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Living through a crisis

You walk in and you see empty shelves. You know that you had been hearing about people buying up certain things, but you think, nah, can’t be that bad. You walk into the market, OK, someone is wearing a mask. That other person is wearing gloves, latex gloves.

Let me walk over to the paper isle. I came in here for toilet paper, I’m down to a roll. OMG, it’s real! People are actually buying up all of the toilet paper! I can’t walk down the aisle because if I do, I’m going to start laughing uncontrollably. Not because it’s the funniest thing I’ve seen, but because it is completely outrageous. Why is all of the toilet paper gone? Guess that means I need to go to another store to get toilet paper. Store #2 has some, but the shelves are really bare. Myself along with several other people comment on how incredibly insane this is.

This my friends was the beginning of me living through our current crisis. The entire Coronavirus thing hasn’t really come as a surprise to me. I watch the news. I live in the state where at the time was thought to have the first death resided. Though to be honest, I didn’t know what to feel or think. I just knew this was very crazy everything I was seeing in the overall public reaction.

At work, my colleagues were talking about how they had gone to places and certain things were out, OK, toilet paper. It all started with toilet paper. I’ve gone and read several articles on panic buying. I’ve watched several news stories detailing why and how it’s happening. Let me tell you I get it, but it’s still crazy as can be.

I started writing all of this back in March, when things were just starting to get going. It was still unreal then. Imagine that we are into May, things are still pretty unreal. I’ve been working from home since the middle of March. I haven’t seen pretty much anyone. I didn’t see my girlfriend for almost a month because after we last were together, a few days later, she thought she might have gotten COVID-19. Still don’t know if did or didn’t, should probably mention, I think I had something.

This entire situation really makes you think and wonder about your life and what life has for you. I’ve been watching, listening, reading a decent amount of stuff because I want to. I don’t subscribe to what some people say in terms of, don’t watch all of this stuff, it’ll just make you feel worse. That’s what got so many of us into where we are now. I’m happy to know what’s going on. Though I’ll admit in the last few weeks, I’ve started to not listen to current up to the minute things. I need to keep caught up on my podcast.

With living through this most interesting situation. I feel like I need to reflect on what’s been happening while I’ve been living through this.

Working from Home

My job sent out a survey asking how we are doing during this entire thing. I know this isn’t good to say, but I have to be honest. Working from home is really good. I already get to work from home every other week, so I already knew the benefits of doing it, but what will be soon 2 months of doing this. It’s really awesome! I do feel like I’m getting more work done and have less stress of someone watching over me. I can also say that technology is great in certain expects. We use Microsoft Teams, which is pretty good to use. If anyone I need to contact is around, my job is pretty simple to do.

I’m not overly upset about the personal interactions of an office because I’m still communicating with my colleagues. The biggest difference are those times when it would be better to talk to someone face to face, so you can see body language and facial expressions to get a good feel. I was listening to a story on Marketplace about one of those issues. I will admit this is a negative to it all, but that’s the only one realistically.

Personal Interactions and Going Out

In terms of going out, I don’t. With the fact that America has no real testing procedures setup, I’m good with just staying in and going out for the things I need once a week. Yes, that means I don’t go out for walks, I’m not even opening up my apartment door until the end of the week, or unless I’m getting a package. I’m able to do this mainly because I have a balcony, so it’s not like I’m not getting air or something. If the weather is nice, I like to sit outside on my balcony and just enjoy life that way.

I know some just like to say this stuff isn’t real, it’s just the flu, everyone is just making too much out of all of this, but let’s look at a few things. We have over 37,000 more deaths that have happen due to the COVID-19 than would’ve normally happened, mind you this amount was calculated in April, we definitely over 40,000 now. The fact that we have over 90,000 deaths right now and counting over the last few months is pretty crazy. The sad thing is that we have people who want to be upset at the fact that these numbers are low, or certain areas didn’t have as many deaths as originally projected. I have to say these people are sad and need to just go somewhere.

Now that this rant is over, going out and being exposed to things, isn’t that important. As long as you are keeping yourself entertained and have the mindset that I have, which is, this isn’t going to last forever you’ll be OK.

Shopping and Dealing with other people, Checking on Friends

After the initial shock of going to markets and seeing nothing on shelves. Not being able to find toilet paper and getting over the fact of how I need to shop for stuff. Everything has actually been OK.

My fear at first was, “What if I get Coronavirus? If I get it, I’ll have to quarantine myself, do I have enough food? What if I don’t get better.”

I had these thoughts, plus so many more as the time went on. Once the first few weeks were over and I got into the idea of being at home, I was OK. The biggest change was just checking in with people. I have to say one of the things I’ve read and heard from people is the idea of keeping contact with friends and family. I’ve been writing friends from all over. I really think it’s important to make sure everyone is OK. Not only to check in, but to allow me to keep sane. I really do miss my friends in Stuttgart. I’ve made a few here, but the closeness doesn’t compare to what I had.

I’ve also been checking in with people because the best information you get about what is going on in different countries, states, counties, and cities isn’t from the news. It’s from people who are living it. The one biggest thing that has bothered me during this is when I listen to CNBC, yes listen to CNBC. When I’m getting up for work and during my day, I’m listening to Siriusxm on my iPad. I don’t make time to watch TV until the evening. I digress, Jim Cramer consistently talks about his daughter in Madrid and how she can’t leave the house unless it’s with a police officer. She see’s a police officer whenever she needs to leave. Whenever I hear this, I’m like this can’t be the case. I wrote my friend in Madrid, they aren’t allowed to go farther than a certain distance, but its not like there is an armed officer stopping them from living life.

These are the things that make me just want to know the truth. When you know people and made close friendships. You have to utilize those friendships.

Certain things here in Washington aren’t open just yet, which frankly I’m OK with. I am aware that there is an economic effect to things being closed, but when you live in a liberal state like this. Health is more important than money. Some restaurants have gone to carryout if it made sense for them. I’ve gone to a few places and gotten food here or there. Some of the local breweries are selling beers to go, which I have gladly supported. It’s been good to try out some different things that they have to offer.

Well, this has been way longer than it should’ve been. Guess I had a lot on my mind. I hope everyone is being safe and doing some cool task around their homes. I have been, which I hope I’ll be able to get myself to write about soon.

If you have been doing something cool, let me know. I would love to hear what everyone is up to.

Be safe, wash your hands, wear a mask, be happy!

6 Month Back in the States, Oh My!

It’s been 6 months since I’ve moved from Stuttgart.  It has been a mixed bag of feelings for me to be here.  Living on the West coast of America has been different.  The first reason some might think is kind of stupid, but I find it kind of interesting, especially after living in Europe for 8 years.  I feel like I have more time to do things.  I don’t know if it’s because I don’t have friends.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m 3 hours behind the East coast and everything in America is based off of the East coast, but time seems endless.

I get up early to watch football, the games end, then I can go and do things on a Sunday evening.  I actually like watching Sunday night football, then I start watching random series, because the game is done, then because the West coast has their own separate prime time stuff, I get the best of both worlds.  Like I said, this probably means nothing to a lot of people, but this is cool to me.

Living in Vancouver, Washington has been nice.  I have told people that if this was the place I really wanted to stay.  I would stay here.  I actually do like certain things about this area.  Yes, it is the Pacific Northwest (PNW), which means so much rain, especially right now in the winter and my work hours.  I leave and come out of work, it’s dark and I wonder what am I doing with my life.

What else do I like about this area, the grocery shopping selection in proper American fashion is great, in certain cases.  I don’t know if it’s the PNW or what.  Other than what I was used to with a Whole Foods, bulk food bins are my addiction.  After living in a small apartment in Stuttgart with a not much space, along with at German markets, a lot of things were sold in smaller quantities, I realize I don’t need a lot of things.

With that being the case, the bulk bins are awesome!  My favorite place to go to is Winco.  I have been shopping at a lot of grocery stores, but man the fact I can get almost any type of flour in the bulk bins in any amount, at a very reasonable price is amazing to me.  For me, it’s not that I want to have a lot of stuff, rather I would prefer to have small amounts of things, so if there is a recipe that I have in mind, it’s great to almost just get the right amount of stuff.  Another thing I’m not a fan of is to have a lot of stuff laying around just to go to waste.  I’m also not a fan of having to freeze things.  There is a reason I haven’t bought frozen vegetables in over 5 years.  I’m a person who loves peas a lot, I now just wait for pea season, so I can get them fresh or not at all.

There are a lot of things that I can highlight about being back in America.  Some of which I will detail down the road.  Right now, though it’s a point of reflection after being back in the state for 6 months.  The things I’ve realized I don’t miss or how I’ve realized I’ve changed over being gone from the states in 8 years.  To go along with that, what I currently miss about being in Germany.

How I’ve Changed

Bacon is great, but…

Yes, I’m going to start with food.  I’m a foodie.  I just have to let it be and go with it.  When I was first living in Stuttgart, I was a normal American, eating bacon here or there.  It’s not like I was throwing it back all the time, but my weekend breakfast, or if I was out somewhere.  I would totally love to have it.  Over time, I fell out of a need to have bacon.  The reasons are several.  The first, even though I worked on a US base, where I had the ability to purchase American products.  I really enjoyed the things my host country had.  That meant, about 90% of my shopping was done at German shops.  I mean the percentage is probably more, but I’ll go with 90% just to be safe.  German bacon doesn’t have the same fat content and the way the bacon was sliced was totally different as well.  German bacon is sold and sliced very thin, so those factors, plus you find other really interesting things to eat.  Bacon just wasn’t as important to me.  I would get some here or there, but not as much as I use to.

Driving isn’t great, give me a train or bus

Public transportation in Europe, especially Germany is fantastic.  Seriously, if it wasn’t for the fact that I had to drive to work every day.  I can’t say how much I would drive.  My ability to take a train to the majority of the places I wanted to see was great.  Not to mention where my apartment was located, I could walk to a lot of things.  When I did my grocery shopping, I would just get up, go to the market get my items and I’d be good to go.  I did drive to a lot of places because it was just convenient, but when I was taking my last few trips, there was no car in sight.  I would leave from my apartment, take the train to the airport, then that would be it.

When you come from a driving culture, you just think you have to drive all the time.  Though Germany has the Autobahn (freeway) and Stuttgart has one of the biggest car cultures, you would still be able to do a lot without a car.   

Walking and being centralized is amazing

I lived really close to the center or downtown area of Stuttgart for 6 years.  It’s not like being in the states in a downtown area, but still imagine knowing you can just walk out of your door, go out for a nice dinner, get some drinks, and enjoy.  I know a lot of people would say that Stuttgart wasn’t the best place, but it fit me really well.  Things were close, there was a lot going on.  It just felt right.  I also learned how nice it was to just walk around.  Not feel confined to a car.  Just going out noticing things around my neighborhood.  There would be days when I would be walking around with my headphones on.  Other days I wouldn’t want to have any distractions.  My distractions were just seeing the city that I lived in.  It was nice being in a city, a place that had energy.  Was it small?  Yes, totally, but it was big enough to be just right.

The Value of Friendships

I have discussed this with many people and the fact that good friends and proper friendships really meant something while I was away.  I have so many people who I really feel like are people I can always reach out to for a long time coming.  I don’t know if it was because of my age or the moment that I moved, but I definitely learned what it meant to meet people.  Learn about them and what they were about.  It’s something right now I am finding is really hard to do.  I never thought about making friends or how easy or hard it would be.  I thought it was something you just did.  Little did I know when I moved back.  I did something way different and special in some ways. 

You don’t need as many things you think

When you are an American, you know that you have the ability to have so many things.  The real question is, do you need those things?  I have really thought about buying certain things, then said to myself, “Do I really need this?”  The answer came out to being, no, I really didn’t need it.  I came to this realization based off of a lot of different things.  One was after I read the Marie Kondō book, then it also hit home when my grandmother passed away.  I ended up selling a lot of my stuff and mailing only the things I needed.  The liberating feeling of not having a lot of stuff was really great.  Now when I’m in my apartment able to not really worry about certain items, has been great.  Let me tell you when you have met a lot of people or dated someone who didn’t have a lot and it was on purpose.  You know that you don’t need a lot of items to make it.  Downsizing isn’t a bad thing at all.

These are just some things I’ve felt I need to share.  A lot has changed while I’ve been back, while some have stayed.  Have you ever lived overseas and now are back in the states or somewhere else?  If so, what have you realized has changed in you once you moved back.  It’s a question I do wonder about, but honestly never reached out to friends to ask them.

I think I’ve just given myself some homework for next time. 

A New Adventure Ahead

It was March 15, 2011, getting ready for my flight to Stuttgart, Germany. The start of the year had been so much on our family. My granddad passed away in January. It was a real shock. This was the first time that a really close love one had died. My grandparents raised me, so when he died, my mom, stepdad, and grandmother weren’t prepared for that.

With all of that, months down the road we knew more changes were going to happen. My stepdad knew something different was on the horizon, him and my mom were off to Germany. I was on the fence about going. I had never been to Europe. Besides random trips to Canada, had never been out of the country. I was working my job at a Hilton Garden Inn in Aberdeen, Maryland. It wasn’t the best job, but I was actually liking it. Though to be honest it wasn’t going well. I wasn’t a good manager. I had a hard time with my employees. I knew how to do certain things, but anyone that really knows me. I’m not a leader. I can do certain things, but leading isn’t my thing.

When it came time to finally make the decision, I knew what I had to do. Stuttgart, Germany was the place to at least give a try to for a few months. I landed late Wednesday afternoon on March 16, 2011. Can’t say really what was on my mind. The flight and layovers were a lot, I guess I was just happy to see my mom and stepdad. It was time to see what being in another country was all about. My plan was to stay from March to November. If I liked it, then I would stay a little bit longer. Fast forward from planning on just staying 8 months, to staying 8 years later, my life really has changed.

Living overseas really is something everyone should do. You learn so much about different things. You learn things about yourself and you can really figure out what is important, as well as who is important. I met so many people, got to experience so much as well, but still didn’t get as much done as I should have. Of course that is life. It’s funny when I would talk to my friends there, especially the American ones, being in Europe, being in Germany, it was like a vacation. To be able to enjoy picnics in front of a castle, that you walked past on a daily basis. Knowing that you are around hundreds of years of history and its not something overly special. Life was just different.

I would tell people that I met when I would come back to the states about the fact you can drink outside was this amazement to me. Mainly because almost everywhere in the United States this is illegal, but to be honest, it wasn’t just the drinking. It was ease of life. In Germany and in Europe you worked to live. You didn’t live, so you can work. In America, everyone lives to work. I learned that there was more to life. Everyday I was able to walk around, not worry about driving here or there, made my heart so happy. The moments I was able to just walk out of my apartment go and do my grocery shopping, then go back out and get a drink with friends. It made me happy.

Now, don’t get me wrong, living abroad wasn’t always the easiest thing. From awful customer service, various times the language barrier just left you frustrated, and the traffic, my goodness the traffic. Being overseas did make me miss certain things about the states. That however got fixed by the fact that it was still different. It oddly felt like home. I had a nice apartment in a decent area of town. I was able to just go out and run various errands without driving. I was happy!

However, with every good thing, it has to come to an end. My work became the reason that I was able to stay in Stuttgart for such a long time, actually longer than I should have been able to. I was going to move last year with my now ex-girlfriend, but again, life doesn’t always allow you to do what you are supposed to do. With the beginning of the year I knew it was time to make a move. That move was spurred on by other life changing events, which I have discussed here. It was time to come back to America and deal with a country that I was still aware of, I mean you have to know what’s going on in the states, you can’t block it out. If you think it’s possible to block it out. You are just fooling yourself. America is like a mob family, you think you are getting out, but you just get pulled back in.

I’m not back in the states, moved to Vancouver, Washington, yes there is a Vancouver in America. Randomly it is about 5 plus hours from the Vancouver everyone else knows. What does this new move mean. No idea, I have to tell you. I just know that right now. I’m missing my friends. I’m missing the Schloßplatz. I wish I was able to just hang out at the biergarten or just shoot the shit with people I felt like were my family.

I hope to one day be able to start another European/Germany vacation for another stretch. It won’t be like the first one, but you can at least try and make the best of it.

Now to get settled in this new life of living to work, but to tell you. I’m working to live a life full of fun. You only have one life, so you have to do what you can to make it great.

The Aftermath, Part II

It has been a very interesting time in the last few months since I wrote about the issues I had to go through in clearing out my grandmother’s house after her passing.  A lot has happened.  For one, I’m no longer in Germany.  Yes, after over 8 years, the time came to move.  This is the biggest thing of all.  Of course, leaving from a place that I thought of as home and now being back in the states is a big deal.

I have so many things to write about that deal with that move.  It’s going to be lot to go back through in my mind and put down.  I’m really looking forward to it all, I guess.  With all of that being said.  I need to recap and actually do a part II of the process of clearing out the house.  That means I get to do an Aftermath Part II, hence the title of this lovely writing. If you need a refresher, you can always go here.

First, let me say taking care of the house and getting the things that got I done wasn’t easy.  It really left me sad, frustrated, lost, and frankly I just wanted to say fuck it.  You really get to understand and find out what you are really made of in times like this.  You really get to bond and see who is there for you.  Who has good ideas.  You also are able to see what people you want to have on your side and those you can do without.

So what happened with everything, you may ask?  Well, I was able to actually get the house completely empty.  Let me tell you the best thing you want to do is have an estate sale.  If you don’t know what an estate sale is, well, it is the best thing you can do to free your soul and your house of things.  As I mentioned before my grandmother had a lot of stuff.  Way too much stuff.  The task of clearing it out and trying to sale things on my own wasn’t going to be possible.  Enter in the estate sale plan.

I found that my grandmother had a lot of cards.

If you do a search of an estate sales, you will find out that there is a decent amount.  I even found out that friends of friends are doing these things.  When it comes to doing one of these, you really want to have the best.  I’m happy that my dad knows a lot of people.  He was able to get me in touch with one of his friends that is a real estate agent.  She then was able to point me in the right direction.  I do have to say, you still want to do the reading of what you want, but its good to have someone that also can give you more insight. This is not something you want to do alone. You need some sort of a team for this.

One of the main things that you want to do when dealing with the idea of doing an estate sale is interviewing multiple people.  My dads’ friend was able to get me in touch with a lady that she knew.  She was able to present me with her plan.  It was all very interesting, however, let me tell you.  When it comes to having someone sale the items that meant so much to you and your family.  You have to have the feeling that the person is the right person.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have that feeling.  I had heard that there was another person, that was the best of the best.  I wanted the best of the best. 

I should mention I did all of this in the last few days I was in the states.  Not something I really wanted to do, but it is what it is.  I just knew that we had to get rid of things in the house.  I went with Bernard Davis.  This is someone who has done estate sales for almost 20 years.  He came over the house, he walked through, then told me how everything works.  Unfortunately, there were a lot of hiccups in everything that was supposed to be done.  One of the main ones is the fact that being overseas and you are trying to move back to the states, not a great time to have your estate sale person cancel on you with a misunderstanding.  Its also not good to have your future renters try to mark way too many things as not being for sale, when you are supposed to be doing a full sale. 

With all of that, Bernard came through.  We were able to get the house completely empty.  Something I never thought could ever happen, but it did!  Now we are onto a new chapter.  This is the fact that I have a house to take care of.  I’m old enough to do this, but I still am amazed at the fact that this is something I’m doing now.  Luckily, I have my mom and stepdad to help me with a lot.  I frankly don’t know what I would do without them.  We have a lot to do down the road.

Now, I’m back in the states.  Its strange to not be enjoying everything German these past few months, but it is also somewhat nice to be back.  There are a lot of stories to come.  Not to mention a lot of lonely times and frustration.  I guess its all the fun you are supposed to enjoy when you are becoming and are an adult.  Have I mentioned, I really don’t like it.

What do you need

During this lockdown, self-quarantine, self-isolation, stay at home time. I’ve done a lot of interesting things. I’ve decided I wanted to relearn a few things. I’ve cooked, a lot. Boy have I cooked a lot.

I’ve also not gained a lot of weight, yes, I’ve maintained a reasonable weight during this three six month time. I get up every morning, get on the scale, and just hope. Thankfully even though I’ve been cooking a lot, doesn’t mean, I’ve eaten like a crazy person. Not to mention, I go for daily walks around a lot of random places in the city. I’ve done a lot of urban hikes and found a lot of randomnesses.

With all of that, there have been those things, I just know I need to get when I’ve gone out for my once a week shopping. After reading this article in the Washington Post, I thought about the things I’ve always needed. To go along with this, I’ve thought about the things I decided I really wanted to make or learn to do when it comes to my cooking.

To go along with that, I’ve asked a few of my friends what they’ve realized they always need when they’ve gone shopping, or what they learned to do, or cooked.

Some of these will be just like everyone else, yes, one of those breads is going to be mentioned, sorry. I think we all just wanted to see if we could do it or not. I mean, I really wanted to see if I could do it. I looked for a regular recipe, found one that I was really confident would work for me, then I just followed the steps. I was so happy when it worked out.

Other things, hopefully won’t be too cliché, well it probably will be. I mean in today’s internet age, nothing is original. Go and do quick search for an idea that you think, oh yea, I have this great idea, should be great. Yup, it’s been done and probably done in a great way. I’ve thought, “Oh, I wanna make this cocktail.” I go to Pinterest, it’s been covered, like 10 times. I know there are still some original ideas, but you really gotta work to make sure it is original.

I asked a few friends for some things they were cooking or buying. I was so happy when a few got back to me. With that, let’s look at what they were doing. I hope everyone is inspired to examine their habits and maybe it will show you something about yourself.

Sarah from Stuttgart Steps

My friend Sarah from Stuttgart Steps is a great tour guide and an excellent cook. The 8 plus years that I lived in Stuttgart, she would host some amazing dinner parties. I learned about a few different cuisines, especially when it came to understanding cooking kosher foods. The times were great and in the times that we are in now. I totally miss hanging out with her and her husband, not to mention our other friends. It was a true family feel.

When it came to how she was making it through COVID-19, she put it this way:

I was probably more aware of COVID-19 as a threat as I’d traveled to visit family in California in mid-January and returned to my home in Stuttgart, Germany, in mid-February.  As a result I started stocking up on essentials at a time where people thought I was being a bit of a paranoid prepper.  

As always I relied on Rancho Gordo beans, although despite my prepper profile I had a few bags so didn’t think to re-order early, which meant I did go through a couple months of rationing their amazing black beluga lentils, which make the best dal makhani.   I was very happy I’d brought back some artisanal sausages and pepper jellies from California to supplement cheese plates which was lovely on our balcony as the weather during German lockdown was unseasonably sunny and pleasant.

I did receive a sourdough starter from a friend, and despite being quite good at making challah, I had some sourdough disasters.  What I learned was the leftover starter that results from “feeding” is the best part of the whole ordeal.  I now have sour pizza dough in my fridge and freezer at all times, ready to be rolled out for pizza or flatbread when the occasion calls.  Crumpets were the best discovery – no additional flour needed, and they are the perfect breakfast pastry and didn’t require any additional flour at a time where flour was scarce.

My smartest purchase was at the Stuttgart Markthalle the day before true lockdown started.  I got a hunk of amazing aged parmesan and a slab of ‘Nduja, a soft, spicy Calabresiean sausage that adds a delicious richness to flatbread, pasta, or even a basic marinara.  We don’t eat a lot of meat in our home so having these two flavor accelerants could make otherwise simple meals rise to something sublime, and they last forever in the fridge.  

. . .

John Stewart

My friend John is a really cool guy. I met John after I had lived in Stuttgart for a few years. I would see him at various things randomly around town. It wasn’t until I had lived in my apartment in downtown Stuttgart for four or five years after the fact, that I found out he lived really close to me. John and his wife have just hit a year of marriage, so you can imagine how it was for them to be living through COVID-19.

John is an American from North Carolina, while his wife is German. There are some, myself included that say how important it is to have someone who is from the country that you are living in, especially in a pandemic. This can be a friend if you are in a relationship, or if you are single, then get into a relationship with a German, or someone in whatever country you are in.

I asked John, “What were you thoughts during all of the lockdown stuff? Were you worried or chill?”

His response was pretty interesting:

Hmmm….well at first I was always Skiing for the first time. So [it] wasn’t in my normal surroundings. And honestly it seemed like the world was crumbling around us and we just decided to keep [on] skiing because you never know. We were there through their close on the last day.

When we came back we were a bit scared because her father got a bad cold and so did I. Tested negative for COVID-19, but before we knew, it was kinda scary.

We never lost our cool though. Time together did wonders for our relationship.

John enjoys cooking and has a lot of wonderful ideas. While going through everything, he and his wife were cooking and gardening. They were gardening, even ended up growing some strawberries, plus getting in touch with his southern roots by frying up a nice looking chicken sandwich. Not to mention making cinnamon rolls, which is pretty awesome in Germany. Finding good American type desserts like that is pretty much impossible unless you are in Berlin or Munich.

. . .

Just a few examples of what some people are doing to get through these crazy times. What have you all been doing? What things have you found yourself always doing or just in need of?

I am baking up a storm and will continue to be baking through all of time. One thing I’m learning about and continuing to experiment with is what can I freeze. Baking stuff and freezing things for later is pretty cool. Just make sure to mark what is you are freezing. Nothing worse than thawing something and realizing it’s totally not the right thing.

Hope you are all are making it through this most interesting time. Thank you for taking the time and stopping by.

Gin Watermelon Basil Smash

Wait, it’s September, which means summer is coming to an end? Even though the summer might be coming to a close, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy a great summer cocktail. During the summer I generally have two things around, some watermelon in my frig and some fresh basil that I’m growing on my balcony or somewhere in my apartment. My favorite drink is a Gin Basil Smash, which I was introduced to while I lived in Germany. The Gin Basil smash has of course basil and gin, which when done right, creates a delicious cocktail, where you won’t even know that you are drinking gin. It’s seriously a great introduction to the gin hater. I know, I didn’t like gin years ago after one of those bad gin experiences.

Now how do you turn a signature drink into something more refreshing? Add some amazing watermelon to it. When I decided to make this cocktail, I also decided to add a special touch. To really kick it up a bit and if you are interested in adding it or can find it, add some lychee liqueur. It provides a nice touch and builds onto the flavor of the watermelon quite well. If you want to add it, go ahead, if you don’t, you still will have a great drink. I mean you can’t go wrong with watermelon and basil.

The good thing about a drink like this is even though summer is coming to an end, you can find watermelon for a little while longer, depending on where you are in the world. In America, watermelon is seriously around all the time. For a drink like this, it would be preferable to have a good ripe in season watermelon, but if that’s not in the cards for you, the other ingredients in this drink will definitely make for a great tasty drink.

I hope you enjoy making this, it definitely a very straightforward drink that will get you in a relaxed mood. Cheers!

Gin Watermelon Basil Smash

  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters, optional
  • 6 Basil Leaves
  • 3/4 ounce Lemon Juice
  • 3/4 ounce Simple Syrup
  • 2 ounces Watermelon Puree, see note below
  • 2 ounces Gin
  • 1/4 ounce Kwai Feh Lychee Liqueur, optional
  • Watermelon wedge and/or Sprig of Basil, optional

In a rocks glass add ice and set aside. In a cocktail shaker, add the first 4 ingredients and muddle until fragrant. Add gin and watermelon puree. Fill shaker with ice and put the cap on. Shake vigorously for about 30 seconds, or until the shaker is extremely cold.

Strain cocktail into your prepared rocks glass, pour lychee liqueur on top, if using, and garnish with watermelon wedge, and/or basil if using. Serve immediately.

Note: For watermelon puree, take about 1/2 cup or more of fresh watermelon and blend until smooth. Strain out pulp and use the remaining puree for a cocktail. Any remaining puree can be used for another drink.

Figuring all of this out

Where do we start? How do we start? Do we even bother to start?

What are these questions and what is the point of these things? I’m not really sure what to tell you. The events of the last several months have made a lot of us think and wonder about the world we live in. People are getting fired, they are quitting, you even have brands and companies rethinking various positions that have been widely held for a long time.

For me, I have to say this has all been very interesting. For one it has been interesting because with the various protest, hard feelings, changing of minds, realizations that old ways of doing things aren’t right. It has all been very eye-opening to me.

My dad and I were talking and we each were talking about whether we’ve had run-ins with the police. I told him about the time I got pulled over in 2001. Yes, 2001, I’m very fortunate to be able to actually say I actually haven’t had to deal with a lot of situations where I actually felt profiled. Though in thinking about various moments living in Germany, going to other countries. I have had that feeling of being the black person in a predominantly white place.

With all of that, I have always just moved on and not worried about it. That in all reality is my nature. I can easily admit I’m oblivious to a lot of things. Some of this is on purpose, while at other times I just don’t understand or I’m just not aware of things. Call it my own lack of understanding, or lack of knowledge.

In any case, I’ve consumed so much in the last few months, podcast, articles, etc. If you combine all of the protest and social unrest with the fact of, oh yea, we still have the Coronavirus happening. You kind of know we aren’t in a good place.

With so many companies wanting to remind us that they support black lives, they are against racism, oh, and they think they should have more black people, or people of color (POC) part of their workforce. I really can’t say where all of this is going to go. I just hope the best will come out of this craziness.

As I said I’ve consumed a lot of information in the last few months. I’ve talked to several people about things. Heck, my work had a diversity call. I’ve decided I want to leave everyone with some things I’ve listened to, which really touched me. Our world and our life isn’t OK right now. We all are going to need to work really hard to fix the issues we are all encountering.

Conversations on Race and Wine with Julia Coney

The first thing that I listened to that jumped out to me is a podcast called The Food Blogger Pro. This is an interesting podcast where their main focus is on providing information on how to food blog. Though in this episode, they invited on a lovely lady named Julia Coney, who is pretty awesome in her own right. Julia is a black wine blogger, who has been around in the blogging world for quite some time. Her appearance on this program was very enlightening. Especially as she explained how it is to be a black person in the world of wine.

Code Switch – Why Now, White People?

NPR’s Code Switch has been doing talks about race, issues of racist and really providing interesting background and information for anyone who wants to listen and learn. Pretty much any of their shows in the past month or so is required listening, but this particular episode is a must. Especially as they try to understand, why now.

Marketplace – How does race fit into intro econ courses?

Something I listen to all of the time is Marketplace from American Public Media (APM). It is a daily show about the economy. Kai Rysdal has done some very interesting stories, but the interview he did with Gary Hoover, who is the chair of the economics department at University of Oklahoma, really jumped out at me. To be a black person in various fields isn’t easy, but when you pretty much know the field of work is racist from the start. It can’t be easy. The interview was a fascinating look into what he has learned and is trying to teach to his students.

Planet Money and The Indicator

Last, is a mix of two episodes, both are from Planet Money from NPR. Would you believe that getting a paper published on how ideas have been stunted by racism and life could be such a hard crazy task to accomplish. Well, it was, like to know how long it took? How about 10 years. Planet Money and their sibling podcast The Indicator highlighted the task.

These are some very interesting and what I like to think of as being thoughtful things to listen to. The issues we are dealing with right now aren’t going to be solved overnight. Rather they are going to need to be solved with proper thought, planning, and genuine open dialogue. Not to mention openness to the issues of what we have all had to deal with. I read a wonderful book called Strangers in their own land. The author spent several years in Louisiana and got to know a lot of people, who were very conservative, but they did try to understand some issues.

The Aftermath, Part I

Let me just get this out of the way. When I get these done, these won’t be my normal mission statement of things I like to write, but this is a platform for me to get my thoughts out overall. Where do I begin, the last few months have had a lot going on. I’ve traveled to several countries, checked off a few boxes on things I should’ve done a long time ago, but just now got to doing them. Those stories and all of that fun are going to come at some point.

Currently though, I’m in the states, in Michigan at what is now my house. Do you know how odd it is for me to say, my house? I’m old enough to have a house, but still saying something like that is still odd. When my grandmother passed away in February, I knew life was going to be different. I knew I would have so many more responsibilities, but man, I have a lot going on.

I was prepared in some ways for an issue to come up everyday, but even with that, there is so much to do. My grandparents had a lot of stuff. I mean they did live in this house for almost 30 years, so the fact they have a lot of their stuff, along with the random things I left here, it is a lot. My biggest issue has been, where do I begin?

In any case, I’m still moving on with it. This entire experience has shown me how unprepared I am for basic life. I know how to do things, but dealing with a house, I got nothing.

I started with terms I’ve heard people use, why not do an estate sell. A friend of my dads brought someone over. A lovely lady who gave me information, explained her brand, my issue? She takes 35%, plus charges me a separate fee for her research and other stuff. Sorry, but 35% is a little bit much. I know they have a lot of work to do, but couldn’t they do 20% am I off on that?

The Learning Process of Random Things

My house is in Southfield, did you know you need to have a permit to sell things, like a yard sale, moving sale, etc.? That’s right, I can’t just go ahead and put up a sign and start selling my things. Now that means once I get said permit, I can just start selling things whenever I want, right. Wrong, you get that permit and you only are allowed to do a sale for 5 days, in a 6 month period. Yes, you get your permit, they give you a sign, if you want more than one sign, then you need to pay for the other sign, which can’t be put up by the street sign. If you do, the city can come and take it down. I know a lot of you are thinking, who cares. Does anyone really do a yard sale longer than a few days. No, they don’t, but why do I need to be restricted?

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand. Southfield is one of those cities, that when you go to the City Hall building, they have stuff up that talk about how awesome the city is. I mean 100 of the Fortune 500 companies do business there. I mean, that has to count for something.

What if you I didn’t want to sell the house, but rather I want to rent it out. I’m assuming, you can just rent it out without any issue. That would be another no go my friend. Yup, you need a permit for that. I won’t go into cost, but let’s just say, I understand how a city keeps themselves funded. Not to mention you need to get other inspections and so on. Which again I get, that’s how you don’t have horrible landlords and make sure the property is safe and ready to go. I just don’t know.

What to do with so much

My grandparents had a lot of stuff. I mean a lot of stuff. Clothes, books, VHS tapes, cassettes, oddly that many CD’s, that mess is mine in the house. Not that many, I took the majority with me, when I moved out in 2007. Though even without all of that, so much stuff.

I don’t know why I start with what I started with, but I started with the cabinets. I figured clean out the cabinets of all of the random lotions, cosmetics, keep a few cleaning supplies, etc., that should work out well. Let me tell you, that was an amazing journey. So many lotions, so many. Medicines, random cleaning things. The amount of stuff, would just make you glaze over so many times.

I thought when I started cleaning things out in February when it came to the food was amazing, 7 or 8 different boxes of pancake mix, plus so many expired things. That was nothing in comparison. To be fair, my grandmother had skin problems. She struggled for years, when it came to finding good lotions, moisturizers and all, but I just know the move was, she tried it a few times. It didn’t work out, so she just put it in the cabinet, where it stayed for who knows how many years.

Did you know that lotions, or certain moisturizer will actually separate and when you use them, they are just watery crap? OK, that might just be and my lack of knowing how the world works. My point is, there was so much in the one bathroom and our hallway closet. You would’ve thought a lot of people lived there. Not just one lovely lady.

So much more

If you missed the Part I at the beginning, then yes, this was just part 1. I am still cleaning out things. Remember almost 30 years, OK 27, but who’s really counting after 25? Why am I writing about this? Simple, we have too much stuff in our lives. If the fact that over I don’t know how many of these I get done, make someone realize they need to start getting rid of things. I might have done something good.

I will get back to my mission of writing about travel, but to be honest this is about travel in a way. It is about traveling through someone who you loved and knew for years. My grandmother lived and is missed everyday, she just kept way too many things.

See you when I get the next lovely tale of what I am going through in terms of cleaning things out in the house.

Goodbye

When you get a call from your mother close to 4am on a Sunday morning, you know it can’t be a good thing. Especially when you aren’t at home in your place. I was sleeping in a multiperson hostel with friends in Freiburg.

When I was able to call my mom, I was given the news, I never wanted to receive. My grandmother was gone. She was 84, so she lived a good life, it’s one of those ages where you really can be happy to get to. However, it doesn’t stop the tears, it doesn’t stop the pain. It doesn’t stop the regret.

My grandmother was an interesting person, born in the great depression era, not to mention at a time, when racial equality wasn’t a thing. She made major strides in her life to raise a family with my granddad, have my mom and my uncle. After doing all of that, she raised me.

Just like with any parent, there were conflicts, because she had her way of doing things, she was old school. When I look back, I remember the annoying things that happen. I remember the times she made me upset, didn’t want me to do various things. Wanted me to say a certain thing, but I decided my way was better. I remember the hell I took for not doing it the way she wanted. In hindsight once I got to a certain age, I realized, that’s just the way people grow up and that’s how they learn to do things.

With all of that, her love, her spirit, her guidance are the things that my mom, stepdad, uncle, aunt, and I will miss. My grandmother was tough. She didn’t take anything from anyone. She had a style that today would rub a lot of people wrong, but I have to say is what a lot of situations need. It makes me sad my little sister won’t be able to really know her. My sister is 5, she knows grandma, but as a lot of I know, she doesn’t know her. I wrote a friend that I in some way think it’s better that way. She doesn’t feel the hurt or pain. She’s just a happy little girl, she knows grandma isn’t around anymore, but I know she doesn’t really know what that means. Won’t understand or feel anything until years later.

I know I’m probably really off in this thought, but it’s one thought in my mind. Now life is different. It’s way different. I feel like an adult. Weeks before I told my colleague that because of various work things, I really felt like an adult. I also said I didn’t like it! I just want to be a kid! With no responsibilities or anything. Is that so wrong? I know it’s not real, but that’s what I want.

This last little bit has been a lot on us. I have cried almost everyday, it’s so crazy. My stepdad has told us the torch has been passed on. That is true, in some ways. In others, my grandmother was one of a kind. To do her proud, we have to be kind like her. We have to be friendly like her. Not to mention, we are going to speak our minds to certain people, because even though certain people won’t want to listen to us, they will just have to listen. You might not like what you are going to hear, but you will hear it.

I’ve dealt with the death of loved ones before, my granddad passed away in 2011, another tough moment, but this time is different. This time, I have to stepup, though I really don’t want to. I just want to hide and never come out. It’s not realistic, I know, but that’s what I want. Too bad the clicking the heels thing doesn’t work for real.

Now that would be great.

The Christmas Markets are Here!!

To say it’s the most wonderful time of the year might be a little bit much.  The most wonderful time of the year for me is when the weather is warm and I’m enjoying a beer or some other cold beverage outside.  

The very close wonderful time of the year is clearly when the Christmas Markets open and we are able to enjoy a nice Glühwein (mulled wine) and some other delicious food for about a month.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Christmas Markets (Weihnachtsmarkt), first of all, where have you been?  Second, I’m really sorry for you, and third, there is no third.  I just wanted to make it seem like I might be making a list.

Christmas Markets are exactly what they sound like.  They are an outdoor market, full of really awesome Christmas items.  Would you like a really traditional ornament for your tree?  You can get it there.  Would you like chocolate, pastries, household goods, warm socks, etc?  They have all of that.  To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure what you can’t find at the market.  I live close to the Stuttgart market, so I go almost every day for some reason.

With all of that, what is the best thing about Christmas Markets?  Well, to me its that every city has one and every cities market has something unique to it.  Take one of the favorites in our area in Esslingen.  They have a medieval market, where they have hot tubs, flamethrowers, and so much more.    

My second year here, I decided to do a tour of several markets.  I went to almost 10 different markets.  It was fun, I was able to see what every city had, experience some unique food.  Met some interesting people, and had some really tasty warmed beverages.  Interest anyone in a tasty warm Gin and Tonic?  Yes, that was a thing, and yes, it was really good.  Not to mention, even got an online spot in the Nordbayern photo gallery for people coming to the markets.

Now that some of the main markets are open.  You might not know where to go.  I’ve put together a list of the ones I would suggest you need to see.  Also, before you ask, Germany isn’t the only place that has Christmas Markets.  If it’s a cold climate country, they most likely have one.  Take Prague for example, though I still haven’t been.  I’ve heard their market is pretty cool.  Take the time this season, drive, catch the train, get a flight, whatever works for you, and go out and see these awesome places.  It will be worth it.  Even if you aren’t into Christmas stuff. Go for some food and drinks, everyone likes something warm and delicious, right?

Stuttgart Weihnachtsmarkt (28 November – 23 December 2018)

Some of you might think because I live in Stuttgart, I have to put it down.  Well, some of you are kind of correct.  However, hear me out, the Stuttgart market is pretty good.  You have countless stands, around 300, to buy a wide array of items for Christmas gifts.  Several stands where you can be inside in the warmth.  Not to mention the various extensions of the regular market.  One of the extensions is the Finnish Market.  This market is awesome.  You are able to get some smoked lachs (hot smoked salmon) right off of a nice fire.  Not to mention the glühwein, they have the Finnish version called glögi.  The biggest difference between the two is the spicing, dried fruits are added, instead of just sugar, for one primary difference.  The glögi is also able to be paired with some very nice and shots, which enhance the mulled wine experience.

Last, but not least in all of this, is the fact they have tippees, where they have a nice fire going.  Yes, you can get your drink on, but be nice and warm.  To go along with these things.  You also have the Wintertraum, where you can get a few drinks after the main market has closed, oh if you feel like it.  You can go ice skating.

Der Esslinger Mittelaltermarkt & Weihnachtsmarkt (Medieval Market and Christmas Market (27 November 2018 – 21 December 2018)

What is considered to be one of the best markets.  The Esslingen medieval market is a mix of your standard fair market, but another side all to itself.  You have your standard stands, with all of your standard Christmas items, plus a lot your standard food, sausages, käsespatzle, various types of stews.  Once you leave from the normal and go into the medieval, you see people carving things.  Medieval clothing, plus some of the most tastiest food you will ever find at a market.  They have venison gulasch, along with some amazing pizzas with lamb, venison, and what my friend calls the best käsespatzle.  For reference, käsespatzle is the German version of mac n’ cheese.

They have also have some flamethrowers, you can throw knives, axes, do some bo and arrows too.  You might wonder what these things have to do with Christmas.  Frankly, I have no idea, but they are some pretty cool activities to see.

Munich Weihnachtsmarkt (Varying start dates, some ending on 24 December 2018)

The Munich market isn’t just one market.  They have markets.  If you are familiar with Munich and the various places to see there, then you won’t be surprised to know, that there are way more locations to go and see things.  If you really want to get a true feel of everything they have.  You can read about my trip there several years ago when I did one of the best trips with a group when it comes to seeing a market.

In short, they have a market in the Marienplatz area, there is a gay market, called Pink Christmas, where they have a daily cabaret show.  There is also a medieval market as well, oh, they also have a pretty cool one in the English Garden.  We did several in one day, but you should probably give yourself a few days.

Strasbourg and Colmar (23 November – 30 December 2018)

If you start early enough in your day, you can do both the Strasbourg and Colmar markets.  I’ll be honest, going to a French Christmas market isn’t exactly like going to the German markets.  However, you aren’t that far away from the German border, so you will see a few similiarities.

You can start in Colmar, spend several hours there, see the town, then drive the hour to Strasbourg and see their several markets.  Colmar has 6 Christmas markets.  Each is its own little village, the 6th is the newest one this year, which is for gourmets.  I think I’ve found my new favorite one.  The best thing I found about Colmar was the setup.  As you walk, it was like a new discovery.  Like I said, you can do two of these in one day, but you might get caught up and not want to.

The Strasbourg market has a lot going for it, with 300 different stands, full of amazingness.  When you walk in you are greeted with the true feel of Christmas.  You have stands, with ornaments, clothing, wine, cheese.  You know, things that make France, well, France.  Like Colmar, you have several markets, or little villages with things going on.  You really need to walk around and try not to miss anything.  

The great thing about each of the French markets is that they are open after Christmas.  In Strasbourg, they won’t have everything open as far as every area, but as I found out several years ago, they still have a lot for you to see and do.

Der Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt

I have to say there isn’t a list of markets that won’t list the Nürnberg Christmas market.  Though to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite when I did my tour years ago.  In the main square, you had a lot of repetition of items.  I lost count of how many mini bratwursts stands I saw, but there were a lot.  I can say that the market in full though was very nice.  One of the big draws is the largest Feuerzangebowle (fire tong punch), a better description is that it’s mulled wine that has a rum-soaked sugar cube dripping into it.  Now that the technical explanation is out of the way.  It’s deliciousness in a cup!  

You have hundreds of stands, that will definitely openup  your eyes to one of the best markets in Germany.  Things you will need to get, so you’ll know you did it right.  Get a few Lebkuchen (Gingerbread cookies), get a few mini bratwursts, you can find them at a lot of places.  Lastly, like I said above, Feuerzangebowle, you gotta do it.  Even if you aren’t a rum fan, you can deal with at least one of these.  

First off, if you made it through this list, thank you!  You deserve a glühwein on me.  You just have to come to Stuttgart to get it.  There are a lot of wonderful markets all through Europe if you live in a German city, that city will have one.  It might not be 6 weeks long, like your bigger cities, but you will at least have a good weekend or longer to enjoy one.

If you can’t make it to Europe or Germany, a lot of countries are starting to have markets.  Get in the spirit and enjoy the season.  Thank you for taking the time and stopping by!