My online shopping life… or, the pandemic has made us learn new things.

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It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, Bill and I were preparing to journey to France to see my friends Audra and Cyril and celebrate Christmas with them and their family. This year, we don’t go anywhere. I’m serious. I haven’t left our neighborhood in over two months. It’s getting old.

But I’m trying to keep my spirits up. The other day, I ordered chocolates from Neuhaus. I was a victim of Facebook advertising, which kept showing me pictures of Belgian chocolate. Then I remembered that once upon a time, when I was still a working woman, I actually used to sell Neuhaus chocolates.

I worked at a place called Henry Street Chocolatier, which was located in Williamsburg, Virginia. They sold high end chocolates from Neuhaus and Joseph Schmidt, a now defunct confectioner out of San Francisco, California that specialized in making chocolate truffles. They also had locally produced pastries and coffee by First Colony, an outfit out of Norfolk, Virginia. I think First Colony as I knew it went out of business, but they also used to sell coffee to The Trellis, a restaurant where I worked a few years later. It looks like First Colony was sold, so the brand still exists, but it’s not the same people running it.

I ended up buying a shitload of chocolates. I bought a 500g ballotin of Neuhaus truffles, a 500g ballotin of regular chocolates, and a wine tasting chocolate set. Neuhaus also has champagne and coffee tasting sets– those are chocolates specifically selected to be tasted with wine, champagne, and coffee. Wine is not included in the sets, but you do get a nifty booklet in several languages.

I also bought wines from Georgia, Croatia, and Hungary, but they haven’t arrived yet.

Friday night, Bill and I discussed my desire to buy an electric guitar. I showed him the one I wanted, which is quite pricey. I ended up ordering one of those yesterday as my own Christmas present. I tried to get it through its manufacturer’s Web site, but the sale wouldn’t go through. Like, it wouldn’t even attempt to go through at all. So I found the guitar I wanted on another site and did successfully order it. I don’t think the charge has been processed yet. Hopefully, it will go through. Sometimes the credit card companies are very cautious when you live in Europe and have an American billing address. If it actually gets to me, I’ll post a picture of it.

I have about half the cash needed to pay for the guitar waiting in a savings account I usually use for traveling. We aren’t doing any of that, so it makes perfect sense to just get the guitar I want. It will give me incentive to keep practicing. Not that I need incentive. I made some real progress with my guitar playing yesterday, finally managing to awkwardly play several difficult chords in the same shape. No, they aren’t perfect, but a few months ago, I couldn’t even attempt them. Now, if I’m very careful, I can actually make them ring out somewhat. Anyway, Bill is going to buy me an amp, and once he’s learned a bit more on his guitar, he’ll probably buy one he likes, too.

We also ordered sushi from Tam’s Kitchen. It was a cold, rainy night, and didn’t really seem like sushi weather, but I was dying for some. And here in Breckenheim, we happen to have a really great sushi guy who does deliveries. I think he’s actually a caterer. I don’t think he has a restaurant, per se. But you can order sushi and it will be super fresh and delicious. So that’s what we did Friday night. I think Tam is actually from Vietnam, but he sure has a way with raw fish.

Last night, I watched the memorial service done for my cousin, Karen, who died a couple of weeks ago. She was the third family member I’ve lost since mid October. I learned some new things about my cousin, who was eighteen years older than I am. We weren’t very close, but she was very much beloved by her family and our extended family. Watching the video made me miss being at home somewhat, although I think during this pandemic, I’d rather be in Germany.

And Noyzi and Arran are doing fine. Noyzi is particularly adorable these days. He has a new habit of silently showing up, ghostlike, when it’s time to eat. I slip him a little snack from the table, which is probably not a great thing to do… but he’s so sweet and basically well-behaved that my heart melts a bit.

I suspect today will be more of the same stuff. It’s cold and wet, and Germany is still locked down. Oh, I guess they call it Lockdown Lite, since stores are still open, and it’s been extended until January 10th. But there’s nothing to do anyway, and the weather is icky. So we’ll stay home, listen to music, and buy stuff online. 2020 has mostly sucked… but in some ways, it’s been kind of awesome. I miss traveling, but it’s also been nice to find new ways to occupy my time and spend money. And we are grateful we still have the money to spend. Maybe it will help some people stay in business.

Super fresh sushi in Breckenheim!

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We don’t get a lot of local mail, but I still check the mailbox every day. Most of the time, when we do get something in the mail, it’s a free newspaper, sales papers, or a takeout menu. The other day, we got a menu from a very local outfit called Tam’s Kitchen.

Tam’s Kitchen specializes in sushi. It just so happened that I was in the mood for sushi a couple of nights ago. I told Bill about it. He surmised that the place only does delivery and, based on what he read in the brochure, it appears that “Tam” mainly does catering and is originally from Vietnam. He finished culinary school in 1978, and doesn’t offer dine in service.

I have no idea how long Tam’s Kitchen has been in Breckenheim. We’ve been here for about 18 months, and we didn’t know about it until a couple of days ago. And last night we ordered, and BOY was it a treat! We got Bento Box #3 and chicken skewers. The chicken skewers were fresh and tender, covered in a sweet soy glaze. But the sushi was insane! The salmon was so fresh it practically melted.

This isn’t much of a post, and I apologize for that. I probably should have taken a picture of the sushi after we plated it, but it was so good that I couldn’t wait. We will definitely have to order from them again, next time the craving for sushi hits. No more grocery store sushi for us! At least for as long as we’re living in this town!

By the way… on the off chance anyone from Breckenheim is reading this, orders over 15 euros are delivered free. For orders beyond Breckenheim, the minimum is 50 euros for free delivery. Last night’s order, which was enough for Bill and me, we spent about 25 euros. I wish we’d bought more, but I’m sure we will in the future!

Welcome back to Stuttgart… part 1– lunch at Mikomi in Vaihingen and rug shopping

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About six months ago, Bill and I moved from the Stuttgart area to Wiesbaden.  We’ve lived in the Stuttgart area twice during our marriage– from 2007-09 and 2014-2018.  It has the distinction of being the place where we’ve, so far, spent the most time during our married life, followed closely by the D.C. area.  It’s starting to feel a little like home.

We wouldn’t ordinarily go to Stuttgart for a fun trip, especially since we just left there a few months ago.  On the other hand, it’s absolutely possible to have a lot of fun in Stuttgart, especially if you know where to go.  We needed to go down there for both business and pleasure.

On a whim, back in February 2018, I bought tickets to Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” concert, which took place last night at the Hans-Schleyer Halle in Bad Cannstatt.  It was the first of a string of tickets I’ve bought for concerts in 2018 and 2019.  I think I’m trying to make up for all of the years I didn’t have enough money to go to shows.  That, and a lot of my favorite artists are retiring and this is the last chance to see them.

I was really looking forward to last night’s concert.  Not only did I buy the tickets over a year ago, I actually had to wait a year to get them.  Although I have loved Elton’s music ever since I was a tiny child many years ago, this was the first time I had ever seen him perform live.  I’m glad we made it to the show.  Last night, I was beginning to think it wasn’t going to happen.  More on that later.

We also needed to go see Dr. Blair, dentist extraordinaire, to get our teeth cleaned.  I know we should probably find a dentist in Wiesbaden, but we really like Dr. Blair.  He’s the best dentist either of us have ever seen.  Besides, there’s every chance we’ll one day wind up living near Stuttgart again.

I had a bunch of wine corks to unload to a lady in the food and wine group I run on Facebook.  I always like to offer them to crafters before recycling them.  I also wanted to buy some more rugs for our house with the brand new floors.

The spring fest was also going on, and while I’m probably getting too old for festing, we decided we’d try to hit that, too.

On Thursday, May 9th, we loaded up our two dogs, Zane and Arran, and took off for Stuttgart.  On a good day, it takes about two and a half hours to get from Wiesbaden to Stuttgart.  Thursday wasn’t a good day.  The weather was crappy and there was a lot of traffic.  It ended up taking us about four hours, and we were racing against the clock, because Max at Dog Holiday closes his doors at noon to have lunch.  He’s pretty strict about time and Bill likes to be respectful of other people’s time, so he was getting pretty stressed out as we hit Stau after Stau.  There’s a good reason Stuttgart is often referred to as “STAUgart.  Traffic is often a nightmare there.  I had forgotten how bad it is, even though we haven’t been gone that long.

I really haven’t missed this shit.

After we dropped off the dogs at Max’s, we headed for the Schwaben Galerie, the mall every American affiliated with the U.S. military gets to know intimately.  We were hoping to find lunch before we went to Panzer to purchase our rugs.  Once again, I was feeling whimsical as we decided where we were going to eat.  I went to see if the pseudo Mexican restaurant “Chilli’s” was still there.  I reviewed it once in 2016, right after it took over the space from the defunct Neuer Ochsen restaurant that was there for years prior.  I had liked the Neuer Ochsen and was sad to see that it was supplanted by a pseudo German Mexican place.  If I recall correctly, I didn’t hate our meal at Chilli’s, but it definitely wasn’t authentic Mexican food.

As I turned the corner, I noticed that Chilli’s was gone.  In its place is a new sushi restaurant and grill called Mikomi.  Bill and I love sushi, so we decided to stop in and see if the new place was any good.

I learned that this restaurant has only been open for about a month.

 

A very pleasant Asian lady invited us to sit down.  I was taking note of the new decor in this restaurant space.  It’s been interesting watching it go from the Neuer Ochsen to Chilli’s to now Mikomi.  I like what they’ve done with it.  There are lots of comfortable booths and the ambiance is calming.

I really liked the look of these booths.  You could host a good sized party there.

 

They have regular tables, too.

 

Bill tries to figure out the menu.  There were a lot of choices.

A young English speaking waiter explained the restaurant’s Bento Box deal, where you can get a main dish, two sides, a drink, and a dessert for a low price.  Or, alternatively, you can order one of their sushi deals for an equally low price.  I was really thirsty, so I ordered a beer.  A small beer would have been included in the price of the Bento Box, but I ordered a large.  I ended up drinking both.  Bill went with a Japanese brew.

“Goldilocks and the three beers?”

I went with one of the sushi Bento Boxes.  This was very satisfying.  The salmon was especially fresh and tasty, as was the spicy tuna roll.

Bill’s Bento Box was a good deal.  He got noodles with vegetables, pickled cucumbers and carrots, and shrimp skewers.  I loved the noodles and had to steal a couple of bites.

After we finished, we were invited to partake of the dessert buffet.  They had little cakes like this or fresh fruit.  I also saw donuts.

All of this was priced pretty reasonably.  I think we got out of there at under 30 euros.

 I think Mikomi will be more successful than Chilli’s was.  I didn’t hate Chilli’s as much as some Americans did, but I definitely didn’t need a second visit.  Mikomi, on the other hand, I would dine at again, given the opportunity.  I would recommend it to those who like Asian food– especially sushi.

After we finished having lunch, we went to Panzer and loaded up on new rugs for our house.  Our new landlord just put in brand new floors, so we’re doing our best to keep them as nice as possible.  Also, I like having rugs on the floors because they help cut down on echoes and are nicer to walk on than cold parquet.  The Turkish guy who runs the carpet shop was playing Rabiz– a type of Turkish pop music.  I was telling him about my adventures in Turkey and Bulgaria back in the 1990s, and how I had gotten used to hearing it in Armenia.  He said I had been to more parts of Turkey than he has, probably because my trip took me through the east.  The northeastern part of Turkey is truly some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.  It rivals Switzerland…  or, at least it did in 1996.  I’d love to go back to Turkey again someday, when it’s safe.

Once we dropped some euros on new rugs, we headed to our favorite Stuttgart area hotel, the Wald Hotel.  More on that in my next post.

Spring shopping and sushi…

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The coolest hardware store ever…

Last night, as we were sitting outside in our fenced in yard, it occurred to me that I’d really like to get rid of our old patio furniture… or, if not get rid of it, repurpose it.  We have two large balconies in our latest house, neither of which have any seating.  I have been eyeing teak patio furniture for weeks.  Finally, I talked Bill into a trip to the MS Holz Fachmarkt.  I wrote about this store a couple of months ago, noting that it has a super awesome slide for kids and big kids.  Today, we actually saw kids sliding down as well as at least one adult.  No, I didn’t try it myself, although I was slightly tempted.

This thing is a barrel of laughs.

It took us no time at all to find the table and chairs we wanted.  It took a bit longer to find someone willing to help us.  As I’ve mentioned before, customer service can be a bit sketchy in Germany sometimes.  Anyway, we did manage to flag down a tall young man who spoke some English.  The table and chairs we wanted were in stock, and by plum, we were able to fit them in our SUV.

Lots to choose from.  They also had some very impressive grills for sale.

They had a bunch of different tables and chairs, some a lot more expensive than what we bought.  I love that Germans don’t go in for that shitty particle board crap that is so easily found in the United States.  The furniture in this store was all wood and well made.  And since our porch is covered, it’s no problem keeping it out of the elements.  This set, we’ll probably store in the garage during winter.

Pick up!

The back of our SUV was pretty well packed, but if we couldn’t have gotten it home, we could arrange for delivery.  This store is really close to where we live, so it wouldn’t have been too expensive to arrange delivery.

A big improvement!  And since we have beautiful weather, I suspect we’ll be breaking it in today.  I will look for some cushions.

 

After we set up the furniture, we went to Wiesbaden for lunch.  After we walked around for awhile, searching for a place that wasn’t too crowded and wasn’t taking a pause, we ended up at Hiro Sushi.  Our waitress was really friendly and they were playing surprisingly soothing guitar Muzak.  I must be getting old, because for once Muzak didn’t really annoy me.

Wiesbaden is so pretty.

 

Friendly service and great sushi!

They had Paulaner alcohol free beer at Hiro Sushi.  It was surprisingly good.  I couldn’t really tell that it was alcohol free. 

Obligatory shot of Bill.

They had a little cat that waved…

Interesting art on the walls that welcomed everyone in several different languages.

 

I was starving, so I ordered shrimp tempura spring rolls.  These were surprisingly good, though a little hard to eat.  Basically, they each consisted of a fried shrimp surrounded by sprouts and cabbage and wrapped in rice paper.

Bill had shrimp dumplings… rice paper filled with shrimp.

 

I’m not quite sure what Bill had.  It was very crispy and had avocado, but it wasn’t quite as fancy as mine was.

I had the Morido, sushi with tempura fried avocado and covered with salmon.

We usually don’t bother with dessert in sushi places, but today I had green tea ice cream with mangoes.  It was very refreshing.

Bill went with deep fried Vietnamese sesame balls with coconut sauce.  He said they were a little heavy, particularly for the weather.  I was glad he tried them, though.  I was curious.  

This was a very nice lunch.  I felt a lot better afterwards, especially since I was really hungry when we came in.  The total bill came to about 51 euros.  After we paid it, and Bill thanked the waitress in Japanese, we headed back to the car and dropped off some empty bottles, then picked up more beer.  I have a feeling it’s time to enjoy our new outdoor furniture before Easter.  Tomorrow, we may head to Frankfurt for their annual spring fair, the Dippemess.  We’ll see if either of us feels like the train ride…

Post dental delights at Kikuya Japanese Restaurant…

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Today was the day of my biannual dental cleaning.  Bill came home early from work and we dutifully showed up at Dr. Blair’s office in downtown Stuttgart to get our teeth cleaned and polished.

A new hygienist looked after me.  She’s from Italy and it’s her second week on the job, having discovered that dentists in France and Luxembourg don’t use hygienists.  Her boyfriend works in France, but she could find no work there, so now she stays in Stuttgart during the work week and goes “home” to France on the weekends.  I figure she must be multi-lingual if she can work in Italy, Germany, or France, and she also speaks English.  Very impressive… and she did an extremely thorough job on my teeth, too.  I don’t think they’ve ever been so clean.

Dr. Blair found nothing wrong with my teeth, but was concerned about a reddened area below my bottom teeth.  He asked me if I have issues with Crohn’s Disease or Celiac Disease.  I have issues with neither.  But because he’s a very concerned dentist (who once lectured me about the need to see a gynecologist and lectured Bill about his need to wear hats), he wants me to come back in a month so he can see if the area is still red.  I have a feeling that if it is, he’ll have someone in mind to send me to for tests.  Dr. Blair is a very conscientious dentist who is concerned about his patients’ overall well-being.  He’s by far the best dentist I’ve ever had.  He did an excellent job on my dental implant and, if we’re here for much longer, I’ll probably have him do another one.

In the heart of Stuttgart on Calwer Strasse.

Anyway, after our cleanings, we made a short appointment for me to see Dr. Blair next month.  It’s never a bad thing to see him, since I get the chance to try new restaurants in Stuttgart.  Today, we tried a Japanese restaurant we’d never been to before called Kikuya.  To be honest, I almost walked past the place until I noticed a couple of staffers standing outside looking bored.  They have lunch from 11:00am until 3:00pm.  It was just after 2:00, so we ventured inside.

Tempting sandwich board.

 

Sweet Bill poses for an obligatory photo.

Soft new age-y sounding piano music was piped in over the sound system.  We had a choice of sitting at the bar, at one of the pub tables for two, or at the very long communal table.  We decided to sit at the big table, so the waitress asked us to remove our shoes, a first for me.

Eating barefoot!  I noticed the lone guy sitting at the bar was not asked to remove his shoes.

 

Long table where you must remove your shoes.  I didn’t mind.

She handed us menus and I was tempted by the number of appealing choices.  They had sushi, as well as a number of very enticing cooked dishes.  They also offer lunch deals, of which Bill took advantage.  We both had Japanese beers.  I had an Asahi and Bill had a Sapporo.

They also had Tiger lager and Heineken on draft, as well as an array of wines, teas, and non-alcoholic drinks.

I decided to have a Dragon Roll, pictured below…

The Dragon Roll was eight large pieces of sushi with salmon, tuna, and avocado.  It was delicious and felt nice against my inflamed mouth.  The pieces were kind of big, but tasted so good.

 

Bill went with a lunch deal.  It came with miso soup and a variety of fried delights…

 

Miso soup… made with tofu, green onions, seaweed, and soy.  It was a little bland, but comforting.

This main course had fried chicken, fried shrimp rolls, fried veggie rolls, a sweet chili sauce, sushi rice, and a cucumber and tomato slice.  I loved Bill’s dish!  I like fried stuff, though.

 

We both really enjoyed our lunches.  I was surprised by how quiet the restaurant is and the somewhat low ratings on Trip Advisor.  Bill and I both thought today’s lunch was a refreshing change of pace.  I’m sure we’ll be back, too.  The total bill for today was 34 euros before tip.  After we paid, Bill bowed and thanked the ladies who waited on us.  Sometimes, he’s such a geek.  I love him.

The front door… it’s right next to the Calwer-Eck Brauhaus.

On the side street, there’s another entrance, probably used for takeout pick up orders.

I keep meaning to have sushi on a more regular basis.  Now that we’ve discovered Kikuya, we may be enjoying it more often!

Rothenburg ob den Tauber: Part four– Sushi, Sunday services, and sunshine!

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Sunday morning, we woke up feeling great.  Because we took it easy Saturday night, we were well-rested.  My little dietary indiscretion at Roter Hahn successfully ran its course (literally) and as a bonus, we had sunshine!  One of Bill’s co-workers told him about a great sushi restaurant called Louvre, located in Rothenburg.  It’s been ages since we last had sushi and even longer since we got to enjoy it while sitting in a restaurant.  I knew I didn’t want anything heavy for lunch, so Louvre seemed like the perfect choice for Sunday’s midday meal.

A sunny picture of the brewery.

But first, we took another stroll around the city and visited areas we missed on Saturday.  The weather was delightful.  I’m told it was grey and cloudy in Stuttgart on Sunday, so I am equally grateful we got such pleasant weather.  Rothenburg is pretty when it’s cloudy, but it’s even more gorgeous when the sun lights up all the gold hardware on the signs and rooftops.  It looks like a showplace.  Below are some pictures I took on our lengthy walk around town.

Although Rothenburg is a tourist friendly city, like everywhere else in Germany, things close on Sundays… at least during the low season.  I did notice Der Schottenladen had Sunday hours posted on its Web site, but they were not open yesterday.  Still, one can window shop all day…

This tower is close to Louvre, a lovely Japanese restaurant…

This is Louvre.  It wasn’t quite ready to open when I took this photo.  Japanese cuisine is served, but there’s art on the walls.  I guess that’s why they call it Louvre!

I’m so glad the sun came out so I could get these pictures of the beautiful countryside.  It reminded me a little of Asheville, NC.

At about 11:30am, we arrived back at Louvre.  We were the first customers of the day.  We quickly learned that it’s a good idea to make a reservation if you want to eat at this place.  Not only is it popular, it’s also very small.  The dining area only accommodates a small group of people at a time.  We noticed there were a couple of reserved tables, though fortunately, there were a few tables left open.

An adorably tiny Japanese lady took our order, bowing and smiling the whole time and very courteously correcting us when we murdered the Japanese pronunciations of the dishes we ordered.  Although we had sushi, we noticed they had several options available that weren’t sushi.  One of the groups who came in after us were having ramen, soup, and other cooked delights.  We were very happy to eat sushi, though.  It was fresh and delicious and very inexpensive!

Bill checks out the menu.  It was hard to make a decision!

I liked Bill’s “Kin” dish better than my “Dai” dish…  His sushi came with fried shrimp!

That salmon sashimi was so fresh… and the tuna and avocado rolls were a bit spicy.  I really enjoyed this lunch, even if I did overload on protein a bit.  

I liked the tables at the restaurant.  I didn’t get a picture of our booth, but it was set in cement blocks like the one pictured above.

This was the painting hanging by our table.  There is artwork all over the dining room to go with the beautifully prepared sushi rolls.

We enjoyed Japanese beer, too.  Nice change of pace!

 

All told, I think our lunch came to about twenty-five euros.  It was probably the cheapest of the meals we had in Rothenburg and definitely the most enjoyable!  Next time we visit Rothenburg, we will have to go back to Louvre.

Just beyond the arches is a lovely park.

We also visited St. Jakob’s Church, a Lutheran place of worship.  Their services were to start at 2:30pm, so we were able to tour the church.  We paid five euros to go in, but were allowed to take pictures and take an informative leaflet that was printed in several languages.  There was also a guide there who was telling visitors about the church, but he was speaking German.

Oh, how I love the sound of a pipe organ…  My mom was a church organist for over fifty years and every time I hear an organ, I think of her.  She is still living, but stopped playing organ about ten years ago.

Pull my finger…  obviously, a lot of people have judging by how shiny it is.

After lunch, we decided to check out the Criminal Museum.  More on that in the next part.