The most boring decision I’ve made all year.

Since I arrived in Arlington, I’ve been trying to find the One True Grocery, and my search has been unfulfilled so far. I mentioned back on the first of November that I’ve been to a crazy number of different grocery stores since my arrival, and I still haven’t settled into a grocery routine here.

When I moved to Germany, I did some of my grocery shopping at the Globus near the office, but the vast majority was at the Kaufland a few minutes away from my apartment. Since I was walking to and from the grocery store there, I fell into the habit of only getting what I could carry. When I repatriated, I started grocery shopping with a car again and the amount of food that I bought was significantly larger. I have a tendency to overbuy, and it’s something I’ve mentioned before in this blog.

Here in Arlington, I’m somewhere between the two extremes. I’m not buying a lot of food, and that is in part because the grocery stores haven’t thrilled me yet. It’s really tough to top Publix. I’ve been to many different stores here so far, and these are my impressions so far:

  • Harris Teeter – I Teetered my Harris on my first day in Arlington, and I haven’t been back. The one I went to was a two-story affair with a very confusing layout. It looked to me like what might happen if MC Escher was really into neon and wanted very much to make a knockoff of Whole Foods. I have not yet been to a second Harris Teeter to see if a different location might suit me better.
  • Giant Food – I’ve been to two different Giants now. The first one was like a dirty, poorly stocked Winn Dixie where nineteen out of every twenty people completely ignored the directional arrows on the floor. The second one was a bit better, but I still had trouble finding everything I was looking for.
  • Safeway – I’ve been to three different local Safeways so far, and the closest location off Lee Highway is the one I’ve actually gone back to more than once. They have a decent selection, and their Zebra Cakes are always really fresh. (Snack standards are important.) I was thinking that they reminded me a lot of Albertsons, but then I found out while fact checking this post that they’re actually a subsidiary of Albertsons now, so that tracks.

I haven’t bothered to shop in Target, Trader Joes, or Whole Foods, even though they’re reasonably close. I haven’t even seen a Wal-Mart, even though there’s gotta be one nearby. And last but not least, everyone keeps telling me Wegman’s is great, but I haven’t felt like driving half an hour each way for groceries.

If even a single one of these stores carried absolutely everything I wanted, I would keep going back to that one over and over again, but some things are just incredibly difficult to find.

For example, my favorite pickles are Claussen, but they’re not carried anywhere locally except for Wal-Mart. I did try Vlasic again, and I immediately regretted that decision. They taste like turmeric and existential dread.

As an aside, when I couldn’t find Claussen in six different stores, I turned to the Internet for reassurance that they were still being sold, and I was treated to the most delightfully unlikely sentence I’ve ever seen online:

“The Federal Trade Commission blocked the proposed merger on the grounds that it would have severe anticompetitive effects, leading to a monopoly in the refrigerated-pickle market.”

So that’s where things stand with the Great Grocery Selection of 2020. They opened a Wegman’s in Tyson’s Corner this week, so maybe I’ll finally give that a try this weekend. Or maybe I’ll finally give in and just go the Instacart route. If you’ve read this post all the way to the end, then bless your heart! It’s definitely not my most interesting work. If you’ve read this far, you deserve a treat, like a cookie or a White Claw or something. Treat. Yo. Self!

Do you have a favorite grocery store?

27/52 (and 6 of 30!)

A Place For My Stuff

I finally got around to viewing some of the commercials from this year’s Superbowl, and this one just left me feeling unsettled.

About five months after I got back to the US, I talked about the level of insanely overwhelming choice in grocery stores here.   At the time, I was still shopping the way that I did in Germany- one or two canvas bags of food at a time.

Since then, I’ve expanded my shopping a little bit, but not very much.  I still carry canvas bags into the grocery store, but sometimes I take plastic bags away with me also.  My grocery habits are more expansive than they were while I lived in Germany, but they’re still nowhere near what they were before I lived overseas.   I’ve actually taken photographs of every load of groceries I’ve purchased in the past sixteen months, so maybe I’ll come back to that in a future post.

Since I got back, I’ve gotten a car and an apartment and all the trappings of American life-  I’ve purchased a television and a vacuum, a microwave and a toaster.   I’ve populated my apartment with furniture, although a large percentage of that furniture came from Ikea.

Here’s the thing, though-  I’ve never felt truly comfortable with simple accumulation.  Those who have known me for years know that I had a slightly anti-stuff mindset even before I lived overseas.  I’ve always gone through cycles of decluttering, and of getting rid of stuff.  My aversion to just accumulating belongings is borderline pathological.

Perhaps that aversion is part of why the Rocket Mortgage commercial leaves such a terrible taste in my mouth.  It’s more than that, though.  This commercial represents everything that I think is wrong with America’s consumer-driven, greed-centric culture.

“Buy a house so you can fill it with more stuff so you can support the economy so more people can buy houses that they need to fill with stuff.”    Lather, rinse, repeat.

Maybe I’m in the minority here, but that cycle of buying and buying and buying doesn’t make me feel good.  Even without getting into the environmental effects of this cycle, or the politics of finance, it just feels skeevy somehow.   Buying to support buying to support buying feels so pointless, and basing a business model on the idea that other people should spend their money that way… well that just seems evil to me.

What do you think, readers?  Is there a Mr. Burns type behind this whole endeavor?  Or am I just overthinking it?

All I need is a pith helmet.

The more time I spend in South Florida, the more I feel like Uncle Travelling Matt.  So much of life here is just a little bit alien to me now.  Take this, for example-  the weird flavors that are appearing on things are just strange to me.  I’m pretty sure this is a Thanksgiving holiday flavor:


Speaking of flavors, I’m trying something I’ve wanted to try for months: Naturebox.  Naturebox is a subscription service that delivers healthy snacks right to your door. I first heard about this on a podcast while I was still in Germany, and I wanted to try it then, but I held off until I got back to the US because it’s not really an international service as far as I know.  (Administrative note:  I am not being reimbursed or compensated in any way for talking about Naturebox.  However, if any of you want to try it, let me know because I can give you a code that will give you ten bucks off your first shipment.)


So far, I’ve only opened a few of my snacks.  The guacamole bites are delicious, but wickedly salty.  I won’t be getting these again because I can only eat a few before I need to rehydrate.


The salted caramel pretzel pops are sweetly delicious, however.


And now for some random stuff… I’ve been having trouble this week coming up with a coherent blog post topic, so I’m just going with random stuff from my last seven days.  For example, Amelie and I went to the South Florida Ikea.  It’s a little different than Regensburg’s Ikea, but it’s similar enough in most ways to actually make me breathe a tiny sigh of relief at the sameness.

Neither of us can pass a display of stuffed animals without playing with them, by the way.  This is her with some bears.


Every time I passed a bin of stuffed animals in the store, I tried to give them all better vantage points.  This one was a joint effort.  We are roughly twelve years old.


I commented on one of my last posts about all the super nice cars in South Florida-  not a day goes by that I don’t see a Maserati or a Lamborghini or a Ferrari.    But not everyone in South Florida is rich, and sometimes you see the opposite end of the spectrum also.  For example, this clever usage of custom duck tape was spotted in the parking lot at Target.


Most of the time, it’s relaxing being back in the land of everyone speaking English.  However, speaking English doesn’t mean you can type it.  I promise, my name has never actually been spelled “STEVN” before, and I’ve no idea where the H came from.


In my search for a new tagline, I came up with the idea a few nights ago to use “Whimsy is my resting state.”  That wasn’t quite it, though, and so I decided today to rename the tagline at the top of the blog with “Sunshine.  Whimsy.  Tacos.”  I really couldn’t leave the tacos out.

As for the sunshine, it’s this-  it’s all to easy to forget during my day to day grind that in this part of Florida, I’m never more than a few minute’s drive away from this view:



I didn’t know that was German!

There are a number of companies that I’ve known my entire life, without realizing that it started here and not in the US.   I knew that BMW, Mercedes, and Audi were all German companies.   I was clear that Bayer (the pharmaceutical company) was from Germany.  But there are a bunch of European names that surprised me.

Red Bull is an Austrian company.  The tiny Smart car was a joint venture between Swatch and Mercedes.  There are two that really surprised me, though.

Adidas and Puma:    Adolph “Adi” Dassler and his brother, Rudolf “Rudi” Dassler founded Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) in the 1920s.   They split in 1947, and Rudolf created a competing shoe company, called Ruda at first, and later renamed to Puma.  In 1949, Adi renamed his company to Adidas.

I spent my high school years thinking that the name Adidas was an acronym for “All day I dream about sports,” but it’s really named for the founder.  Adi Dassler.  As a result, I’ve always mispronounced the name.  I was pronouncing this ah-deed-ahs, but that’s wrong.  The emphasis  is on the first and third syllables, not the middle syllable:  Ah-dee-das. 

Haribo, the company that made the first Gummibärchen, or Gummy Bears, is from Bonn, Germany.  I thought Haribo was a Japanese company, but it was founded in 1920 by Hans Riegel, Sr.   The name of the company is a portmanteau:   Hans Riegel, Bonn.

Are there any companies with origins that have surprised you?

Stop! Gummi Time!

Those who have known me for a long time know that for most of the last twelve years or so, I used Flintstones chewable vitamins.  I wanted to take a daily multivitamin, but I cant stand the pill form vitamins I’ve tried, and the Chewables seemed like a nice compromise.

(And before you protest that Flintstone’s Chewables are for kids, I will inform you that they are often suggested by doctors for pregnant women who can’t stomach neonatal vitamins without nausea.  If they’re good enough for pregnant women, they’re good enough for me.)

When I got to Germany, I found that it was difficult to easily find the sorts of things that I used to just walk into Walgreen’s for back in the US.  The brands just aren’t always available.    When I ran out of my Flintstone’s, I had to decide what to do about my vitamin intake.  This is what I decided on:  Gummi Bear vitamins.  I eat a few of these every day.  It’s fun.  And tasty.  And it’s theoretically healthy, too.