holidays

12 confused German kids in costumes…

Well, Halloween has come and gone, and this year, we actually celebrated. One of our new neighbors had asked us to participate in Halloween because she and her husband have young children. However, even though we carved jack o’lanterns, lit them with candles, and turned on our lights, that neighbor didn’t visit us. I’m not sure why she didn’t, but it was okay, because we got visits from other neighborhood children.

The first ones showed up in a group of three at about 6pm. They didn’t ring the doorbell, but I could see them because we have glass panels by our front door. Bill met them at the door and said they looked utterly shocked when he offered them candy. They didn’t say a word as Bill gave them Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s bars, Hershey’s Almond Chocolate Kisses, and Dove Minis. I could see two teenagers with them who looked quite amused and delighted. One of them laughed when he asked if they wanted any candy.

The next group of three showed up a little while later. They didn’t ring the doorbell either, but did manage to say “Süß oder Sauer!” (sweet or sour, the German version of “Trick or Treat!”) I didn’t mind that they didn’t ring the bell, since it would only make the dogs freak out.

A couple of bigger kids came by, and I heard one of them quite confidently explain to Bill in German that they weren’t sure if anyone was going to have candy since this isn’t really something that is done in Germany. I have a feeling that it’s going to catch on, though. At about 4:00, I noticed a group of costume clad children heading down the hill from our house. I figured maybe they were going to a party. I have noticed more Halloween themed stuff this year as opposed to other years, and the kids that were participating were clearly enjoying themselves.

Then the Italian couple across from our house came over with their child. Bill gave him Kisses and Minis, but astutely noticed the child eyeing one of the full sized Hershey Bars. Bill gave him one of those. I noticed the peanut butter cups were popular, probably because they aren’t widely available in German stores. I never hear so much about peanut allergies here, either. Personally, I think German chocolate is a lot better than American chocolate is, but kids love novel stuff.

One other thing I noticed is that most of the participants either had very small bags for collecting candy or no bag at all! But then, I also noticed that they didn’t have a lot of candy, either. We might have been among the very few houses passing out sweets!

I’m quite pleased with the turnout from last night. There have been years when we’ve lived in America and gotten just slammed with kids, and other years when we’ve lived in rural areas and gotten no one at all. One year, when we lived in Germany the first time, we got kids, but had no candy. Another year, we had candy, but only got a visit from two teenaged boys who looked like they were dressed as their drunk uncles. This year, we had a nice number of local children, all of whom were in the spirit of things in their costumes and very appreciative that we gave them candy. I almost felt like it was an international relations act of goodwill. See? Americans aren’t all bad. 😉

If we’re still here next year, maybe we’ll decorate more, so the kids who participate won’t be so shy. I might even put on a costume myself… or maybe I’ll just wear my Dirndl. We turned off the porch light at about 8:45, and we still have candy leftover. But at least this year, we did manage to give some away, which is a good thing. My ass doesn’t need more presents.

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holidays

Pumpkin project!

Yesterday, since it was cloudy, Bill went to the local market to pick up some pumpkins. We have new German neighbors who have small children and they asked us to celebrate Halloween this year. So we obliged, although it wasn’t easy to find pumpkins. Halloween is becoming more and more popular in Germany, especially in areas were a lot of Americans live. Bil had to go to three stores to find suitable pumpkins for carving. The local farm near us was having a corn maze/Halloween fest, so he thought he might get lucky there. But there was nowhere to park! All the kids were celebrating Halloween!

I remember our first year in Germany, back in 2007. We were living in a hotel on Halloween, although it was our last night there, as we moved into our first German house on November 1. The following year, we had people ring our doorbell, but since we didn’t know if Germans celebrated Halloween, we were completely unprepared. Then in 2009, we had to move back to the States prematurely.

In 2014, we came back to Germany and lived in Jettingen. That year, we had candy, although I’m not sure if we carved a pumpkin. A pair of German teen boys in rather lame costumes rang our bell. That was it for trick or treaters. Ever since then, if we’ve been home, we have candy just in case, but we don’t usually bother with jack o’lanterns. Last year, we were Croatia on Halloween, which was a marvelous place to be. Croatia in the fall is glorious, as you can see here.

Anyway, below are some photos of our pumpkin project. I think they turned out okay. Bill is going to go get some American candy, and hopefully our neighbors will ring the doorbell tomorrow night. Otherwise, I’ll end up doing what I do every year for Halloween, and eat all the candy myself. God knows, I don’t need to be doing that! Our jack o’lanterns aren’t very menacing. I’m not that good at pumpkin carving.

We have pretty nice weather today. The sun is out, and it’s not too cold. We probably ought to go out and do something fun, but Bill is still resting up after his bout with COVID. Except for a little fatigue, he’s fine now, and will be headed back to in person work tomorrow. Meanwhile, our sweet Arran continues to improve on the medication he’s getting for lymphoma. Yesterday, he even started jumping on the bed again. The chemo regimen is obviously doing some good for him as he enjoys what will probably be his last fall season. We continue to cherish our time with him and marvel at what a trouper he is. I’m grateful that we’ll be able to enjoy his company for a little bit longer.

Today is also the first day of standard time. Next week, everybody in the States who change the clocks will be moving their clocks back, too. I think if we have to change the clocks, it’s better to do it before Halloween. That way, it’s dark enough for a proper Trick or Treat experience. That’s how it was when I was a kid, anyway.

Anyway, if you celebrate, Happy Halloween!

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Health, markets

Chemo, COVID, and another weekly market…

This week has really flown by. Here it is, Friday morning, and it’s time to write another blog post for my “travel/German living” blog.

Last time I posted, I mentioned that Bill wasn’t feeling well. In that post, I wrote that he was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue from two back to back TDYs, and some kind of respiratory illness that wasn’t COVID. Well, it turned out we were wrong. Bill went to work on Monday, and learned that a couple of his colleagues who had been at the conference in Bavaria had come down with COVID. Since he still wasn’t feeling well himself, Bill decided to test. Sure enough, he had a positive result, so he’s been working from home for the rest of the week.

He’s actually feeling fine now, and never got very sick with the virus. He didn’t have a fever at all, never lost his sense of taste or smell, and aside from some coughing and fatigue, hasn’t been much worse for wear. Yesterday, because he’s over the virus, he took Arran in for his chemo treatment, and we attended the weekly market, although we made sure to stay on the periphery of the crowd. He’s working from home today, too, because his boss told him to, but he’s pretty much recovered from the sickness. I haven’t been sick at all, perhaps because I had COVID myself back in July. While Bill was at the vet’s office, he was masked, as everyone is required to be in any healthcare setting in Germany.

Arran is still doing well with his lymphoma treatment. His blood test didn’t reveal any progress, per se, toward technical remission, but we can see a difference in his energy level. For instance, a few days ago, I was eating a sandwich on my bed, and Arran managed to jump up on the bed by himself. He has pretty much quit doing that lately, but before he got sick, he always slept on our bed. He’s also been jumping up on the bench of our Eckbank Gruppe, which he always did when he was well. I know a lot of people wouldn’t want a dog sitting next to them on a bench or sleeping in bed with them, but for us, it’s a normal thing. I’m just glad Noyzi doesn’t do it, because he’s a lot bigger and hairier.

We had gorgeous weather yesterday for the market, so we went down for about an hour or so. We got some cheese, cold cuts, and beautiful produce. Maybe I’ll make a homemade tomato sauce today and we’ll make lasagne or manicotti. Of course, we also enjoyed some local wines, and waved to our neighbors. I really love the weekly market. I know the markets are common in larger towns, but our little neighborhood is unusually close knit, so the market is intimate and convivial.

Our town manager is always there to oversee everything, too. I think he does a great job. He’s very active on social media, and approachable. This is something we didn’t experience when we lived near Stuttgart. I didn’t know who the town managers were in our previous neighborhoods, nor did we have weekly events like we do in Breckenheim. But then, I don’t know if what we have in Breckenheim is the norm for the Wiesbaden area, either. I’ve noticed there’s been an uptick in events here just over the last year or so, but then, we did have to deal with COVID restrictions. Anyway, Bill and I both really like that they do these events here, and we have enjoyed meeting some of the locals with whom we share space.

Below are some photos from this week. First, are a few shots of our Arran, who is obviously feeling much better. Bill asked about the bill for his treatment so far, and the vet said there’s no pressure to settle up at this point. As Americans, we are allowed to use a “VAT” form, which exempts us from having to pay local taxes for the treatment. Whether or not to accept VAT forms is voluntary on the part of local merchants, since it involves paperwork for them. But it sure is nice for us when they do that, especially for expensive things like non-routine veterinary care, or big purchases like furniture.

This week, I read an article in the Washington Post about a woman who got expensive cancer treatment for her dog. She got a lot of rude comments from people, which I ranted about. Last night, she left me a very nice comment on my post, which you can read here. In any case, so far Arran is doing well, and we’ve been enjoying some priceless time with him. I also don’t expect that his care will cost as much as it would in the United States. As soon as we have a bill, I will confirm or deny that expectation for the curious.

And here are some shots from the market… Someone had some heavenly smelling bread. It smelled like garlic bread. I never did find the source, but they were also selling waffles with powdered sugar that reminded me of the early 90s, when I worked at Busch Gardens making waffle cones. I worked in “Germany”, and wore a dirndl. Little did I know what the future would hold.

Bill found some lovely Italian cheeses and cold cuts, as well as gorgeous, colorful produce… but I was there for the wine.

For some reason, the editor isn’t letting me put comments on the photos… Luckily, most of them are self explanatory. I did notice the Gastatte sign for the first time yesterday. Breckenheim has little signs on its historic buildings, as well as “stumbling stones” (Stolpersteine), placed in honor of local Jewish people who were victims of the Holocaust. The stones are now making appearances all over Europe. You can search my blog for more information on those.

Since Bill is feeling better, maybe we can get out of the house this weekend. We do have plans to carve pumpkins for Halloween this year, since we have new German neighbors with small children who requested it. I’ll post about that when the time comes. 😉

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customs

The first night of Breckenheim’s very first wine fest!

This year, we seem to be attending so many wine fests! It’s probably on account of COVID-19 restrictions finally going away. October is coming, and there may be new restrictions, based on what the virus does. For now, Germans are having their beloved festivals, and where we live, they’re all about the wine. Remember that we moved to Wiesbaden in late 2018, so we missed the 2018 season. In 2019, it was “normal”, but we were dealing with stress associated with our departure from Stuttgart that put a damper on our spirits. Then came 2020 and 2021, and fests were significantly reduced. In 2022, things have rebounded a lot.

Our little town of Breckenheim is up and coming. We just got a weekly market, which started last week, probably to justify the installation of the new public toilet (which I got to use last night). This week, had a market AND a wine fest. I anticipate that there will be a lot more socializing in our village, and it’s a great thing. I’ve stated more than once how much we have enjoyed how convivial Breckenheim is. It’s a very different, friendly, mostly inclusive vibe here that helps to make up for losing the awesome beauty of the Schwarzwald in our backyard.

Bill came home from his latest business trip yesterday afternoon. He took Arran to the vet, because he’s been a little “off” lately, plus his run ins with the hedgehog in our backyard resulted in his getting fleas. Hedgehog fleas apparently don’t infest dogs and cats like regular fleas do, but they do bite. I noticed Arran had swollen popliteal lymph nodes, too. So he got a fine needle aspirate, antibiotics, and flea meds. One of the fleas was kind enough to jump off of Arran when he was being examined. Bill said the vet, two techs, and he all worked together to corral the nasty beast so it can be studied under a microscope. I’m hoping that whatever has Arran acting odd will turn out to be related to the fleas and isn’t due to cancer. He’s about 14 years old now, and our last three dogs succumbed to cancer. Arran was a little slow this morning, but after he had some breakfast and a walk, he perked up a bit.

The wine fest is going to go on all weekend. We’ll probably go again, because we had so much fun last night. At first, there were a couple of ladies giving us the side eye when they heard us speaking English to another American. Later, our next door neighbor’s mom came over to talk to us. She went over and sat with the ladies, and probably told them we weren’t tourists. Then our landlord bought us a round of wine. And then the young family who is moving to our neighbor’s vacant apartment came over with their kids, and we had a great time chatting with them. I have a feeling they are going to be good friends. They even asked us to carve a jack o’ lantern for Halloween, because they want to celebrate it. I’m happy to do that. I’m not very good at carving pumpkins, though.

Halloween is kind of hit or miss in Germany. One year, during our first stint in Germany, we had people come to our door and we weren’t prepared. Then we weren’t home other years. Bill now picks up candy in case anyone rings the bell, but no one ever does. Looks like this year will be different. This is the same family who brought me a piece of the pretzel the other day. I found out that the mom is half Italian, which explains why she found the Stuttgart area to be less friendly. It’s my experience that Italians are stereotypically a lot warmer– sympatisch— as my Italian friend who lives in Germany would say– than people from Swabia are. At least at first. I’ve found that most Swabians will eventually warm up, once you get to know them. It just usually takes more time than it does up here in Hesse.

We were only going to stay a little while last night, then go home and have dinner, which is why we didn’t try the food vendor’s wares. Instead, we ate a pretzel with Spundekäs, which wasn’t enough… especially considering how much wine we enjoyed. There were maybe four or five wine stands going, plus live music, plenty of seating, and the new toilet, which we learned last night cost taxpayers 120,000 euros or so… No wonder so many people were upset about it and a news guy from the local radio station was asking for opinions last year! But it is a nice facility, at least for now. And it’s Kostenfrei (free of charge), which really makes it special. 😉 I tried the new toilet, but failed to lock it properly. Luckily, I was finished when someone opened the door on me and said, “Entschuldigung!” (excuse me) I suppose I’ll learn the right way to lock the door, now that the village is about to be bustling with events.

Below are some photos from last night’s fun, plus a couple of videos from Bill’s return home.

Arran and Noyzi were delighted to see Bill after his trip. So was I!
Arran had to give his favorite person a hug. I was working on my latest puzzle.

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Uncategorized

Lunch at [M]eatery… and a run in with PETA…

Bill and I are always on the lookout for good places to eat.  We had heard a lot about [M]eatery in Stuttgart and noticed that it’s located very close to where we go to the dentist.  I told Bill we should visit over the weekend.  He told me that he’d heard that PETA was going to be protesting on Saturday.  Not knowing what kind of presence PETA has in Germany, he said maybe we should try to visit on Friday instead of Saturday.  But then it turned out [M]eatery was booked solid both Friday and Saturday nights.  So we decided to go there for lunch today and brave the PETA protest.  I grew up sorta near Norfolk, VA, which is where PETA is based, so I got a bit of a kick out of the prospect of seeing a protest here in Germany.  We heard it was only going to be about 20 people anyway.

On the way to Stuttgart, we ran into a slight traffic problem.  B28 is completely shut down for roadwork.  Consequently, a whole lot of people were trying to get to the autobahn through one two lane road via the city of Herrenberg.  It was very backed up, kind of like my colon after a Schlactfest.

On the way through backed up Herrenberg.  Two different guys on motorcycles cut in front of us.  Bill looked exasperated after the second one went and the guy casually scratched his head… but we noticed his middle finger extended.  I say, if you’re going to be ballsy enough to flip someone off, especially in a country where that’s illegal and everyone has a camera, at least do it openly.  None of this pansy ass subtle shit…

The traffic was very annoying, but didn’t delay us too much.  We got to the parking garage a few minutes after 2:00.  Our reservation was at 2:00.  The garage was packed, but we managed to find a spot anyway.

Outside at [M]eatery…

A server seated us at a comfortable two top with a nice view of the open kitchen.  We perused the very [literally] large menu.  Bill ordered wine and water.

The menu is literally big, as in it takes some coordination to hold it in your hands.  But it doesn’t have a huge variety to choose from, unless you want meat.  There are plenty of cuts of beef from places around the world with some nice sides, sauces, butters, and oils.  They also have burgers, salads, and fish dishes.  I wonder how many people ordered the Porterhouse.  It runs for about 89 euros!  
 
Though we didn’t necessarily need a menu in English, the waitress kindly gave us one.  I noticed that the weights on the beef were in ounces instead of grams, as they are on the German version.  They surely get a lot of Americans visiting them.  [M]eatery also has locations in Hamburg and Dresden.

Waiting for our first courses.  You can see the kitchen over Bill’s shoulders.  The chef was appropriately pierced, though not as much as the chef at Tommi’s.   The waitress brought out some hearty brown bread and butter.

Bill started with the “Beef Tea”, which sounds kind of gross.  Basically, it’s a soup that tastes like it’s made from the drippings of a roast beef.  He loved it.  I thought it wasn’t too shabby, either.

 

I had lobster chowder, which was rich and tasty and finished with watercress.  I didn’t eat the whole thing because I wanted to have room for my steak.  The chowder was basically good, though the potatoes were just a tiny hair underdone.  

Bill opted for a sirloin with a side of fries… The fries were a little greasy, which is kind of the way I like them.  They had a rich potato flavor, though… like they came from Idaho or something.  

 

I had the 10.6 ounce rib eye with a side each of herbed mashed potatoes and spinach.  I enjoyed my steak, though I wasn’t able to finish it or the sides.  It was the smallest rib eye they offered and cost 34 euros…  the funny thing is, I can get a similarly sized rib eye at Tommi’s in my town for about 14 euros and change.  It tastes about the same and costs less than half as much as this did.  However, I really liked the sides at [M]eatery.  The spinach was done perfectly and wasn’t too mushy and the mashed potatoes were surprisingly flavorful and comforting.  Tommi’s doesn’t offer the same sides– I usually end up with frites there, which is fine, but given a choice, I probably would choose mashed potatoes to go with a steak.  Sides at [M]eatery are four euros each.

Halfway through lunch, our waitress changed clothes and took a break.  We were then looked after by a very professional male waiter who lit up when I asked him for brandy.  He wrapped up my leftovers into a basket.  I should have taught him how to make a swan.  😉

Bill had a double espresso.

I had a heavenly snifter of Hennessy XO, which runs 25 euros a pour.  That was the midrange cognac on offer.  The cheapest was nine euros and the most expensive was 49 euros.  All three were Hennessy.  I gotta say, the XO is very nice.

 

We finished up at about 4:00.  Our original waitress had changed back into her working clothes and presented us with the check.  Our bill before tip was about 165 euros, which was slightly less than what we were expecting.  Bill was able to pay with a credit card.  After we settled our check, we headed to where the PETA protest was.  I was expecting to see a bunch of picket signs and the like.  I must say, PETA surprised me by being clever…

Look in the distance and you can see a table set up with made up young people…  They were dressed like zombies!

 

I didn’t want to get too close, though one of the zombies did hand me some literature…  Sorry these are not great pictures, but again, the protest was not very big.  Look toward the back right for black signs with purple lettering.  Some of the “zombies” were really taking their roles seriously.  Not only were they dressed the part and in full makeup, but they were even walking like something out of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

 

I walked away with the leaflet, along with my meaty leftovers from [M]eatery…  The “protest” was very low key and kind of funny.  I liked that they took advantage of Halloween to make a statement, even though I’m not a vegetarian at all…  Frankly, I kind of admire people who don’t eat meat.  Wish I wanted to do it.

The PETA literature… not nearly as offensive as a Jack Chick tract!

And next weekend, it appears that Stuttgart is going to have a big shopping event.  Since Herrenberg will likely still be STAU-ified, I doubt we’ll take advantage…  Beyond this sign, a young man was playing new age piano versions of ABBA songs.  I must say I enjoy visiting Stuttgart.  Should have done it more when we were here from 07-09.

One last Stuttgart city view…

I don’t know why, but we completely forgot about Halloween on the military installations.  We decided to stop by Patch on the way home for a pit stop and to pick up a few items from the commissary.  We were confronted by a huge line of cars and people waiting to go trick or treating.  I must admit, we saw some truly great costumes.  Bill saw one kid dressed as a Dalek, which is a character from Dr. Who, and he said the kid must be a real “geek”… but he meant that in the nicest possible way.  Bill is a geek himself and he is a big fan of Dr. Who.

Overall, we really enjoyed our lunch at [M]eatery, although to be very honest, I didn’t think the steaks were better than what we have had at Tommi’s Bistro here in Unterjettingen.  Tommi’s is also a hell of a lot less expensive, offers live music, and we can walk there from our house.  I don’t know if or when we’ll be back to [M]eatery, though I would certainly recommend it to meat lovers who are in Stuttgart.

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