27 November 2009

Happy Birthday Aunt Jackie !

If you look up Great Aunt in the dictionary, it says :

Great Aunt - (noun)
1. A sister of ones grandparent

I reject this for being too plain. This doesn't do justice to my Aunt Jackie, so therefore I am rewriting this definition.

Great Aunt (noun)
1. A sister of ones grandparent

2. A relative you can always count on, no matter what

3. A source of neverending support

4. A bottomless well of love, affection and kindness

5. A photographer who has amassed 3,784,502 pictures....many blurry

6. The person who knows EVERYONES name, birthday, middle name and relation to each other and can clear up any misunderstanding while making coffee for 14 people at the same time.
"Aunt Jack, cousin so-and-so and I were just talking, how are we related ?"

7. The hostess with the mostest.

8. The one person you know who is ALWAYS happy to see you

Anyone who has met Aunt Jack has been inspired by her compassion, awed by her graciousness, impressed by her energy and humbled by her faith.

Today we celebrate her birthday.

Happy Birthday Aunt Jackie.

23 November 2009

Silver Bells....

You can't swing a cat in Vienna without hitting something beautiful and Christmassy.

Vienna after dark is breathtaking, my favorite time to wander the city no matter what the season. But decked out for the holidays? Magical. Capital M. My night time photos haven't really come out well so far - but I promise to keep on trying. In the meantime here are a couple daytime shots I took today....

Christkindlmärkte at the Rathaus. Can you see the windows in blue? The city hall building is done up like a huge advent calendar!

Spittelberg - my favorite market so far in a quaint little cobblestoned neighborhood. Here's a lil corner all dressed up and ready for the night time crowd to show up and glug down some glühwein.

Expect more Christmas market posts soon.


19 November 2009

Advertising Gone Wrong

This advert is up all over Vienna, larger than life. It doesn't make me want to eat so much as run screaming in the opposite direction. I admit to being more than a little afraid of this lady. If this poster were three dimensional I could fit my whole torso in her mouth. She's HUGE. I worry that sandwich may just be the appetizer and the monster will be setting her sites on me next. I wouldn't be surprised if there were live kittens on that sandwich!

Take a closer look. Does this make you want to eat anything? You want some of whatever she's about to devour? And what the hell is that thing she's going to cram into her gaping maw?

Looks like a piece of bread on a roll. That's not going to satisfy the appetite of a fifty foot woman.

Read the billboard and we see it's actually a leberkäsesemmel, which translates as liver-cheese sandwich.

Mmmmm. Giganta like.


14 November 2009

One Perspective

You know the old story about three blind men describing an elephant? One touches the trunk and declares an elephant is just like a snake. The second blind man bumps against the elephant's side and says this animal is most like a wall, while the third, grabbing hold of a leg, proclaims the elephant to be exactly like a tree.

After a lovely day out with The Hub, I often think if we each produced a blog post based on our impressions of the day, most people wouldn't be able to tell we were talking about the same outing.

All of which is neither here nor there, just me ruminating. Now, let us revisit last Saturday. The Hub had a rare day with no work obligations so we headed out and decided to explore Leopoldstadt, district 2 of Vienna. (Here is where Chris would insert a handy map showing Vienna's districts along with a link to some interesting facts about the neighborhood, but I am neither helpful nor informative so tough crackers.)

Instead I will tell you that I saw a man wearing a hat just like this (my stealth-photo did not come out well.) It was pretty cool. Much to my delight we had stumbled upon a Hasidim neighborhood. I find them strangely fascinating, kinda like the Amish. Exotic but stand-offish. And with funny hats.

Also we explored a cool park, whose name I forgot and refuse to look up for you. It had these lovely long tree lined allées, quiet except for the crunch of leaves as people strolled along.

Elsewhere in the park there was movement of a decidedly more active nature. The place fairly bristled with joggers. Here I am standing in their way, eating fries. That's how I roll.

You're probably noticing that giant tower in the background, there were two of them in the park. All looming, abandoned and spooky. It's a crumbling Nazi relic that shot down planes and housed troops and had tunnels and stuff. It's called a flakturm and if this were Chris's post he'd tell ya all about them and post the photos we took.

I am going to show you this toilet instead, because it was also spooky (though not looming). The photo hardly does it justice but it was the steepest, deepest toilet I've ever seen. With a hole at the bottom that looked like it led to the center of the earth. Flakturm connection? Only Chris would know a fact like that.

And the final highlight of the day: stumbling across a rally, fund-raiser, festival thingy. It seemed to be about preventing something being built (or maybe trying to get something built) and it was hot mulled wine, hippy folk and gypsy band. All in all, a good day.

I wonder what Chris's day was like?


12 November 2009

Mama at Schönbrunn Palace

We couldn't have Mom in Vienna and not take her to Schönbrunn Palace. The former Imperial summer residence of the Hapsburgs.

As far as palaces go....its pretty sweet.We took our time and avoided the big groups. You're not allowed to take pictures in the palace....but I had to snap a few.

Below, Mom listens to the audio guide while I take a stealthy picture.

We found ourselves pretty much alone in the main ball room, so it was a good opportunity for another stealthy pic. This room has obviously held some very important events and had some famous visitors. Besides the Hapsburgs, and every VIP in Europe for hundreds of years, Napoleon lived here when he occupied Vienna, twice.

In 1961 Kennedy & Khrushchev held their summit in this room. Pretty neat.

Luckily it was a beautiful day as Schönbrunn has some of the most beautiful gardens in Europe.

There are English Gardens, French Gardens, a 250 yr old Orangerie, a Maze, 32 giant sculptures of deities, a botanical garden, and the world's oldest zoo(1752).

and beautiful views....like this one.

The garden axis points towards a 60 meters higher hill, which is crowned by the Gloriette.
Built in 1775, it was designed to glorify Hapsburg power.

Moms love Palaces...and Moms love Gardens...perfect !

We couldn't see all the gardens, they're just too big !

We did get a good sampling though...its a really great place to just stroll around.

and people watch...

then, we stumbled upon another one of the Gardens attractions.

The Palm House.

Built in the 1880's, the giant Victorian style greenhouses are home to thousands of varieties of plants, mostly tropical.

For a few bucks you can wander around and check them all out.

The structures themselves are incredible.

When we got to the Orchids, Mom said "ohhhhh I love Orchids...but every one I touch dies"

MOM ! Don't kill the Imperial Orchid Collection ! back away from the orchids.

We had a nice time.

Before we headed back to the house, I asked Mom if she wanted to stop for lunch maybe a Falafel Pita ? She then informed me "I've never had Falafel"

Well now she has.

(no orchids were harmed during the making of this vacation)

08 November 2009

Southland Crap

Want to waste 144 minutes ? Watch this crap movie.

Thanks alot Richard Kelly you freakin wacko.....you thought this was good ? You sent it to Cannes ?

You got me. I was fooled by your star studded cast.

I read the reviews which either called it the best movie of 2007 or the biggest dump of ever. I thought that I was smarter then your average movie goer and that I would "get it".

I didn't it....and neither did Kelly...

Garbage Poop.

06 November 2009

Mom goes back to her roots

One side trip we had to make while Mom was in Vienna, was back to Hungary where her grandparents came from almost 100 years ago.

We don't know where they exactly came from (still looking into that), but we do know it was probably Western or North Western Hungary....so off to Sopron we went.

Kelly and I had been to Sopron a month or so ago on a Sunday, and everything was closed. We were looking forward to seeing everything open this time....but NO !

It was 1956 Uprising Anniversary Day...a National Holiday....everything was closed...again !

Undeterred, we wandered around and showed Mom this very cute, little, old city. We visited the memorial to the Cold War and the Iron Curtain (20th anniversary of the borders opening)

Mom thought the Soviet Era cars, theTrabant, were cute...so I had to stop Kelly from putting it in her purse.

and, OF COURSE, we went to Attila's for Gulasch.

The waiter did everything but roll his eyes when he asked for our orders and one by one we all said "hmmmmmm I'll have the Gulasch"

It was freakin' delicious...yummy yum yum

We walked around the old town and had a grand ol time.

Mom and Kelly got tired of posing for pictures, so they decided on action shots.

Here they are pointing at a tower. Exciting, right ?

Sopron has all kind of nifty nooks and crannies.

This store sign had us humming tunes from Mary Poppins

and then of course, there was this

Follow the Yellow Brick Curb. Follow the Yellow Brick Curb.
Follow, follow, follow, follow,
Follow the Yellow Brick Curb.

04 November 2009

Taking Pictures that Nobody Wants to See

During a recent visit from sister Laura Jane, we discovered an alarming trend: neither of us was willing to pose for photos. Call us shy, call us humble, call us self-absorbed and self-conscious. Or just call us women-of-a-certain-age. When you don't like what you see 95 times out of 100, you become a little gun-shy.

Should you find yourself in this predicament while on holiday, there are many tactics worth exploring. Below are just a few Lolly and I used.

(St Stephen's basilica, Budapest)

Lala's tip: It's all in the framing....

(The Hofburg, Vienna)

...reserving just a tiny corner of a shot for the faraway face of your subject is one form of damage control. Genius!!

The photo-awkwardness escalated when you consider I only had HER as my subject and she only had ME. So for any trip-documenting to take place one of us HAD TO POSE or we'd just be taking pictures that nobody wants to see.

"Wanna see my vacation photos? Here's a picture of a beautiful building. Here's another beautiful building. Oh look, another photo of a beautiful building!"


(atop St Stephen's Basilica, Budapest)

We did manage to get one or two nice ones of us together when some unsuspecting slob asked us to take a photo of him and his girlfriend (wife, mistress, dominatrix.)
"Quid pro quo, mein freund. I scratch your back, you scratch ours. But at a distance please."

Which brings us to the next arrow in my quiver...

(Courtyard at Salzburg Castle)

Afraid of the lens? Distance is your friend! The further away the camera is, the less likely it will pick up distinguishing features and flaws. The astute reader might also note that the classic head tilt and half turn poses are being put to good use here.

Along with the pointed toe and a well placed hand covering those pesky extra chins, these helpful hints all serve to confuse and confound. Distract the eye from the size of your pores, the little paunch in your middle area, the fact that your roots are four weeks overdue...

(Our favorite accidentally-stumbled-across Austrian restaurant with the sweet lederhosen-wearing waiter)

Blurry pictures, while usually not desirable, can sometimes act as an anti-aging device for the vacationing photographer. The above photo also demonstrates the maxim - if we don't know him, we don't care if he looks bad in the picture. When reviewing vacation photos, stay focused, it's always all about you.

(At Gary und Inge's Gasthaus in Vienna.)

Fuzzy photos, much like low lighting, can be a lady's friend.

(Beggar markings / hobo code carved into a medieval door on the oldest street in Salzburg.)

The above photo illustrates several techniques. (Care should be taken when attempting something this complex, Lola is an experienced hand at these methods.) Note that Laura is only partially in the frame, she is interacting with the historical thingamabob and, this is key, HER BACK IS TO THE CAMERA. A good picture every time!

(Salzburg Castle)

A different and somewhat controversial approach: deliberately acting silly (again, "while at a distance" makes a perfect compliment to almost any of these schemes.)

Kissing cousin to the "deliberately acting silly" gambit is the "making a funny face" move. In this maneuver, you are being funny looking ON PURPOSE. Thereby eliminating anyone's right to nitpick their way through your appearance.

(dinner at sidewalk cafe in Prague)

Fair warning to those of you out there wishing to try this ploy: you are walking a fine line between being funny and being so hideous people will turn in fear and revulsion. There is the VERY RARE occasion when you are trying this method and actually end up with a photo of you looking pretty (and funny) as Lolly exemplifies above.

These rare occurrences should be shared with the world at large whenever possible. Make it your facebook, gmail and skype profile pic. Show the world you are neither old nor painfully self conscious. You might even fool them.

One last modus operandi I'd like to pass on, though we weren't able to actually make use of: color settings on your camera.

We couldn't for the life of us figure out how to change Lala's camera to the often more flattering sepia or black-and-white settings. We tried for FIVE WHOLE MINUTES then gave up and stuck to blurry shots, corners of frames and photos of stuff nobody wants to see. Watch future posts for pictures of beautiful buildings in Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Budapest & Venice.


p.s. For the record - of course I think Laura is beautiful and she finds me adorable. But this matters not.