesbaden since 1974. ¬†He got my Mini Cooper squared away with a fuel ration card and told us all about the history of the military in the area at the same time. ¬†I probably would have enjoyed chatting with him all day, and he seemed willing, but we had more shopping to do. ¬†So once we had my makeup in hand, we headed for the commissary.

We bought some food staples, but discovered we forgot the Bisquik once we got home. ¬†There’s always something we miss! ¬†Sadly, it’s not as easy to rectify things in Wiesbaden, since there’s only one commissary as opposed to the four in the Stuttgart area. ¬†Nevertheless, I got us some cleaning supplies and junk food I’ve been craving and definitely shouldn’t be eating. ¬†Then we stopped by the Shoppette for some wine to help ring in the new year.

After we were finished shopping, it was about 2:00pm.  We went to Wiesbaden, parked, and headed into the city center.  Our journey took us past Little Italy Cucina Italiana.  Neither Bill nor I really felt like hunting for a place to eat and it was clear the restaurant was not taking a pause.  In we walked, and we were warmly greeted by a lovely waitress who spoke excellent English.

Last time we ate at Little Italy, we dined outside. ¬†This is possible in most weather, since they have installed heaters over the tables. ¬†Inside, the dining room is very tiny, as are the tables. ¬†We took a corner table that was situated very close to another table. ¬†Fortunately, it wasn’t busy.

I told Bill I was in the mood for a really beautiful lunch. ¬†Lo and behold, that’s what I got. ¬†As we listened to 80s era pop hits remade into smooth jazz, Bill and I ate our way through three dynamite courses. ¬†Feast your eyes…

Out front. ¬†I noticed the English speaking proprietor in the window. ¬†I remembered him from last time. ¬†He’s very friendly and good at suggesting things. ¬†The guy walking into the restaurant was memorable. ¬†He appeared to be waiting for a staff member and walked in as if he owned the place. ¬†He had on skinny jeans, walked with a confident swagger, and shook the proprietor’s hand as he caught his reflection in the mirror and fixed his hair.

 

This is about half of the dining room. ¬†It’s not the smallest restaurant I’ve ever been to, but it’s pretty small.

 

The “bar”.

 

Obligatory shot of Bill.

We started with super fresh bread, olive oil with tomato paste, and San Pellegrino…

And excellent red wines by the glass.

The last time we visited, I was intrigued by a raw tuna and avocado appetizer. ¬†I didn’t order it the last time, since it was almost 20 euros and I figured it would be big. ¬†Bill and I split it this time. ¬†I’m glad we split it. ¬†It was delicious and super fresh, but a lot for one person. ¬†It was citrusy tuna with avocado bits, along with a tiny salad. ¬†Topped with a bread stick and garnished with pomegranate seeds that helped cut the saltiness, this was a lovely starter. ¬†At the end, I got just a hint of ginger.

 

My main dish was spaghetti sepia, basically dyed with squid ink, and served with creamy hummer (lobster) sauce and shrimp. ¬†I managed half, since I was saving room for dessert. ¬†This was a bit heavy, but satisfying. ¬†Next time, I’d have it without the starter.

 

Bill went with Osso Bucco, basically a veal pot roast served with a tomato and carrot sauce, and garnished with quince. ¬†Again, a bit heavy, but delicious. ¬†I don’t eat a lot of veal, but I did try this dish. ¬†If you like very tender, flavorful meat that falls off the bone, this is for you.

 

Our lunch was very leisurely and enjoyable. ¬†The staff wasn’t rushed, so the service was excellent and the food was delightful. ¬†It was interesting to people watch, too. ¬†This restaurant is located on a somewhat busy street that brings a lot of foot traffic. ¬†I noticed this restaurant is very popular with Italians, too. ¬†Always a good sign in an Italian restaurant in Germany!

I couldn’t resist having dessert. ¬†I gave some thought to having something off the regular menu, but our bald friend had a suggestion. ¬†He had “baba”, which was basically like a very decadent sponge cake soaked in rum, served with candied cherries, and topped with chocolate ganache. ¬†It wasn’t too large and came in two pieces, so it was perfect for sharing.

Yummy!  The perfect end to a lovely meal.

Bill had an espresso, while I finished my Primitivo.

All told, we spent about 100 euros before the tip, which Bill paid for with a credit card. ¬†The proprietor asked us if we had his phone number. ¬†I’m sure he doesn’t mind guests like us, since we ate a lot and tipped well. ¬†And it was very obvious we were having a good time… I left there gushing, “What a fabulous meal!”

The proprietor wished us a happy new year, then told us next time we’re “boring”, to give him a call. ¬†I had to laugh, since our old veterinarian in Herrenberg made the same error. ¬†There must be something in German grammar that causes people to say “boring” when they mean “bored”. ¬†But hell, I don’t speak German worth a damn, so I can’t make too much fun. ¬†I just thought it was funny. ¬†I’ve been called a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them.

We really like Little Italy and I think we’ll probably be regulars. ¬†The food is always good. ¬†The service is friendly and professional. ¬†And we’re always warmed welcomed by the man in charge. ¬†That makes it a winning destination… especially since they don’t seem to take an afternoon pause and we like to eat lunch late.

I got a couple of shots of the action at the ice skating rink.  Looks like there will be quite a party in Wiesbaden tomorrow night!

Incidentally, I still haven’t finished yesterday’s Five Guys cheeseburger… I better start walking my dogs more before my ass gets its own zip code.

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Shopping American in Wiesbaden…

Bill and I spent last weekend getting to know our local military installation. ¬†Wiesbaden is a bit different than Stuttgart, which at this writing, has commissaries on each of its four installations. ¬†In Wiesbaden, there’s only one commissary, and it’s located on Hainerberg, which is not the installation where Bill works. ¬†We wanted to buy a few items that aren’t generally available in German grocery stores. ¬†AAFES, too, is located on Hainerberg, which is also where the American schools and stairwell housing are. ¬†Hainerberg is close to Wiesbaden proper.

This week, I knew I would be getting Internet access and we also planned to get German TV. ¬†Prior to last weekend, we had two TVs. ¬†One was a Hitachi model we bought in 2007, when we lived in the Stuttgart area the first time. ¬†That one is compatible with German TV and is dual voltage, although it’s showing its age. ¬†It works fine, but it’s kind of small. ¬†It’s funny, because I remember we paid $899 for it at Panzer Kaserne and I remember thinking it was a huge, snazzy TV back then. ¬† Now, it looks puny and prehistoric. ¬†Even though it’s a “flatscreen” TV, it’s at least twice as thick as today’s models. ¬†I remember thinking it was such a new fangled set, having grown up with a huge floor model box TV that had no remote control. ¬†Times, and TVs, have really changed.

Our other TV was purchased in 2013 at a Target near San Antonio. ¬†That one I figured wouldn’t be compatible with German TV and isn’t dual voltage. ¬†We used it for DVDs and Apple TV in Stuttgart. Now that I know a bit more about modern “smart” TVs, I realize our Target purchased television probably would work with German cable.

Saturday, we decided to go to AAFES to look for a new TV. ¬†We found one. ¬†It’s a 55 inch Samsung model with a curved screen. ¬†It’s a huge TV for us. ¬†I never thought we’d ever go that large. ¬†At $799, it was $100 less than what we paid for our comparatively puny Hitachi from 2007.

It was probably not the best idea to buy a TV at AAFES, since they really only sell American electronics there. ¬†I mean, there are times when you can find 220 appliances ¬†there, and we did find our dual voltage PAL/NTSC compatible TV at the Panzer AAFES. ¬†However, as a general rule, most of what they offer isn’t really Europe friendly. ¬†If you’re planning to move back to the States after three years, that’s probably not such a big deal. ¬†But we’ve been in Germany four years so far and may be here for at least a couple more years. ¬†We probably should have hit Media Markt.

The sales guy at AAFES explained that the old PAL/NTSC thing of old TVs is no longer a thing.  Now, if you have a receiver, you can access German TV with a smart TV.  We were also under the impression that our new TV is dual voltage and, we thought, like our old Hitachi from 2007, it might even come with both American and European plugs.

Well… sadly, we were mistaken. ¬†The new TV is not dual voltage and did not come with compatible plugs. ¬†Like our other “smart” TV, it requires a transformer. ¬†And, when the Deutsche Telekom guy came to install the Internet and our TV service, he said that we needed more Internet equipment besides the receiver they sent us. ¬†I think he said we needed another router and somewhere to hook up to a phone. ¬†There is a phone outlet in our bedroom, but it doesn’t function. ¬†So… our new TV will handle Apple TV and DVDs. ¬†I don’t know if we’ll get German TV or not. ¬†I guess it doesn’t matter. ¬†I’ll let Bill sort it out.

While we were waiting for pay for the new TV, we ended up talking to a very friendly lady wearing an Irish fisherman’s sweater. ¬†Bill can’t resist interjecting whenever someone starts talking about Ireland. ¬†He overheard her talking about the sweater and started telling her about how fishermen in Ireland all have sweaters with special patterns that apply to their families. ¬†It turned out the friendly woman runs a ministry. ¬†She wanted to know if we have kids. ¬†Nope… just dogs. ¬†I guess I don’t have a problem with ministries for those who like them. ¬†I, myself, am not a very religious person. ¬†If I did have children, I’m not sure if they would be religious. ¬†Maybe they would be… but it was kind of an awkward conversation. ¬†On the other hand, it was also nice to be warmly welcomed.

Anyway, we were not the only ones buying TVs on Saturday. ¬†There was a lady ahead of us who was being rather demanding with the sales guys. ¬†She left with a 70 inch TV that barely fit in the back of her SUV. ¬†I heard the sales guy say it was a good thing she didn’t go for the 75 inch model. ¬†I saw several other people carting huge TVs out of AAFES on Saturday. ¬†As for Bill and me, we managed to get the TV in the RAV 4 with no help from anyone. ¬†However, I did almost lose the receipt. ¬†It was very windy on Saturday and the receipt blew out of my hand. ¬†I went chasing after it, looking like the fool I am.

A very nice teenaged girl helped me chase it down as it skittered in front of AAFES. ¬†Every time we thought we had it, a gust of wind would blow it just out of our reach. ¬†Her reflexes were faster than mine were and we finally captured the receipt after a few minutes of chasing it. ¬†Normally, I wouldn’t worry so much about a receipt, but for $799, I figured it was important to keep it in case the TV didn’t work out.

One thing I noticed at AAFES in Wiesbaden is that there is no Turkish rug store there. ¬†I’m kind of sad about that, since I would like to buy a couple more rugs for our house. ¬†Another thing I noticed is that people are completely oblivious at AAFES. ¬†As crowded as the one in Stuttgart is, the one in Wiesbaden was more so, and has a different layout. ¬†And the aisles were packed with products and people who weren’t paying attention. ¬†This was especially true in the food court area, which is where we entered the building. ¬†Next time we go to AAFES, I’m going to skip walking through the food court. ¬†Not only is it very crowded, it’s also packed with people with a one track mind. ¬†I almost got run over by a woman on the way to the fountain drink machines.

We decided not to eat at AAFES, although as we were gassing up the car, I did notice that Wiesbaden has an Asian restaurant on site. ¬†It looked like it gets good reviews, too. ¬†But we decided we’d rather eat in Wiesbaden, so off we went in search of lunch. ¬†More on that in my next post.

Shots of the outside of our new home…

The license plate on our SUV is now different. ¬†We are Wiesbadeners now…

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On not finding what we need at AAFES…

In a couple of weeks, Bill and I will be traveling to Scotland and taking a cruise on Hebridean Princess.  We have cruised on this ship before, back in November 2012.  We were celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary.  It was actually a rather bittersweet journey because one of our dogs got very sick while we were gone.  Despite MacGregor’s sickness, we had a wonderful time in Scotland and especially on Hebridean Princess.  Scotland felt very comfortable to me, probably because a number of my ancestors were Scots and my earliest memories are of living in England.

Anyway, when we took that first cruise, Bill brought his dress blues and wore them for the galas on the ship.  These are special meals where haggis is served.  The men wear tuxedoes and the women wear cocktail dresses.  Bill made many people, including the ship’s officers, stop dead in the their tracks when he showed up wearing his uniform.  The Brits love it when people dress smartly for a special occasion.  It was one of a few times when it seemed like Bill was so much prettier than me.  Lots of people congratulated him for looking so sharp.

I hope we can get a nicer shot on this upcoming trip…  Yes, we were a little hammered.  We needed some Scotch courage to try the haggis.

 

As it happens when guys get older and retire from the Army, Bill has gained a little weight.  Although I have been nagging him for weeks about trying on the uniform, he finally did it today.  And he found out that his uniform no longer fits him properly.  It’s enough that he needed to invest in a new shirt and jacket.  We went to Panzer today to shop for uniform essentials so he’ll be all spiffy on our cruise.  He lucked into the last jacket in his new size and found a shirt with no problem.  Sadly, clothing sales was missing the piping that he needed for the jacket sleeves and no one there could help him.  He’ll either have to get the piping off of his older jacket or go on a crash diet for the next two weeks.  Maybe he’ll find someone who can help him before we take off in a couple of weeks.

While he was buying the jacket and shirt, I took note of some “fresh fruit” being offered for sale…

I think it might be time for banana bread…  Also, at least one of those apples has seen better days.

 

We stopped by the PX for a potty break and to pick up some feminine hygiene essentials, then we went to the Auld Rogue for a late lunch/early dinner.  Bill tried the chili, which was pretty good but not very spicy.

I might be persuaded to order this sometime, though my chili is much better.  I’m not a big fan of lots of heat, but this was pretty bland for chili.  I liked the cheese.

 

This was pretty good, as usual.  I couldn’t finish it all, though.

 

After we ate and had a few rounds of Guinness, we went to Patch to pick up a couple of things from the Shoppette.  I took the opportunity to use the bathroom because I knew that if I didn’t, I’d really regret it on the way home.  Folks, I’m here to tell you that despite AAFES’ promises of a clean restroom that is inspected every hour, the potty in the Shoppette was even grosser than usual today.  It looked like someone’s abnormally large turd was stuck in the commode.  And there was also no toilet paper.  It’s a good thing I had some Kleenex with me.

Clean restroom promise… HA!

I have ranted about the nasty bathrooms before, but I just figured today’s experiences represented an unusually high level of suckitude.  It truly makes me sad.  I’ve seen some really gross toilets in my day, but they were in developing countries.  I think we should be able to do better in a place like Germany, where there is plenty of running water, people get paid regularly, and detergent is affordable.

Oh well…  Somehow, we’ll get Bill in his uniform so he can be stunning to our friends the Brits.  I’ll try to keep up with his natural beauty.

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Old friends and colleagues…

The weather was nicer today, though still pretty chilly. ¬†We took the dogs for a walk before we did our shopping. ¬†Zane especially enjoyed himself, though it was pretty messy going thanks to the soggy ground and occasional ice patches. ¬†On the way back, we ran into a very pleasant German couple who seemed to enjoy our hounds. ¬†I got to tell the husband that I can’t speak German. ¬†Still working on it, though, and making progress in understanding at least.

Well, it was another typical Sunday in Germany and we’re still in our usual rut over having lunch at The Auld Rogue. ¬†Indeed, we did go there today after stopping at Panzer for two top ups for our phones, a new pie plate, and a bigger mixing bowl. ¬†Somehow, I neglected to pack a pie plate, even though I know we have at least one in storage. ¬†We also didn’t pack any decent sized mixing bowls and I have a hankering to make a blackout cake for my husband. ¬†When I do, I’ll have to take a photo of it. ¬†It’s a thing of beauty. ¬†Bill will no doubt take some to work, too, since there’s no way the two of us can eat the whole thing before it goes stale.

On our way into AAFES, Bill caught sight of a familiar face. ¬†It turned out to belong to a guy Bill worked with at the Pentagon from 2001-03. ¬†He and his wife attended our wedding in Lexington, Virginia, and we bought them gifts for their adorable infant daughter who is now about 11 years old. ¬†Their son, a toddler when we last saw them, must be an early teen now. ¬†Bill traded business cards with his old friend and I expect we might hang out once or twice. ¬†It was nice to see them again. ¬†You never know who you’ll run into when you’re affiliated with the military.

We de-Christmased our house and, I’m hoping, tomorrow we’ll be able to start planning a quick getaway for MLK weekend so I can write about something other than life in Germany. ¬†I am more than ready to travel so I can write more on my travel blog.

No pictures today… ¬†but you can bet there will be more soon.

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