holidays

Christmas 2021 is officially history…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard
anecdotes, chores, Germany, weather, Wiesbaden

All the trees are down…

and the sky is… actually sunny right now. For once, it’s not cloudy and gray outside, but I fear that will change in a few hours, when it starts snowing again.

We had snow in the wee hours of the morning, and sadly, the other crepe myrtle in our backyard was a casualty. Bill and I slept in, enjoying the ability to snooze through the dark hours of the morning. I got up to let Noyzi out, and beheld this sight…

We had two myrtle trees in our backyard. One of them mysteriously died a couple of years ago and we basically cut it down ourselves. The other held on for a bit longer, but was looking somewhat peaked this year. I noticed it wasn’t handling the very light snow very well. We’ve also had lots of rain lately, so the ground is very soggy and messy. I guess the snow that fell early this morning was too much for it. Bill was up at about 3am, letting the dogs out for a nocturnal whiz. He said it was really coming down then. But now it’s already melting, as the temperature isn’t very cold.

When I broke the news to Bill about the tree, he was feeling a bit traumatized and full of dread, given our harrowing experiences dealing with the landlady in our last house. But he went out and shoveled the common area, and when the landlord eventually made an appearance, he told him about the tree. The landlord said, “Okay, I’ll come take a look at it later.” Then he drove off in his car to go pick up a new battery.

I set about taking down the two Christmas trees. I’d actually kind of been looking forward to taking them down… The smaller tree had a dead string of lights on it that gave me the excuse to get rid of the other strands like it, which for some reason had about 30 feet of wire for about ten feet of actual lights, and huge boxy plugs that made it hard to plug them into a power strip. I don’t know why they were like that, but boy, were they annoying. But they did last eight Christmases, so I guess that’s pretty good.

I do like looking at the lights… and I will miss their colorful, homey glow in the living room, which is not very highly furnished. But once January comes around, it becomes necessary to dispense with the holiday decor. Oh… I guess I could just leave it up… I did have a friend whose dad left up the beautiful Christmas tree her late mother had put up many years ago. It was actually very pretty, even though it was a holiday relic that had been turned into art.

My friend was an artist herself, and is now a psychology professor at the University of South Carolina, which is where I attended graduate school. I met her in the early 90s when we both worked at a church summer camp in Virginia. She had New Year’s party one year in her hometown of Grottoes, Virginia, for all of us camp folks. That’s how I got to see her mom’s tree… and the beautiful farm her dad owned. I remember it snowed then, too, and we went sledding! Later, we played “Spin the Bottle”, which was weird. But it was also fun! Sometimes, I miss being young.

The landlord just rang the doorbell and he and Bill went out back. He took one look at the tree and said, “Maybe it’s too old. Does it bother you now?”

Bill said it didn’t, but he just wanted to let the landlord know.

The landlord said, “Okay, we’ll just leave it for now, and then when the weather dries up a bit, we’ll remove it and maybe get a gardener to come in and plant something else.”

This probably means Bill will have to re-lay the boundary for the lawnmower robot again. But maybe we’ll get a fruit tree or something.

Wow… the difference between landlord/landlady responses to falling things due to acts of God is astounding. Bill is relieved that went so smoothly. So am I. I don’t know that crepe myrtles were the best idea for that spot in the yard, anyway. The fence that separates our yard from our neighbor’s is overgrown with ivy in the summer. That probably had a lot to do with why the trees died.

Anyway… now we have a reason to plant a real garden, if we can keep Noyzi out of it. I will miss the shade in the summer, though… and the privacy. It’s sad when trees collapse. Rest in peace, crepe myrtle. I’m sure our dearly departed Zane will be happy to lift his leg on you once again, up there over the Rainbow Bridge.

Standard
holidays

Christmas victuals…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below are some pictures from our Christmas dinner…

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

Standard
Uncategorized

Christmas morning 2021…

Merry Christmas, everyone… or happy holidays… or whatever! It’s now 12:30pm on Christmas Day, 2021. Bill and I have had breakfast, and we unwrapped presents. As usual, I got Bill a lot more gifts than he got me. But I got him stuff like clothes, books, and a few things for the kitchen. He got me tech gadgets… a new gadget for my amp, a stool for playing guitar, since it’s not optimal to sit on a computer chair with non-removable arms, and AirPods Max. He also bought me a jigsaw, as did his mom, who took one of my pretty photos from our latest vacation and had it made into a custom puzzle. I just bought two new puzzles for myself, so I expect I’ll be busy over the crappier weather days in the winter.

I bought tons of Christmas music yesterday. I don’t even really like to listen to Christmas music much, except on the day itself. There are a few exceptions to that rule. I love Kenny Loggins’ 1999 album, December, for instance. I love James Taylor’s Christmas album. I also really like Amy Grant’s Christmas to Remember album, from 1999– the one that has fewer synthesized numbers on it than her other Christmas albums. That album has a fantastic version of “Highland Cathedral”, which was my bridal march music.

I also downloaded non-Christmas music. I got on a roll. What can I say? As I write this, I’m listening to an awesome album I bought unheard. I just ordered it because Keb’ Mo’ is on it. I LOVE Keb’ Mo’, and have been waiting to use my tickets to see him play since 2020. His show has been postponed three times because of COVID-19. Hopefully, it will finally happen in May 2022. Anyway, this album, from January 2020, is called The Juice. It’s by G. Love & Special Sauce. Where have they been all my life?

Speaking of music, and gifted musicians, last night, while Bill talked to his daughter on Skype, I watched Natalie MacMaster and her husband, Donell Leahy, their band, and their seven amazingly talented kids. They performed a pre-recorded Christmas concert from their home near Ontario, in Canada. As usual, I cried when they performed. It cost about $20 Canadian to watch the show. Below is a link to Donnell Leahy’s ad on Facebook. For some reason I can’t get it to center. Sorry.

It really is a great show!

Anyway… the weather is rainy and it’s cold outside. Bill is cooking Cornish hens for dinner, and yesterday, he made a quiche for dinner and trifle for tonight’s dessert. We’re making up for our lame ass Thanksgiving meal and “that damned ham”.

Below are some photos from this morning. I’d say it was a nice haul.

In January, I’ll probably buy myself a new cordless vacuum. I may write another post tomorrow, after we have our Christmas dinner. We’ll see how well it turns out. For some reason, this blog gets unbearably slow when I add photos.

Our landlord brought over chocolates and three bottles of wine. He’s very generous and kind. The dogs are happy, although Arran gets crankier as he ages. He still loves to play, though. And he still loves his walks and food. Hopefully, he’ll stick around a long time.

I hope everyone has, or had, a great holiday… or day.

Standard
Uncategorized

Drizzle and chilly weather means chilling out at home…

We didn’t go anywhere over the weekend because it was cold and rainy. Instead, we watched concert DVDs, drank some beer and wine, and did some talking. A few days ago, I spent a few hours cleaning the oven door, making good use of the at home time we’re enjoying during the Christmas COVID-19 season. I had given some thought to going to Mainz to enjoy the Christmas market, but the wet, cold weather made the trip seem less appealing. It amazes me to see so many friends and family members back home, wearing shorts and tank tops in December. I remember when, even in Virginia, December meant it would be cold outside. Global warming is no joke, is it?

We did see some snow flurries last week. That was one thing I enjoyed about living near Stuttgart. We got more snow because we were at a higher altitude. I don’t love going out in snow, but as long as it’s going to be cloudy and wet, I prefer to see some white stuff. Besides, snow is pretty, especially when it’s fresh and hasn’t been peed on or stirred up by the dogs.

I did take a short walk today. Noyzi and Arran insisted on taking a stroll. Noyzi even barked at me, making it impossible to work on a recording project I was doing for a YouTube collaboration. We took an even shorter walk than usual, because there was a lady out there with a little dachshund and she was going the way we usually go. I didn’t want to deal with the dogs freaking out and barking the whole time. We went on an alternative route, and I took a few photos. I am combining today’s photos with some I took last week.

I don’t have much else to report. The weather continues to be wet and depressing. But Christmas is coming… Hopefully, there will be some holiday joy.

Hey… at least I have a new theme for my blog, right?

Standard
markets

Wiesbaden Christmas Market 2021

My friend Priya, her husband Ron, and our new friend, Heather, came up to Wiesbaden from Stuttgart yesterday. They asked Bill and me to join them at the Wiesbaden Christmas Market. The markets down near Stuttgart have mostly been cancelled, due to rising COVID-19 infections, but there are many towns in other states that are having smaller versions of their markets. Priya and Ron have been making their way to a number of them.

I was glad they invited us to join them. I had been wanting to to go the market, but was having trouble with motivation. The weather hasn’t been nice lately, and the COVID rules can be onerous. But thanks to our friends from Stuttgart, we managed to have a great time. It was quite a shock to hang out with people again. We were all laughing about the erosion of social skills that has happened since March 2020.

After a few hours and too much wine and beer, we said our goodbyes. Priya, Ron, and Heather went on to visit the market in Mainz. Bill and I went home to feed the dogs.

For some reason, the connection on this site is excruciatingly slow today. I’ll have to keep the commentary to a minimum. I also can’t delete the photos, so there are a few that look like repeats. I’ll try to fix these glitches later.

A good time was had by all!

Standard
Uncategorized

German Christmas #9

I just counted the number of Christmases Bill and I have spent together in Germany. We’re now up to nine. That’s 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and now, 2020. Bill spent a few more Bavarian Christmases here before we knew each other, when he was a lieutenant in the Army. Technically, we were in France last year for Christmas, but we still put up the tree at home and opened presents in Germany… so I count that as a German Christmas, too.

Yesterday’s Christmas was very nice. The best part of it was the lack of drama, which is a feature in almost all of the holidays I’ve spent with Bill. We really get along well, so being together on Christmas is a pleasure. There’s no fighting. Bill and I have both experienced enough holiday fights to last us the rest of our lives.

Anyway, our day went like this. Arran woke us up at 5:30am, as he always does, to go out for a pee and have his breakfast. Bill came back to bed and Arran snuggled into my arms. I slept until about 8:30am; these days, that is unheard of for either of us. We got up and had breakfast, then opened presents. I always get Bill more presents than he gets for me, so our gift exchange is always lopsided. This year, I decided to get him some really silly things. Here are a few photos.

There were other gifts, of course. I got Bill new shirts, a singing bowl (got one for myself, too), an Anova vacuum sealer and bags for his sous vide (a gift from several years ago that he uses a lot), and a really cool puzzle from Thailand made of wooden shapes. Bill got me a guitar repair kit, a couple of music books, a couple of t-shirts from Prairie Artisan Ales (in Oklahoma), and a guitar amp, which he gave me earlier this month to use with my new guitar.

My mother-in-law sent me a digital picture frame for the computer and, for both of us, a very interesting looking cookbook by a TV chef from eastern North Carolina. I was not familiar with the chef, but the pictures in her book make me think we’ll have a lot of fun with her southern recipes. We got so many new books that I am going to have to buy a new bookshelf.

My favorite gift of all, though, was a video Bill had sent to me by Vartoush Tota– otherwise known as Mary Basmadjian. Mary Basmadjian is the “Funny Armenian Girl”, and her videos are all over Facebook. I happen to love her comedy because I lived in Armenia for two years in the 1990s, teaching English as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I haven’t been back there since 1997, but I’ve been wanting to go. So Bill requested a video shout out from her, including a script that he wrote. It was a total surprise and I loved it! I didn’t think I would get such a kick out of a “shout out” video, but I totally did!

This was my FAVORITE gift!

After we opened gifts, Bill went to one of our favorite local restaurants, Villa Im Tal, and picked up our Christmas dinner. We usually like to cook for holidays, but since COVID-19 has impacted restaurants so much, we’ve ordered food for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. I’m not sure what we’ll do for New Year’s, though. Maybe that holiday will be a bit low key.

Anyway, this was our fabulous meal… Bill broke out the china and fancy silverware for it, too.

I’m not sure why Bill ordered duck for me. I think I would have loved the prime rib just as much. I did taste it, and it was sinful! I liked the duck too, and we do have leftovers for today. The biggest surprise for me, though, was the soup. I didn’t find the color of it very appetizing. I have a weird thing against beige foods, I guess. But– after the first spoonful, I was eager to finish the rich, velvety soup. The croutons were surprising. Some of them managed to stay crunchy even though they were saturated. There was also salmon in the soup, which balanced the base. It was delicious. I’d love to have it when it’s not take out. I also liked the dessert very much– cubes of chocolate cake artfully arranged with fruits and cream. God, I miss dining out, but this was a nice compromise. I think Bill said it cost about $160.

Villa Im Tal is also offering a New Year’s Eve dinner, but the choices for that don’t look quite as appealing. They involve a lot of liver and caviar. If we did order one (and I guess they still have availability, since they included an ad for it in our order yesterday), we’d probably go for the middle choice.

We finished off the evening by watching a few Rankin & Bass children’s specials from our childhoods. These were classic Christmas shows that came on TV every year. They probably still do…

If you were an American kid in the 70s and 80s, you’ve probably seen this.

We watched three specials, but had to quit after the third… There’s only so much Rankin & Bass I can take in one sitting. I switched to reading more of John Bolton’s book, which I hope to have finished very soon. I’m ready to start a new book that has nothing to do with politics.

All in all, it was a great Christmas. Noyzi and Arran had fun, too. Especially at dinner time! Bonus– I also got some housework done, so I don’t have to do it today.

One last thing… I made a music video the other day. It’s a pretty Christmas song that Olivia Newton-John did for the collaboration effort, Liv On, with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky. I thought it was a moving and unusual holiday choice, so I decided to cover it. I used photos and video from our 2016 Ireland trip… Wish I could be there now.

Hope you had a nice holiday, too!

Standard
holidays

Crosspost: Christmas Eve already!

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

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

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

So homey… but Noyzi sure sheds a lot!

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

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

He’s getting braver.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard
chocolate, holidays

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

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