When neighbor dogs don’t want to social distance…


The soggy weather continues here in Germany. We’ve had nothing but rain and snow since the new year. The weather is a bit of a bummer, especially since everything is still locked down here. We’re running short on fun lately, which is why it’s so great to have a new rescue dog around. Especially one from Kosovo!

Ever since Noyzi, the Kosovar street dog, and Tommi met a couple of weeks ago, Noyzi has been obsessively watching the fence that borders our neighbor’s yard. I see him sniffing the air, as if to catch a whiff of his new friend, Tommi the Lab. I let him and Arran outside for a pee break yesterday, and they both went nuts at the far corner of our little yard. I kept seeing little flashes of movement under the fence. I have seen mice, hedgehogs, birds, and the odd cat or squirrel on or in that fence. I thought maybe there was a cat or something there, making the dogs react…

Bill is not too pleased about having to upgrade the fencing. He was in the middle of something work related when this excitement happened. Party pooper!

But then I saw a blond doggie face and the happy eyes of our German neighbor’s cute little puppy. It turns out he’s been as interested in hanging out with Noyzi as Noyzi has been interested in hanging out with him! He was trying to wriggle under the fence. I wasn’t able to get the best video, since Bill came out and broke it up before I was able to catch the scene. But later, we let them out again, and Tommi tried again.

Noyzi and Tommi are desperately trying to find a way to be buddies, even though they are separated by a tall fence!

Pretty soon, I reckon Tommi will be too big to even try to go under the fence. And Bill will probably fortify it with something to prevent a breach. It was still pretty cute to see Tommi’s little face. He was very happy to try to come play.

Later, Noyzi came up to me while I was sitting at the table and I started scratching his butt. I have now created a monster. Now, not only does he show up like a silent canine taxman whenever I’m eating something, but he also wants butt rubs. Every time I rub, he drops a ton of hair. But it’s worth it, because look at the big smile on his face in the featured photo.

We’re seeing that silly grin more and more often, since he’s joined us from Kosovo. In four months, he’s gone from being so scared he’d pee on himself whenever Bill took off his jacket or belt, to begging for butt rubs, table scraps, and walks around the neighborhood. Maybe he’s not the best behaved dog around, but he sure is enjoying life. And he’s made this COVID-19 nightmare easier to bear. I have never regretted taking in any of the dogs we’ve rescued… even the tragedy of Jonny last spring ended up doing some good. But Noyzi has been especially rewarding to watch. And I’ve even made a couple new friends in the process.

Tomorrow, Arran will get his stitches out, having had a mast cell tumor removed on his left hind leg. Maybe the vet will be able to tell Bill the results of Noyzi’s DNA test, too.

Parker goes to France, part five…


Prior to Monday, I had never heard of Soultzmatt, another cute town in Alsace where wonderful locally produced wines are turned out every year. My friend, Ellen, said that she’d been buying wines from Klein René et Michel for years. As I mentioned in my previous post, I knew Ellen from Facebook. Before Monday, I had never met Ellen in person, though we have been interacting for a few years now. She and her friend, Louise, were about a half an hour behind us, so we had originally planned to visit Eguisheim. But the lure of wine was too strong to resist, and we soon found ourselves on the was to 5 Rue Ingold in Soultzmatt.

Bill was a little confused at first, once we found the winery. We weren’t sure where to park, or where to go. As luck would have it, another couple pulled up at about the same time we did, only they were French and spoke no English. Ellen had asked us to wait, but since the lady was already opening the tasting room for the French couple, we decided to go ahead… We knew we’d still be tasting wines when Ellen and Louise showed up. Sure enough, we were!

The lady who was running the tasting didn’t speak any English at all, so things were a little awkward at first. But then Bill told her he speaks a little German and, lo and behold, she spoke German, too! We’ve found that a lot of people in Alsace speak German, especially among the older folks. There’s a guy in Ribeauville who sells liqueurs and wines who speaks no English, but has happily carried on conversations with Bill, despite Bill’s limited German proficiency.

By the time Ellen and Louise showed up, the French couple had left with three boxes of wine– probably about 18 bottles worth. And Bill, Parker, and I had already tried about three… Ellen speaks French and German, so things got a lot easier after that! We left with twelve bottles of wine ourselves.

Ellen did manage to get a nice shot of us enjoying our wine…

This was a very successful stop!

It’s always a pleasure to meet online acquaintances offline. After all, that’s how Bill and I came together. We used to be strictly online friends. Ellen and Louise were delightful company. It turns out we have some things in common, too. Louise is a horse person, and I was a horse person for years before I grew up… and out. Louise lives in Mobile, Alabama, which was where my horse lived after his very first owner in Baton Rouge, Louisiana sold him with his mom. Louise is also the name of my former riding instructor. 😉 And Ellen was especially great company, especially since we lived in the same community and have husbands who do somewhat similar work. I was most impressed by her ability to speak French and German. Time for me to get back on the stick, I guess.

After we tasted and bought our wine, we headed back to Ribeauville. Parker stayed in while Bill and I went searching for dinner. We found only one open restaurant, though it was one we’d never tried before… Restaurant Le Ribeaupierre. I see it gets pretty low Trip Advisor ratings, although I can honestly say I have legitimately had worse dining experiences in Ribeauville. We were the only ones in the restaurant, but the waiter was still very pleasant and the food wasn’t bad.

Restaurant Le Ribeaupierre is quaintly decorated and seems like a somewhat popular lunch spot, despite its low ratings on Trip Advisor. It looks like they mostly serve pizzas. I had some trouble choosing what I was going to have, mainly because the presence of mushrooms pretty much spoil my meals (not that I can’t afford to have some spoiled). Lasagne is one of those items that is hit or miss. Sometimes people use mushrooms in them. Sometimes they don’t. Anyway, this meal was alright. The Irish Coffee made up for it, and Bill enjoyed his “colonel”– lemon sorbet with a shot of vodka. We noticed that the waiter locked up right after we left, at about 8:00pm. Like I said, Ribeauville is dead in January, but plenty of fun can still be had if you look hard enough.

Vienna, Austria Part 4… Friendship investment


After checking out the cathedral, I decided I was very tired and my feet were killing me.  It was the perfect time to reacquaint myself with Vienna’s easy to figure out metro, which I used quite a bit when I visited in 1997.  Bill and I quickly determined our hotel was near the U4 line.  The Stephen’s Dom cathedral was on another line, but we only had to go one stop to Karlsplatz to switch trains.  Before we knew it, we were just a couple of minutes away from the hotel.  While I was on the train, I noticed quite a few young people gloriously free of adult interference.  I couldn’t help but think how Americans would react had we been in the United States.  A couple of the kids appeared to be about ten years old, yet they were doing just fine on the U bahn, all by themselves!

We went to the hotel room.  I took off my shoes and started watching crappy 70s and 80s TV shows dubbed in German.  I never thought I’d see CHiPs on regular TV again.  I was never a Knight Rider fan, but I did watch an episode and realized why David Hasselhoff was so popular in the 80s.  We had plans to meet Herbert and Susanne at 6:00.  We went back to the coffee house we’d visited earlier in the day for a snack.  I had chicken soup and a Gosser beer, which I used to drink all the time when I lived in Armenia.  Bill had an open faced sandwich and a beer.  The same guy waited on us.

Quite a nice Austrian lager.

A little snack.  We thought we’d be going to the concert and didn’t want to get hangry.  I had a bit of an upset stomach, so I went for something mild.  The soup reminded me of Lipton Cup O’Noodles, only it was much better tasting and obviously homemade.  The noodles were similar, though.

Bill thought we were supposed to meet them at the opera house, a massive, centrally located structure.  Actually, we were supposed to go back to the cathedral.  Bill ended up having to call Herbert to connect with them.  By the time we met Herbert and Susanne, it was about 6:20.  We were supposed to go to the concert at 8:00pm.

Herbert and his girlfriend strolled with us around Vienna.  Susanne was born and raised there and Herbert has lived there for 15 years.  They pointed out a TGIFriday’s and seemed rather surprised when I said it was a popular American chain restaurant.  Susanne was a little self-conscious about her English, but it was way better than my German.

We eventually got on the tram and went near the Rathaus, which is a very beautiful building.  We strolled around Vienna’s rose garden, which we were told would be in full bloom the following month.  And then we stopped for a drink.  Herbert and Susanne were worried about us missing the concert, but we repeatedly told them it was okay.  Yes, Bill spent about 80 euros for tickets, but I had read the reviews and had low expectations.  We probably would have spent that on dinner Thursday night if we’d had it.  Besides, while I might have liked the concert well enough, I figure an investment in a friendship is more valuable.  We were hitting it off with Herbert and Susanne, who confessed they’d only been together for a couple of months.

It was great meeting locals and talking with them about life in Vienna.  It made the city more personal and, I think, will make it a more welcoming place when we visit again.  I think we will, too. It’s amazing that all I knew about Herbert was hearing his voice on SingSnap.  Now I can put a face to the name.  He is a very interesting guy, too.

Nighttime shots.  I remembered the above from last time I visited in ’97.  Seems like these are in other Austrian cities, too.  I remember seeing one in St. Polten.  ETA: My friend Susanne posted this…  basically, this was erected to commemorate the plague.  They are all over Austria and Germany.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a Wienerwald, a local chicken chain.  Bill and I ate at one in Boeblingen back in 2007 or so and we liked the food alright.  We wanted to have something to eat before bed.  The restaurant was absolutely teeming with kids… again, all unsupervised.  But all they were doing was being loud.  They otherwise functioned just fine on their own!  It was refreshing!

I couldn’t eat much of this, but it kept me from getting really hungry.

A little fun with Viennese ads in the metro…


The Viennese U-Bahn is pretty great.  It’s easy to figure out and they even offer magazines to read if you’re lucky enough to sit down.  Ticket machines offer English translation and there’s a flat rate for all destinations within the city–  2.20 euros a ride.  You can also buy in bulk or get multiple trip tickets for less!  Next time, we’ll do that.

Vienna, Austria Part 2… karaoke time!


I had been itching to do some karaoke in front of a live audience for some time.  I do a lot of karaoke on SingSnap.com, which is an online karaoke site.  But there’s nothing like performing live.  Babuder’s is a nice place located on a side street called Tiefer Graben.  When we arrived at about 7:00pm on Thursday night, the place was just opening up.  Bill and I selected a table and ordered a couple of local beers.  Herbert was already there, but we had never met in person before.  I only knew him from comments and private messages on my recordings.  Sometimes Herbert joins me in duets and I’ve come to enjoy his witty observations.

Anyway, I was feeling a little shy.  Karaoke at Babuder’s is a little different than what I’m used to.  Instead of looking through books of available songs and handing the KJ slips of paper with requests, you just go up to him and ask him for songs.  They have a database with over 30,000 songs, so chances are good they’ll have what you want.  But not being able to browse through a book means you have to think of something to sing rather than have something suggested.  You also have no idea what version of karaoke song you’ll get.  They are not all created equally.

I started with “Blue Bayou”, which I’ve done hundreds of times.  I got up on the little stage, feeling oddly nervous in front of all the Viennese locals.  There weren’t actually that many people there, but I was jittery anyway.  I eventually relaxed and enjoyed the rush.  I spotted the resident Queen Bee in the corner.  She was very cute and probably at least twenty years younger than me.  She had a couple of girlfriends with her and one of the guys who worked there, a young guy with muscles, appeared to be hitting on her.  I have to admit, the Queen Bee had a good voice.  Fortunately, our styles were different.

As the night wore on, Herbert and Bill started bonding.  Herbert is a very interesting guy.  He’s in his early 60s.  His parents were Czech, but he was born and raised in Ludwigsburg, which is a town very close to Stuttgart.  He speaks English, German, Polish, Russian, and, based on one of his karaoke performances, French.  He has three master’s degrees and a voice that reminds me a bit of Bob Dylan’s.  He and Bill really seemed to hit it off and they talked a lot while I got up and sang stuff by Alison Krauss, Kate Bush, The Carpenters, and more Linda Ronstadt.  To my knowledge, no one filmed me… I’m glad of that!  One thing I did notice was that most of the people at Babuder’s could sing quite competently.  It also appeared to be a very gay friendly place, though most everyone was subdued.  One guy started speaking rapid fire German to me and I answered that I speak no German in German.  He switched to English.  It turned out he was a Brit.

Bill is unimpressed…

Decent beer.  They had peanuts and pretzels, but I didn’t notice any other food.

The party was winding down.

Not the best photo of the sign outside.


Herbert wanted to get together on Friday night so we could meet his girlfriend and they could show us around Vienna.  We left Babuder’s at about 11:00 and caught a cab back to our hotel, where we both promptly crashed.  I would have liked to have gone back to Babuder’s, but there was a lot of other stuff we wanted to see and do.  Herbert says Thursday nights at Babuder’s are good because it’s not too crowded.  If we get back to Vienna, we will have to visit again.

France and Germany… a send off from the Army– Part 6


I have a good friend named Audra who lives in Nimes, France.  I first met her at the high school in the small town where we grew up.  She is a year younger than I am, but we had classes together.  I used to chat with her during our journalism class, which turned out to be one of my favorite high school classes.  For some reason, I didn’t take the second year of journalism.  I probably should have.  My friend also graduated from Longwood University, which in our day was called Longwood College.  We didn’t really hang out when we were in college, so I hadn’t seen her in many years.  Facebook got us reconnected.

Since we were in France, Audra invited Bill and me to come down to Nimes and help her and her family celebrate her son’s 11th birthday.  I had never been to Nimes before.  It turned out to be a wonderful city, famed for its bullfights and Spanish feel.  We got off the train and walked right into a great farmer’s market that included displays, exhibitions, animals, and agricultural goods.  One native said to us in English that this market thing they had going on was not something they had every day.

The air smelled of livestock and the fecal by-product that comes from livestock.  There were goats, pigs, horses, rabbits, birds of every kind, and sheep.  Kids were taking donkey rides and adults were tasting wines, cheeses, and beers.  It was a fun scene.

I booked us at the Majestic Hotel, a two star establishment near the train station.  This hotel is very quirky and there’s no elevator.  We had kind of a funny incident with the lady who checked us in, who spoke no English.  I asked for the WiFi password.  She said what sounded like “D O’s.”  I tried several combinations.  It never occurred to me that what the lady had actually said was that we had to type ten zeros.  “Dix” is French for ten!

We got in touch with Audra, who came with two of her three kids to pick us up at our hotel.  We drove to a very cool village about an hour outside of Nimes where there was a great bar.  Audra, her boyfriend, Cyril, and Cyril’s parents had arranged for “charcuterie”, which is basically a huge pile of meat and bread.  The guy who ran the bar had a great selection of beers and played great music.  Audra and I wasted no time getting caught up while the birthday boy and his friends hung out.  Audra’s younger son and daughter were also in attendance, along with Cyril’s friend– whose name I can’t remember now!  It was a great time and Bill and I were so grateful to be included, especially since we never would have found that great bar on our own!

Big pile of meat!  I actually tasted a couple of sausages that required some bravery… I was rewarded for the effort!


Besides the cool bar, this town was very fortified…

The next day, Audra invited us to spend Mother’s Day with her family.  That, too, was a great treat, since Cyril’s family lives just outside of Nimes on a beautiful tree lined plot of land.  Audra and Cyril are building their own house next to Cyril’s parents’ house and, I have to say, Bill and I were very envious of what they’re about to have!

I think this may have been my favorite part of our trip.  Not only was it wonderful to see Audra and meet her kids, boyfriend, and his family, but we really got an authentic taste of France.  Had we not caught up with my old friend, we would have done the usual tourist things or just wandered around town (which is really more like what we tend to do on our trips).  Thanks to Audra and Cyril and Cyril’s parents, we got to see how the locals live… and from what I can see, they live quite well!

We might have wanted to stay an extra day in Nimes, but my eye was on the calendar and we knew we needed to start thinking about getting back to Germany within a few days so we could get a flight back to the USA.

My new scarf!

After Audra dropped us off during the afternoon, we wandered more around Nimes and I bought a scarf at the farmer’s market that was handmade by a local lady.  We saw a pair of Mormon missionaries who seemed to be having trouble finding things to do.

These three pieces of meat mysteriously fell before us as we walked around Nimes…

Then, for dinner, we stopped at a very charming little bistro that seemed to be a one woman show.  We were the lady’s only guests at about 7:00pm and she served us a fine meal.  I had dorada, which is one of my favorite fish dishes.  Bill had steak.  Then, when it came time to pay, he tried to use his credit card and it didn’t work.  So I had to sit in the restaurant and wait for Bill to get cash to pay the lady for our meal.  She was very gracious about it… I’m sure she’s run into this issue with American patrons more than once!

Awesome French dinner at this restaurant in Nimes…

Our next stop was Nice… but getting to Nice wasn’t all that nice!  Stay tuned!

Bill and the bull fighter! 

Scenes around Nimes…

And finally, how my late beagle Flea helped break down barriers in Germany…


We lost our beagle, Flea, in November 2009, right after we moved back to the States from Germany.  While we lived in Germany, Flea ended up being both a hinderance and a help to us.  Most of the adults didn’t like him because he was really loud and obnoxious.  Kids loved him, though, and he did help break the ice between us and our German neighbors.  The featured picture is of MacGregor, who also helped us meet people.  Below, is Flea when we still lived in Germany the first time.

Flea, canine ambassador, helps us break cultural barriers in Germany!

Sep 12, 2008 (Updated May 9, 2012)

The Bottom Line If you live in a German neighborhood, it’s good to have dogs.

It’s hard to believe that on September 17, 2008, my husband Bill and I will have been living near Stuttgart, Germany for an entire year. The time has gone by fast and, after just a little bit of a culture shock and six weeks spent in a hotel, I find that I actually really love living here.

Bill and I have been very lucky since we arrived in Germany. First off, we didn’t get stuck living in a stairwell apartment on any of the local military installations. Bill is an Army officer and, as such, is subject to strict rules regarding housing. The biggest rule is that if there is housing available on a military installation, the servicemember must accept it unless he or she has a very compelling reason not to. As it turned out, when we first arrived in Germany, a lot of the housing was being renovated or was otherwise occupied. That meant that we were allowed to live in German housing on the economy. We ended up finding a huge house in a charming little town about twenty miles south of Stuttgart. The area is beautiful and authentic. Better yet, we have quiet and privacy.

A lot of people prefer the stairwell apartments on post because they are convenient. After all, people who live in those quarters are surrounded by their fellow Americans. Work, school, and shopping are closeby and the area is certainly secure, since armed guards man the entrances. If Bill and I had children, perhaps living on post would have been worthwhile for us. However, living off post and out in the country has turned out to be great… mainly because after ten months, I’m finally starting to get to know and like my German neighbors!

Even though Bill and I first moved into our house in November 2007, it’s only been very recently that we’ve started talking with our next door neighbors. Their household consists of an older couple and their daughter, her husband, and their adorable little two year old boy. When we first moved into our house, I immediately sensed that the family patriarch next door didn’t trust us. He seemed to gaze at our unkempt lawn with contempt, while his lawn and garden were kept pristine. Once, when my dogs were barking at him through the window, I saw him yelling back at them… of course, I couldn’t hear what he was saying because he was in his glass enclosed patio area. Even if I could hear him, I wouldn’t have been able to understand him. But his facial expressions and body language said a lot.

Ironically, it was our dogs that eventually got us talking to each other. My older dog, Flea, is a beagle who sort of behaves like a little canine ambassador. He loves children of all ages and is especially enchanted by little ones. The little boy next door, an adorable tyke with blond curls, is certainly worthy of enchantment. Every time we took Flea outside and he heard the little boy, Flea would start to whine. The little boy seemed equally intrigued by Flea and MacGregor (my other beagle). He would stand at the edge of his lawn and gaze at the dogs as if he longed to pet them.

One day, Flea saw the boy and let out a pained, eager yelp, which made the boy’s parents laugh. Bill took the dogs to the edge of the lawn and starting using his very basic German skills. It turned out the younger couple spoke some English. They chatted for a bit while Flea eyed the two year old, who shyly backed away. But it wasn’t long before the boy finally started to pet Flea, who was as gentle as a lamb.

After that, I noticed the family was a lot friendlier. We would trade “Guten Morgens” in the mornings and wave cordially. Flea would continue to fret whenever the boy was outside, amusing everybody.
One day a few weeks ago, the boy’s mother stood at the edge of our yards with a small bucket and asked me in German if we liked raspberries. Apparently, they’d had a bumper crop! With that invitation, Flea dragged me over to where she was standing, eager to visit with her little boy, who was hiding behind her. She apologized for her English skills, which I thought were pretty darn good. We ended up chatting for awhile and she confessed that her son had developed a fascination for dogs.

A couple of weeks later, when Flea demanded to have a chat with the toddler next door, the boy’s mother said that she and her husband had bought the boy a toy dog. He had named it Flea and slept with it every night! Also, the boy had taken to using the word English word “dog” instead of the German word, “hund”. We both had a big laugh when I asked her if she knew what the word “flea” means in English. I soon found myself describing what a flea is and telling her that Flea’s rescuer had been the one to name him! Her little boy presented me with a little branch full of cherry tomatoes he’d helped his dad grow in their green house. The boy’s mom said she hoped they were sweet enough.

The other night, Bill was working late and I found myself chatting with the neighbors again. The family patriarch had joined us. I was a little worried about how he would react to Flea and MacGregor being nearby, since they had seemed to annoy him when we first moved in. But when Flea went up to him, he seemed happy to give him lots of attention. Apparently, he’d had dogs as a boy, though he was not familiar with beagles… for which I finally learned the German word. I haven’t seen many beagles in Germany and have actually been stopped a couple of times by neighbors who have asked me if Flea and MacGregor are beagles. I get the feeling they aren’t common here, though people seem to think they’re pretty cute. On the other hand, I’m not sure that many Germans understand that beagles bay when they get on a scent. I’ve gotten a lot of surprised and annoyed looks at times…

Since we’ve been in Germany, my dogs have helped me break the ice with my German neighbors all around. I also get the feeling that they provide some entertainment for the local children. A couple of months ago, we were victims of repeated “ding dong ditching”. A local prankster would ring our doorbell in the early evening, then run away. Of course, it would get the dogs going, which I’m sure was the purpose for the prank. We ended up disconnecting all of our doorbells. In a way, that’s not a bad thing. Most of the people who ring our doorbell nowadays are people trying to sell something… including religion.

It’s true that getting our dogs to Germany and taking care of them here has been, in some ways, a challenge. And goodness knows we’d be able to travel more if we didn’t have our dogs to consider. On the other hand, I doubt I’d be getting to know the neighbors if it weren’t for Flea and his affection for kids. I think having our dogs is going to really enrich this whole international experience for us. And MacGregor, as shy as he can be, is even getting in on the act!


MacGregor is looking at the camera while Flea looks off to the side…


Fabulous evening last night… impromptu par-tay!


Bill and I went to Dough last night to meet his old high school friend and his wife.  As we were going there, we were commenting on our runaway electric meter, which Bill says shows us using 10,000 kilowatt hours.  So we were bitching about that as we pulled into a crowded parking lot at a strip mall.  We found a place to park and walked up to the restaurant.  There were many people there and a musician was playing jazz.

Suddenly, I saw the back of a guy who looked very familiar to me…  In 1993 and 94, I was the cook at Camp Paddy Run in Star Tannery, Virginia.  Star Tannery is a beautiful place, but it’s tucked away in the mountains and isn’t even noted on a lot of maps.  Anyway, in the summer of 1994, I worked with some great folks and one of them was a guy named Jason who grew up to become an Episcopalian vicar and is now married to a former Paddy Run attendee who is now a San Antonio surgeon.  I knew they were in San Antonio, but I didn’t know they were going to be at Dough last night.  And we ran right into them while they were waiting to buy wine!

I had not seen either of them since 1994, but had reconnected with Jason on Facebook.  I must say, he looks very much the same as he did back in the day.

Bill’s friend Matt, and Matt’s beautiful wife Jess, showed up a little later and we enjoyed two bottles of wine and a couple of pizzas, along with a delightful appetizer.  Matt, Jess, Bill, and I were getting along great… then Jason and his wife, Susannah, finished up and came out and chatted with us for awhile.  I was amazed at how well everyone meshed, despite most of us being strangers.  After all, Jason and I were not really close buddies in 1994, but we were friendly, as most everyone at Paddy Run was.  I remembered Susannah as a “counselor in training”; she was a teen when I last saw her and was only at camp for a week.  I had never met Matt or Jess before, though Bill knew Matt in high school and recently had lunch with him and I had chatted with him on Facebook.

But there we all were, hanging out like long lost friends.  At one point, I got excited and went to drink some water, but missed my mouth and spilled water all over my shirt.  I guess my “drinking problem” is flaring up again.

Our appetizer… Dough makes all cheeses and breads on site.  

This pizza was called Pork Love…  Supposedly, it was showcased on the Food Network and after tasting it, I can see why. It was quite nice.

This was a sausage pizza that had onions and pistachios and it was insanely good!


We shared a couple of bottles of wine and then Jason gave us the half he didn’t drink.  The three hours we hung out together passed very quickly.  It’s not often you run into a small group with that much chemistry!  Bill and I really had a marvelous time.   I hope we can do it again sometime soon.

When we got home, Zane and Arran were happy to see us… and Arran had pulled The Joy of Cooking off the bookshelf.  Guess he got hungry.

San Antonio is already turning out to be better for me socially, even if I already want to find a new neighborhood.

My German friend…


A couple of months ago, right around the time my dog MacGregor died, I picked up a new friend on Facebook.  It was a German Army wife who had seen the Facebook page I made for MacGregor and worked with the beagle rescue that gave us Arran.  It’s been fun getting to know her.  I imagine that being a German living in America must be, in some ways, like being an American living in Germany.

My friend, Susi, is about sixteen years younger than I am.  When I was her age, I was single and living in Armenia, serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Susi is married to a soldier.  I’m assuming she met and married him when he was posted in Stuttgart.  Incidentally, that’s where Bill and I lived when we lived in Germany.  In chatting with Susi, I’ve been very impressed by a lot of things…

First off, she has quite an affinity for profanity.  I am not offended by this, actually.  I like to cuss too.  She often uses profanity to express her displeasure with America.  I’m not sure if she feels this way because America– especially where she lives in North Carolina– is not as exciting as Germany is.  I mean, the weather is milder here, but we don’t have the really beautiful old buildings or picturesque towns that they have in Europe.  And we have a lot of ugly big box stores and fast food restaurants.

Last night, she commented on how American kitchens were not designed for people who like to cook.  When we lived in Germany, we actually had a very nice kitchen.  Our landlord had a masonry heater that had a bench built into it, as well as a table bolted to the floor.  We had an infrared stove, which we hated, and a convection oven, which was smaller than what we were used to.  The Army gave us a refrigerator, which was nice because European fridges are smaller.  I didn’t necessarily think that kitchen was better than any I’d had in America, though.

Also, my husband and I love to cook.  My husband has actually turned it into a hobby and has become quite proficient at creating a nice meal.  I taught him a lot and he has since learned more on his own.  There are a lot of Americans who cook.

On the other hand, Americans who are lucky enough to have a job typically work long hours.  And they don’t tend to get as much vacation time as Europeans get, nor is it necessarily guaranteed that Americans will even get a vacation.  The upshot is, a lot of us Yanks eat convenience foods.  Bill and I don’t, really… we cook most days.  But a lot of Americans do.  So maybe that’s why our kitchens “suck”.

I wonder if Susi had a cultural high when she came to America.  I know I did in Germany, though it was actually pretty stressful to move there because we were stuck in a hotel for six weeks with two noisy beagles.  Susi has an advantage because she speaks excellent English, while I don’t speak a lick of German.  And even if I did, it’s likely the Germans I ran into would switch to English anyway.

Given a choice, I’d probably prefer Germany to America.  It’s beautiful there… the food and beverages are excellent… so many wonderful places are within driving distance.  Granted, America has its share of beautiful places too.  But America has become too generic, to the point that you can go most anywhere and it won’t be that different.

I didn’t make a lot of friends in Germany.  There were a few locals we interacted with a bit, but we found that it takes time to get to know Germans.  Once they know you, they seem to be wonderful friends who are solid to the core.  But it takes awhile to crack the surface.  I wonder if Susi finds Americans too easy to make friends with.  Culturally, we are very different… even those of us who have German heritage (and I do, a little, but my family is more Scottish/English/Irish than anything else).

I also wonder if Susi has a trash disposal and if she enjoys using it.  I know compost heaps are big in Germany.  I give Susi props for knowing the town where I lived in Germany.

One of the many views from our back yard in Germany…

An even better shot…