Our International Thanksgiving…

Since we moved to Germany in 2014, our Thanksgiving celebrations have been decidedly less traditional. There’s only two of us, and we have small German appliances, so it hardly makes sense to roast a turkey. Yes, I know we could just do a breast, but I like dark meat. I think in 2020, we ordered a Thanksgiving feast from a local restaurant that was obviously catering to Americans. Otherwise, we’ll often go out to eat somewhere, since it’s not a holiday in Germany, or we’ll have something more mundane.

This year, Bill’s co-worker invited us over for Thanksgiving. I almost didn’t go with Bill, because I expected a couple of important packages. The one I was most worried about showed up in the morning. I was also waiting for dog food, which we really need. Sure enough, it showed up after we left. It’s sitting at our neighbor’s house as I write this. I’m surprised they didn’t just leave it on the stoop, like they usually do.

Bill’s friend’s house is enormous and beautiful, with charming, traditional accents, as well as the amazing international furniture one tends to find when one lives abroad for many years. My mom also collected some beautiful pieces when we lived in England. I inherited a couple of pieces, but they’re in storage.

Bill’s co-workers have a living room with a gorgeous view of the village, a large dining room, a terrace, and a lovely front lawn. I was there one other time, and had occasion to use one of the bathrooms in another part of the house. I even spotted an indoor pool! They had it covered up. Bill and I haven’t had a chance to buy a lot of nice furniture. Maybe someday, we’ll get lucky and acquire some, although now that I’m half a century old, it seems almost pointless. For instance, I always wanted to buy a home of my own, but now it seems like a bad idea, as Bill talks about permanently retiring. A house seems like something a person should buy when they’re young.

As nice as our house is, and as high as our rent is, my guess is that Bill’s friends are paying even more… But it seems fitting, as they have enough furniture to fill their home, and the furniture they have is good quality. We have a bunch of stuff that could be right at home in a college dormitory. I have to admit it. I was coveting their house, even as I realize that I’m allergic to dusting, and if I had a house that nice with lovely furniture in it, it would be cluttered in a heartbeat.

We had a very convivial group last night. Several of the guys were folks Bill knew early in his Army career, back in the era of Desert Storm. Now, several of them have managed to land in Wiesbaden, where they can talk about old times, sometimes to hilarious effect. One of the guys brought his huge dog, a female Hungarian street dog who weighs about 150 pounds. He said she can’t be left alone with his other two dogs, who are also from the streets of Eastern Europe. We bonded over our street dogs from Eastern Europe, as Bill and I have Noyzi, from Kosovo (and Arran, of course). The guy also has horses, which was another reason for us to bond. I spent most of my childhood in a barn. It’s probably obvious to some people.

An enormous street dog from Hungary who was bred to fight wolves. Her name is Ki (pronounced “key”) Oma.

Ki Oma was very sweet and friendly, but apparently she wants to fight other dogs. So she gets to travel a lot. Her master actually bought a van so he could transport her more easily. We were commiserating, as I drive a Mini Cooper and we can’t get Noyzi, our enormous street dog, into the back of that.

Another couple brought their dog, a very sweet shepherd named Izzy. She and Ki Oma didn’t interact, so there wasn’t any fighting.

It was really nice to hang out with people last night. I enjoy Bill’s friends/co-workers. Hopefully, I didn’t turn anyone off too much. Two of the guys brought their wives—one was from France, and the other was German. And one of the guys was, himself, half German. Two of them were even born in the same hospital in Stuttgart! It’s plain to see how long Americans have been living in Germany. There’s a very long history, and quite a lot of Americans are actually half German, too. Some have managed to find themselves making a home here, instead of our chaotic homeland.

At one point, we were talking about Mormonism, and the French lady was fascinated. She seemed okay with giving up alcohol, tea, and coffee… but maybe might have drawn the line at the temple garments (special underwear) required for the ultra faithful who have taken out their endowments. It probably wasn’t the most appropriate dinner conversation… but then it devolved into war stories, most of which were hilarious.

Bill and his buddies from way back… I had to take a photo so I could share it with another one of the gang who wasn’t there… He became Facebook friends with me because of a mutual friend. I knew the mutual friend from college, and he knew him from the Army, and he knew Bill from being in this cohort of Desert Storm veterans (although Bill didn’t fight in Desert Storm). The world is very small when you come from a military friendly state like Virginia.

We ended the evening with a photo of the four guys who spent time in Germany in the late 80s, early 90s. It was great to see everyone so happy and healthy. I’m grateful to be here, and I was grateful for the invitation last night. It was a lot of good food, good conversation, and bonding. A fun and festive time was had by all.

When we got home, we found that Arran hadn’t invaded the basement, like he did when we saw James Taylor. But he did tear up the box that held our pizza stone. I feel like he’s been regressing since he’s been getting chemo… acting like he’s 5 years old again. But then he makes up with us in the most adorable way. Noyzi, as usual, stayed out of trouble and camped out in his room.

Germany, holidays, takeout

Thanksgiving 2020…

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that Cem Klein Mediterrané, a local restaurant, was offering a takeout Thanksgiving deal. Bill and I were lucky enough to get to try Cem Klein in July of last year, before they changed locations. They used to be located in the Sonnenberg area of Wiesbaden. They are now at the Rheinblick German/American golf course. I guess, since they are now dealing with Americans all the time, they were prompted to offer a special pandemic deal for our Thanksgiving holiday. I noticed in their Facebook ad that they were willing to accept dollars or euros and, in fact, would not charge Americans tax on the meal.

Bill and I like to cook, but there are only two of us and we only have so much refrigerator space. We decided to try the restaurant’s deal, which included turkey, stuffing, yams, green beans wrapped in bacon, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and cranberry gravy. The price was $55 for enough food for two, and it was super easy to order, pick up and clean up afterwards. We also have leftovers. Here are some photos:

Cem Klein did a fine job on this meal and the price was right! If we’re still here in 2021 and they offer another Thanksgiving deal, we may have to order it again. It was nice not to have a huge mess to clean up.

The dogs enjoyed hanging out with us all day, listening to music and drinking wine… especially Noyzi, who is slowly getting used to being a pet and being friends with Bill. Every day, more and more of his personality comes out. Yesterday, Arran decided to play fetch with his new toys. He left one unattended while he ran around the house being silly. Noyzi casually got up from his bed, picked up the toy, and put it in his bed, then snuggled up next to it. It’s such an endearing habit, watching him hoard toys as if they’re his buddies.

I really do miss getting to travel and enjoy Europe, but the weather has been pretty gloomy lately. Yesterday, it was foggy, damp, and cold all day. Bill said when he picked up our food, there were people playing golf. I don’t know how or why. It was pea soup thick yesterday! I kind of like this weather in November, though. It’s weird seeing people back home wearing shorts and t-shirts. It didn’t used to be that way, even in the South. The warmer temperatures worry me.

My German friend, Susanne, asked us if we’d ever used a Romertopf, which is a German version of a Tajine (clay pot). I had, but Bill had, and he used to own a Romertopf when he was in Germany back in the 1980s. I decided to get us a new one so we can try our hands at clay pot cooking. It arrived yesterday.

Anyway… that’s our Thanksgiving. It was low key and pleasant. Bill will work this morning, then take the rest of the day off. Then it’s time to prepare for Christmas, which means I’ll be shopping online. Whoopee!

Germany, restaurant reviews

Our Thanksgiving meal and other delights…

As I wrote earlier today, we decided to go out to a restaurant for our Thanksgiving meal.  Although I know I could have found a place that offered really good and somewhat Thanksgiving appropriate food for our celebration, I ended up choosing to dine at Herrenberg’s Gasthaus Lamm Inh. Wolfgang Mezger.  I chose this place because on Trip Advisor, it is listed as Herrenberg’s number one restaurant.  I figured that since it was a gasthaus, it would have the hearty fare I was craving.  I had visions of Stuttgart traffic and decided we should stick closer to home.

Earlier today, I also had the idea that I would like to go to the SI Suites near Kelley and visit the Schwabenquellen spa, but when Bill found out it was textile free, he was having none of it.  We compromised and decided that later we’d visit the Mineraltherme Boeblingen.  I even gave some thought to visiting the textile free area by myself.

Before we went out to dinner, though, I had some household chores to do.  Since I don’t have a job that pays me big bucks, I like to earn my keep.  So on Thursdays, I vacuum the house and typically do laundry.  This morning, the weather was absolutely shitty.  Bill took the dogs for a walk and I did my vacuuming.

**Skip this part if you have a weak stomach.  I’ll let you know when to read again…**

About an hour after they returned from their walk, I heard the sound most dog owners dread.  Arran had vomited up something extremely foul all over my ugly hallway rug.  It was so nasty and vile smelling that I almost sympathy hurled.  Bill grabbed one end of the 5X8 rug and I grabbed another.  We took it outside, where the weather was misty and cold.  I brought Bill lots of hot water with vinegar and baking soda while he kindly cleaned the rank smelling rug for me.  It’s still sitting outside deputrifying.

Arran’s puking episode made me nervous, since when you look up “dog’s vomit that smells like poop” on Google, most sites tell you it’s a veterinary emergency because your dog has surely got a bowel obstruction.  However, Bill had seen Arran eat some kind of feces while they were walking in the field behind our house.  I know Arran well enough to know that he fancies himself a poop hunter while on walks…  but he doesn’t have the iron constitution of his predecessor, MacGregor, who was a true connoisseur of all things crappy.  Arran usually throws up when he eats shit; that’s why I tend to keep him on a short leash behind our house.  Since Bill was walking him today, he had a little more freedom to get into trouble.  Anyway, fortunately after his one extremely disgusting vomit fest, Arran was fine.

**Nasty part is done… weak stomached readers can read again…**

So off we went to the Mineraltherme.   I was drying clothes before we left and had the dryer running.  Bill was nervous about it, so we went back and turned the dryer off.

I was a little hungry when we got to the spa.  We first stopped in their restaurant and I had a glass of Riesling and a nice bowl of carrot and ginger soup.  It was served with a somewhat soggy piece of bread covered with melted mozzarella cheese.  Bill had a ham and cheese panini and a beer.  They served us a house shot of soup, which I didn’t eat because it was made with mushrooms.  I don’t ever eat mushrooms, but even if I had liked them a little, I was still a little grossed out by Arran.  The earthy mushroom aroma was doing nothing for my stomach or my nerves.

My carrot ginger soup.  It was okay, though probably could have used a little salt… or maybe more ginger.


Bill’s panini.  He declared it “substantial”.  He also enjoyed the wild mushroom soup shots.  

We spent the next couple of hours enjoying the pools at the Mineraltherme.  Although Bill is generally reluctant to go there, he’s always relaxed when we leave and never regrets going.  We did have a good time, despite getting a few peevish looks from a couple of older gentlemen.  I didn’t go down to the textile free area today because we didn’t have time.  One of these days, I will disrobe and enjoy the freedom of being naked in front of complete strangers.  I may need more Riesling to do it, though.

We got home at about 5:30 or so, took the dogs out for a wee, and I washed our swimsuits and such on a short cycle.  I put them in the dryer.  Then we left for our dinner at the Gasthaus Lamm.  On the way there, I started feeling nervous about the dryer.  I went as far as to look up on the web to see if we were taking a big risk by letting it run while we were out.  I had visions of coming home to an obliterated house and two dead dogs.  At the same time, the rational side of me told me I was being ridiculous.  I now know that leaving major appliances running when you aren’t home is probably not worth the risk or my neurotic worrying.

Bill parked the car and we headed for the adorable Gasthaus Lamm.  Although the restaurant is clearly popular with locals and we used to visit Herrenberg all the time when we lived here the first time, we had not been there before.  When we entered the building, we were immediately charmed by how cozy and quaint it is.  Make no mistake, the Gasthaus Lamm in Herrenberg is a very small venue.  You may wish to make reservations before going for dinner.

Herrenberg at Christmastime… sehr cute.

We were warned that we would be sharing a table.  Sure enough, we joined a German couple at a rather private little four top tucked away in a corner.  We had a good view of the bar, where the young, attractive waitresses were slinging beers.  The place was pretty much packed and it was all Germans, having a good time on a Thursday night.

Outside of the restaurant.


It was a little like being home at Granny’s house in the restaurant, since we were sitting at a table with a couple of people we didn’t know and the place was wall to wall people.  Those who went to Longwood with me in the 90s may remember Macado’s restaurant during that era.  The ambiance was much more authentically charming at Gasthaus Lamm, but the space constraints were very similar…  Those who don’t know what I’m writing about can just imagine themselves in a really cute but tiny, cozy restaurant.

We started with Schimpf Christmas beers…  These were nice, though somewhat pedestrian.  They did chase away my thirst, though.

Bill ordered the special wild boar being offered tonight with spatzle and red cabbage slaw.  It came with a little pot of gravy to go with that already on the meat.

I had a cordon blue schnitzel with fries…  I awarded points when the waitress asked if I wanted ketchup or mayo to go with my fries.  That rarely happens!

This was what our plates looked like when we finally quit eating.  The food was very good.  Bill’s boar was especially good.  But it’s for people who have huge stomachs!  

For dessert, we both had hefeweizens.  This was very good.  Reminded me a bit of Franziskaner.  I had never before had either of the beers offered at Gasthaus Lamm, but I liked them both.  I especially enjoyed the Berg Ulrich Bier.

Obligatory Bill shot, after our German stranger dinner companions departed.  It was a little odd sitting with them, because it seemed like both couples were trying to pretend the other couple wasn’t there.  The table was rather intimate, rather than the long table I was expecting.  Also, I know people think I look dumb when I photograph food for this blog.  I did like the little alcove, though.  It was nice and private, otherwise.  The other couple was nice enough, too.  Anyway, breaking bread with strangers and family is what Thanksgiving is all about, right?

A shot of the bar from where I was sitting.  Other people were sitting on the other sides.


As I was sitting on the cute little bench, I noticed my buns were warm.  It reminded me of our old house, which had a masonry heater.  When we used it, the bench would heat up and I’d have a nice warm butt…  warmer than sitting on the dryer or getting a good spanking.  But actually, last night I was just sitting over a heating vent.  What a thrill it was having my buns toasted in a restaurant!

A shot of the other side of the table from where I was sitting, again after the other couple left.

Wall art.  They had a lot of cool stuff on the walls.  We also tried that beer…

A message on the bottom of my glass… Is it German or Schwabish?  Who knows?  It’s backwards as well as in a language other than my mother tongue.

Anyone want to translate?


Our total bill came to 44,60.  That was for two very substantial and tasty meals and four beers between us.  Service was pleasant, friendly, and competent.  Our servers seemed to take pride in speaking English to us, even though when it comes to restaurants, we can sort of get by in German.  The lady who took our reservation also spoke English.  The food was very good, though the portions were huge.  It seemed like more of a bar atmosphere than a restaurant, but clearly the locals love it.  We will definitely be back…  In fact, we need to get back into the habit of visiting Herrenberg.  I had forgotten how cute it is, especially at this time of year!

We came home and happily found our house still intact, despite my decision to run the dryer while we were out.  The dogs were glad to see us and are now blissfully sleeping on my new sheets.  I am about to join them.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Stay tuned, because we will make up for last week’s lack of restaurant outings this weekend!


Thanksgiving and new sheets in Germany…

As you probably know, it’s not a holiday here in Germany.  Bill is home from work, though, and because it’s just the two of us, we won’t be cooking a big meal.  Instead, we will seek a nice place that serves hearty fare of some sort.  It would be nice if we could find a place that has something similar to what we might be eating if we were at Granny’s house.  However, since we are in Germany, the chances of that happening are probably pretty slim.  I’d be appeased by chicken or duck… I know we can find turkey, but it probably wouldn’t be the kind of turkey I’d want.  I like chicken or duck better anyway.

The weather is positively yucky.  It’s cold and drizzly.  Bill just took the dogs for a walk, which should make them happy.  I’m glad he’s around to do it so I don’t have to.  I kind of struggle to be active when the weather is like this.  It makes me want to hibernate.  But we’ll find someplace to eat and I will be sure to review it!

Speaking of hibernation and taking to one’s bed…  I just bought us some new sheets.  I have some really nice, expensive cotton sheets that I have been using for about 18 months or so.  Sadly, they are starting to wear out.  They also don’t really fit the bed with the feather top on it and they wrinkle horribly!  That might be okay if I liked ironing, but I hate to iron.

So, a few weeks ago, I ordered a new set of sheets from  I’d actually been thinking about buying these sheets for some time.  We encountered them last Thanksgiving, when we went to Virginia and stayed at The Hummingbird Inn, a B&B in Goshen… the very same one we stayed in for our honeymoon in 2002.  It was owned by different people then.  Last year, it was owned by different people than the ones who own it now, as the inn was sold over the summer.

Anyway, last year, The Hummingbird Inn used Comphy microfiber sheets on the bed in our room.  I noticed how soft and comfortable they were, but since our expensive Italian linens weren’t that worn out, I didn’t order a set.  When I recently noticed my Italian sheets were fraying, I decided to take the Comphy plunge.

Comphy doesn’t ship to APO, so I had our sheets and a set of pillowcases sent to my mother-in-law in Texas, who kindly forwarded them our way.  They arrived on Monday.  I washed them, then put them on the bed.  Immediately, I noticed that the sheets were very generously sized.  Comphy’s sheets are larger than conventional sheets so they can fit pillow top mattresses.  My bed does not have a big pillow top, but it does have a feather bed on top.  With conventional sheets, I was constantly having to pull the corners back down.  I don’t have to do that with Comphy sheets, though they are actually a bit too big for our king sized mattress.  When we upgrade our mattress, I am sure I’ll be glad for the extra roominess, though.  The elastic on the fitted sheet is wider than it is on other sheets I’ve used.

The next thing I noticed is that the sheets are supposed to be silver blue, but actually look more like light green.  That’s not a big deal to me, but I would just say that the sheets look like they do on the Comphy Web site, even though they are supposed to be blue.  I was thinking maybe the sheets would be blue in person, even though they looked greenish on Comphy’s site.  There aren’t a whole lot of colors to choose from, unfortunately.

Finally, I will comment that the Comphy sheets are indeed very comfortable.  I wouldn’t have thought I’d like microfiber sheets because I prefer natural fibers.  These sheets are very soft, don’t wrinkle, and they breathe well.  Bill loves them and actually thanked me for dropping a big wad of cash on them!  He says he’s sleeping better than he has in a long time.  These sheets are not cheap, but they are probably among the best I’ve ever slept on.

So… if you’re in the market for sheets, you might want to consider Comphy.  However, I do want to warn that their return policy is not very liberal.  You may want to get swatches and/or even find a bed and breakfast that uses them so you can try them out before you buy a set.  Just do a Google search for Comphy sheets and you will find places that use them.  You can also find Comphy sheets in spas.

No, this is not our bed… this bed was at The Hummingbird Inn.  It was outfitted with Comphy linens. My bed is too messy for pictures.


Our big Virginia trip, part five– old friends!

I was really looking forward to Saturday because I had a “date” with two old college friends.  In 1994, I graduated from what is now Longwood University (in our day, it was Longwood College).  I hadn’t seen my friends Donna and Joann since those days in Farmville, though Facebook had kept us in touch somewhat.

Donna, Joann, and I were all English majors.  Joann was Donna’s “big sister” in their sorority.  I was Donna’s big sister in our honorary music fraternity.  Donna was one of the first people I met freshman year, back in 1990.  If I recall correctly, we met while waiting in line to shop at the bookstore.  There was no back in the those days.  Donna was later my suite mate during our sophomore year.

I met Joann in a British lit class.  We both had Dr. Massie Stinson, one of my favorite Longwood profs.  In his very soft, southern drawl, he taught us about romantic British literature as we read The Mayor of Casterbridge and works by Tennyson, Keats, and Shelley.  I didn’t know it back then, but Joann is from Lexington, Virginia, which is very close to where both of my parents grew up.  It’s also where Bill and I got married.

So we made a date at Macado’s for noon on Saturday.  Macado’s also has a location in Farmville, as all Longwood students know.  In our day, it was pretty much the only game in town for a fun bite to eat.  I’m sure that’s changed by now.  I actually had a long standing grudge against Macado’s for many years, but I figured it would be fitting to go there last weekend.

Donna came with her husband and adorable 11 year old daughter in tow.  I could see Donna’s husband was relieved that I brought Bill with me so he’d have a guy to talk to.  Joann is single.  Our party of six was lively as we enjoyed sandwiches and I ordered what used to be my favorite thing to eat when I was in college, macaroni and cheese.  It wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it, though it was pretty close.

Old Longwood friends!


Mac and cheese…  Mine is better.


While we were hanging out, I had the opportunity to confront Donna’s daughter, whom I’d heard had unofficially dubbed me “the cusser”.  Apparently, I swear too much on Facebook.  When I asked her about it, she blushed bright red… almost enough to match her bright red hair!  It was super cute!  I was impressed by how well behaved she was, hanging out with all the adults who were temporarily regressing back to their early 20s.

After lunch, we walked around Lexington and visited Celtic Tides, an Irish store that I’ve given a lot of business over the years.  I bought a plaque for my office that reminds me of my Celtic boozy genes.  We went to another store called Pumpkinseeds, which is where I bought two pairs of earrings I don’t really need.  For some reason, if I like something and in comes in different colors, I have to buy two.  Must be my Gemini “twin” thing.

Obviously, I had something important to say…

We finally ended up in a small park where the town Christmas tree was all lit.  One of my cousin’s wives found us there and reminded me that my Aunt Nancy was celebrating her 80th birthday in the form of a cocktail party.  I had forgotten all about it…  Actually, no one ever gave me the details and I wasn’t sure where she lived.  But as it was getting dark, we decided to part ways after a very fun five hour visit.

A shot of the movie theater in Lexington.

We stopped by the homeplace to see if anyone was around.  No one was, so we ate our leftovers from Macado’s and then went back to the inn for our last night there.  I decided to turn in early, since I knew Sunday and Monday were going to be big travel days.

I hope it won’t be another 20 years before I see these two ladies again.  But since I doubt my family will ever totally leave Rockbridge County, I’m sure we can work out another reunion sooner rather than later.


Our big Virginia trip, part four– Friday night!

In my family, we traditionally have a “barn party” on Friday after Thanksgiving.  Over the years, the party has been held in a variety of different places.  When I was a kid, the barn on my Uncle Brownlee’s property was owned by someone else, so we had to rent somewhere for our party.  Some years, we had it at the Natural Bridge Hotel, either in a room in the basement or in a reception hall.

In 1987, we had an all out par-tay in one of the big ballrooms.  It was complete with an open bar and a full band featuring my Uncle Brownlee and his brother, Stephen.  There was much drunkenness, especially from yours truly.  I was 15 years old and one of my cousins, who shall remain nameless, was passing me bourbon and Cokes.  I drank four and got good and hammered.  That was the first time in my life I ever got drunk, and boy was I a mess.  Fortunately, my Aunt Nance filmed the whole thing for posterity…  LOL.  I made myself scarce during the drunk part, thank GOD.  I still like to watch that video, though, because that was a wild party and there are people in it who are no longer with us.

In later years, we had the party at the Fire Station in Natural Bridge, which wasn’t too long on character.  There were lots of stories told, though no dancing or music.  One year, we had karaoke in the barn.  And finally in recent years, we started having the whole celebration in the barn, which my handy and talented Uncle Brownlee has fixed up for dancing and music.  The last few years, we’ve even had live bluegrass music from The Plank Road Express.  In 2010, during our last visit for Thanksgiving, I got to sing a number with the band, which was a lot of fun for me.  In a former life, I think I was a rock star.

I had a feeling we were going to be a bit emotional after my dad’s memorial, so I arranged a date night for Bill and me.  We had dinner at The Southern Inn in Lexington, Virginia.  We ate there once or twice before and there are other restaurants in Lexington.  I will admit that part of the reason I chose that place is because they participate in OpenTable, which is a restaurant reservation service.  I get points every time I make a reservation and have been collecting for over ten years.  But if I don’t reserve a table at least once a year, the points expire.  Since I don’t know when we’ll be back in the States, I figured it was a good opportunity to keep current.  And I wanted to enjoy a nice dinner with my spouse, too.

So we stayed dressed up for dinner, though we really didn’t have to.  The Southern Inn is a fairly casual place and it’s obvious that it’s popular with locals.  Our waitress was very experienced and clearly knew a lot of the people at the surrounding tables.  We enjoyed a very nice meal, too.  I started with baked Brie and a glass of prosecco.  Bill had a bowl of Andouille sausage soup.  I had sea scallops and parmesan grits for my entree.  Bill had a huge steak.  For dessert, I had a Brandy Alexander, while Bill had pecan pie.

Bill reacting to something smartassed I said.


Baked Brie… it was a little like a grilled cheese sandwich on steroids.

Bill’s yummy soup!

Scallops, grits, and greens!


Brandy Alexander… 

Pecan pie… this was good, but my brother-in-law, Mark, makes an even better one.

We got back to the home place just in time for a spectacular fireworks show put on by one of my cousins.  I wish we’d gotten there a little earlier so I could have gotten more than a few shots.  I was pretty impressed by how professional the show was!


Then we went to the barn for dancing and more singing… and yes, I did get to sing with The Plank Road Express again.  It was funny, too, because the lead singer spotted me and said, “I’ve been looking for you for four years!  Where have you been?”  I sang “Walking After Midnight” and fumbled with the words a bit… but probably the most special moment of the night came when I saw the words for “On Heaven’s Bright Shore” on her music stand.

You see, I really would have liked to have sung “On Heaven’s Bright Shore” at my dad’s memorial.  That would have been my choice for a solo.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone to accompany me.  I did record an acapella version, but it’s not as good as it would be if I had someone on guitar or something.

The Plank Road Express in the barn…

Anyway, I asked the band if they would mind if I gave “On Heaven’s Bright Shore” a whirl.  They asked if I could sing it in “C”.  I said, “Just play it.  I’m drunk and so is most everyone else in here!”  It turned out pretty well!

I thanked the band for obliging me and explained that I had come all the way from Germany for my dad’s memorial.  The lead singer said, “Oh, so that was your dad who died?  I sang ‘On Heaven’s Bright Shore’ for my dad, too.”  I got the sense that we bonded a little over that song!

Another highlight of Friday night was my Uncle Ed, who is just hilarious.  He said, “Hey Jenny, we have some ‘moon’ here…”  “Moon”, for your edification, refers to moonshine.  Yes, many people in my family enjoy it as well as the odd Miller Lite beer.  My tastebuds have evolved beyond Lite, but I don’t mind if I do enjoy a little “moon” when the opportunity presents itself.  It was good stuff, too– pretty smooth and I haven’t gone blind…

We didn’t get back to the Hummingbird Inn until after 1:00am.  We would have been there sooner, except I left my bag at the house and had to go back and retrieve it.  On the way into the house, I skinned the hell out of my knee.  That may have been yet another sign from my dad.  Many years ago, when I was a kid and we were celebrating Thanksgiving with the family, my dad decided to go jogging.  Possibly in a pre-menstrual moment, I said “I hope you fall and skin your knee.”  My cousin, Suzanne, thought that was the funniest thing and reminded me of it this year.  So maybe it was a little karmic payback.  Despite my smarting knee, I had a great time!


Our big Virginia trip, part three– My Dad’s memorial…

Friday was an emotional day.  We buried my dad’s ashes on the hillside overlooking the house he grew up in.  Jason Grimes, the minister from High Bridge Presbyterian Church came and had a little service for us.  I was heartened to hear that he’s from South Carolina, which has a special place in my heart.  Go Gamecocks!


My dad grew up going to this church and became a member when he was ten years old.  It’s still the “family church”, as it were.

My Uncle Brownlee made the box for my dad’s ashes…  I thought the VMI ball cap was a nice touch.

A few hours later, we had a celebration of his life at the church itself.  Since I was asked to sing, I was a little nervous.  My dad and I have always had a complicated history.  Our musical history together is no less complicated than anything else about our relationship ever was.  My dad was a singer and used to do a lot of solos in church.  When I was very young, I’d plug my ears with my fingers when he’d get up to sing.  I usually got in trouble later for doing that.  As time went on, I became more tolerant, though I can’t say I was ever a great fan of his singing.  I feel comfortable in saying this openly because it’s common knowledge, most of all to my dad.  Anyway, I had visions of him sitting up in Heaven with his fingers in his ears.

I sang “Softly and Tenderly”, which is a hymn I discovered while heavily into karaoke.  Indeed, I used a karaoke track to accompany myself, since it was the easiest thing to do from thousands of miles away.  The version I used is on the soundtrack for the movie, The Apostle, although curiously enough, on the soundtrack it’s an instrumental.  A vocal version by Rebecca Lynn Howard is also on the soundtrack, but it’s different than the one I did.  No matter, though, since I actually prefer the instrumental version.  If you’re curious…

I recorded this a few days after my dad died in July.

So anyway, because I was singing, we had to get to the church early.  It was bitterly cold outside, but otherwise a clear, sunny day.  I had changed from more weather appropriate attire to a dress and a bright blue piano shawl we bought in Spain last January.  Actually, only my feet got really cold.  I had strappy, sparkly sandals with no hose.  But they looked prettier and were more comfortable than the black pumps I have, which make me walk like an old lady.

We had rehearsed the song two days prior and got the sound system all set up.  I was able to sing it from memory then and it sounded good, though one never knows how things will turn out when there are people in attendance.  Of course, as we left the church, a big wad of snow fell off the church roof and I got the feeling it was my dad throwing a snowball at me.  That’s the kind of thing he would have done.  I kind of knew it was going to be alright after that.  Sure enough, it was.  I stepped up to the mic, my nerves alive and buzzing.  At first, my voice came out a bit tremulous because I was nervous and emotional, but then I relaxed a bit and it turned out very nicely.  I think my dad was probably pleased.

My cousin, Karen, also performed.  She sang “Psalm 23”, accompanying herself on her guitar.  I wish I could play guitar, especially as well as she does.  There was also supposed to be a rendition of “Amazing Grace”, but apparently none of the musicians in the house got the message.  The pastor joked “The Lord wills otherwise.” when no one answered the call to perform that standard during the service.

My hilarious Uncle Carl introduced sort of an “open mic” for anyone and everyone who wanted to talk about my dad.  Carl was followed by my Uncle Ed, who needed no mic to tell us a hilarious story about growing up with my dad.  Several other people came up to speak, including Zeke Finney, a fellow VMI grad and choir member at the church I grew up in.  His wife used to occupy me during church services because my mom was always playing the organ and my dad was always in the choir.  My sisters were, by then, mostly out of the house.  Two of my sisters spoke.  One recited a poem she wrote.  Another simply stole the show with heartfelt and funny comments about our dad.  I got to see Sue, my lone cousin on my mom’s side.  She lives nearby.  Last time I saw her was at my wedding in November 2002.  She looked good– and tiny, like my sister Becky.

After the service, there was a reception and I got to meet more of my dad’s friends.  Another sister presented a very moving video about my dad’s life.  There were a lot of photos in the movie that I’d never seen before and a few that I contributed.  I would have added a few more, but all my pictures are in storage in Texas.

At the end of the video, we got our rendition of “Amazing Grace”… it came from my dad himself.  My sister found a recording of him performing it.  It had been years since I had last heard his singing voice.  I resisted the urge to put my fingers in my ears and am a better person for it.  Some things never change.  In all seriousness, it was very fitting that we had a recording of him singing.  Music was one of my dad’s true passions.  I think he passed that passion on to me.

Bill takes in the view from the hillside where my dad is now at rest.

My Georgia cousins…

The whole family… minus about 20 or so.

A rare shot with my sisters.  They look great… I probably need to lay off the German beer.  But at least I have a pretty smile on my face!


Our big trip to Virginia, part one– Hummingbird Inn review

I have already written about our air travel from Germany to Washington, DC and our one night stay at Embassy Suites near Dulles Airport.  Now for the rest of the story…

Bill and I opted to stay at the Hummingbird Inn in Goshen, Virginia.  This bed and breakfast is located near Goshen Pass, which has a very special place in our hearts.  I think it’s kind of where we fell in love.

The Hummingbird Inn right after a rare November snow…

Backstory… skip this if all you want to read about is our experience this year… 

My first memory of Goshen Pass was from childhood, when my family had a big birthday party there in June of 1978.  For years, I thought the party was for my benefit, but actually it was for a few family members.  My beloved Uncle Brownlee’s birthday is the day after mine, and there are also many other June birthdays to celebrate among cousins.  Anyway, that year, I turned six and we had just come back to Virginia from Mildenhall Air Force Base in England.  It was the first exposure to my enormous family that I can remember, though I’m sure there were other gatherings before our three years in England.

Goshen Pass

Many years later, Bill and I had one of our first dates at Goshen Pass.  The year was 2001 and the month was September.  Bill had just moved from Leavenworth, Kansas to Alexandria, Virginia.  He was working at the Pentagon.  I was in graduate school at the University of South Carolina.  We came up to see my Granny, then 95 years old, for Labor Day weekend.  It was Bill’s first exposure to my family and, fortunately, he fit right in.  Uncle Brownlee was cooking eggs in his underwear and asked Bill if he wanted one.  He added in his hilarious southern twang, “I mean it.  I’ll knock a hole in one for ya!”

We didn’t swim this time, but it sure is pretty…

The weather on that Saturday before Labor Day was absolutely gorgeous.  I told Bill I wanted to go to Goshen and see it again, even though it had been many years since my last visit.  He agreed, so we went, parked on the side of the road, and enjoyed a positively awesome day swimming in the Maury River.

The rest of that weekend was equally amazing.  It culminated when Granny, the family matriarch, told me that she liked Bill.  She said I should marry him, adding that she wished my cousin Suzanne would find a guy as nice as Bill, too.

A week later, Bill was in the Pentagon working.  It was 9/11 and his office was in the area that was hit by the jet airliner.  I didn’t know if he was alive or dead all day.  At that time, we were still calling ourselves friends, but it was pretty obvious to everyone that we were beyond friendship.  When he later came on the computer to tell me he’d survived, I told him it was probably time we went more public with our relationship.  He agreed.  A few months later, we were engaged and the following year, we got married.  It’s been all good since then.

Bill’s mother, Parker, booked us two nights at the Hummingbird Inn for our honeymoon.  At that time, the inn was run by the Robinsons.  I don’t remember if the husband half of the couple was British, but I do remember the wife was.  She was an amazing cook.  We stayed in the Teter Wood room, which was on the first floor and had its own private entrance.  I left the inn vowing to learn how to make a cheese souffle, which I did.

Now we’re in the year 2014…

So this year, after considering all of the hotel properties in the Lexington/Rockbridge County area, I decided we should go back to the Hummingbird Inn.  I chose the inn because it was priced fairly reasonably compared to the two star motels in Lexington.  Also, we just celebrated our 12th anniversary.  I booked on for four nights, paying about $600 or so.  This time, Bill and I stayed in the Robinson room, which was named after Jeremy and Diana Robinson,  the very same couple who owned the inn when we stayed there in 2002.  Apparently, they were the ones who got the Hummingbird Inn back in business.  Our room was where they lived and it was sort of interesting, because it had its own little foyer area.

The bedroom


The sheets on our bed came from Comphy, which is a company that makes sheets for hotels and spas.  They are super soft!  Bill and I were both raving about them.  Those who like the sheets can arrange to order them through the Hummingbird Inn.  I probably would have ordered a set myself if I hadn’t just bought new sheets that I love.


Bathroom.  Has a shower only.

Foyer going the other way.  

Bill settling in…

The Hummingbird Inn is now owned and operated by Dan and Patty Harrison, a couple of California transplants who have enjoyed quite a variety of different life experiences together.  I really enjoyed getting to know the Harrisons, who are very personable and hospitable.  They scored extra points with me for leaving chocolate in strategic locations around the house.  We also appreciated the free WiFi, though it’s a bit on the slow side.  Given how remote Goshen is and how big the house is, that’s not a surprise.  A “public” computer with Internet access is available to those who didn’t bring their own.  There are also books, board games, puzzles, and movies aplenty to occupy your attention should you not find anything to do nearby.

My sister, Becky, joined us for three nights.  She and her cat, Oliver, stayed in the Teter Wood room, our “honeymoon” suite from 2002.

Goshen is not all that close to our family festivities– it’s about 30 miles as the crow flies from Goshen to Natural Bridge, Virginia, which is where our “homeplace” is.  But the drive there on route 39 is simply gorgeous.  There are plenty of places to pull off and take photos if you are so inclined.  If you’d rather not take a winding road, you can get to Goshen via Interstate 64, which is about ten miles from the inn.

It was snowing as we drove in, which created some magical scenery…

Breakfast is served every day at 9:00 and we found it to be substantial and quite tasty.  Each day, we had a fruit starter, then an egg dish with a meat side and potatoes.  One day, it was quiche.  Another, it was a delicious fritata.  Another day, we had a bacon and feta cheese casserole.  We missed breakfast one morning because we had to leave before 9:00.

Those who need something before 9:00 can help themselves to fresh baked pastries, coffee, and tea.  To be very honest, I wasn’t too wild about the coffee at the inn, though I was glad to see they had real half & half available.   The coffee offered at breakfast was a little too weak for me, though there is a Keurig available during the rest of the day. The tea was good, though, and made a sufficient substitute.  I also really liked the orange juice we were served.

I didn’t get a chance to walk around the inn to see the creek that runs in the back, but I did hear it.  I also heard trains.  There are lots of them and they run right in front of the house.  They didn’t bother us while we were there this time, but I did notice them during our first stay.  Maybe it’s because we were newlyweds!

Bill and I enjoyed hanging out with the other guests in attendance, too.  We met a very nice couple from the DC area… well, they weren’t really from there.  They live there because the husband is a retired colonel taking advantage of his years in the military in the form of a decent job.  Bill talked shop with the male half, while the female half and I compared notes on being retired Army wives.  It was a lot of fun!

We also met a gentleman who came up from Georgia to see his family.  He said there were over twenty of them in attendance, but his eyebrows raised when I said we have over 80 at ours!  Turns out he lives in the same area as a number of my relatives do, too.

We had a great stay at the Hummingbird Inn, a place that seems to be very popular with hunters.  There were a couple staying there during our weekend there and I remember one or two during our first stay in 2002.  I’m not sure when we’ll get back to Rockbridge County, but to anyone else heading there, I’d recommend a stay with Patty and Dan Harrison at the Hummingbird Inn.  It’s a great place to go if you need to unplug.


Not going to Virginia…

I broke the news to my mom last night that we won’t be coming to Virginia for Thanksgiving.  There are a lot of reasons why I didn’t want to go, but the main reason we’re not going is because it would cost and arm and a leg to fly there.  Last time I checked tickets to Virginia in November, they were over $1400 for both Bill and me.  That’s not much less than what we paid to fly to Scotland last year.

$1400 is a lot to spend on a trip that probably wouldn’t be that much fun.  We’d also have to board the dogs, pay for parking, and rent a car, which would be more expenses that would probably bump the cost up to $2000 or more.  And flying during the holiday season is even more stressful than usual.

I think my mom was disappointed, but she was understanding.  I think she was also expecting me to say we weren’t coming.  I told her that maybe in the spring, we could go to Virginia for a visit.  We’re still trying to figure out how much it costs to live here.

Bill has to go to Miami next week.  I will be home alone, dealing with the crown preparation I have to have done.