It’s been a while since the duck and I last professed our undying love for grocery shopping. Since then, there have been a few changes. Let’s start with the obvious one: In the last three years, various rules concerning store capacity, face visibility, and personal space were introduced and adapted. However, the biggest one for the duck and me was paying for our shop – we finally learned about checkouts and ceased walking out of the store, bags almost bursting with free groceries- ouch! The duck’s bad joke nudges have become more forceful. I should probably look into limiting the duck’s regular yoga master drills to five per day. Bad jokes aside, I used to love playing store with miniature groceries, plastic money, and cash register sound effects. The only reason I stopped was a halt in playdate invitations. Fortunately, real grocery shopping turned out to be nearly as fun. Can you imagine my delight when I get to use self-service checkout machines? Even at a regular register, paying for my purchases in cash, ideally with exact change, was fun. As a bonus, I always precisely remembered how much I had spent on my shopping trips.
When shoppers were asked to kindly pay cashless in 2020, I acquiesced. At first, I used the chip readers and was called back to fetch my card several times. Once, I left it at a self-service checkout. When I returned the next day to retrieve it, I was scolded by the employee as he returned my card. I have since progressed to touch-to-pay. Fortunately, I’m naturally frugal (which is what I should call my stinginess from now on), so I’m never severely surprised by the total on my receipt. But that’s because I already am when I see the price tags in-store and internally exclaim: “I remember a time when bread was basically free… because I was a freeloading child-” ouch! When we saw that most of our staples were spared from intense price hikes, the duck and I boldly declared our fortunateness. Unsurprisingly, inflation caught up with us. Now we cry whenever we buy oatmeal at a 40% higher price than before. We’re still shopping cheaper and healthier than in Japan, so we shouldn’t complain.
What’s your stance on grocery shopping? Do you have a preferred way to pay? What is your favorite country/city/store to shop in?
When the duck and I woke up to sunshine and this meteorological winter’s first frost a few weeks ago, we knew we’d regret not attempting to preserve it photographically. The combination of bright sunlight after weeks of dark grey skies and a thin layer of glittering frost over everything was thrilling to behold. Fueled by our morning cup of coffee, the duck and I grabbed our trusty camera friend and our coats, hats, scarves, and gloves, eager to capture the icy beauty before it disappeared. It was freezing out – obviously. But the pretty sights and Pluto, our new canine acquaintance who excitedly ran toward my hunched figure (in accidental outdoor yoga terms: “crouching crow observing perching crow”) to have an animated chat with the duck, were a great distraction. Still, for a brief moment, the duck and I shared a wistful daydream about last summer’s heat waves– until we discovered our next photo subject. Here’s a selection of our (partly overexposed) spoils from that marvelous – but biting – morning:
Despite the lingering fear that my hands would be too numb to turn the front door key (which has happened before) that day, the duck and I love reminiscing about our fresh frost photo stroll… with a cup of warm tea nearby. Do you (already) have a favorite memory from this season?
The duck and I have a history of trying to buy seasonal chocolate too late (which, in Germany, equals about a month into the respective season). So, when we discovered an image of limited edition pumpkin spice Schogetten online in early autumn, the duck spent every grocery shop scanning the chocolate aisle. To no avail. Instead, we found Christmas-themed Veganz chocolate. Upon further inspection of the bookmarked image, we realized that, though we consider pumpkin spice an autumn flavor, these Schogetten were part of a limited winter edition trio – together with a white cinnamon- and a dark mint candy cane variety. We love cinnamon. And after last summer’s lemon cupcake debacle, we decided to also give the dark variety a chance to help us trust Schogetten again (you never know). The more chocolate we try, the better the chances of finding one we love, right? We still had to find these limited-edition chocolates. And it took us months to locate a store that carried all three. At least we got to buy them on sale. After searching for so long, the duck and I were thrilled to finally hold these chocolate cubes in pretty boxes in our wings and hands. Now we only had to try them – for this year’s first super-specific taste test:
“…Froduck Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to,” the duck recounted before announcing the first cookie break in the 4-hour-long retelling of a recent dream. I was extremely relieved when I realized the duck had dreamed of having friendly conversations with Gandalf, one of the safer fictional friend options. In fact, I was so relieved that I decided to base my next movie still duckification on the duck’s shot-by-shot retelling of Peter Jackson’s 2001 adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings:The Fellowship of the Ring, “but with a protagonist with the right amount of feathers.”
This was initially meant to be a quick sketch to base the duckification on (hence the weird anatomy). Then, I realized the sketch had magically become the picture (and the anatomy an “abstract choice”). Besides the slight divergence in plumage, there’s another crucial difference between a standard hobbit and a cheeky duck: fingers. The duck has none. Therefore, in the “clearly superior version” of the story about “leaving home to kick butt, featuring a true protagonist with a neat ring,” said ring actually needs to be held tight with a wing-palm to work. According to the duck, “that whole thing about rings going on fingers was just a mistranslation of the instructions booklet that came with the first ring ever made by Sir Ringleton Duck III, one of my many distinguished ancestors. Thence, I should know!” So, yeah, I’ll leave it at that. I’m just glad the duck seems to have obtained a massive confidence boost after that whole letter-writing debacle. Also, I think the quote at the beginning of this post would be a perfect point to add to any New Year’s Resolutionslist. In fact, we’re still working on our punctuality streak – one slow jog at a time.
Our friend Y moved to Wales some time ago. The duck and I haven’t managed to visit her yet. But, after she sent us a postcard with a recipe for Pice ar y maen, an enticing Welsh treat, the duck and I knew we had to try it. It only took us well over a year and the passing of the best-before date of the dried currants we had imported for this sole purpose. Despite our unreliable baking skills, the result was worth it. When we devoured our first portion of Welsh cakes, the duck and I almost felt as if we were in Wales for a moment. Five smug powdered sugar flakes for a successful imaginary jaunt to Wales ✧✦✧✦✧
Now we only have to get our physical bodies onto the sofa/spare bed in our friend’s Welsh house. I’m sure that after we eat real Welsh cakes, the duck and I will revoke the favorable rating of my baking attempt. Until then, I will be the one who made the best Pice ar y maen the duck has ever eaten. Ha!
P.S.: I promise the next post of this sort will celebrate a snack we ate outside our home!
Earlier, I disclosed that having almost all our friends live at least an hours-long train ride away has taken a toll on the duck who is much more social than I am. We’ve had a long talk in which I apologized for not honoring the duck’s extravert needs, and the duck promised to give me a heads-up before sending off any villain-club application forms. Like the duck, I don’t love living far away from most of our friends. But I also think it isn’t all bad. When I asserted that in our discussion, the duck demanded scientific proof. I laughed. The duck stared at me with a straight face.
Befuddled, I grabbed a pen from my neverending stash, some paper, and a couch catalog for the duck to peruse as I composed this list:
At the beginning of the year, I wrote about wanting to break my habit of being a completionist. I‘ve gotten worseam still working on that.
‘Tis the season of Christmas cookies and extra-delicious food, a.k.a. the perfect backdrop for writing about one completionist habit I don’t mind (though it does annoy people around me): food. Whenever I prepare a meal that’s not entirely inedible, I will eat it. I happily finish my plate, refrigerate or freeze intended leftovers, and always use up all the ingredients I buy – unless they’ve gone bad prematurely. The only time I’m not happy with this habit is when I eat out and haven’t brought an empty container for leftovers. Last summer, in a rare instance of outside dining, I ordered a vegetable pasta dish that was served in a medium-sized frying pan! The portion was at least 2-3 large leftover lunches large. I determinedly switched to main quest mode and began shoveling. When I had reached satisfactory fullness, you could hardly tell I had transferred any skillet pasta onto my plate. I was on a mission. So, I kept eating. I hadn’t felt that full in months years! But my aversion to wasting food trumped the growing fear of my stomach bursting. I kept on eating… until a knight in shining armor and an apron appeared at my side. Our excellent server had noticed my pained face and offered me a takeaway box for my leftovers. Yes! There’s no way I could have finished this pan-sized portion. My no-food-goes-to-waste-willpower has its limits.
I felt regret: Why hadn’t I thought about inquiring about a container myself (I would have happily paid for one) before the pain had set in? But I was also happy that I had one more day of good food before reverting to my own miserable cooking attempts. Thankfully, the duck wasn’t there to witness my embarrassment… or cheer me on all the way to my painful demise.
The duck and I have lived in a few different places. As have nearly all our friends. As a result, we don’t live near most of them these days. Seeing a friend face-to-face once or twice in a decade (if we’re lucky) has become the norm. In the past few years, however, the duck and my laziness has almost entirely squelched our ambition to travel (that, and that other thing). Because of that, we have delayed long overdue in-person get-togethers even more than usual. Fortunately, we can use the internet and snail mail (though our trust in the German postal service has reached a new low) to exchange life updates. Unfortunately, the duck and I are lazy, so it usually takes us months to respond to messages and arrange digital catch-up sessions. We’re lucky to have such understanding friends who don’t judge us too harshly (to our faces) for our intense laziness. While I function well with little social interaction (past the everyday kind), it’s tough for the duck to have me, a self-proclaimedsmall-talk adversary, as the only available conversation partner most of the time. That’s why, a few months ago, the duck started striking up conversations with every dog, cat, horse, crow, goose, mouse, and earthworm we encountered on slow jogs or walks around the neighborhood. At first, I was happy the duck had found a way to satisfy those social cravings. However, a few weeks ago, I saw the duck had transitioned to engaging in lengthy one-sided conversations with characters inside the TV.
When I caught the duck composing an affectionate letter to an antagonist in a movie we hadn’t watched together in months, I realized I needed to pay more attention to what entertainment the duck consumes. I can’t have the duck join any fictitious villainous circles now, can I (note to self: revisit 1984 as a negative example)? Who knows what real-world repercussions that could have?! And maybe, just maybe, it’s also time we put away our laziness and do some more traveling so that we can once again catch up with physical friends on couches worldwide. Having had only one of those longer-distance catch-up trips in the past three years is embarrassing, even for someone as naturally reclusive as me. As is having the duck strike up imaginary friendships with not-very-nice people.
Three years ago, the duck and I wrote about how we like to take autumnal neighborhood walks with our camera from time to time. When we jog (these days, at an increasingly decreasing speed), we routinely take in the seasonal changes in our current neighborhood. But we’re also routinely too lazy to go out with a camera afterward to capture them. So, today, the duck and I want to share some pictures from when we visited our friend in Louisville, Kentucky, years ago. In Gourds of Halloween Past, I mentioned that we spent most of our time being collectively lazy indoors. I also noted that our trusty camera’s battery died halfway through the pumpkin path. To those of you (= positively no one) who wondered how that could have happened – how many photos could we possibly have taken indoors, and did we not learn from our Tachikawa fiasco? – this is the reason: I lied. While we did spend most of our time on a comfy sofa, watching TV, playing games, and catching up, we occasionally left the apartment – sometimes even twice a day! On one of those days, we experienced the Louisville Jack O’Lantern Spectacular. A few hours before we were to admire thousands of Halloween pumpkins, our friend suggested we go for a walk. So, the duck and I grabbed our camera (presumably with a fully charged battery) to take some foliage photos. We never shared any of them, probably because most of them weren’t remotely pretty. Well, the duck and my standards have lowered since then, and our laziness is here to stay. So, once again, we’re falling back on photos we’ve taken at a slightly more productive time. Here ya go:
I think we took these photos at Cherokee park, but (if I don’t forget) I’ll confirm with our faraway friend the next time we chat. Until then, have a pleasant autumn (or spring), and don’t forget to schedule some lazy hours.
In case you were wondering, this isn’t a typo. Neither is it a sad attempt at finally being considered hip kids (I can’t speak for any of the other titles the duck and I have come up with, though). Veganz is a German food brand that focuses on plant-based products and strives toward increased sustainability. Usually, Veganz is too pricey for our stingy little hearts. When we found that they had added two Christmas-themed chocolate bars to their range, however, the duck and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to expand our non-dark vegan chocolate experiences. At first, we wanted to go with “Organic White Baked Apple” because we had never tried vegan white chocolate and had some leftover regret about dropping last year’s plan to do a completely apple-themed Christmas treat taste test. When we saw that “Organic Gingerbread Magic” sports a gianduja base, another version of vegan chocolate we’d never tried before, the duck and I agreed to splurge. Paying a combined non-discounted 5+ Euros for two Christmas-themed 80-90g chocolate bars to celebrate our favorite season for German snacks was totally fine… we had to repeat to ourselves over and over. Veganz might be too cool for discounts, but the duck and I aren’t too cool for new taste experiences. So, here are our subjective thoughts on two of the fanciest chocolate bars we’ve invested in: