My new skill.


Since Bill and I are still housebound, like most everyone else is, we have been doing some online shopping. My husband, being the very military minded man he is, was becoming distressed over his inability to get a haircut. All of the barbers and hairstylists have closed until the COVID-19 threat passes.

Bill hates it when his hair gets shaggy and hits the top of his ears. I don’t like the way it looks, either. Recognizing that I’ve been cutting my own hair for many years, Bill asked me if I would mind giving him a trim. Being the ever dutiful wife I am, I ordered some clippers from Amazon. They arrived yesterday, and Bill got his haircut outside on the patio.

It didn’t turn out badly at all. I used to clip my horse for horse shows all the time, back in the day. Here are a few photos of the process and the end result.

I told Bill that yesterday’s clip job might hold him until he can get to a real barber. But then I realized that I’ll probably have to do this a few more times before this virus mess is done. I may even get pretty good at the job. Now it occurs to me that we could have saved some money over the years… I may not be much for handjobs, but at least I can give a decent haircut.

Special thanks to this lady on the Sexy Hair channel for reminding me how to use clippers, and the best technique for achieving the end result on a human being.

I didn’t take much off the top of his head, although I’ll probably have to go there before too long. Today, we’re getting a bottle of rum and an air fryer. I think the online merchants and delivery drivers are going to come out ahead in this virus crisis.

A visit to little America– Ramstein Air Force Base…


Bill and I have now lived in our house for almost seven weeks.  We’re mostly settled, although until today, there were still a few things that needed to find homes.  Bill had some text books from his latest master’s degree program that had nowhere to go, and the small collection of actual books I have in Germany had taken up all of the space on the one bookshelf I had allotted to our shared office.

I always buy cookbooks at Christmas, but only a few of them get much action in the kitchen.  The matching bookshelf to the one in our office was, until today, located in our dining room.  It was holding all of the cookbooks we never use.  This past year, because I bought a couple of extra books, there were a few cookbooks that needed a home.  Also, we had some kitchen gadgets that needed storage.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been looking for a nice bookshelf for the downstairs.  What I found on the local Amazon site wasn’t thrilling me, and I found nothing at all at the Wiesbaden AAFES.  German mod style doesn’t excite me, either.

Then I realized that Bill’s desk chair would probably scratch the brand new flooring in our office if I didn’t find him a rug.  Our Wiesbaden AAFES does not have a Turkish rug guy like Stuttgart has (and I’m actually pretty happy with the rugs we bought in Stuttgart in November– they’re much nicer than the ones I bought a few years ago).  I thought maybe Ramstein would have a permanent rug guy at their PX, the way Heidelberg used to and Stuttgart still does.

Finally, I realized that my skin is no longer taking makeup like it used to.  I have dry skin and when I apply makeup, it collects in my pores and makes me look even freakier than ever.  I need to start using primer under foundation so it doesn’t get all cakey and gross looking.  That meant a trip to the Lancome counter was in order.

Chili’s was also on the agenda…

With all of these items on my list, plus the prospect of getting some Southwestern Egg Rolls at Chili’s, I told Bill maybe we should go to Ramstein to see what was at the huge PX/BX there.  We now live about 80 minutes from Ramstein, quite a bit closer than we did when we were in Stuttgart.  Bill hates going there, but conceded that maybe it would be a good idea to see what the largest AAFES in Europe has to offer.

Ramstein’s Exchange is absolutely humongous.  It was opened on September 23, 2009, which was just one week after we left Germany the first time we lived here.  At the time it was opened, it was the largest AAFES in the world.  I would not be surprised if it still is.  It’s enormous, especially compared to every other AAFES I’ve ever seen.

By the way, we never did visit Ramstein during our first Stuttgart tour.  Our first time visiting Ramstein was in 2012, when we took our very first Space A hop from Baltimore.  We flew in and out of Ramstein on that trip, as well as the Space A trip we took in 2014 to Germany and France.  I remember sitting at the bar in the now defunct Chili’s Too at the AAFES mall, talking to a soldier who had basically been forced to move from England to Germany due to mental health issues.  It was an interesting and disturbing conversation.  I wonder how that guy is doing and hope he’s okay.

During our 2014 visit, I recall being sad to be leaving Germany to go back to Texas, where Bill would then retire.  I was worried about what would come next.  We didn’t know at the time that we’d be moving back to Germany just weeks after that trip; we’d taken our vacation thinking it might be our last chance to enjoy Europe before Bill left the Army.  Little did we know…

I remember visiting the PX during one or both of those Space A trips, but we didn’t buy anything there, since we were not stationed in Europe at the time.  Back then, I noticed that half of the shops were vacant.

The next time we visited Ramstein was in June 2017, on our way to Belgium.  We stopped by to gas up the car and had horrible burgers from Johnny Rocket’s.  I didn’t go inside the mall because we had our dogs with us.

The vast food court at Ramstein.  It’s probably got twice as many vendors as other AAFES food courts have.  They had Chinese food and even Anthony’s Pizza, which used to have a location at Patch Barracks when we lived in Germany the first time.  Anthony’s is long gone from Stuttgart, but Ramstein still has one, along with a Pizza Hut Express.  There’s also a Ramstein “Hofbrau” restaurant that looked somewhat lame, but probably has good food.

I had to take a picture of the tiny sewing/knitting area.  When I was growing up, AAFES had a decent sized sewing section, but not so much anymore.  I don’t sew or do needle crafts, but my mom owned her own business selling knitting and needlepoint supplies.  She taught many people how to knit.  I was not among them.

Spotted at the Birkenstock Outlet…  I think they’re pretty tacky, but I’m sure someone else loves them.  My dad, rest his soul, would probably wear these.  I noticed all of the store space was taken at Ramstein.  I don’t think I saw a single vacant space yesterday.  

Bill makes it a point to avoid Ramstein when he can help it.  He says it’s too much like being back in the States.  After today’s visit, I’m inclined to agree.  It’s a shock to go to that base and see just how much American stuff is there.  It really does feel like “home”.  As crowded as our local AAFES can get on the weekends, the one at Ramstein kind of puts it to shame.  It’s just huge– it looks like a legitimate American style mall.  And besides the Exchange, there’s also a Birkenstock Outlet, a spa, a Swarovski store, and several fast food joints in the food court I’ve not seen in other places.

So… today, we went to AAFES at Ramstein, braving the nasty January rainy weather.  I found the primer for my face.  Then, we located a bookshelf for the cookbooks.  I looked at the rugs offered by the Turkish rug guy, who appeared to have a temporary station under the escalators, but he didn’t have what I needed.  The rugs were either the wrong color or size, or they were way too expensive.  I found one really nice looking rug that would have worked for the area next to our bed that needs protection from our dogs’ toenails (they take flying leaps onto the bed, and that can cause scratches).  It was priced at 1149 euros, which is way more than I wanted to spend on a rug that shares living space with dogs.

Bill’s area sporting AAFES’ finest…  I probably wouldn’t have bought it under normal circumstances, but it works for now.

I did, however, find a rather psychedelic looking tie-dyed looking rug that would do the trick for Bill’s office chair.  It was tucked away among a pile of cheap rugs at the Exchange and came a bit closer to matching the colors in the much nicer Oriental rug on my side of the office.  Next time we visit Stuttgart, we’ll hit up the rug guy on Panzer.  Hopefully, he’ll still be there.

After we shopped– and Bill traded gossip with a former co-worker he ran into who now works at Ramstein– we went to Chili’s.  The Chili’s Too we visited at the PX in 2014 is now a Macaroni Grill.  It’s just as well that the Chili’s Too was closed, since I don’t remember liking it much when we visited in 2014.  The bartender had pissed me off for some reason.  Fortunately, my memory fails me now.  Also, I recall that location only had a limited menu.

The Chili’s we went to today offers the whole menu.  To get to Chili’s, we had to drive to the Enlisted Club on Lawn Road.  It’s right next to the bowling alley.  When we arrived at the restaurant, which is in a building that also hosts a P.F. Chang’s, we were confronted by a crowd of people waiting to be seated.

I noticed a rather strange, sour aroma in the air that made me wonder if we should abandon our plans to get Southwestern Eggrolls and go somewhere else.  But the hostess said the wait was only ten minutes, so we stuck it out.

Bill checks out the well-used menu.  I found a piece of a straw wrapper in mine. 

The noise level in the Chili’s was really high.  I felt a little like I was having lunch in an elementary school cafeteria.  Babies were shrieking; toddlers were crying; kids were yelling; and adults were talking very loudly.  I had forgotten how loud Americans can be in groups.  I don’t say this to be disparaging.  It’s just that I’ve noticed that since we’ve lived in Germany, Bill and I find ourselves speaking in lower voices when we’re in public.  I think it’s partly because we don’t want to be too obviously American.  I guess I paid close attention to all of those AFN OPSEC PSAs I used to see when I was in the Peace Corps in Armenia.

Anyway, it was extremely loud in there and very busy.  I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be a quiet lunch, but there was definitely a lot more noise than I’m used to or had anticipated.  But then, we were there in the afternoon, which is probably prime nap time for a lot of young kids.  Some of them really sounded like it was time to nap.

I took this message to heart…


Although the ear splitting din in the restaurant sorely tempted me to get a Margarita, I decided to have a beer.  Good thing I did, too, because our food got to us before our beers did.  And when they arrived, they had, as my Irish friend Chris would say, “shitty wee heads” on them.  Quite disappointing.

We decided to split the “Ultimate Dipper”, which is a platter of fried stuff… but it includes Southwestern Eggrolls, which is really all I wanted, anyway.  Besides the eggrolls, you get Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers, Crispy Cheddar Bites, Signature Wings, and (Regular) Chicken Crispers.  You also get six “dips”– basically different salad dressings like honey mustard, blue cheese, avocado ranch, and ancho chili ranch.  Oh, and there are also a few celery stalks for all you health nuts out there.  The two kinds of Chicken Crispers, by the way, weren’t really like each other.  One was like beer battered chicken and the other was like crispy chicken drenched in sweet, spicy maple syrup.  It wasn’t unlike General Tsao’s Chicken.

I’m glad we shared this.  We didn’t finish it.  Chili’s also offers fajitas, burgers, ribs, soups, and Tex Mex stuff, as well as steaks, salads, and at least one pasta dish.  I mainly go there for eggrolls.

I think the waitress was surprised to see we didn’t need any refills on the “dips”.  Neither of us likes to use a lot of condiments.  A little dab’ll do ya.

Our waitress was very friendly.  I have no complaints at all about her service, especially since the place was a bit of a zoo.  For some reason, it took awhile to get our beers, so she brought us water in the meantime, which I appreciated.  It was even still tap water, like you get in the States (although I like mine fizzy).  However, I was kind of disappointed in the appetizer.  The Cheddar Bites tasted like they’d been sitting awhile, and didn’t taste that good.  Actually, the whole thing looked a little wilted and tired, like it wasn’t quite as fresh as it should have been.  It reminded me of something I might extract from a box that came from the frozen food aisle at the commissary.

Also, I was a bit grossed out by the ladies room.  At least one of the bathroom stalls had a broken lock, and another had the remnants of someone’s dump on the toilet seat.  It didn’t exactly make me feel better after eating all that fried stuff.

Still, I did get my Southwestern Eggroll fix, which was really all I wanted.  It was also a pretty cheap lunch.  I think we paid about $26 and still had leftovers.  And after that trip to Ramstein, I feel pretty certain I won’t need to visit again for awhile.  In fact, it was kind of like a vaccine against visiting the States.  It’s been four years since I last set foot in America.  I don’t know when I’ll be going back, but I think I’m definitely content to stay in Germany for now.

I’m sort of kidding.  There are certainly good restaurants in the States, and I do still have many friends and loved ones there.  But every once in awhile, it’s good to be reminded why one should savor their time abroad.  I remember missing Germany something terrible when we moved in 2009.  I pined for it for five years, even though some good things happened during those five years away.  I know not everyone feels this way.  Some people cannot wait to move back to the States.  Me?  I think I love Europe.  It really suits me.  And while Chili’s is okay for the occasional Southwestern Eggroll, I think I’ll stick to European restaurants for now…  There will surely come a day when I’ll be missing them again, too.

And now, perhaps it’s time for a Margarita in my nice, quiet, dining room.

The nicest hardware store I’ve ever seen… and more Italian hospitality!


Now that we’ve settled in somewhat, Bill has decided to try to fix the holes in the wall where the curtain rod is in our living room.  The holes were left by the previous occupants, who apparently hung heavy drapes that pulled the screws out of the wall.  Once he fixes that, I can hang my drapes and raise the Rolladens.  Actually, I’m trying to decide what we can put in our big living room so it doesn’t look so empty.  It’s like we have two living rooms now and one side has art, a rug, and our Bose speaker.  The other side has the couches.

So anyway, we needed to go to the hardware store to pick up some stuff with which to fix the holes.  In our old town, we used to go to the hardware stores in Herrenberg or Nagold.  They weren’t bad hardware stores.  In fact, they reminded me of slightly upscale American big box stores.  Our Toom in Herrenberg even had a small restaurant in it.  Germans are very civilized.

I didn’t have especially high expectations for the MS Holz Fachmarkt.  I figured it would be like all the other hardware stores I’ve been to.  I see by Google reviews that this store gets average ratings.  People seem to either love it or hate it.  I enjoyed my visit today…

The front facade.  Apparently, this is a new location with a nice big parking lot.  Check out the cool kids’ play equipment.  No, they aren’t for your kids to play on, but you can build one for your house.

As soon as I walked inside, I was greeted by the cashier.

All of your garden needs… even Crocs and hats for your kids.


I found Bill and a friendly staffer, who spoke English, showed Bill what he needed to fix the hole.  Bill had helpfully taken a picture of the hole, which was useful to show the man so he could advise us of the right product.  The guy even explained the directions to us in English, since the packaging didn’t have them translated.

Then I noticed this “wallpaper”.  In both of our German houses this time, I’ve noticed the walls have this texture on them.  I saw that it looked like wallpaper, but was curious if that’s what it really is.  Sure enough, my curiosity was satisfied.

There were a couple of things I was hoping to find… the kind of things you might find in a Lowe’s or a Home Depot.  Unfortunately, Germany doesn’t embrace one stop shopping quite as much as the United States does.  Still, it was interesting to walk around the store, which was clean and quiet and had some very attractive displays.

Ideas for when the weather improves.

A lounger with a shade!

Isn’t it beautiful?

This was a cool looking door, with the shattered look.  I think it was selling for about 1500 euros.

An artist who makes furniture with trees…


I loved the chair, though I don’t know how comfortable it is.  It was made with a cherry tree.


Then I spotted a most impressive sight!  This store has a slide in it.  Your children take off their shoes and slide down to the bottom, right next to the coffee bar.  Didn’t I tell you Germans were civilized?

Weee!  My German friend Susanne says that there was a shoe store in Stuttgart that had a slide that went to the children’s section (smart thinking) and a drug store in her little town also had one.  As an American who was denied such coolness as a child, I now feel deprived!


When we were finished shopping, we decided to search for lunch.  We drove around a bit, noticing the Hofladens near our house.  We eventually ended up in Hofheim am Taunus, where I spotted a pizzeria called Amici.  It looked promising.

Bill is ready for lunch… and we had a big one!

A little local water in a bottle that reminds me of perfume.

They brought out some bread and olives, and poured generous glasses of Primitivo.

We split an avocado salad that was made with tiny shrimp, pineapples, and garnished with cherry tomatoes, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar.  This was about 13,50 euros and I’m glad we shared it.  It was a lot even for the two of us, but it was very nice.


There was an older couple sitting near us and they were obviously regulars.  The very pleasant waitress took excellent care of them, joking and laughing.  Another couple of ladies brought in an adorable six month old baby and a toddler with red ringlets.  They were easily chatting with the older couple, who appeared to be having a great time.  I can see why they’re regulars.  The waitress was super nice and the food was great.

Bill had Rigatoni 435, which included beef and “Stein Pilze” (stone mushrooms).  He loved it, but that plate reeked of fungus!  It was a bit overwhelming for me, especially since I hate mushrooms.

I went with Linguini Scolo, which was basically linguini with “fruits of the sea”.  I couldn’t finish it, because that was a lot of protein.  It was yummy, though… shrimp, “crevettes” (little shrimp), mussels, and vegetables– tomatoes, peppers, and leeks.

Naturally, we had dessert.  Bill had creamy panna cotta, which came with caramel and was probably the best I’ve tasted in a long time.  Panna cotta is often like Jello, but this was a lot creamier.  

I had zabaione with vanilla ice cream.  We had this at Little Italy in Wiesbaden back in October.  To be honest, I liked the way they did it better.  This dessert is really more like a beverage the way it’s served at Amici.  At Little Italy, it was more like a thin pudding.  It’s basically a liquid custard made with Masala wine.  We also had a round of espresso.

As we paid the check, we enjoyed a house shot of Limoncello.  We could have also had grappa or another digestive.  I think it’s a nice touch when European restaurants do this.  It kind of softens the blow of the bill.


Hofheim am Taunus isn’t far from where we live, so I can see us going back to this place.  Maybe we’ll even be regulars.  I think that would be alright.  If we’d taken the first house we looked at when we were househunting, which was too small for us, we would have been really close!

Out front…  They had a nice display of wine in the front window, too, with multiple bottles of “Why Not” Primitivo.

And someone’s artistic rendition of Yosemite Sam…  There’s a large train station in this town.  We’ll have to explore it more when the weather improves.


All in all, we had another nice afternoon in our new area.  It may soon be time to start a new “Good eats” post, like the one I made for Stuttgart.

My new Eckbank Gruppe…


In our storage, Bill and I have a pub table and five chairs.  We used to have six chairs, but one of them broke, so we got rid of it.  I also inherited a bunch of barstools from my mom that don’t match anything.  We didn’t bring our big table and chairs with us because we were only given enough money to move 5000 pounds to Germany.  Also, I didn’t think it would survive the trip.  Our table and chairs are pretty cheap and have been slowly falling apart, thanks to all the moving we’ve done.  The table has at least one bum leg that is missing a screw or two.  We brought a small table and chairs set Bill bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond ages ago.

About a month ago, I got tired of the shitty $100 dining set Bill and I have been using.  Bill bought that set when he was single and broke and we used it a lot when we first got married.  But it’s not very comfortable or solid.  It’s only big enough for two people and I know we’re going to have at least one more houseguest this year.  Besides, I’d been wanting an Eckbank Gruppe for ages.

When we were in the States, I actually did find a nice set on a site called Furniture from Germany.  I almost ordered it, but never got around to it.  It was rather pricey and didn’t really match my decor that well.  Even if I had bought it, we might not have been able to bring it with us because of its size.

Now that we’re here and will probably be living in Germany for awhile, I decided to order a small Eckbank Gruppe.  You’d think something like this would be easy to find in Germany.  I got one from of all places.  It’s not very fancy and, in fact, I had seen it for sale on a number of sites.  I just got the best price from a Marketplace on Amazon.  For about $766 (including shipping) I got a very solid spruce table and chairs.  I had to wait a month for it because they produce them on demand.  It arrived in seven boxes this morning, delivered by a cranky German guy who wasn’t amused by my lame attempts to speak Deutsch.

When I get it put together, it’s supposed to look like this…


After unloading all seven boxes, this is what we have so far…

I think I’ve sort of figured out how this is all supposed to fit…


Unfortunately, the directions are a series of diagrams that are a bit confusing.  Even if there were printed directions, I doubt they’d be helpful since they’d be in German.  Anyway, I see lots of holes, but they don’t seem to match up with other holes, which is usually the case with these things.  I think I might need a power drill and I don’t think we have one.  Also, I’m not a carpenter.  This may turn out to be a job for a professional…

On the other hand, these chairs (which I didn’t have to assemble) are really solid and very nice.

So is the table, which I did have to put the legs on.  I need a wrench to tighten the bolts, though, and I don’t have one…  

I like my new furniture, even if it does sort of create decorative chaos in the house.  I look forward to having it all assembled and rearranging our living room/dining room so it doesn’t look so weird now.  I wish Bill were home so we could figure this out… or hire a heimwerker to come by and do it for us.

I’m sure we will enjoy this new table and chairs and it will see many good dinners and boozy drinks.  At some point, I’ll probably want to put a new finish on it.  And now that we have a new table and chairs, we have more seating for friends.  Guess it’s time to make some.

ETA:  I just got an urgent email from the furniture company.  It was hard to figure out what it said, even with Google Chrome translation, but I think I pieced together that they were concerned that I hadn’t gotten my order.  I wrote back in English that I got the table and chairs and offered a phone number, but warned that I speak almost no German.  I’m working on it, though…  In fact, today I think I’ve used more German than I have since we got here.

Though I doubt that is what he’ll say when he tries to figure out how to construct this thing…

ETA:  Now it turns out I only paid for the corner bench and still owe for the table.  *Sigh*

ETA again:  Once I had paid for everything, it came to about 1100 euros.  I am writing this in December 2015 and, I must say, we love this table and bench set.  It’s very solid and comfortable.  The dogs love it, which means the cushions have lots of hair on them.  But it’s the right size for us.  Someday, I will stain and lacquer it.