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Welcome home, Daddy!

Last night, at about 7:45 PM, Bill came home from his latest trip to Bavaria. Arran was on the bed, sound asleep, when Bill got in. He didn’t hear Bill come through the door, so he was genuinely surprised and delighted when Bill popped his head around the door and said hello. Noyzi had heard Bill and was parked on the rug next to the bed, eagerly awaiting his arrival.

Below is a quick video I made of the homecoming. We are treasuring these precious moments, as we know that soon, they will be part of the past.

Arran and Noyzi were as happy as I was to have Bill at home again. We all slept so well last night.

It does my heart good to see how happy Noyzi is to see Bill, too. These dogs give and receive so much love. It’s an honor to have them in our lives, even when they make messes or their farts smell like poop… 😉 We don’t regret giving chemo to Arran, though, because it’s given us precious time and more wonderful memories. It would have been nice if the chemo had worked for a long period of time than it has, but that would have probably meant that Arran would have gotten cancer at a younger age. I certainly don’t wish for that. We are happy with and grateful for the extra four months he’s gotten to spend with us so far.

Last night, we had a serious talk about what to do about Arran. I think we both feel that this bout of cancer is his method of exiting the mortal coil. So I think it’s unlikely that we’ll change what we’re doing in order to squeeze out more time. It will really hurt when the time comes to say goodbye, but it also means that eventually, we can offer a home to another dog who needs one. And that dog, just like all of the others we’ve had in our lives, will teach us and, hopefully, love us the way all of our dogs have.

Incidentally, I slept until 8:00 AM today, something I rarely do anymore. I definitely feel better.

Even with cancer, Arran is a beautiful dog with a gorgeous soul… and Noyzi has learned a lot from his “old man”.

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Arran update…

Arran went in for another Vincristine chemo treatment yesterday. I think we might be at week #16, but I’m not positive. I told the vet about his swollen lymph nodes, which have gotten bigger since I first noticed their enlarged sizes on Saturday. She looked dismayed and we made plans to come in after a week, rather than in two weeks. When we got home, there was a small traffic jam in our cul-de-sac. Our neighbor’s daughter had left her car running next to her parking spot. The car and a trash can prevented me from getting to our house. Someone else was behind me, too.

I put Arran in the house, then came out to move the car to the driveway, only to be confronted by our neighbor, who was trying to park her car in the spot next to ours. I finally just turned the car around and parked in front of the house. Maybe I’ll move the car later today, while no one is home.

Aside from the larger lymph nodes, Arran has mostly been his usual, bright, colorful, spotted self. He happily took a walk yesterday and woke me at 3:00 AM for his breakfast. Then, he wanted his dinner twelve hours later. He got it at 4:00 PM, as that was an hour before our appointment. He wolfed it down.

All was fine after the chemo, until sometime around 9:00, when I suddenly smelled the familiar stench of dog shit. It was a rather messy pile he’d left for me in the living room. This isn’t actually that unusual for Arran. He’s never been 100 percent perfect at housetraining, in spite of my best efforts to teach him the right way.

I cleaned up the mess and went back upstairs to chat with Bill. At about 11:30 PM, Arran woke me up with a concerned look on his face. He was trembling a bit. I asked him if he wanted to go out. He eagerly jumped off the bed and ran downstairs. I let him go outside and he immediately pooped again. Then, he acted like he still needed to go, but nothing was coming out. He ran back inside and tried to go again in the living room. I shooed him outside, where he tried a couple more times for a moment. Finally, the compulsion seemed to have passed. We went back to bed.

Of course, by that point, I was freaked out and wide awake. I was wondering if I’d need to load Arran into the car and take him to the Tierklinik Hofheim, a high speed veterinary facility nearby that we’ve used a few times over the past four years. The funny thing is, when we still lived near Stuttgart and our dog, Zane, was the one with health issues, our vet down there suggested the Tierklinik Hofheim as one of the best vet hospitals in Germany. At that time, it was over two hours away by car. Now, it’s maybe 20 minutes away.

I don’t really know exactly how to get to the Tierklinik Hofheim, because Bill always takes the dogs there without me. And although the car has a GPS, I never use it. I don’t even know how I’d turn it on. I do know kind of where it is, and I have an excellent knack for finding things. But that doesn’t mean I want to go hunting for it in the middle of the night during an emergency. Looking at their Web site, I see that face masks are now optional at the Tierklinik Hofheim. The same isn’t true at our regular vet’s office.

I laid next to Arran and stroked him. He sighed and relaxed, and soon he was sleeping peacefully. It took me a bit longer to drop off, so I read more of my latest book before finally falling asleep.

I woke up at about 4:15 AM. Arran woke up a few minutes later, and was keen to eat breakfast. I fed him and Noyzi, then went back to bed to try to sleep a bit more. I ended up dry heaving, for some reason. I didn’t drink a lot of alcohol last night. I suspect it was an attack of GERD, which tends to strike when I don’t eat right, drink too much, and experience stress. I have to admit, it was pretty stressful dealing with Arran last night.

At about 6:30 AM, I finally turned on Alexa Thunderstorm, which worked surprisingly well… I dozed for about an hour before I finally got up to make some coffee. I probably would have actually slept, if Arran hadn’t repeatedly been licking his asshole.

He’s now lying in my office, just like he usually does when I’m writing… Noyzi has started doing that, too. At least I’ll always have a doggy buddy when I blog.

The vet said she would look to see if there were other drugs we could try, how expensive they would be, and how onerous administering them would be. I told her that we are not in a hurry to lose Arran, but we’re also not expecting miracles. Zane had lymphoma, too. We know how this will end.

But, amazingly enough, Arran still seems very interested in living. His eyes are bright; his ears perk up; and he’s still got his indomitable personality. The vet tested his blood yesterday, and aside from having slightly low platelets, the results weren’t too alarming. He got a dose of Endoxan this morning, which seems to make him sleepy.

Arran is a very special dog, and we don’t want to lose him. I know we will, and it likely won’t be too much longer. He needs to stick around until tomorrow, when Bill comes home.

My computer is in a death spiral and won’t play music without hanging up repeatedly. Since I make music on my computer, this is a fireable offense. It also freezes up randomly, even after I quit unnecessary processes and dump large files. I ordered a new computer a couple of days ago. Hopefully, very soon, I’ll have my snazzy new machine.

He’s still such a scrapper.

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I knew it couldn’t last forever…

Last night, just before bed, I ran my hands over Arran’s body. That’s when I found the enlarged lymph node near his left “armpit”. I checked his other nodes. The ones in his back legs, which were enlarged when I first found out about his lymphoma, were not swollen. I thought I could detect a little swelling in the nodes under his jaw.

It’s possible that this isn’t lymphoma roaring back to life, but I think it probably is. I’ve noticed Arran is a little shaky lately, too.

He has a vet appointment on Wednesday. It will be his 16th week, I believe… and he’s already done better on chemo than I ever thought he could. He made it to his tenth anniversary.

I don’t know how much longer he has, but I suspect his time is drawing close. I’m kind of ambivalent about it. Yes, of course, I will miss him. I love him dearly. When we lose him, it’s going to leave a huge hole. But I also miss traveling freely, even just to go out to dinner. I miss being able to sleep through the night without having to let him out or feed him. He is about 14 years old, too.

What makes this worse is that Bill has to go away again this week. I think Arran will be okay, but the new swollen lymph node gives me an ominous feeling.

On the bright side, he’s still eating and able to jump on the bed by himself. All he has right now is a little trembling and a swollen node. But I think it’s time to prepare for the inevitable. And here I was thinking, before I found that swollen node, that maybe we could get him one last dental. He definitely needs one.

Anyway, if you can spare some good vibes, I’d appreciate them. I just want it to be smooth sailing until the end.

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gadgets

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.

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A big DUMP of snow…

Bill and I had made some tentative plans to get out of the house today. Mother nature had other plans. It started to snow last night at about 5:30pm or so… I had noticed a little snow in the afternoon. I hadn’t seen it actually falling, but I saw the evidence on the ground. Still, I was unprepared for the dumping of white stuff we got last night. I think we got about four inches or so, which is significant.

When we still lived in Jettingen (near Stuttgart), we typically got at least one good snowfall every winter. Usually, it snowed even more often than that, with the ice and snow hanging around for weeks sometimes. Up here in Breckenheim, it rarely snows. When it does snow, it’s not much, and the stuff melts quickly. Not so this time…

According to The Weather Channel, it’s possible we’ll get a little more snow this evening, although it’s kind of sunny and cold today. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to snow more. They’re calling for “snow showers”, because it’s not that cold outside. I think that’s what we were supposed to get last night, but as you can see, Mother Nature had other ideas. Don’t want to go out in that!

Arran has never been a fan of snow, so he’s just been going out to do the bare minimum. He got a walk today, too. Noyzi, on the other hand, seems to enjoy snow as much as his predecessor, Zane, did.

Noyzi enjoys the newly fallen snow. It’s early afternoon, and most of it hasn’t melted yet.

I enjoy snow. I think it’s pretty. I don’t necessarily want to go out in it, though, so that means I’ve been finishing up my latest book this afternoon instead of venturing out, like we’d hoped. SIGH… I don’t really enjoy this time of year in Germany. But, at least with each passing day, we get closer to spring. And our next trip, which could be as soon as next month, gets closer as each chilly, damp, and cloudy day passes. We’ll see what happens. It depends on Arran, and whether or not he can be boarded safely.

It’s always fun to have snow for a day or two, if only because it’s unusual… and it gives me a reason to wear the new coat I spent a boatload of money on last month.

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Health

He made it to ten years! Happy “gotcha day”, Arran!

Since I’ve been writing about my dog, Arran’s, canine chemotherapy progress in this blog, I think this is the right place to share the happy news. Our sweet Arran, who was diagnosed with B cell lymphoma in October 2022, has now officially been in our family for ten years! He is officially now the dog we’ve had for the longest time. I feel quite certain that if it weren’t for our local veterinarians, our sweet Arran would no longer be with us.

Naturally, I’m very happy that Arran has spent ten years with us. Our other beagle, Zane, was getting close to his tenth anniversary when he, too, got lymphoma. We lost him on August 31, 2019, just one week after he was diagnosed with cancer. I think Zane’s lymphoma was both more advanced and more aggressive than Arran’s has been. We never had the opportunity to try chemotherapy with him.

I don’t think Zane was quite as strong as Arran is. I also believe Zane came from a puppy mill, while Arran came from hunters who apparently were trying to breed the perfect hunting dog. He wasn’t the perfect hunting dog for them, but he is a very strong, resilient dog, who is very attached to us. Consequently, he’s really been fighting to stay with us.

Below is a photo I took on the day we adopted him, January 12, 2013. He’s sitting next to Zane in the house we were renting in Sanford, North Carolina. We had lost his predecessor, MacGregor, to a very aggressive spinal tumor on December 18, 2012. Arran was named “CD” by the rescue, and “Marley” by his first adoptive family. We decided to name him Arran after a beautiful island in Scotland we saw on our tenth anniversary cruise in Scotland. The news about MacGregor’s surprise spinal tumor had interrupted that wonderful and long awaited trip. I was still enchanted by how beautiful Scotland is, and how much at home I felt there. Arran, likewise, is beautiful, colorful, funny, mischievous, and very special… like the Island of Arran is.

I don’t know exactly how old Arran was in the above photo, but I would guess he was at least four, as he was previously adopted and returned to Triangle Beagle Rescue out of Raleigh, North Carolina. From the very beginning, our “Tribeagle” been sweet, adorable, and loving. He’s also been quite a troublemaker at times, and a real scrapper. I would say that his tendency to get into trouble is one reason why he’s still with us today. Below is a photo I took this morning. He was hunting for crumbs until the table.

He’s now at about week fourteen of his chemo. As you can see from the video, taken a couple of days ago, he’s still very interested in living… and eating! We owe a lot to our vets in the neighboring village of Wallau for providing such excellent and affordable care.

Our rascally “chowhound”, Arran!

When we decided to get treatment for Arran’s lymphoma, I really only hoped we’d get to celebrate ten years with our loving hound. As I look at him right now, he’s waiting impatiently for me to finish typing this, so we can take a walk. He’s still obviously very invested in living his life.

Obviously, not every dog will respond to treatment as well as Arran has, but we sure are glad we gave it a try. And now, we’re just going to focus on enjoying having him, for however long we can.

Arran on the day we brought him home from Raleigh, North Carolina. It was exactly ten years ago, today!

Anyway… I thought I’d just share the news. We have hit an unprecedented milestone. And for that, Arran deserves a walk with his big Kosovar pal, Noyzi. He sure is a fighter! And he’s still so very beautiful to me, even if he does pee on the floor and get us up at 3:00am for his breakfast.

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holidays

Farewell to 2022… hello to 2023!

Bill took the featured photo today, after walking the dogs. Apparently, there were a bunch of people in the Dorfplatz, making merry as the year changed…

Well, well, well… another Silvester is now in the books. Thanks to the loosening of COVID restrictions, the locals were allowed to set off fireworks again last night. It started here as the sun set We could hear them popping in the distance. Poor Noyzi was pretty scared, although Arran, as usual, wasn’t bothered at all.

At about 7:00 PM, we tried to convince Noyzi to pee outside. I knew it was going to get really crazy later, so I wanted him to go. But people were setting off fireworks even at that hour, which really spooked him. Bill tried to talk him into going, but he refused. He finally relented when I put him on a leash and took him to a corner of the yard where he usually goes. I stood outside with him, and listened to the popping. Finally, after about twenty minutes, he relaxed and did his business. Good thing he did it, too, because he really needed to go.

After that, we sat at the Eckbank Gruppe and listened to music. Noyzi curled up under the table a couple of times, but spent of the evening in his “room”, where his bed is. That’s where he spends most of his time. Arran, as usual, stayed with us. He’s our Velcro dog, and seems to get energy from snuggling… especially with Bill.

When it was midnight, there were fireworks going off everywhere. Our new neighbors were in the street with their kids, setting off all manner of explosives. I videoed some of their antics, although at some point, the video went into slow motion. That was definitely unintentional. I was surprised it wasn’t more crazy than it was. I’ve seen rowdier New Year’s Eves, although they were further to the south, where people are a little more provincial. 😉

We had pretty warm weather last night, too, which is unusual for Germany. I was able to comfortably be outside barefoot and without a sweater. That should probably concern me, but it made for easy viewing of the fireworks. I think people in Hessen are a little more sensible about fireworks than people near Stuttgart are. I may be wrong, though… It probably depends on the neighborhood.

My attempts to take still photos of the fireworks weren’t very successful or interesting, or else I would share them here. But below is a video…

This was the scene in our neighborhood last night!

Well, that about sums up our New Year’s Eve. I’m always kind of glad when the holidays are over, even though I dread taking down the decorations. I find the holidays kind of exhausting, even though it’s just Bill and me and the dogs celebrating. I also think I get kind of tired of how dark it stays here at this time of year. In any case, I’m just glad there’s no drama over here… just lots of food, drinks, music, and loud popping.

Bill is now preparing our New Year’s Day feast. I think he gets tomorrow off, so we’ll probably take care of some more chores. I think he’s going to put together my new office chair, which comes equipped with heat and massage functions. He sure is good to me.

I hope you had a very nice New Year’s Eve, and I wish you the best during this new year… health, wealth, safety, and happiness.

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holidays

New Years Eve 2022!!! We’re bracing ourselves.

I fully expect tonight will be an awesome display of German style pandemonium. For the past two years, the customary neighborhood fireworks displays have been prohibited, because of the COVID pandemic. This year, Germans are once again allowed to purchase fireworks for New Year’s Eve. And as Bill has just come back from the local Rewe, where he bought sparkling water, beer, and laundry detergent, he noticed that a lot of people were at the grocery store, stocking up on bottle rockets, firecrackers, sparklers, and other assorted pyrotechnics.

I suspect the fireworks will upset Noyzi, who has been spared the armageddon like New Year’s tradition for the past two years. Last night, he happened to go outside as someone set off a firecracker. It totally spooked him, and he tried to run back inside before he took a much needed whiz. I made him stay outside and do his business, even though so far, he’s been very reliable about not relieving himself in the house. Noyzi is still very frightened of a lot of things and will jump or try to flee at very little provocation. He has gotten a lot better, though. It’s been very rewarding watching him evolve into a much beloved dog who has a family and a home.

Arran doesn’t care about fireworks. I suspect he’ll sleep through the whole spectacle, as he usually does. He’ll probably fart a few times for good measure. In that way, he is decidedly unlike his predecessor, MacGregor, who was terrified of fireworks. I remember poor MacGregor, the first year we lived in Germany (2007). The people in our neighborhood were all out in the streets, lighting explosives like there was no tomorrow. MacGregor found a spot under my desk and shivered until it was over, hours later.

Even though fireworks were prohibited for the past couple of years, some local Germans still had a stockpile from years past. New Year’s is the only time of year fireworks are allowed to be sold, so I know those were explosives that weren’t spent in earlier years. For New Year’s 2020, we still got a short show. In 2021, it was even shorter still. But this year, I will be very surprised if the fireworks aren’t erupting for a very long time and in high concentrations. I’m glad we have a balcony, so we can watch them. We don’t set them off ourselves.

Hell, I would probably not be too upset if there wasn’t a fireworks show… as they are loud and disruptive, and they upset animals and people with PTSD. And the reason they weren’t allowed in the past two years is because every year, people get hurt. I read one article today that mentioned how it’s customary for people to start showing up in German hospital emergency rooms at about twenty minutes after midnight. Germans are, on the whole, careful and law abiding people, but something about Silvester makes some of them lose their fucking minds. 😉 Alas, some of them also lose digits and limbs, or wind up with severe burns, because they handle fireworks improperly on New Year’s Eve.

I usually get quite tired before midnight these days, anyway… and Bill definitely does. But I know I can’t sleep through tonight. It will be impossible, unless I drug myself. And because my stomach has been giving me issues lately, I don’t want to take that risk. I’ll probably stick with my usual bubbly and call it a night… maybe read more of Jamie Lynn Spears’ book, which I started yesterday. I gotta say, after reading Paulina Porizkova’s book… or even Matthew Perry’s book… she comes off as a kind of a twit. I’ll probably enjoy writing my review. 😉 I predict it will be pretty snarky. If you want to read my thoughts on Paulina’s and Matthew’s books, you can find my reviews on my main blog. The link is at the top of this page (or right here).

Today, we’re taking care of some “honey do” chores. I managed to get a new bookshelf for the cookbooks I keep buying (and rarely using) at Christmas. I put it in our living room, where it makes the room look better furnished. I was going to buy another one for Bill’s Jung books, but after I moved some of the cooking/boozing books from our upstairs shelf, I discovered a whole shelf was available for the Jung books. That’s probably enough for now, although I might get another one anyway, just because I also need to buy new bathroom rugs.

As I write this, the duvet covers are being washed, newly washed sheets are on the bed, a load of clothes have been washed, and Bill is cleaning out the kitchen cabinets. He’s looking for a moth infestation, after I noticed two tiny holes in his favorite wool sweater on Monday, when we went to Villa Im Tal for a Christmas lunch. I figure the holes come from moths, because I’ve noticed a few of them flying around, and I know we have old stuff that needs to be tossed. I’ve already thrown out a couple of things, to include a package of Jello pudding that dates from 2017. 😀

It will be nice to have a slightly less cluttered and cleaner house. Since I got a new vacuum for Christmas, I took the old vacuum to the basement and used it to tidy up a bit downstairs. I’ll probably move that machine downstairs permanently, at some point. It will live with my Tineco wet vacuum, which I’ll probably use after I finish writing this post. That vacuum is good for getting rid of muddy paw prints on the parquet floors. I don’t do it very often, though, because frankly it’s a waste of time and energy. The dogs are constantly tracking mud into the house, because this time of year it rains a lot. Today, we have pretty warm weather, especially for this time of year… but it’s a bit cloudy.

Anyway… wish us luck. I wish you a safe and happy new year. I look forward to some exciting and more frequent travel experiences in 2023, God willing. Of course, that will probably mean losing Arran, which will be very sad… On the other hand, as sad as it will be, it will also present opportunities that we’ve been missing. Much like the Germans have been missing their fireworks. 😉 And, just like the Germans sometimes get into trouble when they set off explosives, so do Americans who travel in Europe. The silver lining is, those kinds of fiasco experiences lead to some epic travel tales. So stay tuned! Happy New Year! And tune in tomorrow, because I’ll probably have photos and video of whatever happens!

The featured photo was taken in Natural Bridge, Virginia, at my family’s homestead during our Thanksgiving 2014 celebration (last time I was home)… My cousin and his son are fireworks experts (seriously) and put on these shows for a living. A few years ago, they put one on for my cousin’s daughter’s summer wedding and pissed off half of Roanoke, Virginia. This is funny to me, because my dad never set off fireworks. I guess some of my relatives get their adrenaline rushes by lighting things on fire and watching them blow up.

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A Christmas treat at Villa Im Tal…

I know I have at least one reader out there in Internet Land who likes it when Bill and I go out to eat. There was a time not so long ago when that was a pretty regular occurrence for us. Unfortunately, COVID-19 and Arran’s sudden regression to puppy adolescent behavior have curtailed our fun in recent weeks. He’s been breaking into the basement, getting into anything remotely resembling food. It got so bad that I ordered a new baby gate last week and it arrived the other day. It’s about four feet tall, I think.

Bill installed the new gate and beagle proofed as much as he could today, as we had a 1:00 appointment to visit one of our favorite restaurants, Villa Im Tal, a beautiful restaurant in a wooded area on the outskirts of Wiesbaden. We’ve been there many times, but I think our most recent visit was last spring. When I saw that they had a special Christmas menu available, I decided to ask Bill if he was up for it. Naturally, he was.

The special menu was four courses. Everybody got the same thing, except for the main course. There was one vegetarian selection, or a choice of roast beef, sea bass, or roasted duck. The duck was the most interesting for me, while Bill went with the roast beef. We ordered and paid for the food a few days ahead of time, to help out the chefs in their planning. However, once we got to the restaurant, we still had to tell our waitress what we wanted.

The food and service were, as usual, superb. We started with two glasses of white champagne, fresh bread with Spundekäs (a local mild cheese spread), then a beautiful sashimi salmon salad, with watercress, pomegranate seeds, turnips, and a honey mustard vinaigrette. Next came my favorite course, a delightful langoustine soup, with chili peppers, ginger, tomatoes, and croutons. That soup was so delicious! I would have gone there just for that course! It was a very comforting bisque that practically burst with flavor.

Next came our main dishes– Bill’s roast beef came with mushrooms and a barley risotto, and my duck included a potato knodel and spiced cranberries and red cabbage. Bill said the roast beef was excellent. I didn’t try it, because of the mushrooms. I did really enjoy the duck, though, which came with a savory gravy. We paired the entrees with a lovely Spatburgunder from Rheinland-Pfalz. Finally, for dessert, we had a Blood Orange Papaya Salad with mandarin sorbet, and white chocolate.

There were a lot of people in the restaurant, as well as a well behaved poodle who charmed a toddler girl. She put on quite a show as she came over to pet the friendly black dog. While we were enjoying our meal, I started telling Bill about how, the first time I visited Florence in 1997, I was with friends and ordered a steak. The waiter neglected to charge me for it. I called it to his attention, and he seemed ready to defend the prices. He was definitely surprised and very relieved when I let him know that he forgot to charge me for my dinner.

The same thing happened to Bill and I one time when we were dining at The Occidental in Washington, DC, years ago. The waiter was very grateful that we pointed out the mistake, commenting that we saved him a lot of paperwork. Wouldn’t you know it, the same thing happened tonight! The waitress forgot to charge us for our bottle of red wine! She was pretty happy when Bill reminded her that we’d had it.

Villa Im Tal is a nice restaurant, but it’s also child friendly. This dinner offered a kids’ menu, and I’m pretty sure they have one on their regular menu, too. But although it’s family ready, it’s also a very nice place to eat. The food and service are always outstanding. I always appreciate the friendly and professional staff members, many of whom speak English, and the beautiful woodsy setting, near a large riding facility that makes me miss owning a horse.

We prepaid for the food, which was 88 euros per person. I think the bill for the wine and sparkling water was another 100 euros, plus Bill threw in some euro cash as a tip. It was worth every euro cent, as Villa Im Tal is always a pleasure. Below are some photos from our delightful date…

When we got home, at about 3:45pm, Arran and Noyzi were very excited. And we were excited to find that the only casualty from our absence was some newspaper that Arran shredded. I threw it in the fireplace, possibly for a fire tonight. I know we’ll be back to Villa Im Tal. It’s definitely a favorite.

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holidays

Merry Christmas 2022!

Here’s a quick photo dump and a few paragraphs about our eleventh Christmas in Germany. We have now spent half our marriage in this beautiful country, but the Christmases have been epic– 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and now 2022… Oh, okay, technically we spent Christmas 2019 in France.

But we’ve lived over here for awhile… so long, in fact, that we didn’t bother to go to any Christmas markets this year. That was mostly because of Arran, who has been undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma and tends to get in trouble if he gets left alone. We are planning to go out tomorrow, though… lovely lunch at Villa Im Tal, which is one of our favorite restaurants. I just bought a new, taller, and sturdier baby gate for preventing entry to the basement, which I hope will curtail any of Arran’s antics for a few hours tomorrow.

As usual, I bought a lot more gifts for Bill than he bought for me, mainly because I know what he likes, and what we need. I usually get him clothes for Christmas, but I already got him clothes a few weeks ago. He doesn’t need more. In fact, we both really need to cull our wardrobes! I have some clothes I haven’t worn in ten years! The only thing I bought for him that he can wear are new gloves, which he requested. I ordered them from an Italian outfit called Fratelli Orsini. He tried them on and said they fit perfectly. I tried to order a pair for myself, but I think I chose gloves that were out of stock. Oh well.

I mostly bought books– especially cookbooks and books about wine, and one book by Carl Jung– and lots of kitchen gadgets. I had a good time stuffing Bill’s stocking, which my mom knitted for us twenty years ago. We used to fill them every year, but stopped for some reason. This year, we decided to fill them again, to great success. I think Bill was especially pleased with the “toilet light” I got for us. He got me ready made cocktails, which won’t be as good as his, but might come in handy at some point. He also bought me shawls in three different colors.

Bill made baked eggs with asparagus and smoked salmon for breakfast, using one of last year’s cookbooks. He recently discovered them, and decided he liked them, so I bought him two more books by the same author, the late Michel Roux, a Frenchman who went to Britain and changed food there. Just now, I decided to get a couple more of his books, because they’re going out of print, and I have plans to buy bookshelves in the new year. Bill also made some excellent biscuits from scratch, a skill he’s been working on for awhile. The secret is truly in the flour. You need White Lily self rising flour to make them like we have them at home.

Anyway… here goes with the photo dump… He bought me a weighted blanket, which Arran immediately claimed. I also got a new office chair with heat and massage and a cordless vacuum! I did ask him for the vacuum, because the one I have is 7 years old and very cumbersome to use. I think it was a successful morning.

The featured photo is from a Christmas card our landlord brought us. It’s a photo of our village church, which dates from the 12th century. I love the photo. I might need to find a frame!

Bill is now preparing dinner, which should be pretty epic. I feel very fortunate today… and I hope everyone reading this also feels good/well today. But I know Christmas isn’t always easy for everyone… so if you happen to be feeling blue today, I send my very best wishes for better days. Merry Christmas, to all who celebrate! For those who don’t celebrate, may your day be blessed!

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