Monday, December 29, 2014

Ambivalent about all this weather...

I like snow.  I really do.  It's still snowing right now.  Big fat flakes are falling gently to the ground, covering everything in a cold blanket of soft white.  There's something about snow that makes everything seem cozy and sweet.  But it's been snowing for days now and I'm feeling a little eager to get out of the house.  The trouble is, even when it's nice out, I rarely go out.

Still, I have to admit, the snow is very pretty, especially since we live in a somewhat rural area where there are a lot of trees.  I was thinking I might want to go for a walk in the forest and take some photos.  But it's cold out and even the dogs don't even want to stay out for more than a minute or two.

I took this picture right before the snow started up again.  I like how everything looks blue...

It's hard to believe that soon, this will melt.  As soon as we get weather above freezing, anyway.  Looks like that will be Friday.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

It's still coming down...

But we did manage to go out and get a snow shovel yesterday...  Seriously, there are no signs that it's going to stop anytime soon.  I'm having visions of Little House on the Prairie.

This was Zane this morning.  I think he is enjoying this winter sloth weather.

Last night, I made a very nice dinner.  Bill was talking about wanting lasagna and we had some stuff that needed to be used.  So I made a lasagna that turned out perfectly!  We paired it with wine the landlords brought, homemade bread that I made, and music by Van Morrison...

I should cook more often...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Yea! Snow!

The view from our bedroom yesterday...  a lot of this melted.

The view from our bedroom this morning... it's coming down fast and furious!

The original forecast according to was 3-5 inches.  I think we're past that and the snow shows no sign whatsoever of stopping.

I saw one of our neighbors dutifully shoveling the sidewalk by his house.  I think our snow shovel is broken.

In a way, this is a bit of a bummer because I have been holed up in the house for the past couple of days and am a little stir crazy.  In another way, it's a bit of a thrill, because I haven't been home for a good snow storm in years.  Since 2009, we've lived in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas.  We got a little wimpy dusting of snow in North Carolina and a couple of significant snows in Georgia, one of which actually kept Bill snowbound for a day or two because we lived in a very rural area.  But there was nothing in Texas, obviously.

We did run into snow in Virginia last month.  Naturally, it melted very quickly.  According to the forecast, it looks like this snow will stick around for awhile.  The temperatures over the next few days are slated to be very cold.

Bill left our window cracked last night and I have to admit, I slept well with the cold air circulating over our down covered bed.  The two beagles were all snuggled in with us and it was very cozy.  I didn't wake up until after 9:00am, which for me is unheard of.  My days of sleeping until noon ended with adolescence.

Well... it's a good thing we stocked up on beer last weekend.  Looks like we'll be sitting around drinking a lot of it today.  Maybe later, the dogs will want to take a romp near the forest.  I can finally break out the faux fur lined snow boots and parka I bought last time we lived here.  God, I love living in Germany!  Wish we had a fireplace.  Also wish we had a snow shovel.

Dogs enjoying the snow!  Zane loves it, but Arran wasn't interested in staying out too long.

Poor Bill.  Through force of habit, I locked the door.  He was out in the cold!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

I think the neighbors are getting used to us...

Santa brought us nice neighbors for Christmas!

Two nights in a row, our German neighbors have lent us a helping hand.  On the night of the 23rd, our landlord/landlady dropped by with a bottle of wine for us as a Christmas present.  Normally, when someone rings our doorbell, I put the dogs in the downstairs half of our house.  Our house was intended to be two apartments, so it's easy to keep one part closed off.  I answer the door and the dogs are kept out of the way.  Unfortunately, Bill neglected to secure our hounds, Zane and Arran, before he opened the door and they both got out.

I had already dressed for bed because I had taken a shower and figured I wasn't going anywhere, nor was I expecting anyone.  But when Bill yelled at me that the dogs were on the loose, I got dressed again and went out to help catch Zane.  Arran, thank heavens, is very easy to corral.  Zane never goes far when he gets loose.  He always stays within our sight.  Getting loose is a game for him and he has a great time making us chase him.  Like most hounds, he has selective hearing and a mind of his own.  Sadly, he doesn't realize that getting out of the house on his own could result in his death.

Zane ended up running to a neighbor's yard, which has sort of a natural fence around it made of low shrubs. As we were trying to catch Zane, a different neighbor pulled up and helped us corral him.  She was a huge help!  Instead of us having to chase Zane for 45 minutes in the dark, it only took about 20 minutes to get him, thanks to our kind neighbor.  She introduced herself and pointed to where she lives.

Then last night, as we were eating dinner, the doorbell rang again.  This time, Bill closed the door to the downstairs so our dogs couldn't escape.  It was another neighbor-- this time, a man who lives down the street.  He introduced himself and alerted Bill to the inside light of our SUV.  It was still lit and he didn't want us to have a dead battery!

Now... this may seem like common courtesy to a lot of people, but I'm here to tell you that when we lived in Texas, our neighbors weren't nearly as nice to us.  When Zane got out of our yard on my birthday, I asked a neighbor who happened to be within reaching distance of Zane's collar if he wouldn't mind grabbing him so we could take him home.  That guy totally ignored me.  Fortunately, we were able to corral Zane because there was a tall fence there.  Zane got out because the pool guy came early that morning and forgot to shut the gate behind him.  It was lucky that I got suspicious so soon after I let him into the yard.  He might have easily been killed or gotten lost.

Another time in Texas, a neighbor came over to tell me that the garage door was up.  I was glad she did that, since I was alone in the house and it turned out that neighborhood wasn't very safe (as evidenced by the blood spatter on our driveway by the lockbox while the house was being advertised for rent).  But that was the one time anyone showed much consideration.  Most of the time, they rang the bell to try to sell us something or proselytize.  Oh, and one guy tried to butter up Bill so we'd let his kid use the pool in the backyard.

When we lived in Germany last time, it took a lot longer before our neighbors got used to us.  We lived in a town near Tuebingen, so very few Americans were in that area.  I think we were the only ones who had ever lived in that village and, according to my former German neighbor, it wasn't a particularly friendly neighborhood to start with, although I did very much enjoy living there.  It was months before anyone spoke to us, though they did watch us a lot through their windows.  We also got ding dong ditched quite often by local hoodlums.  We finally had to disconnect the doorbell.

Anyway, while I know we'll always be Auslanders in these parts, it's good to know we have nice neighbors.  I much prefer where we live now to where we were living a year ago.  And the couple that owns our home is so nice.  I never had an American landlord who brought me wine!

An added bonus... insane sunsets and sunrises easily viewed from our upstairs windows...

Monday, December 22, 2014

How I stay sane being a lonely overeducated housewife in Germany...

I spend a lot of time alone, so the Internet is kind of my lifeline to other people.  I do have two dogs who keep me company and of course, there's always Facebook.  But there's also another online place I like to frequent.  It's where I indulge my love of singing.

I'm actually a pretty good singer and I love to go to karaoke bars, though if I'm honest, a lot of people don't always like it when I sing.  But since I am not in any groups or taking lessons, karaoke remains an outlet.  I like to sing on because it gives me the chance to practice my music without annoying other people.  I've also met some good folks there.  It's a great diversion, and I spend less money and drink less than I might at a bar.  Also, no one confuses me for the host when I sing at home online.

Still, there are times when I miss having a crowd.  Someday, we might have to find a karaoke venue near us...  or I might have to venture to the Community Club.

For now, this keeps me busy enough...

We tried to break the pattern...

by going to Taverna Olympos yesterday, but sadly the doors were shut tight at the time we wanted to visit.  It turns out Taverna Olympos is only open for dinner on weekends.  So Bill and I went to The Auld Rogue again for beer and lunch.  The place was busy yesterday, but I was glad to see the same friendly waitress who helped us the first time we visited a couple of months ago.  We sat at the bar and ordered our first round and some food.  I ordered spare ribs and Bill ordered the beef and Guinness stew, which was specially offered yesterday.  At first, the waitress said they were out of the stew, but then apparently they had some.  I was glad I didn't order it because it had mushrooms in it... and, as you know, I think mushrooms are of the devil.

As we were waiting for our food, I couldn't help but notice the creepy ghost thing on the ceiling.  I wasn't sure if it was a leftover Halloween decoration or something significant to Ireland.  But then we spotted a fake bat over the bar and figured they must not have taken down all their spooky decorations after Halloween.

Bill's stew.  He said it was the best he'd ever tasted.  

My ribs.  I took half of this home.

As we enjoyed lunch, we chatted with the waitress.  We were both sure she was from the Republic of Ireland, but she told us she'd grown up locally.  Bill figured she was the daughter of Irish expats, but that turned out to be untrue too.  This lady speaks English with a very convincing Irish accent, but is in fact, all German.  We were shocked, but maybe we shouldn't have been.  After all, I know some Germans who sound totally American when they speak.  I asked her if she was a singer and she said she was.  I asked that because I am also a singer and when you are musical, a lot of times you have a knack for mimicry, languages, and accents.  

It was really cool to chat with her, especially since she told us some entertaining stories about working abroad in Iceland.  Sometimes it pays to get to know your wait staff and bartenders, if only because they are often very interesting people.  She was also very witty, which is another reason why I thought perhaps she was Irish.  It's not that Germans aren't witty; I just find that they are often more serious than their Celtic friends.  

We talked to the waitress about how The Auld Rogue used to be a Greek restaurant.  She said, "That must have been ages ago!  Because it was the CIA Bar before it was the Irish pub."  Bill and I remember when the Greek restaurant became the CIA Bar.  It was a very sorrowful day for us, because I had dorade for the first time in that Greek restaurant.  They had really good food and the owner was excited because the dorade was the most expensive item on the menu.  He had the chef bring it out for me and everything.  

I think the CIA Bar turned out to be rather "dodgy", as the Brits would put it.  In fact, the waitress said it seemed to be mostly very young people coming in and "getting pissed".  She said she expected the people to be wearing suits and carrying briefcases.  To me, that sounds more like the IRS stereotype than the CIA.

We also ran into a couple who run the Stuttgart Beer Club Facebook page.  They were there for lunch, too!  I suspect that if we go to The Auld Rogue enough times on Sunday, we will end up meeting a lot of local expat types.  I was also happy to identify a couple of the songs playing over the sound system on Shazam, though I overheard the bartender say that one of the songs I liked was "horrible music".  I suspect it wasn't rebellious enough for his taste.

Bill decided to have a second beer yesterday, so I had a scotch so he could catch up.  They happened to have some leftover Arran whisky from a recent tasting.  This particular whisky was aged in Amarone barrels.  It was very good.

If you like scotch and want to try something different, I recommend having a look at the bar and seeing if there's anything up there that looks interesting and isn't on the menu.  Bill and I like Arran whiskys, but they aren't on the menu.  The Auld Rogue happened to have them available because of a tasting.  Incidentally, our cool waitress tried to get us to sign up for one of the upcoming beer or whisky tastings.  We do want to attend one, but want to make sure we make proper arrangements for our dogs.  I suspect we won't be in the condition to drive back to Jettingen after one of those events.

All in all, we had a nice time at The Auld Rogue.  I suppose next Sunday, we'll have to find something else to do since the pub will be closed next weekend.  I like that people who work at German restaurants can get days off at Christmas, too.  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ludwigsburg... beer run and Christmas market!

Yesterday, Bill and I decided to drive to Ludwigsburg to unload the many bottles we collected after finishing the beer we purchased on our last trip there.  For those not in the know, Ludwigsburg has an awesome drink market called Heinrich's Getranke Markt.  This super sized drink market has beverages of all sorts, but really specializes in beer.  If you've been reading my blogs, you know Bill and I are beer lovers.

Aside from drinks, Heinrich's also has some basic grocery items.  I didn't buy any "Corny" bars, but I did manage to get some laundry soap and fabric softener.

We visited Heinrich's and picked up some new suds.  I was actually hoping to find some alcoholic ginger beer like I did last time.  Heinrich's has a pretty good international section.  I only found one beer that sort of fit the bill-- it has an essence of ginger.  I saw another that was non-alcoholic, which would be okay I guess... but it wasn't really what I wanted.  But I did find some interesting brews from the Republic of Georgia and Estonia.  We also managed to pick up a rack of Ettal double bock beer.  The Ettal Monastery is in Bavaria, not far from Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  I took a tour there a few years ago and became acquainted with the beers made by local monks.

A picture of the Ettal basilica.  I took this last time we lived here when I took a tour of the Ettal Monastery through the Edelweiss Lodge.  That was a surprisingly fun excursion!

I don't have high hopes for the Georgian beers, since I lived in its southern neighbor, Armenia, and Armenia's beers weren't very good.  I would have liked to have found some Georgian wines because wine is what both Georgia and Armenia do best...  along with brandy.  I think the Estonian beer will probably be good.  I have had beer from Estonia before and liked it.  I always enjoy visiting Heinrich's, because you never know what they'll have... especially in the international section.  I was impressed by all the African and South American beers being offered, as well as a few from places like Lithuania, Finland, and even Hong Kong.

This might make a good gift for the beer lover in your life...

After we visited Heinrich's, we went into town.  Parking was a bit of a bear in Ludwigsburg because their Christmas market is still going on.  Both Bill and I needed a WC, though, and we hadn't been to any markets this season.  I must say, Ludwigsburg's Christmas market was very good.  They had a carousel, lots of little stands with handmade gifts, and gluhwein aplenty!  We were a bit hungry, so we stopped at a stand that was selling homemade soups.  I had potato soup with wurst and Bill had the soup of the day, which was some kind of heavenly cheese concoction.  We washed it down with three gluhweins.  Bill had ordered two-- a merlot based one and an apple one-- but the lady must have misheard drei instead of zwei.   So we each had an apple gluhwein and split the merlot one.

Germans love their Christmas markets!

Lots of kids were out shilling for euros, playing whatever instrument they are learning.  One little girl was blowing a mean "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" on a recorder.

That soup was delicious!  And it was cold and windy yesterday, so it was perfect for the occasion!  They had several other soups as well.

Loading up on gluhwein!

The guy on the stage was doing a great job entertaining some kids... I wish I could have seen more, but I'm vertically challenged, especially in this country, where tall people abound!

On the way out of Ludwigsburg, we stopped in the mall for one last pit stop.  The mall was packed with people and the restrooms were very busy.  As I was standing in line, a young German lass said something to me.  My brain froze, even though I've been trying to pick up some more German.  I said very apologetically that I don't speak German.  She laughed and said in perfect English, "You are waiting?"  It really puts us to shame that we Americans aren't so proficient in languages.  But then, in America, there's less of a need...  unless you count Spanish.  I studied Spanish for years and understand it, but when I speak it, it comes out Eastern Armenian.  Armenia is the only place I've lived where speaking the local language was essential.

Our next stop was Breuningerland in Sindelfingen.  I dreaded going there because that place is a madhouse on Saturdays and especially the Saturday right before Christmas.  But Bill wanted to rejoin ADAC, which is basically the auto club in Europe.  Last time we were here, the membership paid for itself when we came back to our car after a week in Scandinavia to find it with a completely dead battery.  An ADAC guy came out, diagnosed the problem, and replaced our battery on the spot.  We opted for the ADACPlus whole Europe family plan, which I think was 109 euros for the year.  Well worth it.  We also stopped by WMF to pick up a new salt and pepper grinder since our salt grinder bit the dust last week.

Our landlady said Americans love Breuningerland, but from what I saw yesterday, that mall is equally loved by Germans and Turks.  The parking lots were jam packed and we saw lots of creative parking done by desperate shoppers.  I'm proud to report that we managed to get out of Sindelfingen unscathed.  Today, we'll probably end up doing what we usually do on Sundays... shopping on base and drinking beer at the Irish pub.  But maybe we'll go Greek today.  Who knows?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Adventures in German doggie dentistry...

It was high time for my dogs, Zane and Arran, to get their teeth cleaned.  When Bill and I took them to the vet in November, we mentioned that we were interested in having our dogs get dentals.  Though they are recommended on a yearly basis, I hadn't managed to get Zane in for a dental in about three years.  And to my knowledge, Arran had never had one in his lifetime.

Zane and Arran...  Zane is the one in the front.

The vet agreed that they needed to get cleanings, though Arran's front teeth looked pretty good.  She and her assistant took blood from the dogs to make sure they were healthy enough to be anesthetized.  They both were, so we made appointments for a couple of weeks later. This week, they both got their procedures done.

I wouldn't be writing about this if it had gone like it does in the United States.  In America, when I've taken dogs in for dental cleanings, they've pretty much stayed there all day.  I'd drop them early in the morning after not having given them their breakfast.  They'd get knocked out and I'd pick them up in the late afternoon.  They'd still be pretty groggy.

I was expecting the same procedure here in Germany, so I brought both dogs with me when it was Arran's turn on Monday morning.  I was surprised when the vet tech said I could wait for him if I wanted to.  He would be ready to go home in less than two hours.  Another thing they did differently here was invite me to stay in the room with Arran until he got groggy.

I ended up taking Zane home and going back to get Arran awhile later.  Then on Thursday, I brought Zane in and just waited for him.  The procedure was exactly the same, except the vet also trimmed his nails for me.  At the end of both procedures, the vet tech presented me a bill for 339, 26 euros before VAT.  With VAT it was a little over 400 euros.  This price was for both dogs.  Since we had a VAT form on file, we didn't have to pay the higher amount.  I took the bill home, texted Bill, and he arranged for a bank transfer.

Both dogs were completely back to normal by noon.  Both told me when they were ready to eat.  Arran had a mild lapse in continence, probably because they gave him fluids to flush the anesthetic out of his body.  I think I prefer the way they do dentals in Germany, though I think our vets do it that way because they don't really have any facilities for keeping pets.  I was glad to get to take them home, though.

The dogs now have nice clean teeth and much fresher breath!  Since Arran tends to bite himself when he eats, the vet also gave me some iodine to put on the bloody wounds he's given himself under his bottom lip.  Our vet asked how long it had been since their last dentals and I had to explain to her that in the five years since we were last in Germany, we've moved three times.  Unfortunately, I just didn't get around to it the way I should have.  Hopefully, we'll get to stay here awhile so I can keep their teeth clean and bright!

Now to get myself to a dentist.

For those interested, this is where we take our dogs...  We also used them five years ago, when we still had our last rescues, Flea and MacGregor.  We really like this practice.

Flea and MacGregor.  This was taken in November 2009 in Fayetteville, Georgia a couple of days before we lost Flea to prostate cancer, which unfortunately was diagnosed by the same vets when we were in Germany last time.  We lost MacGregor in Raleigh, North Carolina at NC State vet hospital on December 18, 2012 when an MRI found a large tumor in his spine.  I still miss them both.

MacGregor and Flea in happier times...  this was taken in Germany.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Dinner at Pizzeria da Vito in Tübingen, Germany

Bill and I decided we wanted to go out to dinner.  Unfortunately, we weren't all that sure where we wanted to go.  We thought about staying local and going to a place here in Unterjettingen, but changed our minds when parking turned out to be complicated.  So then we decided to go to Herrenberg, where we know of some good places to eat.  But we ended up driving around for awhile, because we couldn't decide where we wanted to go.  The Greek restaurant we usually love to go to looked like it was very full... and then there was the parking issue again.

I had told Bill I wanted to go to Tübingen, but he said he didn't want to drive that far.  But it turned out we had driven so much around Herrenberg and its environs that he might as well have just driven straight to Tübingen.  It would have saved us some time.  I finally reminded him that in Tübingen, there's lots of parking... and plenty of restaurants, too.  Finally, Bill relented and we went to Tübingen, which always makes me feel kind of bittersweet, since we used to live very close to there and miss it.

We were going to go to Die Kelter, but it was packed and there weren't any tables available.  So we went a little further and ended up at Pizzeria da Vito, which is a little Italian place we used to frequent five years ago when we lived here last time.  It's a small, family owned restaurant and obviously popular with locals, since there were only a couple of tables free when we sat down.  When the weather is nice, they usually offer a lot of tables outside, too.

Bill waits for meat.

Bill ordered a carafe of Primativo and a bottle of San Pellegrino from the black sequins wearing waitress/hostess who was helping us.  I knew from experience that the pasta at this restaurant is excellent, but I had ziti for lunch.  So even though the pizza and pasta smelled wonderful, I opted for a dorade which was cooked in foil and garnished with tomatoes and cucumbers.  Bill had a steak with gorganzola cheese sauce and a side of fried potatoes.  The meal was served with a basket of bread.

My fish all wrapped in foil.  Bill's steak in the background.

To be perfectly honest, I have had better dorade elsewhere.  But the price for this fish was right.  It was 12 euros and cooked competently, even though I think I prefer it grilled rather than baked in foil .  Fresh basil was stuffed in the fish, which gave it a zesty essence.  It was also served with a couple of slices of lemon, which made a positive difference in how it tasted. 

Bill pronounced his steak "satisfying" and finished the whole thing.  His steak was priced at 13.50 euros.  Next time we visit Pizzeria Da Vito, I'll probably go back to pasta, since I know it's very good there.  The pizzas are good too, and they are very reasonably priced.

Not the best photos because it's nighttime.  This restaurant is basically on the main drag into Tübingen as you're walking away from the Altstadt Konig garage.

We would have had dessert, but they didn't have anything available tonight.  Our bill was 39.50 euros.  Service was competent and basically friendly, though our server seemed kind of tired and ready to go home.  Having done that work myself, I couldn't really blame her.

I do recommend Pizzeria da Vito.  I'm not sure I will get dorade there again, at least not prepared in foil as it was tonight.  That's not because the fish was badly prepared; I just like it grilled and they don't offer it that way.

On another note, next time I get a hankering to go to Die Kelter for dinner, I will make sure to reserve a table!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Belgian beer treats via France!

Since moving back to the Stuttgart area, Bill and I have gotten involved with the local beer scene by joining a Facebook group for beer loving Americans who live in the area.  Although one can certainly find great beers locally, sometimes it pays to look beyond Germany for good suds.  I happen to love Belgian beers, so when someone in the Facebook group suggested I check out Saveur-Biere to find some, I was all too eager.  Besides, aside from Belgian beers, Saver-Biere offers American craft beers, too.  And some of them are well worth buying!

Since it's Christmas time, I had the perfect opportunity to purchase some beer.  Off I went to the site, which offers English, French, German, and Spanish translations.  I made an account and purchased a Christmas gift for Bill and two twelve packs of an assortment of Belgian beers.  I got the "Humour" set and the Belgian assortment.  I placed my order on Thursday and the beer just arrived via courier this afternoon.

Buying beer from Saveur-Biere is very easy.  As soon as you place your order you get an email confirmation in French.  I don't speak French, but Google Chrome very handily translates for me.  I did have to pay a hefty amount for shipping, optional insurance, value added tax, and an optional membership in the beer club... which I didn't bother to research because the cost for that wasn't that much.  But I am pretty happy with the beers and the beer related Christmas gift that just arrived.  Check them out!

Well packed...

Sturdy packaging.

Humor set.

Belgian assortment.

This should be fun to try over the holidays!  Cheers, y'all!

Another awesome WestJet Christmas video...

Last year at Christmas time, I stumbled across a video done by WestJet, a Canadian airline.  I was so moved and tickled by the video that I blogged about it.

This year, while watching last year's awesome WestJet video, I saw that they made a new one for this year.  So of course I had to watch it.  I think I was even more moved by this year's Christmas video.  Makes me wish I were living in Canada so I could be a WestJet customer too!

This is just so awesome...  The folks in this video probably aren't WestJet customers, but they sure benefitted from the company's largesse!

I swear I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes when I was finished watching this.  What a great thing to do for the people of Nuevo Renacer, near Puerto Renacer, in the Dominican Republic who benefited.  What I love most about it is how happy and cheerful the WestJet shoppers look.  They are obviously into the spirit of giving!

Wondering what made them decide to help this community in particular?  Check out this video.

Obviously, by helping this community, WestJet helps themselves.  Because if the people of Nuevo Renacer are able to improve their lot in life, they will be eventually become WestJet customers too.  It's still a really cool idea and the video touched my heart.  Way to go, WestJet!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Today has been better...

One thing that was a plus is that the washer didn't take on more water when we flushed the commode last night.  It seems to fill up only when someone showers.  While that's inconvenient, it's less inconvenient than not being able to use the bathroom without bailing out the washing machine.  I suppose we could just disconnect the washer and put a bucket under the standpipe, too.

Bill made us a nice breakfast.  Then we did our usual shopping.  We picked up some Christmas stuff at Panzer.  I even drove today, which I almost never do.  Just preparing for tomorrow, when I have to take Arran to the vet for a dental cleaning.  Afterwards, we had lunch at The Auld Rogue.  I had a chicken burger and Bill had fish and chips.  One day, we will go somewhere else for lunch on Sunday so I can write another review.

I went with a Murphy's Irish Stout...

and a chicken burger...  I wasn't too keen on this dish.  The chicken was a little dry, though the chips were excellent, as usual.  Next time, I'll try something else.

Then we went to the commissary, which was kind of packed.  The self service registers were cash only, so the line to check out was backed up quite a bit.

We stopped by the Class VI for tequila, wine, and liquid de-icer for the cars.  I went in the bathroom and was astonished by the sign on the door...

Notice the promise of a clean restroom...  It supposedly gets inspected every hour.

Someone must have been very messy in the 60 minutes before I stopped in for a quick tinkle.


It's alright, though, because I have never seen this particular restroom clean.  Not when we lived here last time and not in recent months.  It's a unisex bathroom, too.  Maybe that has something to do with it.  In any case, that sign on the door is somewhat false advertising, though I have seen nastier bathrooms.  In fact, I have even seen them on military installations.

I would have used the commissary bathroom, but it was being cleaned and I didn't want to interfere with the process.  I think of all the places to pee on American installations, the commissary is my favorite.  It's usually pretty clean in there.

It wouldn't be an issue if I didn't have such a long drive home, but it's a real drag to need a WC when you're headed down A81.  We're back now and preparing for yet another week in magical Deutschland.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A crappy day in Germany...

I have had one hell of a crappy day.  What really sucks about my crappy day is that I was looking forward to the weekend, hoping to have some fun.  My husband, Bill, has been gone to Chad all week and I've been by myself, hanging out in our rented home with my two sweet but occasionally irritating hounds.  I really need to get a life and make some friends.

Last week, I was sick with a cold and I've been dealing with what I think is a very weird gum abscess.  It doesn't hurt, but it's worrisome and annoying and has caused a little swelling and bleeding.  I need to have it looked at, but we don't have dental insurance yet... it doesn't kick in until January 1.  Add in the fact that I am very neurotic when it comes to my teeth.  I have two baby teeth that may be about to give up the ghost.  I expected them to-- they are 42 years old and have served me pretty well.  They seem to be rooted well, too.  But the idea of possibly needing an extraction or two and the expense, trauma, and pain associated with that does nothing for my mood.  And once those teeth come out, it's time for implants.  What fun.

I got a visit from Aunt Flow a couple of days ago, which is always fun.  It's even more fun when your plumbing is on the fritz.  This morning, I went downstairs to do my laundry and there was a bunch of standing grey water in my new washing machine.  I immediately assumed something was wrong with the machine.  My husband bailed the water out, then went to take a shower.  While he was showering, the drum in the washing machine filled with more water.  That tells me there's a blockage of some sort in the house.

So we called the homeowners and they came over to help us.  There's water all over the floor.  My dogs are going crazy.  I'm feeling neurotic about my teeth and I'm on the rag.  We finally got the washing machine going to the point at which we got the laundry done, but it wasn't without a big mess and inconvenience.  The homeowners will call a plumber on Monday because there's a leak in the pipe and the drain probably needs snaking.

I'm still feeling very cranky and grouchy...  the mail carrier comes by.  She looks a lot like my mom.  She has a package for me, a star I bought for our big Christmas tree because the one I have on it is a 110 lighted one from Target.  I've been waiting awhile for this thing to arrive.  It didn't cost much.  Looking at the address on the envelope, I see why it's taken so long to get to me.  The star came all the way from Hong Kong.

I open the package and this is what I see...

This thing is even more disappointing in person than it is in the photo.

It's made of cheap plastic and there's no way to stick it on the tree.  It's sloppily and incompletely covered with glitter.  And it's just a sucky product.

I showed it to Bill and he said, "It's like the equivalent of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree."  He asked me if I wanted to put it on our other tree (we have two because the first time we were in Germany, I forgot to pack our tree and got another one that is small).   

I said "No, we can just put it somewhere and make fun of it."  That comment made him laugh.

So, in review, I've got residual snot from a cold to get rid of.  I'm on the rag.  The plumbing is messed up.  The washing machine may also be messed up, though we did at least get the thing going enough so we have some clean underwear.  I have dental problems and no insurance until January 1... and I'm not in enough discomfort to go to the dentist and pay entirely out of pocket.  At the very least, I suspect I need some antibiotics and knowing that, I keep checking my teeth and gums for signs that I need to get to a doctor urgently.  That has made the side of my face sore because I have to contort my lips in order to see and I've done it enough times to cause muscle fatigue.  I wanted to have some fun this weekend, but it looks like that's not in the cards.  I can't take a shower because of the plumbing.  And I've been listening to my dogs bark all day. 

Stuff is just piling up.  I know these are minor first world problems, but they are still very irritating and have spoiled my mood. 

Last night, we visited The Mad Scientist for dinner and ran up a respectable bill.  I had my usual stuff for dinner, but finished up with my very first taste of Metaxa, which is a Greek brandy.  It sort of tasted like brandy mixed with sherry.  It tasted good and no doubt made our Mad Scientist friend happy that I ordered it.  

Metaxa in the glass...

Metaxa in the colorful bottle...

I need to have some fun soon.  At least I'm not in any pain, though.  On a positive note, Bill did bring home some macaroons from Paris.

These are yummy!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book review: States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction

Here's a repost of a book I read and reviewed last year.  If you like stories about road trips through the United States, Paul Jury's States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction may be a good bet for you!

Young man drives all over America to find himself...

 Jan 31, 2013 (Updated Jan 31, 2013)
Review by    is a Top Reviewer on Epinions in Books
Rated a Very Helpful Review

    Pros:Well-written, funny, engaging and entertaining.


    Cons:Loses a little steam toward the end of the book.

    The Bottom Line: Highly recommended!

    A couple of years ago, I stumbled across an article about Paul Jury and his 2011 book, States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction.  To be honest, I don't remember what it was about the article I read that made me want to read the book; I only know that after I read, I went to and bought.  I downloaded his book to my Kindle and there it sat for almost two years.  I finally read it this month, finishing it in less than 48 hours.  And now I'm a little embarrassed it sat in the queue for as long as it did.

    Who is Paul Jury and what is his book about?

    After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in film, Paul Jury was at a loss as to what he should do next.  He grew up in Minneapolis and had a girlfriend named Sarah who was in Chicago, earning a degree in law.  A lot of Paul's friends had found lucrative jobs and were on their way to do something with their lives.  Paul was floundering, having worked a couple of unsatisfying dead end jobs that ultimately led to nowhere.  Somehow, Paul came up with the idea to spend 48 days driving to each of the 48 continental states.

    He had it all figured out.  He would drive his parents' 1993 Eurovan, affectionately dubbed the Spacemobile.  He would sleep in the van and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  He would stick to side roads, making a point of doing something "interesting" in each state.  And he would stick to a budget.  He had saved up $3000, which would fund his adventure.

    Things went awry from the very beginning, when the Spacemobile had problems that made it impossible to drive.  Paul embarked on his trip in his father's Ford Taurus, which he called "The Imposter", with plans to come back to get the Spacemobile when it was operational again.  Once he got on the road, he found that sometimes the best laid plans lead one somewhere completely different from where they thought they'd end up.

    My thoughts

    I really enjoyed reading States of Confusion.  Paul Jury is an entertaining writer with an excellent sense of humor.  Most of all, I really related to him.  When I was fresh out of college, I had my own identity crisis, which led me to join the Peace Corps.  That was sort of my place to "find myself"... only I kind of didn't.  Anyway, I related to Jury's search to figure out his life and I liked the way he characterized some of the people he met on his journey.

    From wading in a snake filled fetid lake of brown sludge in Missouri in search of his car keys, to swilling beer with two recent jailbirds in Arkansas, to being waited on by a one armed waitress in Vermont, to meeting a Waffle House heiress in Mississippi, to having a massive breakdown in Montana, Paul Jury got a real taste of Americana.  He shares that taste with his readers, everything from the genuine boredom he experienced to the panic he felt at times when inevitable trouble cropped up.

    As I read States of Confusion, I pictured myself undertaking a similar road trip and realized I wouldn't want to do it, as exciting as it seemed.  I think I would get lonely, though Paul did keep a blog, carried a cell phone, and bunked with some friends.  Also, he mentions that he got awfully ripe, thanks to a lack of laundry and shower facilities.  At the end of the book, Paul comes to some satisfying conclusions.  My only complaint is that it seemed a little like his story lost a little steam the further west he went... but maybe that's to be expected, given the state of the Spacemobile.


    This is a great book, especially for those who enjoy funny memoirs about regular people.  Yes, Paul's road trip is a bit wacky, but it's fun to read about and imparts some universal truths that may be especially valuable to young readers.  I definitely recommend States of Confusion, especially to anyone looking for direction.

    For more information:

    Monday, December 8, 2014

    Adventures in German style dentistry...

    I'm overdue for a cleaning.  I also have a suspicious swollen area on my gum that I think may be a draining abscess.  It doesn't hurt much, but I need to get it looked at.  I've been dentist shopping for awhile now, but have put off going because Bill was slow to get our dental insurance started.  As it is now, we have coverage starting January 1.  But I need to go in sooner than that because if I have an abscess, really bad things could happen.

    Complicating matters is the fact that the affected tooth is one of two baby teeth I still have.  Last year, I got the fillings in both teeth replaced, but I think the gum area around that tooth has developed pockets and that's why I'm having this issue right now.  I really don't want to get it extracted, but I may need to.  And then it's implant time.  I could probably get a bridge, but I really don't want to put crowns on the teeth next to that little baby tooth.  For one thing, getting crowns really sucks and I want to keep my natural teeth for as long as possible.  For another, one of the teeth next to the baby tooth isn't very big.

    All of this is likely to cost a mint, even with insurance.  And I have a bad feeling that I'm going to end up having to write nasty letters like I did last year to MetLife Dental.  I have sent an email to a local practice, though, that I hope will get me in this week so I can at least address what looks like an infection.

    If it all costs too much, maybe I can do a dental vacation to Hungary or Poland.

    Thursday, December 4, 2014

    Our big Virginia trip, part six-- going home

    We got up Sunday morning, enjoyed one last breakfast at the Hummingbird Inn, and hit the road for northern Virginia.  I thought maybe we'd get Bill some new pants for work, but we never managed to get to an appropriate store.  I think we were too focused on the long trip ahead of us to worry about shopping.  We feared heavy traffic as everyone made their way home after the holiday break, but it didn't turn out to be too bad going north on Interstate 81.

    The one big decision we had to make going back to Dulles Airport was where to stop for lunch.  I wanted something we can't get in Germany.  We were going to get Mexican food which, while available in Germany, loses a lot in the translation.  We ended up at a Five Guys instead and had a couple of greasy cheeseburgers with fries.  Then we went to the airport and dropped off our rental car.

    I was kind of impressed by the TSA screening at Dulles, both coming and going.  They seem to have streamlined it quite a bit so that it's faster and easier to get through.  No need to take off shoes or remove electronics from our bags.  I did have my hands swabbed, though.  Good thing none of my cousins brought any firearms this year.

    We had plenty of time to kill, so we stopped by a bar/restaurant that served Dominion beers.  We had enough time that I was able to try them all...  And it's a good thing I did, too, because Bill and I ended up being seated in the two middle seats of a row.  Just as I was about to sit down, the lady who was to sit next to me hollered, "That's my seat!  I'm sitting next to you."

    Mmm... beer.

    The lady sitting next to me turned out to be a very annoying Jewish woman with a penchant for Sudoku.  I wouldn't mention that she was Jewish except that she made it obvious by loudly mentioning it several times.  She'd also ordered Kosher meals and was served ahead of everyone else.  She'd get her food, then Bill and the lady sitting next to him would get theirs, because the flight attendants on their side were somehow faster.  I'd then get mine twenty minutes later, after everyone else was finished eating.  Not that it really mattered.  I didn't have much of an appetite on the flight back to Europe.  It was just awkward having to be dead last.

    The woman sitting next to me hogged the armrest and needed constant help from the flight attendants.  She wasn't particularly unpleasant about asking, just loud and persistent.  She was part of a large tour group on their way to Florence and she had lots and lots of questions.  It didn't help that the woman sitting in front of me was a notorious recliner who kept herself leaned back for the entire flight.  I will give her credit for at least putting her seat up when we were eating.  I have been on several international flights where the people in front of me weren't even that considerate.

    It was all too fitting that I'd choose to watch the film Anger Management on our way across the pond.  I had not seen it before and I must admit it was a rather funny film starring Adam Sandler and the ever adorable Marisa Tomei.  I noticed Tomei's character was named Linda...  Wonder if Adam Sandler has an ex named Linda, since he seems to use that name a lot for the females in his films.  The film was in English with no subtitles.  I'm not sure if I'd requested it in French if it would have been dubbed or subtitled.  I guess that's something to test out next time I fly across the pond on a European carrier.

    Transatlantic flights are uniformly boring and uncomfortable, but at least the longer flight to the States was more comfortable than the flight going back to Europe.  Happily, the flight to Europe was also about an hour shorter than the flight to the USA.

    We were delayed about an hour leaving DC, too, which aggravated a lot of people.  For Bill and me, it was a non issue.  Our one hour flight to Stuttgart didn't leave Charles de Gaulle Airport until about 8:00pm.  We had originally planned to take a train to Paris and fart around the city, but by the time we landed in Paris, we were both totally exhausted.  Fortunately, Sheraton came to the rescue.

    Back in 1997, I spent the night at CDG in a hotel called "Cocoon".  It was a no frills establishment designed to allowed travelers the chance to rest during long layovers or before early flights.  The place wasn't even an official hotel and wasn't allowed to rent rooms for more than 18 hours at a time. Cocoon closed years ago and was evidently replaced by a full service Sheraton.

    Being a corporate owned American establishment, the Sheraton at CDG takes full advantage of the exhaustion of weary travelers desperate for a nap.  After spending about a half an hour or so searching for the Sheraton, Bill and I rented one of their "day rooms" and we paid dearly for the privilege.  For about 200 euros, you get a room from 9am until 6pm.  Want Internet?  That's another 19 euros.  Breakfast?  Another 37 euros please.  Yes, it was expensive... on the other hand, had we gone into Paris, we probably would have spent just as much or more and likely would have been even more exhausted.  Besides, the weather wasn't all that great for sightseeing.

    Touch the minibar at the Sheraton and you'll surely be charged...


    Marble bathroom!

    One thing I will say about the breakfast offered at the CDG Sheraton-- it's HUGE.  We ordered one and it was more than enough food for both of us.  We had enough leftover that a third person could have joined us.

    Sideways breakfast...

    I took a very nice shower-- the shower at the CDG Sheraton is of the rainfall variety and felt heavenly after our long flight.  Then, after eating eggs, fruit, and breads, and washing it down with coffee and juice, we passed out for about four or five hours.

    Looks very space aged in the hotel...

    Since check out time was 6:00pm, we left the hotel at about 5:30 or so and made our way to the gate where our flight to Stuttgart was.  We found a little gourmet market and had quiche and wine for dinner.  Then, we got on our flight.  Fortunately, it wasn't full and I was able to change seats and sit by Bill. We finally got back to Stuttgart at about 9:20pm or so.  Despite the delay coming out of DC and annoying seat mates (which you will find on any airline), I was pretty happy with Air France.  I'd fly them transatlantic again.

    Quiche and vino!

    I was impressed the Air France highlighted Armenia in their most recent flight magazine.

    Homeward bound!