housekeeping tips

All new adventures in German laundry… and last night’s festivities!

The last fifteen hours or so have been rather eventful. First off, last night the two day Breckenheimer Dorfplatzfest began. Ordinarily, last night would have just been a regular wine stand night, but the local culture club held its annual festival. So basically, it was like a supersized wine stand with beer, food, and live music. They had brats and burgers, along with fries (pommes) and wild potatoes with tzatziki.

Our neighbor and multi-talented veterinarian, Dr. Konrad Blendinger, was there with his pop ensemble, providing entertainment as friends and neighbors gathered in the village “square”. Dr. Blendinger plays guitar and even wrote a song about Breckenheim, which he sang last night. When he’s not playing music, Dr. Blendinger is well-known for his prowess in breeding dogs. Like, he’s world renowned for it– and people come from all over for his services. I even caught him admiring Noyzi when we brought him to a wine stand. Noyzi will never be a father, though. 😉

Bill and I had a pretty good time, although we were joined by an older German couple who didn’t speak English. There were also a few women there, one of whom was one we met on prior occasions. She asked us where Noyzi was. We left him at home, because we figured it would be too loud and busy for him. She nodded her approval.

We impressed them with our ability to enjoy wine, then they brought over some guy who spoke Russian. I spoke Armenian to him… 😉 I did so to be funny, not because the Russian and Armenian languages have anything in common. Of course, I didn’t expect him to speak Armenian, and I’m actually glad he didn’t, because I have forgotten a lot of it myself. I guess I just get tired of people assuming all Americans are monolingual. The guy got up and walked away. 😀 Oh well.

I also had occasion to use the new toilet that was installed last year. The fest was canceled last year because it was being built. As you can see from the photos, it’s pretty snazzy. This time, no one walked in on me, either. They put up directions in German and English!

I got some photos and videos of the festivities.

We had a good time, but unfortunately, I overdid the wine quite a bit. This morning, I look like I got in a fight. Oh well…

As if having a hangover wasn’t bad enough, Bill greeted me with the news that there’s an issue with our washer. I bought the washer brand new from nine years ago next month. For the past couple of years, it’s been in decline. There’s a problem with the door sensor, so that it doesn’t close properly unless you bang the shit out of it. This morning, Bill tried to do a very light load and the cycle quit at about five minutes.

I drained the machine, which made a big mess… then I determined it was time to buy a new washer and dryer. Our dryer is functioning, but it has an annoying squeak that I can hear all the way upstairs, and it’s just a very no frills Turkish model that is too small and isn’t that great.

I spent the last hour or so agonizing over which brand to buy. The washer we have now is an LG, and it’s not bad… and I know how to use it, for the most part. But I wanted to get one as soon as possible, so I ended up buying a Siemens washer and dryer. I figure if they turn out to be smart devices (and I think they are), I’ll only have to download one app. Plus, I could get them delivered on the same day. Hopefully, they’ll work out fine. I paid a little extra for the delivery guys to hook everything up and take away the old appliances.

These new machines are quite a bit more expensive than the old ones were– naturally. I think I paid just over $1600 (about 700 euros each, before VAT and delivery) for the pair, whereas I see I paid about 600 euros for my old dryer (no longer available) and 370 euros for the old washer (which I now see is also no longer available and gets poor reviews– it probably didn’t when I bought it). But I think they’ll be easier to use, and they’ll hold more. I got the 9 kilogram size, instead of the 7, which is what I’ve been using. I would have liked to have gone for the biggest one they offered, but doing that would have significantly reduced my choices. Also, we have to make sure we can get the appliances through the doors and down into the basement.

I mainly decided to buy the models I did because they got mostly good reviews, weren’t super expensive, and could be delivered as soon as Tuesday. I do a lot of laundry, so this is a good thing. The bigger size should make it easier to do laundry, too. I think I got a condenser dryer, which will be a new thing for me. I tried to find one that vents, because that’s what I’m used to, but they didn’t seem to have them available. So, now I get to learn how to use a condenser dryer.

I’m already feeling a lot better than I was earlier. I took some Advil and ate breakfast, which helped a lot. The Dorfplatzfest starts up again at 2:00 PM, but I’m not sure if we’ll go today. Bill is talking about brewing some beer… and I sure don’t want to start tomorrow like I’ve started today.

In other news, we have some pretty wild flowers in our backyard… They came from the bee bombs I planted a few months ago.


JustWine in Hofheim: Our first wine event with a DJ…

Lately, I’ve been following some local Facebook wine groups, besides the one I run. Thanks to events like the Wiesbaden Wine Festival, I’ve found a few local wines that I really enjoy. When I noticed that the Barth Winery was going to be attending this weekend’s JustWine wine tasting event at the StadtHalle in Hofheim, I told Bill we should pay a visit. I enjoy tasting wines, and I already knew I liked the products by at least one of the attendees.

The JustWine event is continuing today, starting at 1:00pm, and running until 6:00pm. Yesterday, it started at 2:00pm, and ran until 9. I had wanted to go early and maybe have lunch or dinner in Hofheim. Unfortunately, we got held up waiting for an Amazon delivery. I bought Bill an Alexa Echo for his side of the bedroom. I was hoping to pair it with the one on my side, and create stereo sound. I’m still working on making that happen. 🙁 It’s not as easy as it should be.

Because we were waiting for the delivery, we didn’t leave for the wine event until it had been going on for a couple of hours. One nice thing about this event is that it was at the Chinon Center, which has a huge parking garage. That made it much easier to get the wine to the car. We bought fourteen bottles, six of which will be shipped to us. Last May, we went to an event at the Kurhaus in Wiesbaden, and Bill almost killed himself getting the wine to the car, which was parked in a distant garage. Yes… the parking was the best part of the JustWine event. The rest of it impressed me somewhat less.

The entry fee for the JustWine tasting is 8 euros. For that, you get unlimited entry until the event ends for the day. You can taste wines by vendors from France, Italy, and Germany, as well as purchase gourmet food items from the SudTyrol and Hofheim. There was also a D.J. That was a first. I’ve never seen a D.J. at a wine tasting. The music was okay– sort of techno trance instrumentals– but it was turned up kind of loud, which made it hard to hear and be heard. There were also a LOT of people there, so it was hard to actually access the booths. We ended up only going to three before we finally decided to give up and see if we could find dinner in town.

Before we ventured into Hofheim searching for food, we stopped at the Edeka in the mall so I could get some hair conditioner. The guy running the register, Herr Rocky, looked pretty much over it as he asked Bill to put his “Geschlossen” sign on his conveyor belt. It must have been break time… or maybe it was time for him to go home.

Then, after we bought my hair product, we stopped at a couple of restaurants, both of which were totally full. We didn’t make any reservations, because we weren’t expecting to go to the event as late as we did. It looked like everybody was out in Hofheim last night, which is understandable. Less than year ago, things were still pretty locked down in Germany. Since I already had indigestion, I told Bill that we should just go home.

So that’s what we did… and I was soon confronted again with Alexa, and her reluctance to pair properly in our bedroom. Bill has to go away this week, so hopefully I’ll figure out how to get the speakers doing my bidding before he comes back Friday– temporarily– until he has to go away again for another three days. On the plus side, Arran and Noyzi were overjoyed to see us. Arran, in particular, was running around with unbridled joy. He has that big tumor on his side, and it seems to hurt when we touch it. Yet he still has the ability and the will to greet us with so much enthusiasm. He amazes me every day.

I might have enjoyed the JustWine event more if we had gotten there sooner, when it was probably much less crowded. We probably would have found food, too. There was food at the event, but nowhere to really sit, or even stand, because there were so many people there. Personally, I think they should have scrapped the disc jockey and put in a few more tables.

I did at least get to buy some sparkling Rieslings from the Barth Winery and introduced myself to Axel, the guy who represented the Barth Winery and alerted me to the event in the first place. He’s very active on Facebook and speaks perfect English.

I got a kick out of Axel, because as we approached his table, he was dealing with a very petite young Asian lady who seemed to be putting him through his paces. She also seemed to be a little bit “lit”. She ended up buying a bottle of sparkling rose before she stumbled off, looking a little bit cross. Maybe it’s because she understands Armenian or Spanish, as I used words from both languages to describe her rather familiar demeanor to Bill. I know… shame on me. But she was kind of hogging Axel’s attention, and it looked like maybe he could use an assist.

Anyway, I’m not sorry we got out of the house and went to the JustWine event. It was a little too loud and crowded for my tastes, but it was definitely a unique affair. And we did pick up some wines, which I will be avoiding during Bill’s TDY. I like to temporarily get off the sauce when he’s not home.

Below are some photos…


I feel like making our German house “smarter” is making me dumber…

Yesterday, I wrote about how I’ve been “upgrading” our German house, adding new “smart” devices to make things “easier”. I installed new smart light bulbs in several lamps, bought new gadgets from Amazon and Apple, and invested in smart power strips and outlet covers. I’m sure I’ll be glad I did all of this, once we’ve figured out the learning curve. For now, I’m wondering if I should have my head examined.

Installing the new light bulbs was easy. It was just a matter of screwing them into the lamps and setting them to our Internet connection via an app on my phone or tablet. But now, I have to get used to a new routine. If I want to use the lamps with the new technology, I have to have my phone or tablet. The bulbs are numbered, and not necessarily in a logical way. I’m sure I’ll eventually get it so all I have to do is tell Alexa what I want. However, before that happens, I have to learn how it all works.

Meanwhile, I bought a new HomePod Mini, because most of my media is on Apple. I do have some stuff on Amazon, but for some reason, I can’t seem to download MP3s on Amazon in Germany. I have been able to do it in the past, but I can’t do it now, for some strange reason.

Now, my big HomePod, which we’ve been using in the living room for years, works fine. It accesses my music from my big iMac desktop. Silly me. I thought it would be easy to do the same with the HomePod Mini sitting next to my computer. But no… it seems to work best if I have Apple Music. I don’t want to subscribe to Apple Music. I prefer to buy the stuff I want. I don’t want a subscription service having access to my collection and possibly replacing stuff I own. And I don’t want to “rent” my music.

Why does my HomePod work fine with the computer, albeit not wanting to play stuff I didn’t download from Apple, but the Mini doesn’t? I can use AirPlay to play music on the Mini, but it doesn’t sound as good as my computer speakers do.

I may end up moving the new Mini and the future new HomePod into our entertainment room and pairing them for better sound in there. I did get the new Mini to work with the TV in my bedroom, but I think I’d need another one, because otherwise, the sound just comes from the one speaker. It’s not better than the TV speaker is.

Surprisingly enough, I’m finding Amazon Alexa a lot easier and more function than the HomePod Mini is. It’s also significantly less expensive. I’d probably just as soon use Alexa, but so much of my music is through iTunes, and it’s all very proprietary. I bought another Echo Dot for our entertainment room, just because it’s so easy to use and doesn’t cost that much. Just plug and play.

I’m a little troubled by the HomePod Mini and how difficult it is to just get it to play the music I already own. I hope the full scale HomePod that is coming out soon won’t be like that. Otherwise, it might end up being a door stop… or an expensive speaker.

But at least we have new and better lighting. I do like that about the new light bulbs, especially since I bought a new reading light last week just so I could finish my latest book… which was an actual book, rather than Kindle. I should probably embrace old fashioned books more, since using Kindle kind of compromises privacy and gives Amazon suggestive selling information. But doggone it, it’s just a lot easier to use Kindle. The backlighting makes it so much easier for me to read, and the print is larger. I can read it after dark, too.

I’m beginning to think this whole project would be a lot easier if I was 20 instead of 50. I think something happens when you get older, and lose patience with learning new technology. However, I do see value in learning the technology, because pretty soon, everyone is going to use it. I don’t remember the last time I used a landline telephone, for instance. I don’t remember the last time I watched regular TV. I think pretty soon, anyone who doesn’t own a smartphone is going to be shit outta luck.

Pictured is the blue HomePod Mini. Mine looks just like it, and so far, is just about as functional as the photo is.

Edited to add on January 26th…

I ended up adding most of my music to my phone, and now the HomePod Mini seems to work. I didn’t put any music on my phone because I so often use it for photos. I guess now, I can retire my worthless iPod Touch, which doesn’t have enough storage.


Making our German house “smarter”…

While we wait for the weather to get less yucky, I’ve been focusing a bit on making our house more comfortable. I mentioned on my main blog yesterday that I’ve been investing in some new technology. In the past few weeks, I’ve acquired two new Alexa Echo Dot devices. One is in my office, and the other is in my bedroom. I have an Alexa Studio in the living room. I don’t use it very much. I bought it mainly because sometimes Siri on my HomePod goes kerfluey and it makes a good backup.

I have some Amazon music purchases that I can’t play on the HomePod, and some Apple purchases that won’t play on Alexa. I don’t want to subscribe to a streaming service, so I have two “assistants”. For years, I’ve managed to avoid succumbing to temptation regarding the Dots, but finally gave in when I realized that Alexa does more than music. But then, so does Siri.

Anyway, after Bill gave me a Dot for my office, I got one for the bedroom… then I realized it might be interesting to be able to control our lights from my phone. I bought three new smart power strips, some smart outlet plugs, and smart light bulbs.

All of these items can be connected via a phone app to the Internet. Then, I can make them do things I never thought I’d be able to get them to do. 😉

Last night after dinner, we tried out the new smart bulbs. I bought four of them, so we put them on the four lamps they fit. Then we connected them to the Internet via the app. Now, I can adjust the color, intensity, and even set them to music. I can program them to turn on and off on a schedule. I didn’t have to plug the lamp into a smart outlet, either. All we had to do was change the light bulb and pair it with the phone and/or tablet.

I remember when we first moved to Germany in 2007, we quickly learned that using US made lamps in Germany is pretty simple. All you have to do is use a plug converter and a German bulb and you’re good to go. That’s not the case with other electronics. I once fried a computer because I forgot to change the voltage switch from North America to Europe. The voltage in North America is 110 volts; here, it’s 220. So, when you don’t change the voltage settings or use a transformer, you can end up blowing up your device.

Our former landlady, who accused us of “dumping” an American fridge in her house, obviously didn’t know that we have different voltages in the USA. That crappy fridge, which was there the day we moved in, was plugging into the wall. If it were an American appliance, we wouldn’t be able to do that. The plug itself is different, so it wouldn’t have fit the outlet. And the voltage is different, so we’d need a transformer, which would not be worth it. High voltage transformers are very expensive and, in my experience, don’t work very well. They tend to trip the circuit breakers.

This is less of a problem with computers. Nowadays, they are built to automatically detect electric current and adjust accordingly. That wasn’t always the case, though, and it’s still not true for a lot of electric devices. That’s why most of our American small appliances are in storage.

We need to do some more study and find out all of the things we can do with our gadgets now. Today, I have a new HomePod Mini coming to me. I’ll use it in my office for now, for when my computer gets overwhelmed and music stalls out. Then, I’ll probably move it when I get a new desktop computer, which will probably be pretty soon. I also ordered a new HomePod, which was recently “souped up”. That will get to us in March, when it’s available in Europe. I will move the old HomePod to our entertainment room and hook it up to the TV, so we can get better sound.

I still wish we had a couch for in there. First world problems…

Anyway, if people are reading this blog looking for information about actually living in Germany, I can reassure you that many of the techie comforts of home are easily found here. Sometimes you have to wait a little longer and pay a little more, but you can still get most of that cool stuff here. A bonus is, some homes have some pretty awesome features you won’t find in a lot of US homes, like heated floors, saunas, and indoor pools. But, most of them don’t have closets, which is a real bummer.


Mail order goodies…

Living abroad can present a person with certain first world problems.  When you live in a country that isn’t your own, you tend to miss certain food items from home.  The same is true when you adopt another country, even just temporarily, and then go back to where you came from.  Wherever you are, you learn to like certain things.  Then, when you move, you miss them.

Like a lot of Americans in Germany, there are a few things I miss from home.  For instance, I miss things like really good barbecue, American style burgers, American style pizza (yeah, I know), and certain southern delicacies.  Since my husband has access to the commissary through his job, I can get some things I miss, although a lot of what I can get at the commissary are not necessarily things I can’t live without.  I can do without Cheetos and Dr. Pepper, even if I like having them once in awhile.

Likewise, when we moved back to the States in 2009, I came to miss certain German products.  It was bad enough that I would try to find them online and order them for a taste of Europe.  I expect I will do that again when we finally give up this globetrotting existence… if we ever do.

Anyway, today’s post is about things I miss when I’m in Germany and things I miss when I’m in America.  I’m sure a few people can relate.  By the way, I realize that these things are definitely luxury items that aren’t particularly good for me.  But what the hell… you gotta take your joys where you can find them!

A few favorite American goodies…


Yes, it can be expensive and annoying to have American coffee sent to you “legally”… 

Although one can easily get Starbucks in Germany and lots of people have told me about the “wonderful” German and Italian coffees I can get here, I do have a favorite American brand.  And I like it enough that I go to great lengths to get it here in Germany.  I’ve even gone as far as paying an exorbitant duty on coffee, just so I can get my beloved Peets.  When we lived in Germany the first time, somehow I missed the memo that it’s forbidden to have coffee sent to Germany through the APO.  I used to order it all the time.  When we moved back here in 2014, I heard that the post office was cracking down on coffee contraband.  So I got used to drinking Starbucks.  A couple of years ago, I decided I had to have my Peets.  So now, I have it delivered, high costs be damned.  And, by the way, I don’t agree that German or Italian brands are better.  Tastes differ, though.

This is a consistently excellent brand, available through Amazon.


Although some people disagree that Virginia is a southern state, I grew up there and consider myself a southerner.  Even if Virginia weren’t a southern state, I still married a guy from the South who grew up in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas, which are definitely southern states.  We love good grits.  When I say, “good grits”, I mean the kind that have to be boiled for a half an hour.  Consequently, we order grits from South Carolina.  I buy several bags at a time and we enjoy them every Saturday morning.  They are so good!

Best peanuts I have ever had.

Peanuts and peanut butter

Yeah, I know I can buy peanuts and peanut butter at the commissary.  I am very picky about my peanuts, though, and love to get them from a vendor from my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia (near Williamsburg).  I order them from Whitley’s Peanut, which not only sells peanuts and peanut butter, but also stocks the best cashews and pecans I’ve ever tried.  They also sell sinful chocolate peanut clusters that are too fabulous for my ass.  I like their peanut butter, not so much for myself, but more for my dogs.  Whitley’s makes peanut butter that consists solely of crushed peanuts.  It’s excellent for pilling my dogs because not only does it not contain sugar or xylitol, which can be poisonous to canines, it’s also not sticky.  It’s easy to put a pill in the peanut butter, roll it into a neat ball, and feed it to Zane and Arran without making a mess.

Chile sauce

I actually started enjoying Tio Frank’s Chile Sauce after we moved here when a guy from New Mexico mentioned it.  I’ve never actually been to New Mexico, but I do like this chile sauce, which is great for adding zing to favorite snacks or even a batch of chili.  I have to admit, though, it’s been too long since my latest order.  You can find it on Amazon or through Tio Frank’s official Web site.  Their official site is down now, but you can check out their Facebook page.


When we first moved back here, I used to regularly order American craft beers from Saveur-Biere in Belgium.  Recently, I have gotten out of the habit of doing that, although I have to admit missing certain American favorites, like Deschutes and Prairie Artisan Ales.  Sometimes I find them locally and other times, I order them and spend a lot of money.  What can I say?  Sometimes I need more than a garden variety German wheat beer.

And now for a few of my favorite European goodies.

I haven’t actually tried this flavor (though I’m ordering it today!)…

Drinking chocolate and other chocolate

When Bill and I lived in Germany the first time, I picked up a canister of Dolfin drinking chocolate from Belgium.  This stuff was unlike any chocolate I’d ever had.  It comes in flakes that melt in hot milk.  I loved it so much that when we were in the USA, I ordered some from a retailer that specializes in importing chocolate.  I don’t drink a lot of hot chocolate now, although every once in awhile, I get the urge… and when I do, I have some of this at the ready.  I will admit that I also bought special Ritter Sports that weren’t available in the States.  For awhile, you couldn’t find coconut Ritter Sports, which were my favorite when we lived here last time.  Now, they’re available again and I don’t love them as much as I used to.  I also love certain British brands, like McVittie’s Club Bars and Penguins.

Careful… these are addictive!

Peanut “Flips”

My German friend, Susi, who lives in North Carolina, introduced me to this German snack food when I visited her house one time.  Basically, it’s like our Cheetos, only it’s peanut flavored instead of cheese flavored.  Totally not something I should be eating, but I do admit to loving it… and buying it when I’m in the States.

The Italians do tuna right.

Italian or Spanish tuna
This ain’t no “Chicken of the Sea”.  I don’t know how or why, but Italian and Spanish tuna is absolutely fabulous.  It’s a real treat to find it and something I miss when I’m back in the States.

Speaking of Italy…  

Bucatini noodles
Bucatini noodles are available in the USA, but they aren’t necessarily stocked at every grocery store.  I love these fat noodles that are hollow on the inside.  I think they appeal to the kid in me, who has fond memories of eating Franco-American Macaroni and Cheese.  Of course, I can now make my own version that is vastly superior to the canned stuff I used to eat all the time.

Believe it or not, we used to have this in the States.


Ice cream

Ice cream is a big deal in Europe, especially in Germany and Italy.  Even the stuff you buy at the grocery store looks fancy and comes in yummy adult flavors like Black Forest or bourbon vanilla.  Back in the 1980s, you could purchase Viennetta ice cream desserts in the States.  Those have gone away there, but they’re still available in Europe.  I miss them when I’m stateside, but it’s hard to ship ice cream without it melting.

Potato croquettes


I’m sure I could get these in the USA, but they’re more like tater tots than what we have in Europe.  I love these little potato nuggets.  I’ve encountered them often in the Czech Republic, but Germans also have them.  I may have to learn how to make them myself.

Certain wines and liquors


Lately, I’ve been ordering Armenian wines from vendors in Europe.  That’s a thrill for me, since I lived in Armenia for two years and it’s not easy to find Armenian wines in the United States.  Europe is closer to Armenia, so I can get them here, mostly through a Belgian supplier.  Ditto for certain European liquors like Isle of Harris Gin, which is an up and coming brand that hasn’t gotten international coverage yet.  I also buy a lot from Master of Malt, which also ships to the United States.

I’m not sure what the future holds for Bill and me.  For one thing, I don’t know when we’ll be finished in Germany.  For another, I don’t know if we’ll be heading back to the States after we’re finished here or moving on to yet another European country.  Either way, I’m sure to expand my palate wherever we go… and probably my waistline, too.


My German "closet"…

One reality of life in Germany that may be hard for some American hausfraus to get used to is the lack of closets in many German homes.  I didn’t get used to this the last time we lived here because our house in Pfaffingen actually did have closets, including a huge walk-in closet that our landlord had created by putting a wall up in his daughter’s room (the same room we used as a master bedroom).  Our first German landlord worked for IBM and had obviously done a lot of work with Americans, so his house was kind of perfect for American tastes.

The house we live in now is a bit odd.  It was originally intended to be three apartments.  We have neighbors on one side and then our home consists of two upstairs and downstairs apartments.  There’s even a doorbell by the upstairs door.  And no, we don’t have closets, but we do have a few really small rooms.  Fortunately, because it’s just me and Bill and we don’t need a lot of bedrooms for kids or guests, we can put those rooms to good use.  The first three photos below are of my German “closet”, a room that was originally intended to be the upstairs kitchen.  In many German homes, when you rent a place, you furnish your own kitchen.  Since this house is just one residence now, the downstairs kitchen is furnished mostly by our landlords.

We have an ironing board, a shoe rack, and two clothing racks that I ordered from…

I was going to use clothing racks from IKEA, but as you know, we had the trip from hell there last week.  I think I like these Amazon racks better, anyway.  They were more expensive, but they’re also sturdier and hold more.

Obviously, I have more clothes than Bill does, though a lot of his stuff is hanging in the downstairs bathroom, because there was nowhere else to hang his suits and such.  His dresser is also in the downstairs bedroom because it was too tall to get up the stairs.

I bought this shoe rack at AAFES.

This is a coat rack I also got at Amazon.  I’m not as happy with it as I am with the clothing racks, but it didn’t cost much.  I have always wanted a coat rack, but never needed one thanks to our love of closets in America (and our first German landlord’s pre-installed coat rack).


A better shot…

The stuff I got at Amazon I ordered about a week ago and they arrived yesterday via APO.  I bought my German appliances at and they got here super fast.  This “closet” I’ve created will probably not look so neat for long.  I tend to be a slob, despite my housewife moniker.

Special thanks to the folks who lived here before us and sold us the small chest of drawers in the bathroom.  It’s perfect for extra towels and sheets.