holidays

Mr. Bill and I celebrate 20 years of marriage… Part two

On Wednesday afternoon, Bill and I loaded up the car with a couple of small bags and lots of supplies for our two dogs, Noyzi and Arran. Both dogs were excited at first, because they enjoy going places. But then Arran got decidedly sullen. I could see that he was upset, because he noticed Noyzi was in the car with us, and probably figured we would be taking him to the Hundepension. There was a time when Arran didn’t mind being boarded. Bill and I have noticed that lately, he’s a lot more interested in hanging out with us. So, he looked pretty sad at the beginning of our trip. Depressed, even. Noyzi, on the other hand, was barking and carrying on. He likes car rides, and loves going to the Hundepension. Last time we took them there, Noyzi actually banged on the gate to be let in!

I noticed that Arran’s countenance was decidedly less dour when he realized we weren’t on the familiar road to the Hundepension. He knew that he was going on a trip with us, something he and Noyzi’s predecessor, Zane, used to do fairly regularly. Zane was a lot smaller than Noyzi is, so it was easier to take them on trips. We could even get the two of them in my Mini Cooper. Noyzi won’t fit in my Mini by himself, let alone with Arran. He takes up the entire back of our Volvo. So traveling with the dogs is more challenging than it used to be, and, for that reason, we don’t do it as often.

When we got to Ribeauville, Arran knew EXACTLY where we were, even though it had been about 4.5 years since his last visit. We used to go to Ribeauville fairly often, but we didn’t bring Arran on our last visit, back in January 2020 (before we had Noyzi), because we had Bill’s mom with us, and we wanted to be free to take her to different places without worrying about Arran making a fuss. I watched in amusement as Arran pulled Bill toward the Riesling Gite, where we always try to stay when we visit Ribeauville. I had to remind myself that it was our 20th anniversary, as I played Keb’ Mo’s song, “France”.

This could be our theme song when we go to France…

Noyzi had never been to France before, so he was a bit bowled over by everything. I let our host, Yannick, know that we had arrived, and he said he’d be coming over in about an hour. We set up in the apartment, and fed the dogs, as it was time for them to eat. Yannick came over with treats, which impressed both dogs. He told us that he loves dogs, but his wife doesn’t like them because their hair gets all over everything. I can see why that would be annoying, but I don’t think I could be married to someone who didn’t let me have a dog. 😉 They are the best company, as far as I’m concerned.

After Yannick left, Bill and I went looking for dinner. We ended up at a restaurant we had never tried before. The Cheval Noir is at the edge of the main drag, and while the outside of it is very cute and quaint, it has a decidedly unromantic ambiance. We ate there because there were only a few restaurants open in Ribeauville, as many places closed in preparation for the upcoming Christmas market. They had space for us, although there were lots of people dining there on Wednesday night who had made reservations. We sat in a corner, where we perused the very Alsatian menu. They had all of the usual stuff one finds in Alsace– Choucroute Garni, pork knuckles, potatoes with Munster cheese, and faux filets. Alsatian food is a lot like German food, just with a French accent. I ended up ordering one of the specials, a salmon fillet with Beurre Blanc sauce and roasted potatoes. Bill had a faux fillet with Munster sauce and roasted potatoes. Both dishes came with side salads.

We ordered a bottle of local wine, giggling that it was our 20th anniversary. The waitress, who spoke English, promptly wished us a “happy birthday”, which only made me giggle more. The food was good, but very basic stuff one can find at a lot of the local places. It wasn’t the kind of special dinner I expected to have on our 20th anniversary, but I found that I wasn’t upset or disappointed about it. Maybe that was the point. We’ve had a pretty wonderful 20 years, with many special evenings and occasions. It somehow made sense to have a somewhat run of the mill 20th anniversary. At least we were together, which is more than I could say about our 19th anniversary, which Bill spent alone in Poland.

We did opt for dessert, which was also nothing special. We’re big on desserts, as one can tell just by looking at us. I had profiteroles, which are ice cream filled pastries with chocolate sauce. Bill went with, torche aux marrons, a local speciality we never saw before, but saw twice on this trip. Basically, it’s a dessert that is support to look like a stork’s nest, as storks are very prevalent in Alsace. Or maybe it looks like a torch. Nearby Colmar is the birthplace of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the artist who created the Statue of Liberty.

Torche aux marrons consists of meringues topped with chestnut cream squeezed out as if through a grinder. Bill said it was interesting, but he probably wouldn’t order it again. I enjoyed the profiteroles. I think we spent about 70 euros, which is pretty reasonable.

When we got back to the gite, we found that Arran had raided the trash can. Yannick’s treats came in packages, which we threw in the trash and forgot to lock in the bathroom. We cleaned up the mess and went to bed, as we were both tired. Of course, Arran needed potty breaks and snacks in the night. Below are some photos from our first night. As you can see, 20 years of marriage leaves a mark on the ol’ ring finger.

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An evening with wonderful Keb’ Mo’… our first concert since 2019!

In 2003, when Bill and I were first married, I bought Lyle Lovett’s then newly released CD, Smile: Songs From the Movies. In those days, we didn’t have much money at all, so it was kind of a big deal when I bought things, even when they were as seemingly insignificant as CDs. On the other hand, I’m a frustrated musician myself, so CDs have never really been insignificant to me.

I got pretty hooked on that CD. I was a pretty new Lyle Lovett fan back then, but it wasn’t long before I became a real admirer of his music. On that CD, there was a collaboration Lovett did with noted blues singer, Keb’ Mo’. They had covered “‘Till It Shines”, a song Bob Seger wrote in the 1970s. I actually owned Bob Seger’s album, Stranger in Town, on cassette tape. I’ve since replaced it at least twice. I instantly recognized the song, and I loved what they did with it. I think that was the first experience I had with Keb’ Mo’.

Never saw the film this was used in, but I love this pairing of musicians.

Some time passed, and I encountered Keb’ Mo’ a few more times. One time, I bought a compilation put together by Martha Stewart, of all people. Yes, that Martha Stewart– the one who went to prison for insider trading! She marketed a CD for new parents called Sleepytime, and it included a collection of soothing songs that were meant to inspire babies to fall asleep, yet didn’t annoy their parents. Keb’ Mo’ contributed a lovely song called “Infinite Eyes” to that CD, which was released in 2004. I see Martha’s Sleepytime CD is no longer available, even on Amazon. That’s a shame, because it’s a really nice CD. I still have it, although it’s in storage now. I hope the extreme heat in Texas hasn’t ruined it. I do have it downloaded to my computer. Additionally, you can find it uploaded on YouTube.

Then came the day when I became a confirmed Keb’ Mo’ fan. Bill and I were having a weekend lunch at Austin Grill, in Springfield, Virginia. They were playing some really great music in there, and I was enjoying my burrito and pink lemonade to some righteous blues. Suddenly, there was Keb’ Mo’s unmistakable voice, covering Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. After we finished lunch, Bill and I went directly to a Border’s store and I bought three of his CDs. None of them had his cover of “Folsom Prison Blues”, but the spell was cast. I was soon hooked, and started buying his music regularly. Years later, I found and downloaded his version of “Folsom Prison Blues”, but by the time I found it, I had discovered so many other great songs by him!

It’s hard to believe that about twenty years have passed since the first time I heard Keb’ Mo’s voice. It’s ever harder to believe that last night was the first time I ever saw him play live. Especially since Keb’ Mo’ seems to love Europe and has played over here several times in the almost eight years we’ve lived here. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be in Germany, but I am sure last night won’t be the only time we see Keb’ Mo’ in concert. He was so wonderful last night at the Frankfurter Hof! Thanks to the pandemic, the show, which was originally planned for November 16, 2020 (our 18th wedding anniversary), had been rescheduled three times. It was well worth the wait!

Last night’s concert was the first one Bill and I had been to since July 2019, when we saw Mark Knopfler in Leipzig. I remember Knopfler’s show was memorable for a lot of reasons. The most memorable thing about that show, though, besides the fact that it was the last one after a string of concerts Bill and I attended, was that we were staying in the same hotel where Knopfler and his band were. And all of them came to the hotel bar, so I got to gawk at them from afar.

Something similar actually happened last night. Bill and I were eating dinner outdoors at a place called L’Angolo, an Italian restaurant near the Frankfurter Hof, in Mainz. Bill had ordered a half bottle of wine, and just as our waiter was dropping it off, I looked up and there was Keb’ Mo’, walking down the street, completely unbothered and unfazed by anyone! I didn’t have the chance to take a photo then, but I got plenty of them last night, along with some video. I don’t usually like to take video at concerts, but he was pretty open to it, and everyone was doing it. So I got a few minutes from last night’s intimate show, which included opening act, Anthony D’Amato, who was equally great. I had not heard of Anthony D’Amato before last night, but he was very entertaining. His style reminded me of Springsteen’s or maybe Bob Dylan. He’s also been compared to Josh Ritter, but I’m not familiar with Josh Ritter (yet), so I can’t say for sure.

One of Anthony D’Amato’s songs. I don’t think he did this one last night.

I was pleasantly surprised by last night’s show. I had been a bit worried about it, given the COVID-19 situation. Germany only did away with mask requirements in most places just a few weeks ago. I didn’t look forward to having to sit in an auditorium wearing a mask for hours. Fortunately, people in Europe are pretty good about letting people make their own choices, as long as there aren’t official rules. There were some folks who wore masks at the show, but the vast majority of people didn’t. And I didn’t see anyone giving anyone a problem, either way.

The Frankfurter Hof is a small venue that seats a maximum of 480 people, and offers standing areas on the sides. I would guess there were no more than 600 people at last night’s show. We were in seats one and two in row four, which offered a great view of the stage, even without using the zoom function on my camera. I would not hesitate to attend another concert at the Frankfurter Hof, especially since it’s so close to where we live. My only caveat for the uninitiated is that it’s not so easy to find the entrance to the venue, which is between two restaurants/bars.

As usual, the audience was well-behaved and appreciative, which made for a nice atmosphere. People were singing along and clapping, and for the most part, being very considerate of each other. I haven’t been to a whole lot of US based concerts, but I have noticed that I much prefer the shows in Germany to the ones I’ve attended back home. People are expected to act like adults. Those who don’t will be called out. At the same time, if you want to enjoy your adult beverages, you can do that without harassment or price gouging. It’s refreshing to be treated with dignity and respect, without worry that some idiot will ruin the mood for everyone. Last night was also memorable, because we ran into one of Bill’s colleagues. Before she started working for the US government, she used to do sound and lighting for concerts. She even did them for Joan Jett, at some point before she switched careers. 😉

Below are some photos from our evening, and last night’s delightful show. I’m so glad we were finally able to go! I hope Keb’ Mo’ will be back soon. If he follows his usual modus operandi, I expect it won’t be long before we have another chance to enjoy his music live. And if you like blues and haven’t seen him play yet, you’re missing out. We only paid about 45 euros per ticket to catch that show. It was one of the better concerts we’ve attended! Overall, it was a fantastic evening; he played all of the songs I was hoping to hear, plus some I really need to listen to again! If I don’t wind up with COVID-19, that is a bonus!

I was surprised by how humble and down to earth Keb’ Mo’ seemed. He was so funny and obliging, engaging with the audience and sharing entertaining stories with the audience. I also noticed that there were a lot of English speakers at the show, and they were getting his jokes. Bill and I saw the aforementioned Lyle Lovett in Stuttgart in March 2009, and he spoke English and made jokes. Bill and I seemed to be the only ones laughing! That is not what happened last night. The audience loved him! And most of them were very well behaved, save for a couple of squabbles over seats, and dirty looks due to empty beer bottles falling. For once, they weren’t my bottles, either. 😉

Below is a video I got from the first song in the encore, a sweet rendition of “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers. I wish I had gotten the very last song, which was one of the highlights of the show, in my opinion. It was an upbeat gospel number his late mother had loved. Keb’ Mo’ delighted me by quipping, “Germans go to church, too!” And indeed, they were clapping, stomping, and singing along, just like they had been raised on that homespun southern gospel sound. Once again, I missed my own southern roots, especially when he mentioned southern food. But I can’t help but realize that Bill and I shared a bond with the locals last night… and at this point, Germany will always be one of my homes, too. <3

“Lean On Me”
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Christmas, Germany, Wiesbaden

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.

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Weird June weather…

I thought maybe we’d go out yesterday. The weather has been nice lately, and it’s been awhile since I last had a proper outing. But then the sky opened up with rain, so we decided to stay in…

It’s sad when a Saturday is messed up by rain, but we do actually need the rain to fall. It’s been pretty dry lately. Our rain barrel was so depleted that I put in a few buckets of water from our tap. We use the rain barrel water for the plants Bill is trying to nurture into bearing fruits and vegetables, since there isn’t a spigot in the back yard (but there is one in the garage).

Bill went to the store yesterday to pick up a few things. He says the plexiglass barriers remain, but the cashiers aren’t wearing masks anymore, nor is there anyone “standing guard” to enforce wearing them among shoppers. We also got our tickets to FINALLY see Keb’ Mo’, who is scheduled to visit Germany again in November. He’s doing a show on our anniversary. I’ve been wanting to see him for ages. Hopefully, this will go on as planned and we’ll have our chance. We’ll see. At least Mainz is close to home for now.

Our landlord says he’s going to send in his work crew to check out a piece of siding that came off during a windstorm last year. He asked Bill about our plans, especially since Trump is making noises about reducing the number of troops in Germany. As far as we know, we will be here for at least another year and probably longer. On the other hand, one never knows about these things. Personally, I think Trump is full of hot air, especially right now. Our landlord also worries that we’ll leave Germany for Poland, since Trump has been building up our relations there and there had been talk of a “Fort Trump” (God help us). When we visited Poland a few months ago for Bill’s work, the landlord wondered if it was to house hunt (it wasn’t).

Honestly, I don’t know if a move to Poland would ever happen. I guess I wouldn’t be opposed to moving to Poland if it ever came down to it. Poland has been steadily improving since our first visit in 2008, and I have heard that Americans are moving there to work. But we did reassure the landlord that we like Germany very much and don’t want to move unless we have to. We didn’t want to leave Stuttgart, either, but that turned out to be a the best thing that could have happened, if only because it got us out of an abusive living situation. Our current landlord is a much better fit for us, treats us with respect, and leaves us in peace.

I’ve been reading a lot about the new rules regarding flying. To be honest, as much as I hated flying before COVID-19, I think I’ll hate it even more now. I am not on the mask wearing bandwagon. I know a lot of people think they are helpful, and wearing them is the considerate thing to do, but to be very honest, I think their effectiveness is limited, especially since many people don’t even wash their hands when they use the bathroom. I do know how masks are supposed to work, in theory. In fact, one of my degrees is in public health, so I probably know more about this subject than a lot of people do. I just think the masks are mostly more about comforting the masses than actually preventing infections. When it comes down to it, social distancing and hand washing are a lot more important, and we’re hearing much less about that because they are impossible to monitor or enforce. Simple, loose fitting masks do not stop viruses from spreading, especially when people are constantly touching and fidgeting with them, although they might slow the viruses down a bit if they are worn properly and laundered or replaced regularly.

Masks are inconvenient and uncomfortable, and the idea of being forced to wear one for hours on a plane is very unappealing to me, especially given that air travel is already unpleasant and expensive. Being glared at, judged, and harassed by strangers over the wearing of masks is also unappealing, especially given how expensive it is to fly. I will wear a mask if I have to for essential travel (say, if my mom dies while we’re in Germany or we have to move), but I will not be happy about it, even if it makes other people *feel* safer, *judge* me less, and *think* I’m more polite.

And so, this blog is probably going to be less interesting to most people for the foreseeable future. That makes me sad, since we really had a great time a couple of years ago, visiting places near Stuttgart. I enjoyed writing and taking pictures, too. Maybe I’ll get back to writing about local spots again, but I doubt we’re going to be taking as many great trips, although Bill definitely wants to. I probably won’t be updating this blog as often, either, since no one wants to read about our life at home. It was fun while it lasted.

So sad.

Speaking of things that are going away. It was announced the other day that our neighborhood restaurant, the Alt Breckenheimer Stübchen, has been forced to close. Bill and I only ate there once, in January 2019, because it was always packed and reservations were essential. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, it looks like yet another great local haunt is being forced to close its doors. This virus has really screwed things up for a lot of people. I also read that the wine stand is going to be dismantled at the end of June. That is especially tragic, since we really enjoyed attending last year, and getting to know our neighbors.

But people are trying to keep up their spirits. Kids in Hofheim and apparently other communities, according to my German friend near Stuttgart, are making painted rock snakes. Here’s a screenshot from our local group about that.

Anyway… I try to keep perspective. I’ve noticed that the kids at the local school seem happy and are still playing. Some wear masks and some don’t. I’m grateful that people where I live are sensible and reasonable about mask wearing, and don’t freak out if people leave their residence without one, since it is entirely possible to stay more than six feet away from others in our neighborhood. I also realize that this is certainly not the first or last time humans have been confronted by pandemics. They always eventually pass or become controllable. This particular pandemic has only been a thing for a few months, so people are still very scared. Some are downright panicky. That’s understandable, given the horror stories about people who have come down with COVID-19. However, I think most of us will eventually be exposed to it and most of us won’t die. Some will die, and some will be left debilitated. And hopefully, there will be some semblance of normal life and travel again at some point in the future.

We’ll see what happens. This blog has been slowly dying anyway, since we left Stuttgart and I quit promoting it and left most of the Facebook groups (which was really a smart thing to do, but that’s a rant for another day).

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