31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 4

Prompt: What question would you most like answered?

So many possibilities here. Since the beginning of time, humans have questioned every aspect of the known world, and what lies beyond. But today? The only thing I can think about right now is OH MY GOD WHAT IS WITH THIS CAT?

Deep thoughts here. Deep thoughts.

As mentioned the other day, we’re cat-sitting at the moment. In the last two days, Milo has begun venturing out during daylight hours, and today we had a breakthrough. I managed to lure him out of hiding with some treats, and I even got in a few solid pets. As long as I’m not moving too quickly, he’ll now come up to me. But it seems that some sort of bridge has been crossed. He’s gotten chatty.

Earlier this evening, the other two cats were out on the balcony. They were both particularly alert, and I thought I heard some loud rustling down in the garden. We have a fair few neighborhood cats that pass through, so perhaps it was that, or a rambunctious bird. A few minutes later, I heard what sounded like the faint calls of a caterwauling cat a few houses away. And now, Milo chats. Loudly. At length.

The other two seem mostly unfazed by this, though even as I type this, Marry d.K. crept from her bed and stalked into the hallway. He’s been chatting for a good 20 minutes straight now, so I’m not sure how she just noticed but it’s all I can hear.

I mean really, who can possibly think about life’s big questions with anything making this kind of noise?

Maybe we should be flattered… S. said that he can get loud, but it took him a few months in his new home to get that comfortable. So, good for us?

Mia is all tucked up on the couch with me, and Marry has now disappeared. I suspect she’s sought refuge with BV but I’m really not sure how anyone is going to get sleep tonight. I’ve been using an eye mask but I haven’t got any earplugs and those would come in handy right about now.

And with this post, I solemnly swear that I will not mention cats for at least two days. I may be too tired to do anything for those two days either way, if this racket keeps up.


Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.



31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 3


The Day We Met Sheep Cat

Every relationship has their own unique, often completely bewildering inside jokes. This is about one of ours.

Long-time readers may recall that in this challenge last year, some of my posts took place in South Tyrol. We just booked ourselves a week there this month too, and that got me flipping through pictures in eager anticipation.

On a particularly hot day on last year’s trip, we decided to try to reach an Alm partway up a nearby mountain. Our host was unsure whether or not they’d be open yet, since the official summer season hadn’t begun, but we figured it would be worth the hike either way. We packed our backpacks with some extra snacks and set off.

It was rather a long walk to the other side of town just to find the trail head, and with the sun beating down on us, the steep ascent was a bit more than we had bargained for. Not unexpected, when you come back from a particularly lazy winter (and partially why I’ve been extra vigilant about getting steps and yoga in before this trip).

The forest trail to get up here was much steeper than the road. MUCH. But shorter!

By the time we reached a quiet barn perched high on the hill overlooking the local lake, BV had stripped off his shirt and converted his pants to shorts. I’d been shedding layers as well, though we ladies have some limitations on that front. Nearby the barn we found another directional sign that indicated we still had a good two hours to go to our intended destination, and our legs were already aching. Looking at the view in front of us, we figured it couldn’t get that much better, so why not just hike a bit further up to that grassy green hill, gaze out over the lake, and have our snack here?

Legs rested and snacks consumed, it was high time to put our feet into some of that glorious water we’d been gazing at. We were just packing it in when we heard distant sounds from the barn back below us. Though we hadn’t seen any vehicles or indication that there were people there besides ourselves, there must have been a shepherd napping somewhere nearby.

Looking down, we saw a few dozen sheep streaming out from the front of the barn into the pasture. And among them, a small black spot. It ran around, and our first thought was that it was a sheep dog. But it seemed too small to be any kind of sheep dog that I’ve ever seen. So naturally, we came to the conclusion that this barn had something very special indeed. Why that was a sheep cat! Amazing! Cats are basically useless creatures in the average home, but somehow the owner of this barn had trained a cat to use its feline sensibilities to herd sheep!

What can I say? We were far above the barn and it was a very small dot.

As we hiked back down the road and got closer, we searched the field for the magical sheep cat. And what did we see?

Yeah. We be dumb sometimes. It was hot… can I blame sunstroke? Of course it was a lamb.

But still, this was the day that SHEEP CAT! was born.

Watching the Great British Bake Off and see a shot of lambs frolicking in a field, with a black one in the mix? SHEEP CAT.

See a black cat anywhere near livestock (we live in a village, this happens a lot)? SHEEP CAT.

We go hiking on the same route in a week or so and see one black sheep up in this pasture? Damn right, SHEEP CAT. I for one, cannot wait.


Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 2

Prompt: What natural talents do you have?

Procrastination. I am goddamn gifted when it comes to procrastination. How do I know this? Because when ‘procrastination’ was the first thing that leapt to mind when I read this prompt, my reaction was incredibly appropriate.

Let’s break it down. I read the prompt and titled the post at about 10pm. I then clicked out of this tab, and into my gmail. I noticed that one of my recent unread emails was from the New York Times and was a special subscriber offer on ‘How to Whip Your Home Into Shape’. Was this the best time to click on that? I’m supposed to be writing for 15 minutes after all…. no… it wasn’t. Did I? Damn right. I’m now registered and expect my home to be sparkling just as soon as I get this cat off my lap and reorganize my shower caddy. That’s tip one. I’m on it… shortly.

After I finished my registration and quick perusal of the first tasks, I wondered if I wrote about my gift of procrastination when I did this challenge last year. Since all the titles are just like this one, the dates of the project, OF COURSE, I had to skim all 31 entries to find if I already covered this. Not so much, so here we are.

I also procrastinated by wondering if it would be too obvious to just skip covering this prompt by writing about cats again, which is what I did last year on day two. Coincidentally, we are cat-sitting again this week, which means that there are three cats sneaking around the house at the moment. Our friend S. is on tour again, and his usual cat-sitter (now that he has two cats again and leaving them at home is easier), is also on vacation, so we’re hosting Mia and Milo. Mia is her usual party-time, cuddle-loving self, but Milo has taken up firm residence under the bed in our spare bedroom. He’s stalked through the common areas after nightfall, and I busted him twice now on the catio, so he’s getting a little activity. Since he spent the first several weeks of his life with S. living under the bed, we’re taking this as a good sign.

Look at that, I did write about cats again.

I realize that being talented at procrastination is not the most flattering things to say about yourself, but I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about what it is that I’m good at. I’m still not entirely sure. There are aspects of my job that I think I’m good at… I’m quick, can adapt to the needs of the group easily, am flexible when they come in with something unexpected, but I don’t think I’m the kind of teacher that lights the world on fire with my industry-changing methods.

A lot of my procrastination time is spent in inventing these fantastical scenarios about hypothetical life scenarios. This is not exactly a useful hobby, though it is fun to think what we could do with a little Bavarian farmhouse that we find for dirt-cheap and can renovate and turn into a place to make cheese and grow geraniums, maybe even falling into jobs in the area doing things like hiking and taking pictures that someone miraculously pays me for. Daydreaming is a great procrastination method, but then I get all bummed out that there’s no logical way that anything like that could ever happen. Real-estate prices in the Alps are straight-up terrifying so the idea of stumbling over something like that is laughable. And yet, I still think about it.

Coming back to reality, Mia has now shoved her way onto my lap, making typing very difficult. She seems to disapprove of idle fantasy, and will not allow me to procrastinate when it comes to her head scratches.

See something like this but way more rundown and preferably free? Call me!


Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 1

Ah, May. How I have missed you. Having the first day of the month off as a public holiday really does serve as the perfect kick-off to summer. The day dawned a bit drippy and gray, but around noon the clouds parted and by mid-afternoon it was high time for a walk through the forest.

We had heard that the Felsenkeller, a great local spot, was under new ownership, and indeed it is. Previously this old barn in the forest was staffed by a fairly elderly couple, with an extra person or two helping out occasionally. They served Zirndofer beer, some basic Brotzeit staples, and a few other odds and ends. No more.

We came around from the other side of the barn today, and we heard it before we got there. That it was busy was no surprise on a day like this, but I was shocked. They’ve easily doubled the amount of tables outside, and added a tented area with sand and kiddie-sized tables. Tap beers were poured outside as well, and there was a trailer for the sausages and grill specialties. The Grüner brewery from Fürth has taken over ownership, and it’s a whole new vibe.

I’ve got nothing against them doing a brisk business on a beautiful day, but the staff running around in branded t-shirts and wires in their ears was a far cry from the old folks behind the bar. I did like the Lederhosen on a few of the staffers, but… it’s different.  As long as there’s a Biergarten under the trees in walking distance, I’m happy, so hopefully this will remain a favorite summer spot.

The days getting longer and warmer has made me a bit itchy again this year. I’ve had a lot of thoughts bouncing around in my head lately and think the time is ripe for another attempt at a writing challenge. I’ll shoot for 15 minutes per day at least again, and be putting it up here for accountability purposes. Let’s see how we go.  Day 1 down, with a mere three minutes to midnight. Strong start.

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

Our Top Three London Pubs

In my previous post on London, I mentioned that we managed to visit eight pubs plus an outdoor cafe and therefore Biergarten to us. We put little to no thought into our selections beforehand, picking things strictly based on proximity and a decent review on Google. The only exception to this was the Mayflower Pub, as A wanted to go there. This means that these recommendations are completely random, I have no idea if they can be found in any guidebook, we just really liked all of them. Our gift is planning not to plan, we just find what we find and usually it works out well enough. To the pubs!

1. The Devonshire Arms (Kensington)

We went here on our first night and would’ve happily had a pint here every other night of the trip as well if we hadn’t had to visit some other places. Contrary to the pictures below, there were a lot of friendly people, great food, and a very cool rustic-chic interior. The bartender let BV take samples, there were colorful characters to watch, and a dog or two doesn’t hurt the situation. We were completely bushed by the time we went out for dinner (that 3am wake-up was a killer), so that fact that this was just a 5-minute walk from our hotel was a total win. I had a burger and BV had a steak and cheese pie, and I’d go back in a second for either choice. Most excellent.

2. The Mayflower (Rotherhithe)

Their website advertises this pub as the oldest on the Thames, and since it’s named for that famed ship which set off to the future U.S.A. just outside, it’s easy to see this place getting really kitschy really quickly, but it doesn’t. Apart from us, an American flag on one side of the deck over the river (Union Jack on the other side, of course), and the one or two other U.S. accents we heard inside, this was a solid pub. We grabbed a spot on the tented terrace as the wind had kicked up on the deck, but I would’ve loved to settle in next to the massive stone fireplace inside if that table had been open!

As I mentioned in my previous post, A used to play darts at the Mayflower’s sister pub in California, but sadly we didn’t see a dartboard at the original. That was perhaps the only disappointment in our visit, so if we missed the dartboard please let me know! It’s really for the best though, my darts skills have seriously deteriorated since our epic college Happy Hour Free Darts and Popcorn Bar Crawls of yore.


3. The Harp (Covent Garden)

Feet aching and slightly parched from several hours of looking at All The Art in the National Gallery, we stood outside on Trafalgar Square looking to see where we could quench our thirst and kill a few hours before meeting up with A and J. We found The Harp just a few minutes and a few turns away.  Again, despite the primo location, most of the patrons were in suits and/or with lanyards and company badges dangling from purse straps and belt loops. I’m sure there were a few other dawdling tourists around, but it seemed much more like an after-work crowd packed into the narrow downstairs bar.

Creeping again.

The taps were numerous, which meant that BV once again managed to get a tasting flight before making any decisions. Even more impressive than the row of taps was the vast wall of labels, covering every bit over the bar. Whoever collected all of them, I salute you. There was plenty to look at, as you can see. Besides the labels, the walls were packed full of paintings and prints… who knew we didn’t even have to go to the museum? Plus it gave us a chance to indulge in a bit of the statue game, here adapted to the paintings…

Oh, hai.

Honourable Mention*: The Blackbird (Earl’s Court)

We didn’t drink anything besides coffee here, but we did stop in one morning for a traditional English breakfast. The food was good (I went with eggs benedict, regretted it slightly when the other three plates came out), as was the atmosphere and service. It felt very “typical” pub, which meant lots of wood and leather, but it was on a street corner, had lots of windows and so was very bright and cheery.

So there we have it. My three (and a half) favorite pubs from London. Very unscientifically chosen, but that’s just how we do things around here. Let me know if I got it right (or horribly wrong), or if you’ve been to any of them in the comments! And cheers, of course!


*I’ll even use the UK-appropriate spelling of honourable. You’re welcome.

Five Thoughts From London

Last month, BV and I popped to London for a short city break. I’ve been dying to do a quick trip somewhere that involved just a backpack, as opposed to our usual “everything but the kitchen sink” packing trips, and this was perfect. We had a great time and my enthusiasm for the city remains. This post is a collection of my various thoughts on our short and sweet visit. Read on!


Thought 1: This is a City

Nürnberg is a city. It is Stadt Nürnberg, not Dorf or Markt Nürnberg. But arriving at London’s Liverpool Street station at 9 o’clock on a Wednesday morning made me want to pat the “city” of Nürnberg  on the head like a small child. “Oh yes, you’re getting to be such a big boy!”

Why? Well, not wanting to be those jerks with backpacks trying to make our way through the Tube, we took advantage of the sunny day and walked through the city. People in suits hustled pasts us left and right. They clutched travel mugs and to-go cups, most of them speaking authoritatively into their phones about Very Important Business.

Via Giphy. I think about this scene a LOT. While working. And discussing BUSINESS.

Or if you prefer…

Via Giphy.

Even when we reached the more tourist-filled areas, it was still easy to see the locals. More men in suits boldly crossed the street at a red light, as a group of tourists waited patiently curbside behind their guide and his flag. Joggers wove in and out of people with iPhones and selfie sticks clustered around a red phone booth. It was truly, most excellent and varied people-watching. A sure sign of a City, capital C intended.

Trafalgar Square, with the crowds behind us.

Thought 2: It’s an Oddly Familiar Place

I have only spent 8 total days in London between this visit and my last one in 2012. I have, like most Americans, a drop of two of blood from some long-gone UK relation, but I can’t say for certain if they were English or Scottish or what else. However, a lifetime of reading, and a particular love of historical fiction revolving around the British monarchy, meant that nearly every turn showed me a name or a place that I already vaguely knew. Movies and TV contribute to this too, as if there are enough British accents in something, I will watch it.

A glance at the map in Hyde Park led to us making a quick detour on our route through Kensington Gardens to see the Peter Pan statue where Lady Mary dumped Lord Gillingham on Downton Abbey.

Sorry, Tony.

Shortly after that, we spotted and swung past the nearby Albert Memorial, though sadly there was no picnicking Dowager Countess of Grantham in sight.

Albert Memorial.

As far as ACTUAL history goes, I would’ve been perfectly happy to tour the Tower of London on this trip, even if I already did it. BV and I are currently watching (rewatching for me) The Tudors, though we’re only in Season 1 and shit hasn’t really hit the fan yet. Since there’s no way he’s going to read all the books I’ve read on the subject, maybe after we finish the series (before the next trip hopefully), he’ll appreciate the creep factor of the Tower properly!

Thought 3: Look What You Did

The history of colonialism is everywhere in London from monuments of various wars to the elephants and camels around the aforementioned Albert Memorial. The oddest reminder of it, however, we happened upon by accident. My friend A used to play darts at a Mayflower Pub in San Rafael, CA. While in London, one of the few things he really wanted to do was to go visit their sister pub and so off we went. A few steps away is this statue which, since it dates from 1991, seems shockingly appropriate to the current state of affairs. Though, if the artist wanted to update the statue, he would probably have to give the figures smartphones in lieu of the magazine. Lord knows, I’ve opened Twitter and had that similar expression on my face fairly often recently. Turn back while you still can, pilgrim!

Thought 4: So Many Pubs, So Little Time

We didn’t necessarily set out to do a pub crawl on our visit, and yet we managed to hit eight of them, plus a bar and cafe with outdoor seating, aka a beer garden if you drink a beer. Which we did. I wonder if any intrepid Londoner has taken on the task of visiting all of them, which ought to earn you some sort of award from the Queen.

Keeping in mind that we live in the customer service wasteland that is Franconia, it was shocking how friendly most people were. Bartenders, patrons, the whole lot of them… it was definitely not what we are used to. From the bartender(s, it happened multiple times) who let BV sample the various choices on tap so that he could make an informed decision, to the couple who chased me outside so that they could give us their cozy nook booth when they saw us searching for a spot, it was an excellent breath of fresh air.

The Mayflower.

If you’re curious about our favorite pubs of the trip, look out for a post on that subject coming in the next few days. 🙂 Update: here!

Thought 5: The Joys of Easy-Going Friends

As alluded to earlier, we weren’t entirely on our own for this trip. We arrived on Wednesday, and on Thursday evening we met up with my old college pal A, and his lovely wife, J. We hadn’t seen them since they made their way around Germany back in 2014, and it was great to catch up. They’re fairly frequent travelers, so when they saw a good deal to London, they jumped on it and happily it worked out for us to fly up and meet them.

A and BV checking out the view from above Tower Bridge.

Anyone who has tried to travel with friends will tell you that travel style differences can be a major challenge, but this felt fairly simpatico. We stayed in different hotels (frankly, we couldn’t afford their place but its lobby was gorgeous), and met and separated as it suited us. We all had a few ideas about things we’d like to do, but no one had a checklist or a do-or-die schedule. Everyone seemed content to hang out, eat good food, see a sight or two (also from above), and wander around as long as the weather was good enough to do so. Hence our pub -> short walk to Buckingham Palace -> back to another pub on the last day. Darn you drastic temperature drop and snow!

The Tower and Tower Bridge from the Shard. A most excellent view.

All in all, it was a great, short city break. We could’ve had more time (so many more free museums filled with treasures!), but since Ryanair can get us there from Nürnberg for a reasonable price, hopefully we’ll get around to it again sometime.