I’ve got the lockdown blues…

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It’s November, and in November, Bill and I typically plan a Veterans Day weekend trip. Our wedding anniversary is November 16th. This year, it’s number 18, which is nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, this year we aren’t going anywhere because we’re in lockdown lite status, thanks to the stupid coronavirus.

Before everything shut down again, I had been toying with the idea of going somewhere local. Actually, months ago, I bought tickets for Keb’ Mo’, who was scheduled to play in Mainz on our big day. Mainz is only about twenty minutes from where we live. But Keb’ Mo’ rescheduled for April, thanks to the pandemic. Hopefully, the show will go on, because I miss live music and I’ve been wanting to see Keb’ Mo’ for ages!

I think of this song as our theme… especially when there isn’t a pandemic.

So then I thought maybe we could do what we did last year. Last year, we booked a really nice room at the Jumeirah Hotel in Frankfurt and had a nice dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Then, the next day, I accompanied Bill on a TDY trip to Wroclaw, Poland. I hadn’t actually wanted to go on that trip because when I tag along on TDYs, I tend to get kind of bored. But since it was our anniversary and I do like Poland, I relented. And we flew to Wroclaw and had a pretty good time there. I’m now really glad I tagged along. Wroclaw is a cool city, and I didn’t know then that this year would end up being such a cluster fuck.

Frankfurt does have nice hotels and restaurants. We could have stayed in another one this year and given Noyzi the chance to meet the people who take care of our dogs when we travel. But COVID-19 has ramped up so much in Europe that restaurants aren’t allowed to do dine in service and hotels can’t accept travelers for tourist purposes. Shops are open, but everything is stricter than it was a month ago, and if the infection numbers don’t go down, they will lock down even more.

I think about how I wanted to move to Germany because of the travel opportunities. I have to admit that we’ve been able to take advantage of a lot of them over the past six years. Prior anniversary trips included Baden-Baden, Ireland, cruising in Scotland, the southern Caribbean, and even an amazing meal at the Alte Post in Nagold, which was a town near where we lived before we moved to Wiesbaden. Unfortunately, the Alte Post is now closed, but it was a wonderful place for food. This year, we’ll have to make do with each other.

Oh well. We have a lot to be grateful for, especially in 2020. Germany has been so good to us. We have gotten to see and do so many things, most of which I’ve chronicled in this blog. And now we have a new dog who is rewarding us every day by being awesome and sweet. I’m sure we’ll get to travel and eat good food again someday.

Thanksgiving is coming up, too. I was thinking this year, maybe we’ll order a meal from a restaurant. Cem Klein, which Bill and I tried before it moved locations, is offering a Thanksgiving deal this year. And we like to do our part in keeping the restaurants going. In fact, I think I’m going to nag Bill into getting some takeout today or tomorrow. I’m getting tired of his cooking, anyway. 😉

I’m kidding… This week, he got really daring and made injera, a type of east African sour bread. Here are a few photos and a link to the recipe. Bill likes exotic stuff more than I do, and his time working for AFRICOM really introduced him to new cuisines. Of course I’m grateful that I have a husband who cooks and does it so well. But I do miss the dining out experience and trying new and exciting dishes. I especially miss the desserts.

Well… maybe instead of planning a fancy trip, I’ll buy an electric guitar. That’s the next big purchase I’d like to make in my quest to be a pandemic era guitarist. We’ll see what happens. One thing is for certain, though. This year, we’re going nowhere fast.

Labor Day 2020…

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We didn’t end up leaving town for Labor Day. I never got around to finding a place to go. Since the COVID-19 situation is ever changing, it didn’t seem smart to book too far in advance. And then, we had to deal with the chimney sweep on Friday. It’s German law that they come every year and do an inspection and we weren’t sure when they would arrive.

Our weekend was mostly spent in the backyard, listening to music, gardening, and drinking beer and wine. We didn’t even go out to eat, although Bill did get some take out from Five Guys because I had a craving. I downloaded some new software and will probably try to figure it out today. Last night, we took a walk around the neighborhood and I took a few photos.

Our next trip could be to Slovenia, where we will hopefully meet a new canine family member. Fingers are crossed. Slovenia is beautiful anyway. I wouldn’t mind going just because it’s so gorgeous.

A musical breakthrough!

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This morning Bill and I got up with the best of intentions to get out and do something fun. Although I’ve been feeling pretty good about staying home, even though I ALWAYS stay at home, Bill was feeling restless. Yesterday, at about 1:30pm, he came to me wanting to go out and do something.

I looked at the clock, realizing that a lot of restaurants would be closing very soon, and said, “It would be a lot better if we planned these things more. You slept until 8:00am, did a bunch of chores, and now that it’s the afternoon you want to go out… and do what?” Bill is usually the one who notices the time, particularly as it relates to eating in restaurants. And thanks to the coronavirus, it’s even more important to plan outings ahead of time.

Bill sighed, agreed, and we spent our Fourth of July in the backyard, drinking beer and listening to music. I did also hear fireworks going off, no doubt on the local military installations, but I didn’t see them. Poor Bill is going stir crazy, even though he goes out for work and grocery shopping. I just can’t be arsed to deal with the coronavirus, though. It’s easier to stay home.

Last night, Bill suggested that we go take a ride on the Seilbahn today. The Seilbahn is a cable car that takes people on a scenic ride over the grape vines of Rüdesheim and to the Niederwald Monument and the Rhein River. We noticed it the first and last time we visited Rüdesheim, in April of last year. We didn’t ride the Seilbahn on that day, though, because we did a wine tasting, where I ended up singing for an elderly couple.

Anyway, Bill wanted to go back today for a scenic Sunday Seilbahn ride… but then we noticed the cloudy weather and high winds. They’re going to be up to 16 miles per hour, which doesn’t make for the most reassuring cable car ride. So we decided to postpone our trip. I went to my computer and pulled out my trusty turquoise guitar and took a couple of lessons on Fender Play. Today’s topic was alternative finger picking of bass notes. I learned “Tom Dooley”, and it occurred to me that the chords were kind of like a really pretty song called “Dreaming My Dreams With You”. It’s been done by a lot of people, but the version I like best so far is the one done by Alison Krauss, who had backup help from Dolly Parton and Lyle Lovett.

Such a pretty song!

I realized I needed to change the chords, though, since I had figured out the song in G and I needed to play it in F#. So I went looking for a chord chart, put the capo on the third fret, and before I knew it, I was playing along with the recording. I still stumble a bit on the chord changes, but I think with some practice, I’ll be ready to post a video. I can definitely sing the song… it’s just my guitar playing that needs a lot of work.

I have been making some significant progress. A couple of times, I’ve played along with a song and it’s been okay until it was time to change chords. Today, I was able to play along and change chords without too much trouble, relatively speaking, although I’m still slow and unsure at times. Anyway, this was the closest I’ve gotten to being able to actually play a song. I even figured out the solo guitar riff, although it’s going to take a little more time before that’s perfected. I probably won’t be able to include it in a video until I’m a bit more advanced.

So, although I would have loved to have gotten out this morning and done some sightseeing, the weather defeated us again. However, I scored a major victory on my guitar! Incidentally, I also got to teach Bill how to properly play an E minor chord, which isn’t hard. He was having trouble making it work because he had one of his fingers on the wrong string. It was a problem that was easily fixed, so now he has a new chord to play with, too!

Incidentally, Facebook tells me that a year ago, Bill and I saw Mark Knopfler performing in concert in Leipzig. He and his band were also staying at our hotel, and we saw him hanging out with his band in the bar. Boy, do I miss bars… But anyway, seeing him in concert was on my bucket list, and then being in the bar with him was also a thrill. And no, we didn’t bug him. I just gawked from afar. The next morning, as we were packing up to go home, the bellman told us Sting was also at our hotel, taking a brief break from his tour having just done a show in Brussels, Belgium. I miss 2019.

I sense Bill still would like to go out today, though, even though the Seilbahn was a bust… maybe I’ll let him take me out to lunch somewhere. Maybe we’ll do the Seilbahn next week, if there’s sunshine and no wind. The week after that, we have another short trip planned. It’s another Germany trip, not too far from home, but further away than our trip to Hofheim for my birthday. Bill is determined not to let me get agoraphobic. Stay tuned.

My own little Gitarzan…

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Yesterday, the weather was kind of iffy, as it has been today. In retrospect, maybe it would have been a good idea to go out yesterday. Maybe there would be fewer people out and about, and we could pump some euros into the local economy. But we decided to stay in, and I spent a rather angsty day reading more and more about the state of U.S. politics and the stupid face mask controversy. I got into a couple of pointless arguments, too.

I also played guitar. I brought my new blue one downstairs and turned on some music. Before I knew it, I had picked it up and was strumming along to Tom Petty’s live version of “I Won’t Back Down”. It has a pretty easy chord progression– E-D-G, E-D-C… easy enough for a rank beginner to follow along with somewhat, although I’m still too slow at changing chords. It was kind of fun trying to figure out the songs I can sort of play, although I still have a long way to go. I even tried “Every Breath You Take” by The Police and was almost successful at it.

Bill picked up his guitar too, although he’s only been playing for a week. Maybe there will come a day when we can jam together.

The title of today’s post comes from a song by Ray Stevens. I have always thought Ray Stevens’ talent was a bit underrated. He’s a wonderful singer and pianist, but he’s best known for singing comedic novelty songs, with the exception of his 1970 hit, “Everything is Beautiful”. Even though some people might think of it as a “schmaltzy” song, I’ve always thought of “Everything is Beautiful” as an anthem of tolerance and kindness. I find it oddly comforting to listen to it today.

A silly song… but I relate. I doubt my guitar playing will make me a celebrity, though.
This song always makes me smile, even though it’s kind of corny.

Since we aren’t traveling or exploring as much this year, music has become a lot more important to me. I’ve been making more videos, all of which include photos or videos from our travels. In a way, it’s made me miss traveling more, although making music brings me joy. I don’t have a lot of people listening, but it’s still a pleasure to make it and explore new and creative ways to express myself. Making music is mostly uncontroversial, and it doesn’t beg philosophical discussions or arguments. I’ve about had my fill of those lately, too.

I doubt we’ll go out today… the sky is full of rain clouds and the wind is up. I welcome the rain, since our rain barrel in the backyard is pretty parched and has dried out so much at the top that it’s warped a bit. Maybe with more rain, the wood will swell and seal up the cracks in the wood. The garden is liking the rain, too. Our cucumbers have blossoms, which I know means that the fruits will be on the vine soon. I’m starting to sound like a Handmaid… and with the constant hammering about face masks, maybe I’ll soon look like one.

Anyway… this weekend has so far not been as exciting or fun as last weekend was. We really enjoyed ourselves, but we also recognize that it’s best not to jump back into the way we were in previous years. Not until the coronavirus scourge has been vanquished a bit more. Hopefully, that won’t take the rest of my life.

Here’s a video I made this week. I shared it on my original blog, but since this post is about music, I’ll share here, too. I’m much better at singing than playing guitar. But with time, practice, and luck, maybe I can even things up a bit.

And just to keep things topical, this video includes footage from our visit to Ireland in 2016. Boy, do I wish we could be there now…

A few more scenes around the ‘hood…

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As we’re still not doing any traveling, I took a few more pictures from our neighborhood recently. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I went anywhere. It might have been when we went to the Globus last month. This is hell on travel writing, although now that I’m within striking distance of finishing my updates, I may soon be back to writing things of substance.

My guess is that I’ll write about our experiences so far. I have a wealth of them, thanks to so many years spent living abroad. I notice what I wrote in the spring of 2014 is not all that exciting, since we weren’t traveling much then. There were a few places in Texas I would have liked to have seen before we moved, though.

Anyway, our neighbors are being good about practicing their distancing. Several have posted signs on their door expressing their commitment to following instructions and staying inside. Bill says that masks are now required on the military installations, but frankly, I don’t think the homemade ones are worth a damn. They aren’t made to block viruses and I fear many people will not launder them. But I guess they make people feel better.

Here are some scenes in my neighborhood…

Arran and I had a nice walk today. We passed a couple of happy looking kids on their bikes. I hope things will get more normal soon… but this isn’t too bad. At least we have a nice garden and landlords who practice social distancing, too.

Homemade ravioli!

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We had beautiful weather yesterday. It would have been so great if we could have gone out and enjoyed lunch somewhere nice. Unfortunately, like the rest of the world, we are locked down thanks to the coronavirus. My husband, Bill, decided to make some homemade ravioli with garlic sauce, which we enjoyed with too much wine from France and Armenia.

Some time ago, I bought him an electric pasta roller, a drying rack, and pasta stamps. In the States, we have a pasta roller that is hand cranked, but we didn’t bring it with us. I think when we finally go back to the USA, I’ll replace it with an electric roller. It’s worth the extra money. Here are some photos.

It’s really a privilege to get to live in another country, even if Germany isn’t that different than America is. As I’ve been updating my travel blog, I’ve realized just how much fun we’ve had over here since 2014. Really, we’ve had fun our whole marriage, but our latest Euro stint started almost 6 years ago. Time really flies, especially when you’ve had as much fun as we have.

Since we can’t do any traveling or eating in restaurants right now, maybe I’ll write some posts about some of our best memories. I do hope we’ll be able to add to them before too much time passes, but I’m also very grateful that if I have to be a shut in, I can be one with my husband. He’s my best friend. And I’m happy to be with him wherever we are… I got myself a real keeper.

Wine helps, too… but I think it’s time I embraced drinking more water before my liver fails. Bill sopped up the rest of the garlic sauce with homemade bread. You can take the man out of Arkansas…

Homestyle fun…

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Wow… it’s been about two weeks since I last posted. That must be a new record for me. I have been thinking about writing a new post, but frankly we haven’t done anything that interesting. I don’t like to bore people if I can avoid it. I probably do anyway.

The weather has been rainy and yucky, so we’ve stayed home and broken in the fireplace. Our landlord was kind enough to gift us with some firewood and the temperatures have made staying home preferable to going out on the town. The fireplace in this house is super nice! It’s great to live in a place where we can enjoy a fire fueled by wood rather than propane.

I do have some pictures from the last couple of weeks. We went to the wine stand last weekend. It may be the last one for 2019. I also noticed the field of flowers near where I walk Arran has been cut down. I managed to get a picture of it the day before it was mowed. We wondered if anyone would visit us on Halloween, which seems to be catching on here in Germany. No one rang the bell, which suits me fine. Now I have more chocolate.

I’m also going to be accompanying Bill to Poland in a couple of weeks, mainly because he has to work there and it’s our 17th wedding anniversary. I was hoping we could drive so we could stop by Dariusz Milinski’s art gallery and buy a couple of paintings. Alas, Bill’s company has dictated that we must fly.

So… here are some pictures, for those who are interested. We will probably go out for lunch today. I don’t know where yet.

Hopefully, I’ll have more to write about as winter approaches. Poland in November and France in December ought to give me some new material… and we’ll see where we wind up today on our quest for lunch.

Also… I don’t know how much longer I can stand having just one dog. Arran is loving the attention he’s been getting as the only dog, but I need another dog to lavish affection on and motivate me to go outside. It’s hard to bring another animal into the family, but I know so many need homes… and I have the time and heart for it. So maybe after Christmas, we’ll see if we can convince someone to let us adopt another pooch. Maybe… I’m torn between wanting another one and not wanting the extra responsibility. I really miss Zane, though. He was my baby.

Sometimes Sundays at home are best…

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The weather looked grim yesterday morning, so Bill and I decided to stay home. He bought a three pound rib roast that he planned to cook for dinner. Hebridean Island Cruises has gotten us in the habit of having “Sunday roast”, since they do that every Sunday on the ship.

We needed a few things from AAFES (our military exchange), so Bill went out to get what we needed… new toothbrushes (although mine wound up being defective), toilet paper, board games, and puzzles. He came home with all of that, as well as six bottles of wine from the French vintner who was hawking his wares at the Wiesbaden PX yesterday.

When he got home, I turned on some music and we put together the puzzle he found…

This 300 piece puzzle took a couple of hours to put together… AAFES didn’t have much of a selection.

We drank plenty of wine, though none of it was the wine Bill bought from the French guy. I loved that he got a wooden crate.

These will be nice as the weather gets colder.

And then, while the roast was cooking, we played a game of old school Scrabble. I play Words With Friends all the time, but I hadn’t played regular Scrabble in many years. Neither had Bill.

I won by a lot, though…

Finally, we had dinner, which was delicious. The commissary doesn’t always have the best meat, but we like them for some things because unlike the Germans, American butchers don’t cut off all the fat which results in more juiciness and flavor. Bill also made Yorkshire pudding for the first time. It turned out very well.

I know… I should be eating a salad. I wanted prime rib earlier in the week and was surprised Bill could find one. They aren’t always available.

All in all, it was a very nice Sunday. Yes, I like to go out and see Germany when I can, but when the weather is grim, cold, and wet, sometimes it’s nice to stay in and bond in our nest.

Arran likes it when we stay home, too… He’s eating up being the only dog.

I’m grateful I can hang out with Bill, and he actually enjoys my company. I know a lot of women whose husbands would rather hang out with their guy friends or worse, their girlfriends… Bill is a good family man and a great cook, to boot. We’re both very blessed to have each other. I hope we’ll have many more years to hang out and bond on rainy Sunday afternoons.

One week down…

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I’ve been quiet on this blog since last week, mainly because I’ve had pretty much next to nothing to write about.  I guess I could have written about last weekend’s wind storm, which blew dangerous winds across Germany and other parts of Europe for several days, but I’m not sure what I would have had to say about it.  I mean, I pretty much holed up in the house for that.

By Tuesday, the winds had died down.  My dogs badly needed a walk, so I took them for a quick one on Tuesday morning.  When I got home, I was confronted with a notice that the GSL delivery guy had tried to drop off a bottle of butterscotch liqueur I ordered from Amazon.  Naturally, he showed up during the 30 minutes all week that I wasn’t in the house.  Murphy’s Law was at work!  To get the liqueur, I’d have to drive to a kiosk in Bierstadt, an area with which I am still sadly unfamiliar, and present my passport and the notice slip within 8 working days.  I suppose I could do it, but I don’t really want to.  The liqueur cost about 15 euros and I’ve been on the wagon all week anyway, so I think I’ll just let them return it.  I’d call them to attempt a redelivery, but I didn’t see that option listed, which, to me, is a real con to using GSL for shipping.  Seriously… I could go and get the liqueur, but what if I couldn’t?  What if I had no way to get to the kiosk?  Seems to me, they should at least attempt one redelivery.

One thing I tend to do when Bill isn’t home is regress to childhood eating habits.  Before I was married, I used to make nice meals for myself in my kitchen.  Now, when Bill is TDY, it’s all I can do to just get through the meal.  So I tend to eat a lot of soups and sandwiches.  This time, I’ve been especially bad.  I actually ordered Kraft Macaroni & Cheese from Amazon.de (rather than going to the commissary to get it).  I was kind of curious to see if it had changed since my college days, which was when I tended to eat it, or a generic equivalent, the most often.  As you can see… it’s the same stuff.  It tastes the same.  And yes, I make better mac & cheese from scratch, but for some reason, this chemically laden crap is, oddly, a comfort.

I bought five boxes because they came in a set.  Once they’re gone, I’ll probably not try it again for another twenty years or so…  If I’m still alive and have teeth.  This stuff is definitely kid friendly and I don’t mind it when I’m feeling like a baby.  I may have to make some from scratch later, now that I’ve learned how to use the oven.  

A couple of shots from one of the balconies, showing the mercurial skies after the windstorm.  The sun was finally making an appearance.  Our view is less enchanting in this house.

 

I have filled the time reading, and rebuilding my main blog, which I moved to a new address a couple of weeks ago.  I’ve also been watching movies.  Last night, I had a Richard Pryor double feature: The Toy, from 1982, which also starred Jackie Gleason and future porn star, Scott Schwartz, and Critical Condition, from 1987, with Rachel Ticotin, Bob Saget, and Joe Mantegna.  Both were pretty crappy films, although I made up for their crappiness by also watching Children of a Lesser God and Broadcast News, both of which starred William Hurt.

At about 4 o’clock yesterday, the doorbell rang.  I opened it to a man bearing flowers sent by my long suffering husband, Bill, who is enduring overnight work shifts at Grafenwoehr until March 26th.  I am fantasizing about our next “real” vacation that lasts over a weekend, requires airplane travel or even train travel, and doesn’t include our sweet, but demanding dogs.  This morning, I was awakened at 3:00am, 4:55am, and 6:30am by my pooches, who needed to go out to do their business and then demanded to eat.  Bill usually handles them in the wee hours of the morning, because he’s often awake anyway.  When he’s not here, the duty falls to me.

And yet, as wonderful as Bill is to have at home, he sends me flowers when he’s away…

 

Well, I’ll try to be productive over the next week.  Maybe I’ll come up with a list of travel tips or some other newsy topic that doesn’t actually require any travel.  Eleven days to go until this nightmare TDY is over and spring is here.

Rainy Sundays staying in…

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As regular readers might have guessed, Bill and I didn’t end up going anywhere yesterday.  I hate staying in on the weekend, since those are precious days I can spend enjoying Germany with Bill.  But the weather was pretty dismal yesterday and neither of us felt like going out in the rain.  I sat around and watched iTunes all day, while Bill made another batch of homemade dog food for the boys in our Instant Pot.

iTunes is a funny thing.  I started using it when we lived at Fort Belvoir about ten years ago.  Bill was deployed and I was always alone, so I did things to try to fill my time.  I discovered a lot of music during those days.

When we moved to Germany the first time, I used iTunes to keep up with the few TV shows I got hooked on while he was in Iraq.  I discovered a few new shows that were offered free of charge.  Sometimes I’d get hooked on them and end up buying the whole series.  We never bothered to get AFN and, though we did have German cable, we didn’t watch much of anything on it outside of CNN.  Instead, I’d watch Netflix– at those days, I’d wait weeks for DVDs to arrive in the mail.  I’d buy my own DVDs, too; I still have many I bought at the Stuttgart PX ten years ago.  Or I’d watch iTunes.

Now that we’re in Germany again, I’ve found that entertainment possibilities are endless.  Netflix is streamable now and the German version is pretty good.  Although it doesn’t have the selection the American version has, I’ve found there’s enough stuff in English to occupy me.  And when there’s not, I can always watch iTunes.  Yes, I end up paying more, but that’s not really a concern to me.  This time, we have plenty of money.  I’m not as frugal as I once had to be.

Yesterday, we binge watched Snapped, which is a show about women who go off the deep end and commit murder.  After watching all the true crime stories I could stomach, I switched to Lifetime’s movie about the making of Melrose Place.  I was surprisingly entertained by that film, not just because I was in my 20s when that show aired, but also because it was genuinely a pretty decent film.  The casting was really good and there were some snarky lines in it that would really appeal to anyone who was young in the early 90s.

Unfortunately, I find that I pay a price when I don’t venture out on the weekends.  Because I’m kind of a recluse, if I don’t go out on Saturday or Sunday, I tend to get a touch of cabin fever.  I suppose I could go out on my own and I probably would if we didn’t have our dogs.  I have found that lonely excursions don’t always amount to much more than wasted gas and buying crap I don’t really need.

This is about right for me when I venture out alone…

Luckily, this week we have a holiday and Bill and I will be going to France with the dogs.  We are going back to Ribeauville, to an apartment we’ve stayed at before.  I don’t usually like to use precious time going back to places we’ve been, but we were short on planning time and needed a place somewhat close because we won’t have the whole day to get to our destination.  Bill has to work part of Thursday before we leave.

I know the place we’re going is dog friendly and super easy and convenient to access.  I know I like Ribeauville and even if we don’t do a lot of new stuff, there’s enough there that we can enjoy a change of scenery and different food.  We know the dogs will be okay alone for awhile in the apartment we’re renting while we scout out new wines and cuisine and perhaps do some shopping.  Maybe we’ll even try a French spa.  The price was also right.  Three nights in a three bedroom apartment for less than $500.  Can’t beat it.

I do hope 2018 will be somewhat better for seeing Europe.  I desperately need to get to Berlin sometime and there are other places I want to see, once Bill has leave saved up.  It’s not so easy when you have dogs and don’t trust a lot of folks.

Next week, we will also be celebrating our 15th anniversary.  This year, because Bill is building up vacation time, we are staying local.  Bill found a new restaurant in Stuttgart that looks promising.  If he can get us a reservation, I will be reviewing it soon.

But for now, all I can say is that we stayed in yesterday because it was just too icky to go anywhere yesterday.  It’s just that time of year.