27 May 2010

40th Birthdaypalooza - The Movie


During a recent trip from my cousins...

...we lunched at the Palmenhaus Café on the grounds of the Hofburg Palace.

We ate buffalo mozzarella salads...

...some lovely antipasto...

...a nice mixed cheese plate...

...and this giant whole fish!

21 May 2010

Happy Birthday

To the man who taught me that going to bed angry is a ludicrous notion. That holding a grudge does NOBODY any good...

To the man who was smart enough to recognize the girl of his dreams and hold on to her until she realized he was the man of hers....

To the man who has been devoted to his parents since I've known him...

To the man with whom I share so many private jokes we practically have our own language...

To the man who can't seem to get his clothes into his closet, and who pretends to be helpless about folding his own shirts....

To the man who remembered the names of all nine of my siblings at the first meeting...

To the man who has spent countless nights with me rearranging furniture while sharing a bottle of wine and calling it fun...

To a man who is generous in mind, body and spirit. You give freely of your time, your attention, your strength, your expertise, your wallet, your intelligence and most of all your humor...

To the man who can tell a damn good story...

To the man who has always been intelligent enough to match wits with me. You inspire me to be smarter, think quicker, act more clever and always keep 'em laughing...

To the man who still calls me cute when I am puffy and crinkled from sleep, bloodshot eyes, grumpy disposition...

To the man who lights up every room he enters. You are still the most dynamic person I have the pleasure of knowing...

To the man who has become more handsome as the years pass. Like a fine wine you've only improved with age...

To the man I share everything with, you are still the first person I want to show something cool / new / weird / funny / gross to...

To the man who has picked up and put down more hobbies than I knew existed...

To the man who taught me that balls and a loud voice will get you out of as much hot water as they will get you into. That most situations call for some guts, some leadership and a whole lot of laughter...

To the man I can fart in front of...

To the man who has given me the courage to venture beyond my comfort zone again and again. Who often believes I am smarter, worthier and more capable that I do myself. And who never stops trying to convince me...

To the man with an uncanny sense of direction, my own personal geography nerd, my fellow history buff and science fiction geek...

To the man who taught me that guilt is useless and self confidence is priceless...

To the man who has never been afraid to show his softer side. He's good with kids, likes cats, helps old people with their bags and can decorate a mean house...

To the man who was not once intimidated by seven loud and loving sisters, two gentle and protective brothers, five nieces and nephews hanging from his limbs like monkeys and so many cousins none of us can keep count. You've embraced my family as if they were your own...

To the man who takes his job of protecting me very seriously even when I scoff at him...

To the man I want by my side should any scary sh*t go down...

To the man who I want to make laugh, above all others. You're the funniest person I know, and you still laugh at all (most) of my jokes...

To the man who believes he can do anything, you've made me believe it too...

To the man I want to grow old with, to the man I am proud of, to the man I love...

Happy birthday.


19 May 2010

Everyone's Favorite Cousin

Cousin Michael & family came for a visit. They all loaded themselves onto the overnight train from Zurich and *poof* appeared like magic one rainy morning.

Moira carried the luggage.

It pretty much rained their entire visit, but we didn't let it get us down.

During a visit to the Prater amusement park, Silas tamed a tiger and a solemn Moira clung to a white pony as if her life depended on it. Moira's not a particularly serious kid, but she doesn't care to smile on demand. Thus I had a hard time snapping a smiling photo of her...

...till I got one in Mama Gabi's arms. Awwww!

Gabi got me to smile for a photo too. Maybe she is magic? (Or was it just the wine?)

Moira's a bit of lap monkey. Perfectly happy to be passed from one set of arms to another all day and night. Kid after my own heart. Cuddles on demand.

Silas is so cute I could just scream. Their whole trip I was just trying to get my arms around him for some cuddles but he's a squiggly, wiggly boy. You'll have more luck with a tickling match, a mock sword fight, spinning him around till his shoulders dislocate or a rousing game of chase. We did all of the above. Most of my pictures of him are just blurry blond shapes.

But I did get this cute one of Silas and his big brother. Juri is such a sweet soul. Soft spoken, polite, so patient and helpful with his little siblings.

He even manages not to mind Michael making a boob of himself on camera. I'm telling ya, this kid has the patience of a saint!

Chris rewards Juri by spinning him until he can not see straight.

A most enjoyable visit, all around. We ate, we tickled, we drank, we cuddled, we spun, we laughed, we rode ponies, we were damp. What more could you ask for?


18 May 2010

If you are ever...

...stuck in the passenger waiting room at Vienna's western train station because the porter on your night train in from Zurich has absconded with your return tickets, do not worry...

...they have a giant bowl of gummy bears for you to snack on while you wait.


15 May 2010

Rockin' n Roly

In Vienna it seems every third person has a rolling shopping cart. I am no exception. That’s right kids, I am rocking the roly.

These ain’t the old school metal ones you used to see rattling behind old ladies trudging through Queens. Remember them?

Wearing plastic rain bonnets, with the knee-high stockings losing elastic and starting the slow side toward the crepe soled shoes?

No no no. Today's roly carts are a whole 'nother kettle of fish. These babies got style. And options.

I’m constantly checking out passing roly carts the way you're keeping your eye on your neighbor's driveway. You look for trunk space, gas mileage and dvd players in the backseat. I look for a nice wide top opening, knobby wheels and a no slip-grip handle.

There's some that have a built in seat! There are wheels that swivel and insulated liners so your ice-pops don't melt on the way home. They come collapsible and foldable, they come with cup holders, umbrella pockets and cane hooks (a nod to our little old Woodside ladies.) You can get primary colors or an understated burberry looking plaid. Stiff squared frame? Ventilated mesh sides? Check and check. Slip off the bag and you've got yourself a nice little hand truck. There's no end to the options.

Mine is a cute little Ikea number. With a black & white graphic that makes me sing "and a partridge in a pear tree" each time I look at it. For a girl without wheels, this thing is a life changer. No more lugging home groceries in a knapsack and two shopping bags...lower back aching, shoulders creating knots on top of knots, palms gripped red and raw because I bought the big milk AND the bag of sugar.

Now I'm tooling around town, getting the big milk, the bag of sugar AND a watermelon. Happy as...well...a partridge in a pear tree.


12 May 2010

Spring Cleaning

I have been cleaning like a mofo all week. This place would GLEAM if it was capable.
Sadly all it can really do is muster up a slightly lighter shade of drab. Sigh. At least it smells nice and lemony here.


09 May 2010

Tropical Shark Coconut Hut

by Chris

The Mrs. and I were headed out to dinner the other night and decided to make our first visit to Copa Cagrana, a small area on the Danube Island that from April til September is alive with Restaraunts, Cafe's and Bars. The name comes from the district its in , Kagran, with a little word play on the Copacabana Beach in Rio. Its a tropical beachy themed area in the middle of the Danube River in Vienna....cool.

So we have dinner at a Greek place complete with live music, followed by a walk along the river. The Mrs. says to me "That place over there reminds of that place your brother used to work in Tampa....that bar...whats it called?"

And so began one of those frustrating conversations when neither of you can think of the name of something that you should remember. It went like this:

Me: hmmmmm damn I don't remember
Mrs: Sharky's?
Me: No, that was the place in LA
Kelly: Its something like that...tropical
Me: Its like Coconut Hut or something
Kelly: There was a big shark hanging in there...sure its not Sharkys?
Me: Positive...all those kind of places have sharks
Kelly: Crabby Bills?
Me: no thats the restaurant near our old house
Kelly: Sharkys?
Me: NO its not Sharkys, stop saying Sharkys I cant think!
Kelly: Coconut Petes?
Me: Banana Bar?
Kelly: Coconut Shark Petes?
Me: Lola Colada's?
Kelly: Crabby Shark Banana's?
Me: Tropinut Bananalada?
Kelly: Sharky Banana Club
Me: Mexicali Rio Crab Shack
Kelly: Bai Hai Beach Hut!
Me: No, thats the one in Sarasota we went to with Clayton
Kelly: DAMN!
Me: Coconut Joe's Mazatlan Club House
Kelly: Molly Pineapple's Banana Shack
Kelly: call Brian
Me: It costs like $2.00 from my cell phone

So I call Brian and get his voicemail...beep "yeah Bri, its me. Listen Kelly and I can't think of the name of that place you used to work...the bar with the volleyball courts. Give me a call back when you get a chance.

By this time, Kelly and I have hopped back on the subway and are downtown in the city on our way to an outdoor cafe in the old Jewish Quarter.

Me: Coconut Jimmy's Banana Bar & Grill
Kelly: TropiShark's Crab Hut
Me: Mango Bill's
Kelly: Tropical Coconut Shark
Me: Tropical Coconut Shark?
Kelly: It has Shark in it
Me: No...it doesn't
Kelly: Sharkynut Pina Banana
Me: Bahama Mama Beach Club
Kelly: ohhhhh Bahama...that sounds right
Me: Bahama Colada Shack
Kelly: Shark Bahama Shark
Me: Will you stop with the Sharks
Kelly: Shark Shark Shack
Me: I'm gonna kill myself If we don't get this soon
Kelly: Call Brian


Now we're siiting at a nice cafe looking at the oldest church in Vienna enjoying a glass of wine

Chris: Ok its a name of a place..
Kelly: and it involves a shark
Chris: NO!
Kelly: Barbados Shark Club
Chris: Fruit Beach Bar Club Hut
Kelly: Mai Tai Shot House
Chris: Outrigger Banana House
Kelly: Tequila Shark Hut!
Chris: no....Tequila Shot Shack!
Kelly: Shark Coconana Club

phone rings

Me : Hello?
Brian: Hey its me
Brian: What the hell is going on?
Brian: Take it easy...it was the Yucatan Liquor Stand.

I hang up on Brian and turn to Kelly.

Me: The Yucatan Liquor Stand
Kelly: (in tears) Thank God
We hug....
Kelly: No shark?
Me: No Shark.

07 May 2010

Color me Bad

The artist & architect Friedrich Stowasser (1928 - 2000) changed his name to Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser which roughly translates as Peaceful Rainy day Darkly multicolored Hundred water, which is reason enough for me to take a shine to a fella. But Hundertwasser did some even niftier things in his day.

Like design this awesome apartment house in Vienna. Called, what else, Hundertwasserhaus. It's still just a regular ol' city owned apartment building, so while it may be one of the most prestigious addresses in Vienna, rent isn't much higher than any other state-owned apartment building, which I think is pretty nifty.

Hundertwasser waved his fee for the design because he said it was worth the work to "prevent something ugly from going up in its place."

View of the building from around the corner. Hundertwasser incorporated trees right into the fabric of his architecture, calling them "Tree Tenants" and saying they paid more in rent than their human occupants by cleansing the city air, attracting birds, cooling with their shade and soothing with their beauty. He also typically designed planted roofs - with soil and sod, trees & bushes - all with one eye on beauty and the other on the environment.He also liked to put onion domes on top of his buildings. Can't argue with that.

There is whimsy and playfulness everywhere you look.

And lots of ceramic and mosaic work.

(Q: Why do I always make that face in photos? A: It always seems funny at the time.)

Two classic whackadoodle Hundertwasser quotes:
"An uneven floor is a melody to the feet." and "The straight line is ungodly."

The man was full of radical ideas. The "window right," for example, in which he called for every person to have the right to change the exterior of their apartment building (even a rented one!) from their window. Whatever they could reach from the window they should be allowed to scrape, resurface, tile or paint to reflect their individual outlook to the world.

Around the corner from the Hundertwasser house is another of his buildings, this one housing an art museum (filled mostly with his work.)

Even his parking spaces were all higgeldy-piggeldy.

He's been accused of being too gimmicky in his work, but I like his playfulness, the environmental factor, his bright colors and the organic feel of his work. Hundertwasser is my favorite non-conformist at the moment. Below are a couple of his other buildings and one of his paintings that I grabbed off the internet for your viewing pleasure.

Note the planted garden roof.

Dig those colors!


06 May 2010

Call me Hermione....

Diagon Alley it ain't, but I've finally found a place in Vienna to get all my magic supplies.
I think we will ALL sleep better tonight knowing that.


03 May 2010

Volcanos are Dumb

A couple weeks ago we were expecting visitors Bingo & Bobbi in from Florida. Then Iceland had to go exploding its big, stupid volcano and ruining everything. Tens of thousands of flights in and out of Europe were canceled over the course of the week and by the time the sky was declared safe for flying, it was too late and our Florida peeps never made it.

This made me sad. For many reasons.

Not the least of which involved these guys. You see, B &B's first weekend here coincided with the Steiermarkdorf, or Styrian Village Festival, in which Vienna celebrates all things farmy, folksy & Austrian. There's fresh produce and wines, wandering brass bands, lots of country-fair style food, folk dancing and just general good, wholesome fun. Loads of people turn up in traditional Austrian dress, wood chopping contests are held, the sun shines, the wine flows, the apples are farm fresh and everybody feels happy and lucky to live in such a fine country.

We would sip cold, fruity white wine, marvel at seeing more lederhosen in one place than we thought possible and chow down on strudel. And we would be able to watch the red checkered shirt dudes above do the goofy-crazy-cool slap dancing like the video below. (I wasn't able to capture a good video myself and so was forced to borrow an example from youtube. But the red checkered shirt guys were awesome, trust me.)

And so Bingo and Bobbi, feast your eyes on that and we shall dream of your next volcano-free vacation plans when we'll all feel lucky to be in such a fine country. Miss you guys.


01 May 2010

Oh Poop

This may be a case of TMI for some of you, and if so I apologize in advance. If you live by the axiom "Bodily functions are never funny" I suggest you stop reading here. For those of you who have been known to occasionally giggle after letting out a little fart…read on. But be warned, this is not for the faint of heart (heehee, say that twenty times fast.)

The Hub and I have recently moved into a new apartment with a…let's just call it… interesting feature. I'm talking about a flat-bottomed toilet bowl, people. This may not sound so comment-worthy right off the bat.

Let me explain further.

The flat part is right where, umm, stuff lands. And it is above the water line. You starting to get the picture? It's like shitting on a plate. It lands with not so much of a ker-splash as a dull thud. Disconcerting, to say the least.

Maybe it's a water saving device? Or perhaps just a temporary dogleg in the (ahem) annals of toilet engineering? After all, everything else in this apartment is circa 1962, so maybe the flat-bottomed toilet was all the rage that year.

The first thing you learn when living with this idiosyncrasy is that the water in an ordinary toilet acts as an odor catcher. Maybe it doesn't do a perfect job, but trust me on this one folks, you are better off with the water barrier than you are without it. Suddenly I find myself courtesy flushing as a courtesy to my own self.

Consequently our bathroom is now equipped with several options for combating odor: candles, incense, potpourri, several choices of industrial strength air freshener and a good old-fashioned pack of matches. Sometimes the oldest and simplest techniques are the best ones, eh?

The new throne has added a previously undiscovered, low brand humor to our household. Upon exiting the WC, the husband* now remarks upon volume. Though this is nothing new, as he has been announcing volumes like a proud poppa announcing the birth of his progeny for years. (4 lbs 2 oz, 11 inches long!) The new wrinkle is the commentary on shapes. The Fire hose. A Campfire. The Perfect pretzel. I found this funny. At first. It was only when he crossed the line into ground beef products (chilli, meatballs, sloppy joes) that I began to object. I also started cooking a lot more chicken.

(*Let's assume for the purposes of this essay the "the husband" is a fictional character, as any actual husbands may experience alarming levels of mortification if comments above were to be credited to him publicly.)

Trying to look on the bright side, I can imagine there are medical benefits. How many times has a doctor asked you about the color and consistency of your, um, BM? How many times have you been stymied by the question? Almost as ashamed to admit you haven't been examining it as you would be by admitting you have. Well with the new flat bottom…you really don't have a choice. It's there. I mean THERE. Sitting on the plate-like bottom, in all its stinky glory, practically begging to be admired and commented upon. I am tempted to make us appointments with a Gastroenterologist simply because we could now furnish him with such detail and in-depth analysis he would be astounded. We might make medical history! Certainly a journal article or two?

So for better or worse, the flat-bottomed commode has made poop a daily topic of conversation for us. Well, daily, when things are running smoothly. Thank goodness we aren't faint of heart.