holidays, housekeeping tips

The last day of 2021… (cross post)

This post also appears on the main blog, since I have different readers there. The featured photo are cookies brought by our landlord.

I’m getting a late post up today. I was actually thinking of taking off the last day of 2021. I didn’t have anything earth shattering on my mind that I felt compelled to write about. Bill had the day off, and we were both kind of tired. Bill was especially tired, since he never gets a full night’s sleep. So I worked on reading my book, and he took a nap. Later, he’ll fire up the fondue/raclette grill set I got him for Christmas, and we’ll try it out. He’s already used the new hot tea pot I got him. He’s drinking tea as I write this.

Bill and Arran, preparing for tonight.

Arran took a nap with us, while Noyzi tried to steal my brand new fuzzy slippers. I think he thinks they’re small animals. I might let him take them, but he’s already eaten a couple of toys. The emergency vet is the last place we want to go tonight.

I managed to accomplish a couple of other chores, too. After I worked on trying to rid the toilet of limescale and calcium stains, I went on and bought some citric acid, as well as cleaning soda and salt. Today, I tried the acid on a really terrible hard water stain in the shower that I’ve never been able to get rid of. I poured the acid on the stain and, wouldn’t you know it? That stain was gone in minutes! There’s no trace of it. I think it’s a wonder drug. It’s hard to believe it’s taken seven years to figure this out. Vinegar is good, but citric acid is the bomb! And it’s cheap, too!

I also climbed up on a stepladder in the shower and knocked the calcium off the shower head jets, so the nice rainfall spray won’t squirt all over the place anymore. Now, the new shower head is as nice as it was in September, when it was installed.

I heard that fireworks weren’t supposed to be sold in German stores again this year. Like last year, the government wants to discourage people from setting off fireworks, because they don’t want people getting hurt and needing to go to the hospital, thanks to COVID. I suspect there will be fireworks, anyway… Germans are law abiding people, but they love fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I think that’s pretty much the only day they are allowed to be set off, at least by the regular rank and file folks. I seem to remember that there were fireworks last year, despite the ban on them.

Our New Year’s celebrations are usually pretty boring affairs. We spend them much the same way we spend any night at home… listening to music, drinking wine, and talking.

I’m hoping 2022 will be a better year for everyone… although 2021 wasn’t, for me, a particularly bad year. I’ve had worse. But this COVID-19 shit needs to be fixed. Hopefully, 2022 will bring us some breakthroughs.

In any case… I want to offer sincere thanks to everyone who’s been reading my blogs. This main site, in particular, has really taken off this year! In the past month or so, I’ve had an explosion in traffic. That really does my heart good, and makes writing this blog worth the time and effort.

The travel blog has been somewhat less trafficked this year, but I can understand why. I haven’t been traveling as much… nor have many other people! I’m sure the traveling we have done may even be a downer for some folks. I know some people suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), and it can be depressing to look at other people’s travel posts when travel is so potentially risky and definitely stressful. I am very grateful, though, that we finally managed to go to Croatia. I hope we can visit again. There are more places I want to see. And with any luck and maybe God’s grace, if you’re into God, that is– maybe COVID-19 will be more under control by this time next year.

I’m still making music, too… Been getting better with my guitar skills and can even play some songs. There are some times when I find myself playing things completely spontaneously. I still have plenty of learning to do, which is a good thing. And I’ve also found someone to collaborate with on YouTube, too, which is very rewarding. Maybe I’ll put up a new song or two, now that I have new gear. Maybe I’ll try to learn bass guitar and banjo, too… if the virus continues to spread, I might have to do something else to pass the time.

Well… I don’t have much else to say, except…

I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year’s Eve, and a very fortuitous New Year’s Day… and 2022!


Christmas victuals…

After we opened our presents and cleaned up all the pretty paper and bows, Bill got to work on making dinner. He had plans to sous vide a couple of Cornish hens stuffed with wild rice and clementine dressing, using the Anova Precision Cooker I got for him a few years ago. Accompanying our hens would be mashed potatoes, peas, and homemade cloverleaf rolls. For dessert, we had the trifle Bill prepared on Friday. Of course, there would also be plenty of wine, music, and canine company.

The sous vide process took about four hours, and involved sealing the chickens in special bags, which Bill found under the tree yesterday, along with a handy stand for the precision cooker when he’s not using it. After four hours at 150 degrees, Bill would put the hens in the oven to broil, so the skin might crisp.

I think I prefer the baking or broiling method of cooking Cornish game hens. But Bill only uses the precision cooker for steaks, most of the time, so he really wanted to try this method. Supposedly, it keeps the meat from getting too dry.

The end result of Bill’s experiment turned out to be basically okay, except I thought my hen was a little underdone. A little more time in the oven quickly fixed that issue, and I’m perfectly well today, so I obviously didn’t get sick from eating underdone chicken. I do think the chicken stayed moist and flavorful, but the glaze Bill used got a little too brown. I guess I’m a purist when it comes to these things. We also enjoyed a couple of nice Italian wines we purchased through Sommelier’s Choice, an Italian purveyor. A representative is in the wine group I run.

I think my favorite part of the meal were the rolls, which were perfect. I’m proud to report that I taught Bill how to make rolls. When we met, he could cook only a few things. Now, he’s become a real chef. Or, at least in our house, he’s a chef. I seem to have retired from cooking. I used to be pretty good at it, back in the day. I also loved the dessert, although I didn’t come close to finishing it! We have leftovers.

We used the good china and silverware, which we probably ought to break out more often. We also lit candles and a fire, which made the living room look cozy. However, curiously, I neglected to wash the tablecloth. It got a good cleaning this morning.

I got Bill a fondue and raclette grill for Christmas. I did hesitate on that, since I don’t eat a lot of cheese. I do like very specific kinds of cheeses– they have to be mild and melted (it’s a texture issue). If you go to Switzerland for raclette, the whole restaurant smells like ass. I do enjoy fondue, though, and would probably love raclette made with cheese that smells less like ass or a barnyard. Maybe we’ll have a chance to try it today.

I bought Bill a fondue cookbook, as well as a really beautiful cookbook with Alpine recipes, featuring Austrian, Swiss, French, and Italian favorites. Actually, I went a bit nuts on cookbooks, just like I always do. There were SIX of them under the tree! I just couldn’t just pick one or two. I buy them, but we don’t use them very often. I just like to have them around. Some of them are genuinely fascinating. For instance, a few years ago, I bought Bill a copy of The Flavor Bible. He loves it, because it offers a scientific look at cooking. Anyway, now we’re going to need another bookshelf.

I would count this year’s Christmas as one of the better ones. Bill got to talk to his daughter on Skype, and he got to see his cute grandchildren… especially his granddaughter, who is apparently quite a ham. And his daughter is expecting another baby in 2022. Bill told me that when he was talking to her, it felt like everything in the world was alright. That’s a wonderful way to feel, especially in these troubled Corona times.

Below are some pictures from our Christmas dinner…

I hope you all had a nice holiday meal! I look forward to 2022… and some exciting new travels.


A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 11

I talked Bill into taking the train to Gruyeres, mainly because I knew he was tired of driving.  I figured it would be easier to relax on the train and he wouldn’t have to worry about parking.  Having now been to Gruyeres, I can say that it seems to be an easy drive there and there’s plenty of what looked like free parking.  However, the train is also a treat.  You go through some absolutely gorgeous, remote, Alpine villages.

The surreal blue lit bathroom at the Vevey train station.  It cost 1 franc to use it.  It was the handicapped stall, which I used because the other stalls appeared to take 50 cents and I didn’t have the right coin for them.  

Note the sign, written in four languages…  I guess if you’re Spanish or Dutch, you’re out of luck.  (kidding!)

Originally, Bill got us second class seats.  He said it was because the lady who helped him didn’t speak English very well. I talked him into upgrading when we got to Montreux.  It was no problem, especially since that time, he got a lady whose English was perfect.  I’m not sure we had better seating per se; that’s just how we’ve gotten used to traveling on trains.  We took a six minute train to Montreux, then a GoldenPass panoramic train for the 45 minute trip to Montbovin.  Our car was full of guys who appeared to be from India.  They took pictures the whole way.  I drank prosecco (9,90 francs) and Bill had a large Boxer beer (6,50 francs).  They also had other beverages, including my favorite bubbly, Taittinger, and snacks for sale.  I almost splurged on Taittinger, but even I have my limits on what I’ll spend money on.

Bill takes his seat and checks the menu.  I was a little worried we’d miss the train, since he went to upgrade the tickets.  He made it with plenty of time to spare.

The view… pardon my reflection.

Prosecco for me… in a real glass!


Beer for Bill.

The views alone are worth the train ride.

Most of these little towns were stopped in only by request.  I got a kick out of the English version of the announcements on the train.  The woman had an obvious American accent.  I would have expected a British accent.

From Montbovin, there was another 18 minute ride on a very new train with second class seating to Gruyeres.  Then we took a bus to the village.  You don’t have to take the bus, though if you have mobility problems, it may be advisable.  Walking there from the train station involves hiking up a hill with some steps.  Hours later, we walked back down when we’d had enough of Gruyeres.

The first thing we did in Gruyeres was stop into a fondue restaurant for lunch.  In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the best idea for me to go there because there were people eating raclette, which is made with very strong, pungent cheese.  I walked into the place and was almost knocked over by the smell of ripe cheese.  Bill didn’t notice it nearly as quickly as I did and he thought it smelled great.  I guess the next time I want to turn him on, I’ll just dab a little stinky cheese behind my ears.

First glimpse of Gruyeres.  There’s a lot to do here, but we were set on the H.R. Giger Museum.

Bill checks things out.

We had lunch at Auberge De La Halle…  

A half liter of Swiss wine went nicely with our lunch.  It also distracted me from the raunchy smell of ripe cheese.  Bill thought it smelled great, of course.

A salad came with my zander filet.

Zander (pike perch) with sauteed leeks in a white wine sauce and boiled potatoes.  The sauce was very buttery and sinful.

Bill had a salad with cured meats and local cheeses.  He said it was excellent.  I tried a little of the ham and I will agree that it was very good.  Maybe we should have had fondue.  It’s made with cheese that isn’t quite so strong.

Outside of the restaurant.

A Christmas tree.


Once we finished lunch, we headed to the museum.  For those who don’t know who H.R. Giger was (I didn’t until I met Bill), he was a surrealist artist whose creations appeared in the films, Alien and Dune, among many other works.  Giger died last year, but was very prolific while he was alive.  His museum is full of his very disturbing and brilliant works, along with some from some other artists.  He acquired the Chateau St. Germain in 1998 and his museum has been operational there ever since.

The front door.

Bill checks out the ground… the inside of the museum has the same type of very intricate etchings.  Bill was fascinated by it.


It cost us 25 francs (12,50 each) to see the museum.  Photos are not allowed inside.  Some people were bringing their kids to this museum.  I don’t think that’s necessarily the best idea, especially for young children. Many of Giger’s works are very sexual and violent.  Some kids may be frightened by what they see.  Moreover, there is a part of the museum where kids are specifically not allowed.  Inside, there are graphic artistic renditions of human genitalia, as well as some disturbing themes that may be hard to explain to youngsters.  Bill loved the museum.  I was less interested in part because I never saw Giger’s works and partly because the water and wine kicked in as we were looking.

After our museum trip, we had a drink in the bar…

A mojito and a vodka royale…  The bathrooms, by the way, are across the way rather than in the bar itself.

A little kid came into the bar with his dad and promptly ran out screaming.  His dad brought him back in and he screamed and ran out again.  While we did see a few kids in the bar who were totally unfazed, it’s probably best if the kids sit out the Giger museum and checked out the chateau instead.

This little guy is the tip of the iceberg as to what you’ll see in the museum.  Some of it is really weird stuff.

View from the village.

We stopped by a gift shop and bought a couple of things for the house, then got some Gruyeres cheese and chocolate.

Bill had a GREAT day.  The Giger museum was a bucket list activity for him; he’s been wanting to go for years.  I’m glad I got to be with him when he finally did it.

The trains only come on the hour, so we were stuck waiting for a bit.  I entertained myself with photography.  Later, I entertained myself by trying to avoid cigarette smoke.

Our ride back to Montreux was on an older train.  We probably should have checked out more of the cars because they had a couple that seemed nicer than the car we were in.  Ours was full of rambunctious kids and their annoyed parents.  Nevertheless, it was a speedy trip back.  After being around people and their kids all day, I was ready for some quiet time.  We thought we’d have dinner at the hotel.  More on that in the next post.