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.


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!


Bill’s birthday in Tübingen

Bill and I had big plans to hit the gastro fest in Tübingen today.  However, circumstances kind of got in the way and we never made it to any of the events.  Oh well. We managed to have a good time anyway.

On weekends, I frequently have a few ideas of things to do.  Sometimes it’s a no brainer which activity to choose, mainly because of the weather.  Sometimes we set out to do something and end up doing something entirely different.  It turned out the gastro fest was being done in different venues around the city… or, at least that’s what I think happened.  If we had gone last weekend, we probably would have run into something of substance.  As it was, today we just had a fabulous lunch at Weinstube Forelle and a nice afternoon at the Neckarmüller, which is probably our favorite Biergarten anywhere.

A bonus is that we found a cool new gift/souvenir/craft beer shop that also accepts bottle donations and we picked up a couple more bottles of Georgian wine.  I’d say it was a successful day.  Below are some photos!

We arrived in town to find someone doing a weird version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet… complete with a guy in drag.


I had visions of trying to find a restaurant we haven’t tried yet, but the call of nature compelled us to stop short of our goals.  We ended up having lunch at an old favorite, the historic Weinstube Forelle.  We got there at just after one o’clock and our waitress welcomed us, as lunch had already wound down a bit.  She was a dead ringer for actress Jamie Lee Curtis.  We ate at this restaurant once when we lived here the first time and three times since we’ve been back.  Every time, we’ve enjoyed good food and service.


A shot of the dining room.


It’s Bill’s birthday.  He looks alright for 54.

Bill ordered one of the specials of the day, wolfbarsch (European sea bass) with spaghetti, cream sauce, and green onions.  It was delicious!  He paired it with a locally produced gray burgundy.

I had dorade filet with broccoli and potatoes.  The broccoli was surprisingly good.  I don’t usually like it that much, but they had drenched it in oil and a seasoning I couldn’t place.  It tasted almost like it was fried, although it wasn’t.  The potatoes were cooked with garlic and green onions; they were also delicious.  And the dorade was also excellent, although I couldn’t finish the whole thing.  


Since it’s Bill’s birthday, we had dessert.  Okay, so it doesn’t have to be a special occasion for me to have dessert… however, it does serve as a great excuse.  He had creme brulee with red cassis and chocolate covered ice cream bites (think Bon Bons).  

I went with a wonderfully summer friendly lemon sorbet paired with mint and cucumber.  Sparkling wine was poured over the sorbet and cucumbers so that it was almost like a float.  This was very light, refreshing, and perfect for summer, even though today isn’t that hot.

Here’s a shot of the outside.  Yes, you can eat out there if you want to.  I guess last night’s sudden rainstorm scared us off.


After lunch, we visited Neckar-Pirat, a very cool shop that sells souvenirs upcycled from random stuff.  I enticed Bill in there because they were selling craft beers.  We stayed because they had some really interesting stuff.

A list of what’s available…

They had clocks made of old vinyl records and hubcaps, as well as bowls made of vinyl records.

They had lamps made from booze bottles… and apparently, they take donations.  Perhaps we should stop in next time we need to dump some of ours.

There were key racks made of old silverware, wallets and eyeglass cases made of cork, and magnets made from beer bottle caps.  Not only is the stuff pretty cool to look at, it makes use of what would otherwise be considered trash.

Bill got himself a t-shirt.

Next time you’re in town, stop in!


Next, we dropped by Vinum for a short visit.  We wanted to pick up some of our favorite Georgian wines, which we’ve only found locally at Vinum.  Then we went to the Neckarmueller for a Biergarten break.

While I was waiting for the restroom, I encountered this microwave oven.  Apparently, it’s open to guests.  Maybe you prefer a warm pretzel?


Below are some scenes from the Biergarten.  I love to come here on a summer Saturday and people watch.  There’s always something going on.  This particular Biergarten has changed a bit since our last tour, when it was arranged differently.

This station, for instance, used to be in a separate building to the right.

This boat was full of a brass band playing “Memory” by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Cats.

I have a feeling these guys might be geschmackered by now.

A group of ice cream eating ladies who lunch.

Pretty soon, the place filled up.  People wanted to watch football.

This was the scene as we were leaving.

We decided to walk back via the river and woods…  Below are photos from our walk back to the parking garage.

This guy and a buddy were playing bocce.

Lovely woods in the city.

And one last shot of the Neckar River.

We walked through the tunnel to get back to the parking area.

This tracks the number of bikers coming through the tunnel every day.  It’s sponsored by the university.

Messages of inclusiveness in the tunnel…  How refreshing!

And a less inclusive message…  or maybe more inclusive, depending on your viewpoint.

But then, back to inclusiveness.

We stopped by Die Kelter for a potty break.  I think Tübingen needs Nette Toilette.  This can turn into a vicious cycle.

I do like their Campari and soda lamps, though.

All in all, Bill had a lovely birthday, even if we never did find our way to the gastro fest.  Oh well.  We had a good time together, which is all that matters, really.  And a week from now, we’ll be in Dublin, celebrating with another concert.


Bill’s favorite Christmas gift…

Bill and I had a quiet Christmas holiday this year.  After an enjoyable Friday night repast with the Mad Scientist (at Agais in Entringen), we spent the weekend mostly watching movies, drinking wine, and enjoying each other’s company.  I’m actually suffering quite a bit from cabin fever lately, so I’m hoping we can get back to going out to eat and taking trips soon.  We may be getting away for MLK weekend if Bill can arrange for an extra day off and I can find suitable accommodations for us and the dogs.

I normally wouldn’t write about something like this on my travel/food blog, but I notice I have many military readers, some of whom may be “housespouses” like me.  I used to do a fair amount of cooking when I first got married, but now Bill does a lot of it.  I’m always on the lookout for appliances that will make his job quicker and easier.

My local friend Grace, a busy mother of three young kids, recently posted on Facebook about how much she was loving her Instant Pot.  She raved about being able to boil down bones into savory broths with little to no effort.  I had not heard of the Instant Pot until I saw Grace’s Facebook post, so off I went to Amazon.de to check it out.  Turns out this appliance is a bit of a wunderkind for the kitchen.  It has seven functions that do everything from making rice to yogurt.  It’s also a pressure cooker, a food warmer, and a slow cooker.

I bought Bill a Crock Pot last year, which he’s loved using.  I think the Instant Pot has the Crock Pot beat.  Last night, he used a pork and beef mixture he got at our local Metzgerei and made a delicious stew with a minimum of fuss.  He said clean up was ridiculously painless, too.  The cooking pot is very efficient and dishwasher safe.  Speaking of safety, the Instant Pot also has several safety mechanisms that make it safer to use than a traditional pressure cooker (although you still have to be careful when you release the steam).

We haven’t yet had the chance to try out all the functions of our new Instant Pot, but I have a feeling that new gadget is going to get a lot of use in our house.  An added bonus is that it does a lot, but only takes up the space of one appliance.

We got the local version, which runs on 220 current and comes with both EU and UK plugs.  I see there’s also a US version available.  If this post inspires you to pick one up, I recommend getting a cookbook to go with it, although Bill has found many blog posts about the Instant Pot and how awesome it is.

I have a feeling this new toy will get lots of use in our house…

I also have another high tech gadget still enroute that Bill will probably love.  If he loves it, I’ll write about it.

advice, Germany

Yet another Christmas in Germany!

Merry Christmas to all my readers who celebrate today.  Germany is a lovely place to be at Christmas time, though this year we didn’t manage to hit any of the markets.

We usually have breakfast before we open gifts, but this year we decided to “cut to the chase” early.  I’m glad we did.  Bill got things off to a good start with the very first gift, a bottle of my favorite champagne (Taittinger).  I bought him an Instant Pot, which I had seen a fellow Stuttgart wife singing the praises of recently.  I got him a book to go with the new appliance, as well as a large box of wine glasses, because Bill is forever breaking them!  I probably should have bought him a sippy cup for his wine.

We also got a spiffy new coffee carafe.  We had one for several years that we bought the first time we lived here, but it started to wear out.  We got another one when we moved back, but the quality wasn’t as good.  It has a big dent in it that makes it rock back and forth when you set it on a table.  So I sprang for a nice new carafe that will make sure our Peet’s is at the right temperature.

Thanks, Amazon.de…  the first time we lived here, we bought glasses at Bruenigerland.  I think having them delivered to your doorstep is better.

I told Bill I like jewel tones, so he bought me a pretty rainbow colored wrap.  As I pulled it out of the wrapping paper, I quipped that I like my “gay pride” wrap!  It really is pretty, even if I’m not wearing makeup.  He also bought me blue topaz earrings and a Time Capsule for my computer.

Sorry I’m not done up for this picture.

I thought I bought Bill a flannel shirt, but it turned out I got him pajamas.  He doesn’t usually wear pajamas, but I have to admit they look really snuggly.  I might have to get him to put them on later while we sit around, enjoy wine, and watch bad TV.  That’s what we usually do on Christmas.

(Edited to add…  It turns out LL Bean screwed up.  I had ordered Bill a flannel lined outerwear shirt and they sent us pajamas, which were in the same pattern as a flannel shirt I bought him last year.  He tried them on and likes them, but they’re a bit too long for him.)

He likes them, though, so he’s going to keep them and get them altered.

There are still a few gifts in transit, so I guess the exchange will continue into the new year or beyond, given how APO has been lately.

All in all, it’s been a peaceful morning so far.  Time for breakfast now!