Motivational Napping

For many people in these parts, Easter means a break from school or work. For me, it means extra work as I took over some classes for another teacher whose children are currently on school vacation for two weeks. As a result, that means I’ve been much busier than usual, and pretty much living on the train for the last week and a half. We had huge and crazy storms all over the area last week, and I think I spent more time in various states of dampness than I did dry. Not a good time, not at all. Happily this week the forecast calls for sun everyday… thank goodness. I am so ready to put away my winter boots (which desperately need to be re-soled), and if I have to wear my hated socks for much longer I might light my feet on fire.

Part of my substitution schedule involves a fair amount of wandering around, as the train only stops in that village once an hour. Last week I killed time in cafes -trying unsuccessfully to dry out – but I much prefer to stroll in the sun and do a bit of window shopping. The particular village I’ve been traveling to is a small tourist destination in the area, due to its thermal baths, museum, and the local vineyards, and happily it has an abundance of cutesy little shops with great window displays.

Today while slowly making my way back to the train station, I spotted this gem and just wanted to share it…

motivational pillows

I’m not sure if you’re supposed to nap on the thing, or just look at it while doing lunges/running around like Rocky. It’s as if someone took a bunch of Oprah quotes and just slapped them on a pillow. In other news, I’m kind of tempted to go back and buy that adorable lemonade clock, and maybe the Audrey Hepburn mug, too. But I think I’d have to drink champagne out of it, because tea and Audrey just don’t go together.


Fashion Watch: Labeled Edition

This week was a typical week for my commutes. Trains were late, people were absurd, and the line for McDonald’s breakfast was eight deep. But today redeemed itself in that I got a rare opportunity.

I spend a fair amount of my time observing the sometimes questionable fashion choices that people make. This week had the added bonus of Halloween, so yesterday I saw a guy running around in a cape with a staff, and a boy walking his dog in a polar bear costume. Usually it’s not possible (or would be super obvious), for me to snap pictures of this nonsense. Tonight on the train though, I got the opportunity to be creepy, but sneakily so. I give you, my new favorite backpack… which even trumps the ‘fight the man’ bag of a few weeks ago. It’s also hipster though, don’t worry…

panda backpackYes, in case the ears, black eyes, and fuzziness didn’t tip you off, it’s got the “Panda” right there to reassure you. In my opinion though, it’s a better label than those hideous purses with “LV” or  “C” all over them. Well played, hipster panda girl. Not to mention fhe polka dot hair bow and red lipstick that really set the whole thing off. Rock that panda bag. (Do the kids still say “rock”?)


Questionable Goodies…

Judging by my Facebook newsfeed, Halloween mania in the States is in full swing. Not a day has gone by this month that I haven’t seen pictures of tots in pumpkin patches, recipes for DIY Pumpkin Spice Lattes, or those same tots sleeping in their Halloween costumes that they are apparently refusing to take off.

Here in Germany, it’s a different story. There are a handful of costumes for sale, but that holiday still hasn’t caught on here. Instead, we’re already being treated to piles of Christmas chocolates, and so much Lebkuchen (gingerbread), that it almost makes my mouth water to look at. But as with soooo many things, there is an unofficial rule that you can’t buy/eat said Lebkuchen until November 11th. So we wait.

Today I was stocking up on cheap wine at the local Edeka, when I was stopped short by my absolute new favorite Advent calendar. I can’t remember if I’ve ever posted on that subject before, but I have never in my life seen such an impressive variety of Advent calendars as I have here. They can be filled with toys, make up, or even an entire calendar filled with beer. But hanging there, flanking the display of Glühwein, and related accessories, I saw these little numbers…

At least they were stashed away in the liquor section, and not directly next to the Haribo candies. But I am happy to see that both the ladies and the gentlemen can have a little extra holiday fun. Advent calendars: not just for the Kinder anymore.

“Oh Good Lord, Even the Backpacks Are Hipster….”

Back home in Wisconsin, this week is back to school for most of the kids. For this reason, I’m trying to not pop into Facebox quite as much. Why? Well, because my news feed on Tuesday was pretty much non-stop pictures of assorted children wearing backpacks in front of doors, strapped into car seats, in new classrooms, and sitting in front of lockers.

-Digression-: Since when do kindergarteners get (or need??) lockers? Back in my day, we had a hook for our tiny backpacks, and a railing below it for shoes and boots. What in the world is happening in kindergarten now that warrants an entire locker? -End digression.-

While many of my Facebook friends are now parents (and probably think I’m a weirdo for being 30+, living in a foreign country, and being unmarried with no spawn adorable Kinder), and many of them do have very cute kids…. it’s just a little much. What can I say? One of my favorite websites is the hilarious STFU, Parents. If you are easily annoyed by these things too, I recommend giving it a look. And yes, I do know it goes the other way. I’m sure that some of my FB friends have me blocked for posting one too many pictures of travel, or something similar. To each his own, as long as no-one does something like this* to me. So ridiculous.

It’s easy enough to avoid the overload of cutesy-ness by staying off of FB, or by limiting what you see from people when you log in, but real life doesn’t quite work that way. So today when I walked into the Müller drugstore in the train station to get a printer cartridge, I was faced with a section of brightly-colored back-to-school fun. And then…. I saw this….

occupy backpacks

This. Is. Awesome.

I actually posted this picture to FB this afternoon (and yes, I do realize the irony), but I just thought it was important for everyone to know that little Susie or Johnny could be missing an opportunity. Why take a backpack emblazoned with ‘Cars’ or ‘My Little Pony’ or your favorite NFL team, when you could be making a political statement! Occupy the 3rd grade, betches!

But, I’m not sure if all of the wholesome, corn-fed, Little League-playing kids that I saw in my news feed this week could pull this one off. In a European city, when used to add to a 6-year-old’s ensemble of skinny jeans, Converse, green hoodie, flat brimmed black baseball hat covered with white dollar signs and horn-rimmed glasses,** sure. But ‘Occupy’ doesn’t really go with a Nike t-shirt and basketball shorts, nor does it go with a school uniform of khakis and a polo.

Sigh. European kids just have that edge. Occupy on, hipster kids, occupy on.***


*while I am impressed by the lengths that the sender went to in order to remain anonymous… really? Really?? Asshat.

**actually seen today on the U-1 in Nürnberg.

***And if your little sister isn’t political yet, she’ll love the butterfly backpack. Give her a few years, and I’m sure she’ll come around.


Saturday Shopping: Getränkemarkt Edition

Last week, I read this incredibly funny post over at “Oh God, My Wife is German,” which had me giggling for a few days. I was very surprised by his comment that Kästen (cases) of beer were only bought by college students about to get obliterated, and while I have seen more than one case being dragged through a train by lederhosen-clad youths, I thought the time was right for a post on the mighty Getränkemarkt.

Most villages around here have at least one Getränkemarkt, or drinks market. Supermarkets do sell drinks, of course, but the majority of people load up on drinks at one of these markets instead. They have more selection, and I think they’re a bit cheaper. BV and I typically take one trip there a month, but this was our first trip since early July. We picked up quite a lot last time before my parents visited, and then took a week off the sauce after they left, so I think the beer lasted longer than usual this time.

Our local drink market has shorter hours than the normal supermarket, which means they’re only open until 4pm on Saturdays. This week we managed to be up and functioning on time, and loaded up the car to make our run. We left a few partial cases at home, but this is what we took back.

getraenkemarkt1That’s two cases of water, one of juice, and four beer. It’s necessary to bring the cases back full in order to get your full deposit back, hence why we drove to Italy with six bottles of water in the car, and “DON’T THROW THEM AWAY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. They must return to Germany or the Pfand (deposit) gets all messed up!”

Our market is fairly small, and the people who run it are super friendly. When you arrive, you can load up your Kästen on their special flat-bed carts, and bring them in. The ladies will make a note of what kind of cases you have (different cases/bottles have different deposits on them), and if they aren’t busy, they’ll help you unload the cases onto the conveyor belt that takes them into the back. After that, you’re free to shop.

In our little market, you’ll find two and half aisles of beer, half an aisle of “limo” or soft drinks, a huge Coke corner, an aisle of juice and Schorlen (juice mixed with carbonated water), and two aisles of water.  They do also have a selection of wine and liquor, and up at the front of the store you can find some six-packs, and small kegs of different beers. If you’re looking for imports such as Guinness or Czechvar (the ridiculous name given to Czech Budvar/Budweiser outside the C.R.), that’s where you go. If you want cheap, crappy, German beer like Beck’s, you got it. Also, if you’re looking for the flavored “girly” beers like the Veltins, this is your corner. getraenkemarkt7I love the baby kegs. I shudder to think how many of those the average college house party in Wisconsin would go through. I’ve heard if you want an adult-sized keg, they can be ordered but it’s not too common. I’m guessing the Pfand on that would be absolutely ridiculous.

While BV and the lady sorted out some confusion with our cases (she had mixed up our slip with another customer), I admired the postcards.

getraenkemarkt8Sorry about the cigarettes (and the iPhone quality of all of today’s pictures), but if you look to the left, you’ll see a ton of postcards. As I said, this is a small place, and the people are super-friendly, and I love that the customers all send them postcards from their travels. I think it’s lovely. We might have to do that, if we ever go on vacation again.

Finally, it was time to load up the car. Saturday’s trip was a light one, just the necessities.

getraenkemarkt9Two cases of beer (Pils and Keller, if you want to know), one water, and one juice.

BV was very amused by my taking pictures in the shop, and so I told him about the post that I read. He thought the story was pretty funny too, and then we started talking about the difference between buying cases and singles. He said that most people just don’t want to go shopping that much, and also want to be prepared, so they prefer to buy cases. And most of the time when we go to someone’s home, it does look like they have a mini-Getränkemarkt in a cellar or tucked in a closet.

Of course, when I lived in the city (and up four flights of stairs), I never bought a case. Typically it was a few bottles at a time, and he said that usually the only people who buy one or two beers at a time are the old, alcoholic ladies. Thanks, honey.

I left out the part where most of the time I just bought 3€ bottles of wine, because wine paired better with trashy reality TV and microwave popcorn. Heyo!

Have you been to a Getränkemarkt? Do you also think that Becks is the worst German beer?

A Quick Walk Around Thalia

Who doesn’t love a good bookstore, right? I’m not picky, I’ll take a cozy indie bookstore, or a big chain with a Starbucks, it makes no difference. If I can browse books and waste a couple of hours, I’m a happy camper. One of the biggest bookstores in Germany is called Thalia, and I have been a frequent shopper of theirs since I arrived here (see this post on Chillin’ Mit Jesus).

A few weeks ago I was wandering the store, when I saw a few things that I thought were entertaining enough to share with the blog world so… here we go!

ImageThanks to the interwebz, even child-free people like myself know what ‘Helicopter Parenting’ is. Personally, I’m of the school that says, “do whatever you think is best” when it comes to your kids, so I don’t really want to get into any debates about it. But I cracked up when I saw this cover. I’m 30 and could still use a protective bubble some days. Helmets for everyone!

ImageAh yes, now a gender-specific boy toy about cooking. Leave little Sally/Sophie to her kitchen set while little Johnny/Johannes can learn to man the grill like a big boy.


Again, do what you want with your kids. Personally, I thought this was adorable and promptly whipped out this picture in class the following week when one of my students proclaimed that he didn’t cook anything but meat on his grill. He didn’t believe me that 1) this was an option or 2) that it would come with little plastic vegetables. Because vegetables do not go on the grill. Ever.



Oh, this one. This may have surpassed the “black” music section in electronics stores as my new favorite. I just love that the American dictionary offers not one, not two, but three languages! Amazing! Not to mention a quick flip through the book had me wondering just how many people have actually tried out some of the phrases offered in the sections on “our barrio, our hood,” or “Fiesta sin bebidas?” Oh good lord. I think you’d find better accents and pronunciation in the average Taco Bell order. Maybe that’s in the section on “TexMex-Küche.” Is this any different from the phrases offered in the average Lonely Planet phrasebook? No, not really. But I was still fairly dismayed that there were options. What do you think, is it weird, or is it just me?

Hansel, Gretel, a Giant, and a Witch…

…. walk into the OBI. Just kidding. 

One of the things I love about Germany is that everyone here seems to have a major green thumb. When you drive through the villages, or pass by the gardens on the train, you will see fields of green, and absolute riots of color peeking through the fences. And if you live in the city? Well no problem! Outside of a lot of cities there are huge areas where apartment-dwellers can buy or rent a small plot of land to get their outdoor fix. 

These small gardens plots are usually fenced in, and include a small house. These houses are also a common sight in the backyards of Germany. They come in many varieties, but the normal ones look something like this….


Nice, right? I’ve always thought how great that is, that even if you live in a little apartment in the middle of the city, you can still have some green ground to plant somewhere. But now OBI has surpassed itself. 

I’ve been to the OBI (which is a home/building/etc. store… a la Home Depot, in case you don’t know), a couple of times lately, most recently on Thursday. Which is when I saw this magnificent and amazing Gartenhaus.

Want. Want. 

With it’s peaked roof, crooked windows and tiny door, it was clear that we had found Hansel and Gretel’s home. At OBI.

Upon further investigation we found that this was actually the witch’s house… it is called the Hexenhaus Lieblingsplatz, or, witch house haunt. Inside, we even found the witch’s ride….

It was clear that the witch also welcomed visitors, both large and small…

This last thing confuses me a bit, because I thought witches were more of cat people, but apparently this witch is the exception…

So I guess if you want to take your home garden to the fairy-tale level, head on over to your local OBI Baumarkt. Just remember, price isn’t important. Because this one is about 3+ times the cost of your normal Gartenhaus. Gah! 

But since I’m still garden-less, I’m off to do some balcony therapy… come on out sun!

Wednesday Quiz.

Q: What’s the saddest sound in the whole world?

A: The cry of “nooooooooooooooooooo” when a girl discovers that her beloved brown riding-style boots are dying a slow and painful death.

No, I take that back. It’s the cry of “nooooooooooooooooo” when a girl who is broke and on a very tight budget to save for the upcoming Giant America Trip discovers that her beloved brown riding-style boots are dying a slow and painful death.

Sounds trivial, does it not? Well, when you’re already broke, but trying to save for a trip, also in incredibly desperate need of a haircut, and you start to notice that everything you own is going to shit, it becomes a problem.

I searched for those boots for such a long time, and I was so excited to finally find a pair at C&A that fulfilled my riding-boots wearing dreams. Considering that usually the boots I loved were in the 200€ range, I was over the moon to find some for around 70€. It was basically the Holy Grail to me. They were a little bit big, but they zipped up my calves, and you ladies know how difficult that can be to find. Lately they’ve been getting looser from so much wear, and went from a little bit big to awkwardly big. One heel is worn in such a weird angle that as of Tuesday, the inside is rubbing on my ankle to the point of blood. Most of the lining has been gone for at least a few months, so I guess that was inevitable. I was hoping they’d make it through the winter, but it looks like they’re going to fall short. Spring better get here quickly, so I can switch over to flats ASAP. 

The good news is that flats are much cheaper, but the bad news is that all of the ones I have now are pretty much going the same way as the boots. Which means I need a whole new round of shoes in the very near future. Not to mention that the two pairs of jeans that I normally wear are wearing out in very strategically important places. I don’t know how much longer they have, but they might be one rough spin cycle away from the end. And last week I noticed that quite a few of my staple under-shirt tank tops are reaching their strap-breaking limit. One already bit the dust about three weeks ago and so the rest can’t be far behind. 

I was already looking forward to doing some shopping in America (Land of the free, home of the bargain basement. Also, outlets.), but I’m not sure if half of my wardrobe will last another two months. I guess the advantage to this would be that my suitcase will be delightfully light if I take it home empty. It’s just that I was planning on having some pants to wear when I get there. Gah.    

Italy: Tuscany in Threes

So far I’ve talked a bit about what we ate and where we stayed over New Year’s, but believe it or not, we did do something besides stuff our faces and hang out around the house. 

We decided to make a few “city tours” on our trip, so three of the days were spent in some of the nearby Tuscan cities. Needless to say I have a lot of pictures, but I’m trying to cure myself of picture overload, so I’m going to give you three pictures from each place. Three cities, three pictures of each, hence, Tuscany in Threes. Let’s give it a shot!

First up was the city that most people hit when they head to Tuscany: Florence.

Everyone posts a picture of the famous bridge, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), when they go to Florence. But this is the view from the Ponte Vecchio. A nice day, wasn’t it? Truth be told, we were on and off the bridge very quickly because despite the grey skies and the January rain, it was still packed with tourists. In fact it was even more dangerous due to all the people wielding umbrellas. Add that to the amount of jewelry shops on the bridge and watch out! Danger around every corner.

Of course another Must-See in Florence is the Duomo, or, the Basilica di Santa Mario del Fiore. (Got all that?) If it had been a nicer day, it would have been great to climb a neighboring tower to get the view of the Duomo and the city roofs from above. But alas, grey and rain prevailed so we opted to stay on the ground. This was also another one of those churches where it’s impossible to get a good picture of the whole facade, so sorry about that. The exterior of this church is really just beyond words, and it certainly has earned its reputation as an artistic wonder.

One of our after-dinner stops was the old pharmacy in Church of Santa Maria Novella, which claims to be one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. Nowadays it sells lots of very expensive-looking perfumes and other such things, but there are still old pharmacy wares on display, and a really gorgeous interior to admire.

Something we didn’t get to do in Florence was visit the famous art museum, the Uffizi. We were hoping that in January the line wouldn’t be too bad, but when we got there and saw the line running the length of the (fairly long) building, we decided that our time was better spent visiting the city. We stopped for a coffee and decided to poke our heads into the Museo Galileo next door, and found ourselves occupied for the next couple of hours. If you have any interest in technology and the evolution thereof, and find yourself in Florence, go check it out! Disclaimer: I didn’t love the room full of cross-sectioned models of pregnancy. That kind of freaked me out. But other than that, there were some cool things… be sure to keep an eye out for Galileo’s freakishly long finger….

Next up on our city tour list was Siena: 

We got to Siena in the early evening after a few hours at a natural thermal bath near the city. Unfortunately because of the time a lot of the shops were already closed, and we only had time to poke our heads into one church. But if I want to do some shopping in Tuscany, I will be coming back here. There were a ton of interesting looking little places, and who couldn’t love a window display with a stuffed boar, a snacking fox, and enough garlic to ward off an entire army of vampires?? Amazing.

We did find a few places open, which was lucky because we didn’t have a reserved breakfast at our apartment the next day and so we needed to stock up on some hams and cheeses. Everything in this shop looked incredibly delicious, and some of the packaged pastas looked like artwork! 

To me, Siena was much more like my idea of a typical city in Tuscany. Even by night you could see all the brown stone that would look so warm in the sun. I was also a big fan of their Christmas lights they still had up. There were some truly impressive light displays in Italy, but most of them were so bright and flashing that they were almost seizure-inducing. Siena was just lovely. 

I’m happy we went to Florence, and I’ve been assured that we didn’t even see most of it, but I liked Siena more. Just an evening of wandering the narrow cobbled streets was enough to make me want to come back. Admittedly we had lousy weather in Florence, but there were so many tourists there that it was difficult to appreciate the city. Especially while dodging umbrellas. I’m sure I’ll give it another shot, but Siena is without a doubt on my “to re-visit” list. We saw the Duomo from the outside, but it looks like it’s worth a trip inside so that’s on the list as well. You can never see enough churches, right? I also saw something rather amusing while there, but there will be another post to come on that matter…

The third city on the list was the closest to where we were staying, and that was Arezzo: 

We purposely waited to visit Arezzo until Saturday which was our last full day in Italy. On the first weekend of every month in Arezzo they have one of the largest antiquities markets in all of Italy. This is NOT your average flea market. Think gorgeous antique wooden furniture, paintings, books, jewelry, and almost anything else you can image. I’m not normally a huge “flea market” person because I’m not a fan of digging through stuff. This was something else. If I ever have a house (you know, like a normal person), I’m coming straight back here to furnish it. And it’s not just a few stalls; this market literally fills the entire old city. Every time we thought we found the end, we turned a corner and it kept going. So much so that we had to take a lunch break in a restaurant that I didn’t feel fancy enough to be in. Which is maybe valid, given that it was recommended to us by a market vendor, who was setting up his outdoor lunch with take-out containers, but real glassware, dishes, and cloth napkins that the restaurant provided. That’s Italy. Take note, Olive Garden.

The market really deserves its own post, but in the event that I don’t get to that, you can see some of the wares in these photos. Spot anything odd in the second one?

Although I wasn’t in the market for an old scuba helmet, my friend and I were on a mission to scout out the jewelry. I did find an amazing antique cocktail ring that haunts my dreams. Leave it to me to find something I loved that was waaaaaay beyond my spending limit. Gah. I wasn’t alone though, because the ring that my friend really liked was even more. Ouch. 

Photo courtesy of BV. His are better than mine. 🙂

After we were all antiqued-out, we headed away from the city center in search of an old Roman coliseum that was marked on our city map. When we got there we found a fence around the site, but an open door directed us to a visitor’s center. They’ve had to fence it off due to vandalism, but if you go inside and ask, someone will come out, open the gate, and just hang out and wait while you have a good wander around. So there we were, checking out the Roman construction techniques, figuring out where the ancient hot dog stand was from the smoke marks, and admiring the different kinds of stonework. We were the only ones inside, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we were the only ones there the whole day. When we left, we tried to give the woman a little money as a donation, but she wouldn’t even take it. 

After the coliseum we went back towards the city, stopping a few food stands to buy some truffle products. Then we managed to find even more of the antique market that we hadn’t seen, so it was a long, slow, walk back to the car. There was another church that I’d like to go back to and see, as they had some fantastic-looking frescoes, but the exhibit was already closed for the day. Arezzo was much like Siena in that it was more my “idea” of a Tuscan city, and I think there was a lot more to see that we didn’t even get to because we were so busy treasure-hunting. If you can get there the first weekend of the month, it’s well worth a trip to this market. But if you can’t, Arezzo is well known for its antique and art shops, that are hopefully open the rest of the month

More information:  
Museo Galileo: Florence 
Antiques Market: Arezzo 

*The blogger formatting Gods are firmly against me today, so if this post looks completely out of whack, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do. Danke schön!

Preppin’ for Winter

When I first moved to Europe, I had problems buying a bedside lamp because I didn’t know how long I’d be here. But now I’m committed to being in Germany at least until my 2-year cell phone contract expires in June 2014. So now that I know I’ll be here for the foreseeable future, it makes more sense to make my house a bit cozier for winter. 

I’d been trying not to spend a lot of money lately since I’m not working much, and am planning on a week or so of vacation over New Year’s, but last week was rough. I had a ton of work to do, my stress level was through the roof, and I was a cranky mess. As I walked through the city last Thursday with the rain/snow mix dumping all over my head, I said, “screw it.” Retail therapy was in order.

Lately I’ve been super into this whole “deer” trend that’s happening, and I had seen some great stuff at some of the interior stores here, so Depot was my first stop. I picked up some new throw pillows there, and was sorely tempted by some of their Christmas decorations as well. I’ll have to think about that a bit more though. Then it was off to Butler’s, to see if they had anything else in the way of throw pillows, and I knew they had some great blankets as well. My brown IKEA throw blanket is going on four years old now and is getting more threadbare by the day (and my lovely duvet cover just kicked the bucket too, sadface), so I thought I’d see about replacing it. Unfortunately the blankets were a bit more than I wanted to spend, but I did pick up another throw pillow, a draft stopper, and a cookie tin. 

A little blurry, but you get the idea.
I couldn’t resist the Hütte here.
First batches of Christmas cookies, in a deer tin (naturally).

I also was invited to join in some cookie making last Tuesday with HP and some colleagues, hence the goodies. On top are Zimtsterne, a cinnamon cookie which apparently didn’t come out quite right. They taste okay though. In the middle are cornflakes rolled in chocolate, which are simple, delicious, and messy as all get out. And on bottom are my family’s cut-out sugar cookies. They tasted pretty good, but I had some issues converting all the ingredients so I’m crossing my fingers they don’t become rock hard in a week! 

Back to the couch, I kept my red pillow I‘ve had all year, but replaced the purple one with a very cozy knit sweateresque throw….

And all pillows and blankets go better with a steaming mug of hot chocolate. I’m in love with these pillows. Looooove them. And they’re super fluffy!

I also decided that since I had to carry all these bags, carrying an umbrella was just not going to work anymore, so this is the year I’m finally listening to my grandma and starting to wear a hat in winter. Plus I found one that matches my favorite scarf perfectly!

To top off the interior decoration, imagine my surprise when I opened my door Friday night to see HP standing there with something for my balcony. 

That would be a huge window box full of winter heather. Only trouble is that it doesn’t fit in any of my box holders, so it will just have to sit on the table. But that’s okay. It was very sweet, and definitely helps my balcony, which looks pretty dead about now since I haven’t removed any of the summer flowers yet. I’ll get to it…