about a dream: 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

Ringing in a New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!

We've made some resolutions that I'm going to share with you:

Maggie's resolution: to not kill papa
Nina's resolution: to try to go to bed more straightaway
Desiree's resolution: to stop singing my own songs and to dance less often but better
Nick's resolution: to do fun every day ("fun" remember is when he throws Nina and Maggie up in the air. This will have the added benefit of helping Maggie keep her resolution).

We hope that 2013 is filled with family fun, easy bedtimes, good singing and dancing, and not killing anyone in your family and ours!

(With that, I have to run. I think Maggie is having trouble keeping her resolution).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Two quick funnies

Yesterday at the museum, there was a fountain out in front that was covered for the winter. On the (wooden) cover was a sign that said "Besteigen verboten." I read it aloud to the girls and said, "Well verboten means forbidden, but I'm not sure what 'besteigen' means... maybe climbing?" and Nina said, "It means totally."

Totally forbidden! It actually does mean climbing, but for some reason this just cracked me up. Nick said "bestens" does mean totally, so maybe she just confused it. Either way, I like her translation better.

The other cute was when Maggie came up to me and said, "Do you know how to make pink?" and I pretended I didn't so she could tell me, and she said, "you mix a little bit of red, a little bit of blue, some white, and, voilĂ ! Pink!"

VoilĂ ! She also got some marker on my sheets this afternoon and said, "Mom, come quick! This is tragic!"

These kids are non-stop laughs!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Vienna Museum of Natural History

Here we are out in front. Check out that bit of sky there in the corner, too! Blue as can be! This is honestly the best day we've had all month.

Here's Maggie on top of a bronze elephant right in front of the museum.

First we went to the hall of mammals, where they have a rather impressive taxidermy collection. But you know what I like about stuffed animals? A) They're right there in front of you, at eye level, so you can get a good long look at them, and B) They don't smell (I'm forever traumatized by the NY Aquarium and their open-air penguin exhibit. I haven't been there since I was like, 6, so you know it was bad).

Check this out:
It's the southern elephant seal. I didn't even know these existed! It's both the largest pinniped (fin-footed animal, thank you wikipedia. I didn't learn too much at the museum, as most of the text was in German) and the largest carnivorous mammal in the world. I didn't know there were two kinds of elephant seals! I thought there were just the ones that we saw in California. I even did a report on elephant seals in the 4th grade, but do you think I picked up on this bit of wisdom in my research? No. Of course, there was no internet then... back then news of the existence of a southern elephant seal was probably still making its way up north, by boat of course.

Enormous. That thing is enormous!

Then we went downstairs for the minerals and dinosaurs. I had never heard of this particular creature before. Do you know what it is? Guess:
It's a terror bird. What an awesome name for an animal. That's us looking terrified! The plaque beneath it said these bad boys only went extinct 17,000 years ago, which would put them on the Earth at the same time as humans. BUT, Nick and I googled that, and apparently there's some real controversy over that number. More recent dating puts the youngest fossils at about 2 million years old.

Here's where hear mom's voice in my head. "How do they know? They think they know, but they don't. They're just making it up." The original skeptic, that's mom.

I tried to get the girls to look terrified for me, but Nina wasn't in the mood:
I think that's a cross between her "bored" face and her "I'm way too old for this nonsense" face. You decide.

We also saw some very cool minerals in the mineral hall. Guess what these are:
Salt crystals!

After all that, we were totally exhausted. We saw about 2/3 of the museum, but we cruised through at least half of that on top speed. There are only so many stuffed birds with German names that you can look out without getting totally overwhelmed and overstimulated.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sunshine, on my shoulders, makes me happy!

Lovely sky, isn't that? I took that photo this summer because it was such a picturesque cloud. I also had the idea that I should build up my own "stock photo" collection, in case I needed some pics for the blog. Brilliant, and prescient! Because today's post is all about weather.

I know I've mentioned it in passing, but I haven't really spent a good deal of time harping on the weather here in Baden. It's awful. It was absolutely lovely until about mid-October; sunshine, warm, even hot! And then, just like that, the clouds rolled in.
They look like this. Minus that little break on the right side there.

Initially, it was as much fog as clouds. We didn't see the sun for weeks. Surprise! Fall in lower Austria is like London!

Then it broke for about a week in November, and I was like, "yay! It's done!"

But, no. The fog and clouds came back. I'd say we've averaged one day a week with any sunshine at all, and that's generally a half an hour to maybe, maybe 2 hours of sun. Per week!

There is no telling when the sun will come back. We had a half an hour today, and I had the girls sit in it with their shirts up to make as much vitamin D as possible. They were confused, but they humoured me. Boothbay may be colder, but I promise I'll never complain about that again! At least we get a ton of lovely sunshine in the winters!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Look at this excitement:
Austrians open presents on Christmas Eve, which sounds like it's going to be a wonderful treat for the kids (you get to open the presents a day early! Yay!)

But actually, it turns out to be a strange kind of torture, because they wait until the evening to open presents. The dear little children have to look at them all day and ask, every 3 minutes, "Can we open them now? When? When can we open them? Now?" "Sorry kids, the plan is to look at the presents all day, dream about opening them, and then open them before bed." Hm... Torture!

So, we kind of compromised and let them open the gifts around 2:30
It still looks like Christmas morning because Maggie is in her pajamas! So is Nina for that matter.

Here, check out the awesome way I revealed the big Disney trip to the girls. I drew out these tickets:

Wow, did I miss my calling there or what? What an artist I am! Ok, the train wasn't great, and the Eiffel Tower is a little fat. But Cinderella's castle, wow. I really outdid myself there. By the time I got to the last one my hand was tired, so it's kind of lame. Oh well.

I rolled each one up and tied it with a ribbon, then stuck the four rolls into a box and wrapped that.

They're so excited!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

It's almost Christmas!

We're getting very, very excited over here! Today we took the girls into Vienna to see the animals at the Karlskirche Christmas Market and then the big tree. Well, we didn't get to the big tree, because it was COLD! It actually wasn't all that cold temperature-wise, it hovered right around 32 all day, but it was a very damp 32, so it just went right through my clothes. I even had tights under my jeans, but no help. Brrr.

The Christmas fair was cute. A Christmas fair is much like an American craft fair, except instead of tents the merchants have quaint little wooden... well they almost look like tiny little one-room cottages. And of course, there's more beer. The Austrians (and Germans I hear) adore their Christmas markets, but to tell you the truth, I just don't get it. They're all there hanging out and drinking hot punch (alcoholic) and spending $3.00 a pop to put their kids on a 2-minute carousel, all looking merry and bright, but I just feel kind of ...meh... about it all.

I did, however, love the animals at this market. They had hairy pigs! Full on curly fur pigs! They were a riot. A stinking riot.
This one had an itchy butt and kept scratching it against things. Pigs! It was too cold for me to take photos, so you're stuck with Nick's handiwork today.

Then we popped into Karlskirche, balked at paying 16 Euros to get in, considered coming back for 6:00 mass if we were still in Vienna, and ended up at an indoor play spot at this museum right there.

Karlskirche. Looks lovely from the outside, maybe we'll see the inside some day!

What fun the museum play spot was! They had a little cafe too, so we warmed up with some hot cocoa, coffee, and tea, had a piece of apple strudel, and then played. There were only a few mats for physical play, but they had a ton of games. So we played Uno, this other card came I'd never seen before, and some other stuff. Good times.

Finally it was dark, so we went to see the lights. At this point we were aware of the chill, but were figuring we'd head towards the Rathaus and see how far we got. Not far enough! Fortunately, the city has lights up all over the pedestrian district, so that was enough. We got some McDonalds and headed home.

Austrians open presents on Christmas Eve, so it's almost time. Yippee!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dear, sweet Maggie

Erik and I were discussing Maggie a bit via email yesterday, which led to Nick and I discussing her later that night, and me admitting that this blog is generally used to record the good but largely skips the bad. That's of course because I'll be just as happy to forget the bad.

Well, Maggie must have heard us talking in her sleep, because she's been extra sweet this evening. As I was tucking her into bed tonight she said, "Mama, I like you better than cookies."

Then, nearly two hours later, she was contemplating (aloud) how most people on this planet don't even know that I'm alive. We talked about people we don't know who pass us on the street, and I told her that sometimes on the highway, I look at other people in their cars and wonder who they are and where they're going. Maggie said to me, "Even if they're going to Bogi Park, I'd rather be with you."

I tell you, sweeter words have never been spoken. It makes it almost okay that it's a quarter to ten and she's still not asleep.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our tree is up!

It's officially Christmas at the Halter house!

The girls had so much fun putting the tinsel on. We had Christmas carols playing on the computer, we were hanging ornaments and throwing the tinsel on, and Maggie gleefully exclaimed, "Let's party Christmas-style!"

Too cute. They are officially too cute. I wish I could say that they're in their pajamas because this picture was taken first thing in the morning, but no. It rained all day today and we had a laze about the house day.

We bought the tree on Saturday at a lot in Baden. It's about 6 1/2 feet tall, but the last foot and a half has no branches at all. You can't see in the photo (because I cut the top of the tree off), but there's a star with tinsel hanging from it at the top. We call it our shooting star tree-topper.

Nina's been home for the last 2 days. On Monday she had a sore throat, runny nose, and slight temperature all day. This morning she seemed better, but said her throat was still sore. We told her she had to go, she could take a lozenge with her, but then she started crying and we relented. She did have her fever all day and was still at 99.1 at bedtime, so I wasn't sure if it was just the morning blahs or if she still felt under the weather. She stayed in bed a while again, but she's been totally fine since lunch, so she'll go back tomorrow.

That's all here! Just excited for Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Maggie drew this

It's a picture of a pony unwrapping unwrapping a Christmas present:

Now, I'm probably totally guilty of unjustified maternal pride in my child's totally ordinary drawing, but indulge me. I am SO impressed by how well she captures body language! She's just 4, but the way the neck bends down and the hair (I mean, mane) falls straight down is just awesome. She does this all the time, too. She'll draw ponies doing things like handstands, or swinging, and their actions are captured very realistically.

On another note, I booked our Disney Paris trip last night! Earlier this week I was like, screw Disney Paris, no way are we going there, because they obviously want to screw Americans. See, we were trying to price out some packages, but the website is very confusing. At the very beginning, you pick your country and they use that to set the language. So, I picked the US. The 3 day/4 night package for the 4 of us came to $3,600. Then Nick looked at it on his computer, but HE must have hit UK instead of US, and guess what? The exact same package was 1,086 pounds. Which is like, $1,700. I said, "BOOK IT!!" but you can't, online, unless your credit card billing address matches the country you selected. Are we irritated yet? I was. So fine, we start again, enter all that freaking information again (birth dates, etc), under the Austrian country of orgin to find out their Eruo price (about $3,000) and then finally quit.

So I called yesterday, and I explained that I wanted to book the 4 day 3 night package, but I wanted the UK price, not the American price. And the woman said, "Ok." That was easier than I thought it was going to be! I asked her why the pries were so different, and she said, "Honestly, I don't know." I figured she just takes the bookings, so it's not her fault, but I'm sure I know why the prices are twice as high for Americans. They're figuring that if you're coming from the USA to Disney Paris and are staying at their 5 star hotel, that you can afford it, so they'll just go ahead and hose you. I might email Disney USA about this AFTER we get back. Or not, I'm so busy as it is.

Still, I'm so excited! We're staying at the Disneyland Paris Hotel, which is their nicest one and according to the woman I booked with, every little girl's fantasy come true. The characters are all there at breakfast every morning, and the hotel looks like a palace. Here's a link:

I think the girls are going to love it! I know I'm excited!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Still no picture of the meringue...

I'd have to get up to get the camera, dig out the cord, plug it in, and that's just the beginning. Far too much work for me tonight. I'm exhausted. But I had to write quickly to tell you all that I made a lovely batch of Swiss meringue again after school today (which the girls now simply call "whip." "Whip" is the general name of the dessert, and also what you call a finger full of meringue. As in, "mom, I've already had 7 whips, can I have one more?")

Anyway, you all know what happened because of facebook, but I'll write it all down anyway for posterity. I accidentally added salt instead of sugar to the egg whites. I couldn't figure out why the "sugar" wasn't dissolving into the whites this time, but I thought maybe they were colder or something... who knows with cooking. So I was whipping up the whip, and I tasted a little finger full--I mean, a whip--and I almost instantly vomited. It tasted exactly like when you get a mouth full of ocean water at the beach and you swallow it.

It was horrific. The girls were in the tub at this point and Nick was upstairs, but I'm sure the look on my face was utterly priceless. Maybe something like this?

Ha ha! I love that photo!

But see, this isn't as ridiculously stupid a thing to do as it sounds, because the salt (salz) in this God-forsaken country comes in a little white paper sack just like the sugar! And, I (perhaps unwisely. Or maybe not perhaps) have it on the shelf right next to the real sugar (zucker). Salt is supposed to come in a stiff, paper cylinder with a metal pour spout on top! Really.

Well, much to Nick's disappointment, I had to throw it out. But fear not, I whipped up another batch immediately, and we all got our sugar buzz on. So, all's well that ends well, right?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Well I did take a picture of the Swiss meringue...

But I'm too tired to download it tonight. Hopefully tomorrow!

Still chilly here, with a nice brisk wind today. It was nice to feel a chill! It doesn't quite feel like Christmas without that bit of snow and the occasionally blustery day. It also doesn't feel quite like Christmas because the Austrians are pretty sparse with their Christmas decorations. A few houses here and there have a string of lights in the window, and there are a few pine trees with a strand of lights around them, but that's pretty much it! Well, Baden's pedestrian district has some lights up too, but we're not there very often.

I guess the great American inflatable Christmas lawn ornament hasn't reached here yet. Maybe I should send Anne and Fritz a mooning Santa next year? (There's one in Boothbay Vanessa and Erik. He drops his pants and it says "Happy Holidays" on his butt. I'm not even kidding. The Blackmans, who own the store that used to be Music Mania and still live over there, have him up every year).

Hmm, I'll see if there's a picture of one like him on the internet. There must be!

Ah-ha! I think this is him!

Well if that's the one, then, Phew!! He's wearing underwear!! That's so much less tacky that way!

Ahh, America, how we miss thee!

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's finally gotten chilly here!

So yesterday, we went to Bogi Park! The girls love it there, that's the place with the huge indoor play structure, trampolines, bounce houses, and all kinds of fun other things (slides, ball pits, they have everything!). We had a blast. The girls and I took the train an Nick stayed behind to hang out with his dad a bit, then he joined us.

We had fun and miraculously, no one was injured! I always wind up with slide or bounce house burn after one of these trips, but not this time.

We stayed in on Saturday. Nick went to visit Oma, but Nina had been sneezing a lot, and I didn't want to bring any germs into the recovery ward, so the girls and I stayed home. Nina didn't want to go anywhere either, she likes to have the occasional day to stay in her pjs and play.

So overall, not much to update. I'm going to go and make the girls some swiss meringue right now, if they don't devour it immediately I'll take a picture. It's delicious!

Friday, December 7, 2012

St. Nikolaus Day!

Do you know what yesterday was? Why, December 6, St. Nikolaus Day, of course!

St. Nikolaus was actually a saint from the 4th century, noted for a miracle involving the multiplication of some bags of wheat. I gathered this from a book about him at Maggie's preschool, so take it with a grain of salt. He's actually buried in Bari, Italy, too, so that's interesting.

Anyway, he visited Nina at her school and Maggie at her school yesterday. How fun! He gave each of them a bag filled with goodies (a mix of candy and healthy treats like apples and clementines). Then when they got home, they discovered that he'd left them each a present at the house!

Maggie got a playmobil set:

And Nina got a new set of pajamas for her baby doll:

Fortunately, we didn't see Krampus anywhere. Whew! He sounded kind of scary!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Because they love to be interviewed!

Here's another one!

1. What is your happiest memory?
Maggie: When you hug me. (You know, that one time. Refridgerator mother, that's me!)
Nina: When we went to Bogi park.

2. Why do you like being a kid?
Maggie: Cuz we don't have to do all the cleaning.
Nina: Because we get to play and we don't have to work or study or drive, and we can have fun.

3. One word to describe you would be _______.
Maggie: kid
Nina: shy

4. What advice would you give your parents?
Maggie: Do gooder things than you usually do.
Nina: Clean up the backyard. (I said, "Is the backyard messy?" and she said, "Sometimes. You could lawnmower." That's on you Nick!)

5. If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why?
Maggie: I would be a cat because cats can climb and jump up and down. Like, boing, on a roof. Boing, down roof.
Nina: I would be a bunny, because bunnies are cute.

6. What do you like to do for fun?
Maggie: Fan. (That's where Nick holds her out and spins her around).
Nina: Go to Bogi Park.

7. What do you love most about your sibling?
Maggie: When she plays my way.
Nina: She's funny.

8. What is your favorite thing to do in the summer?
Maggie: Go in Grandma's pool.
Nina: Go swimming.

9. What is the grossest thing you can think of?
Maggie: Poop.
Nina: A spider in your ear.

10. What is your favorite thing to eat?
Maggie: Cookies. I mean, sugar.
Nina: French fries.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bored and sick....

I don't feeeeeeeeel good. Tired and nauseous mostly. :-( Poor me! Nina is moaning because she can't find HoHak's shirt, and Maggie is playing with ponies. So I guess it's a pretty typical Tuesday night here at the Halter house.

Not much to update, sorry. I'll interview Nina, she always loves that!

Me: So, how is school going these days?
Nina: Hmmm... I um why are you typing everything I say?
Me: Because that's how an interview goes!
Nina: Um good. Wait, I don't know. Um... um... Erase all this and type good again. Not really. It's good.
Me: What's your favorite thing to do at school?
Nina: Arts! and Crafts!
Me: What's your least favorite thing about school?
Nina: The morning time.
(Maggie whispers "Math." Nina says, "I love math!")
Me: What do you want for Christmas?
Nina: A dog. And a bunny. And a horse.
Me: A real horse?
Nina: Uh-huh. And Madagascar 3 and dresses. And a computer. And books. More barbie clothes, barbie umbrellas, barbie rainboots, barbie bed, barbie dresses, barbie laundry basket, barbie hippo game and barbie barbies.
Me: Ok that's enough. What's your favorite thing about Austria these days?
Nina: My favorite thing about Austria is that the winter is warmer.
Me: What do you miss most about America?
Nina: My friends.
Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Nina: A barbie (hysterical laughter)
Me: That's not a thing.
Nina: Alright, a fairy.
Me: I'm not writing that down.
Nina: A firefighter! But a girl firefighter. Actually I want to be a police.
Me: What's your favorite sport?
Nina: Skating.

Now Maggie's turn:
Me: So, hos is school going these days?
Maggie: Good.
Me: What's your favorite thing to do at school.
Maggie: Play. Well, I mean crafts.
Me: What is your least favorite thing about school.
Maggie: When I'm not there any more (angrily). Because I have so much fun at school. But I am still very shy.
Me: What do you want for Christmas?
Maggie: I want a barbie and a barbie paper and barbie markers.
Me: Like, markers for barbie, or markers with barbie on them.
Maggie: The size for barbies. Also the size for barbies of paper.
Me: What is your favorite thing about Austria?
Maggie: Ice pops. The ice pops are different! What?! They are!
Me: What do you miss most about America?
Maggie: I like grandma's swimming pool the most. That's the most I miss about Maine.
Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Maggie: I want to be like an astronaut. I want to be someone who goes up in space and looks at the Earth. I want to study and be an astronaut.
Me: What's your favorite thing?
Maggie: That Disney skating spot. Where we went to see those princesses skating.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Today we visited Oma at the hospital

Poor Oma! She's not doing so well these days. She had a her hip replaced a week ago on friday, and this week she suffered complication--the tip of her femur fractured. There's nothing they can do about it but just wait for it to heal! It's really slowed down her recovery, and it looks like she won't be home until next week. Nick will talk to her doctor on Monday hopefully and find out if she can come home sooner and have a visiting nurse come by the house. You'd think that'd be cheaper for the health care system, but maybe not, things are so different here.

But anyway, we went to visit today. The girls were very well behaved, I was so proud of them. Oma's room holds as many as six women (though today there were only 3), and there aren't even privacy curtains to pull around the bed. Fortunately the other ladies seemed happy to see such cute little girls too, so I don't think we were too much of a bother. One of Oma's roommates had 10 children of her own! Holy moly! I figured she must love kids, but then again she was pretty old, and probably had them back in the day when there weren't too many birth control options. Well obviously I wasn't going to ask, and she looked very happy to see the kids, so I'll just assume she loves children.

That was pretty much all we did today. The girls like their lazy Saturdays, so we just vegged out and played with toys all morning. We've discussed possibly getting a tree tomorrow, but I guess here in Austria they tend to put them up either on Christmas Eve, or thereabouts, so I'm thinking we should embrace the local culture and wait.

Other than poor Oma's hip, all's well. The weather has finally started to get chilly, so we're breaking out the hats and mittens. We might even get some snow at the beginning of next week!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Merry Christmas One and All!!

I'm not printing these out and mailing them, it's just too much work. But to avoid being totally impersonal, I will email the "card" individually to friends and family. Except maybe you guys, since you've seen it already. :-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Maggie's hair is always in her face, so today she finally agreed to let me cut her some bangs. Cute!

She threw herself to the floor crying on and off afterwards, but she's ok with it now. I just asked her what she thinks and she said, "it's fine. It's not like it changes your life to have bangs."

True. It's just hair. But it least it won't be constantly in front of her eyes now. And it's adorable!!!

(Oh, and that's Nina's "I hate homework" pose in the background)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

If we win powerball...

Then Nina wants to buy a palace (not a castle, they're not fancy enough), a puppy, and a chandelier. Her only concern is that all that money wouldn't fit in the palace. I told her about banks, so she's good.

Maggie would buy these little fairies on sticks that they sell in downtown Baden. She would have them play with her ponies, of course. Hm, perhaps Santa can take care of that one without the $425 Million jackpot.

I always remember what our neighbor Ron in California said one time when we all bought lottery tickets: "I was a math major in college, and I understand how small the odds of winning are. And yet every time I play, I'm genuinely disappointed that I didn't win."

Truer words have never been spoken!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nina, my morbid little drama queen

A few nights ago the girls were playing baby before bed. Nina was crawling on the floor (pretending she couldn't walk yet) and somehow ended up with rug burn on her knee. She didn't notice it until she was lying quietly in bed, but then it started to hurt. So, we put some neosporin with pain relief and a bandaid on it, and sent her back to bed.

She lay there, whimpering quietly. Then she said, "At least when it hurts, I know I'm still alive. The only thing worse than this pain would be dying."

How did I end up with such morbid children? Well, at least she prefers the pain to death. I think that's a good thing, right?

Fortunately, she's recovering from her injury. God forbid the child suffer the pain of a paper cut though! The horror!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas market

Late this afternoon we took the girls to the Christmas Market in Baden, just outside of the Casino. First up, a ride on the Merry-Go-Round:
Next, a pony ride! Maggie didn't want to do one, she decided that the track would take her too far away from me. She still likes to stay very close. To that end, we've talked about getting some velcro clothing, to keep her stuck to me, but really that's just a joke. At least, I hope it is!
After the pony ride, zuckerwatte!
Look at this tree. I dubbed it the leaning tower of treeza. HA! In America, we would have a big crane put 25,000 lights on it. Or more. In Austria, you just have to use your imagination.
Teddy bears in a gingerbread house making cookies! Can you even imagine anything cuter?? This was in a store window in Baden's pedestrian district.
So, this was interesting. Apparently this guy is called Krampus. He's like the evil Santa Claus (who visits children on December 6 here), and his job is to stuff the naughty kids into his sack on December 5 and take them off to his cave, where he presumably roasts them and eats them for his dinner. Apparently people dress up like him during the first week in December and scare kids with bells and rusty chain. Nice. If I didn't look this stuff up for the blog, that would have come as a rather unpleasant surprise for the kids. Wouldn't it be nice to have someone who grew up here, to give us a clue about these little cultural idiosyncrasies? Yes, yes it would. Sarcasm.
To forget about the Krampus unpleasantness (not really, didn't know about him yet), we obviously needed a ride on the ferris wheel!

What a fun evening! We finished it with a ride on the tractor shuttle, which took us the long way back to the parking garage, but was a lot more fun than boring old walking.

The girls bought Christmas presents for each other yesterday, too. Plus, Nick and I dropped our suggestions off to St. Nick for their December 6 presents. The girls are so excited!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Just an ordinary week...

This was the girls' first five-day week of school in over a month. I can't be more precise than that because I honestly can't remember the last time they had a 5 day week.

Well, we survived! Nina had her swim class again, it had been at least 5 weeks since she did that, and she says it went well. Whew! It was starting to become something of a source of stress for her because they try to get the kids to jump into the water and otherwise risk facial splashing, which is still a big thing for Nina. But parent-teacher conferences were on Thursday, and I had Nick meet with her swim teacher to talk about her water of the face/head thing, and hopefully she'll feel less stress from here on out. Basically, the teacher told Nick to explain to Nina that she never has to do anything--if she gives the class an instruction to hop into the pool, Nina is always free to get in however she wants. So Nina knows now that the teacher doesn't have to give her specific permission to slide in slowly, that's always a given. She's a good kid who always wants to do what her teacher says, so not being able to follow those instructions was stressful.

Maggie had a good week overall. A few tears here and there--one day a kid knocked over something that she was building, and she was crying when I got there. It's all part of what she's learning at preschool though, how to handle it when other kids knock her stuff over. Her teacher is so good with her; first she tried to help her rebuild, but Maggie was having none of that, so she just gave her her space and told her, "It's ok, it's not such a big deal." It was good I got there when I did, though, Maggie was not pulling it together on her own and needed to get away from the horrible reminder of the disaster. Hopefully she'll learn how to handle this stuff better with a little more time.

Finally, Anne had her surgery this morning. She called around 3 and said it was a success! She could be home as soon as Wednesday, cross your fingers for an easy recovery for her!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The barrel slide

Here's the girls, going over the barrel slide!

So, Nina brought here Religious Ed notebook home from school today, and there was this cute little "about me" in it:
It lists her favorite thing to eat (schnitzel), her favorite thing to play with (dog), my favorite animal (chester), etc.

Then there's this, at the bottom right:
It says "I don't like this" and she drew church. For her religious ed class!


Cruise Blogging: Split

Our last destination was Split, Croatia. Again, so very beautiful.

The center of town is really an ancient palace, built by an emperor named Diocletian as a retirement fortress. It's several square blocks in size, and contained quite a few buildings, a church, and stuff like that. It dates from the Roman times, and you can tell!
Nina and I decided to climb the church bell tower.
Scary!! The steps were very steep and very narrow until you got inside the open part of the tower, where the stone was replaced by some fairly new metal steps:
This is looking up at the metal steps.
Here's Nina's beautiful smile. You can just see the town there through the window.

We didn't get all the way up. One poor Italian or Croatian grandma saw me heading up with Nina and made universal worried grandma face and sound. When I saw those big open windows, I knew what she was talking about. There was just the thin metal rail blocking these huge openings, and it just didn't feel safe. So Nina and I went up a flight or two, got a nice view of the city, and headed back down. My motherly instincts just won't let me take the kids up these terrifying places.

Then we saw some more of the city, had a snack, and headed back to the boat. We were just exhausted! One night, poor little Maggie was so tired that she fell asleep right there at the dinner table! It was adorable. It reminded me of the way she fell asleep eating her dinner on the flight over here. I held her on my lap through dinner, and she didn't even wake up with the loud Italian music started up. Poor kid was just totally knocked out!

Then the next day we drove home from Trieste. It was a wonderful vacation!!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

St. Leopoldifest and our expat Thanksgiving

First, St. Leopoldifest! It was held on Saturday in a small town/suburb just north of Vienna. I don't remember the name, it was long and comprised of several German words all run together. Of course! There was a breathtakingly beautiful Abbey in the town though. Wow. We didn't bring the camera, which was awful, maybe we'll go back. The church at the Abbey was incredibly beautiful, one of those baroque-on-steroids style of decoration churches, and the Abbey is actually the resting place of St. Leopold who is, as you may recall from my blog earlier in the week, the patron saint of Austria and Lower Austria. Poor St. Leopold's head isn't buried with his body, but rather displayed in a reliquary on top of his tomb. I guess on Saturday they also paraded his head through town, but we missed that. See how I said that like it's totally normal? I'm so getting used to the dead body parts on display thing they've got going on here in Europe. Ok not really.

One of the big draws at St. Leopoldifest is that you can slide down the side of a 56,000 liter barrel of wine. I guess this is a very old tradition, there's even a poem about sliding down the barrel written on the barrel, so you know it's been going on for a while. Just in case you've never seen a 56,000 liter barrel of wine before, it's about 12 feet tall (lying on its side, as wine barrels are wont to do). There's a platform half-way up the side of the barrel, and you start on that platform, climb a few stairs to the very top of the barrel, and sit down and slide down it's curved side. So, you end up sliding 1/4 of the way around the circumference of the barrel.

Also, you get to make a wish when you slide down the barrel. If you don't tell anyone it's sure to come true. Nina, Maggie, and I all slid, but Nick didn't want to. It did cost money, but not much, I think 1.50 for the kids and 2.50 for me, or something like that. They snapped pictures of us sliding down the barrel too, which we ended up buying even though they were ridiculously expensive, because we didn't bring our camera and because I assume the money goes to support the Abbey. Don't tell me if it doesn't, I'd rather believe a lie here than know the truth.

The rest of St. Leopoldifest was like a big street fair, with crazy expensive rides for the kids and overpriced fried food. But it was fun and we had a wonderful time, so that's all that matters.

Then today we had Expat Thanksgiving!! Anne has to report to the hospital on Thursday, and the kids have school that day, so it just made more sense to do it today. Nick's friend Peter came too, it was lovely to see him as always. I cooked some turkey breasts (I just couldn't bring myself to pay $40 for a 10-lb turkey!), sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, broccoli, gravy and Anne made stuffing. Yum! We couldn't find cranberries, but that's ok, Nina doesn't like cranberry sauce anyway. Also, they don't sell frozen pie shells here, so no pie. We just baked up the rest of the cookies from the dough left over from Tuesday. Good enough! I'll be extra excited to roast an entire bird next year and make my sausage and cornbread stuffing, pumpkin pie, popovers, and who knows what else, but this was enough to hold me over until then.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cruise Blogging: Kotor, Montenegro

Thursday was another new country: Montenegro! Who's ever even heard of Montenegro before? It's squeezed in there, right between Albania and Serbia. It was shockingly beautiful. I thought after Dubrovnik that I wouldn't be surprised any more, but I was.

To get to Kotor, the boat had to navigate through what looked like a fjord. Apparently it technically isn't a fjord, but ria, a submerged river canyon, according to wikipedia. So there you go, learn something new every day. Ria, that's a good words4friends word for you Nick. Bust that one out on Tom!

Here, I'll let some of my pictures do the talking:

I wish I could have gotten a picture that captured what a tight fit it felt like for the boat! Standing in the middle of the upper deck and looking out, you'd think we were land-locked. More impressive than sailing in, however, was the fact that the captain sailed back out in the dark!

The town of Kotor was very small but very beautiful. It kind of looked like a smaller Dubrovnik, with the same white stone everywhere and beautifully paved streets. It was a little dirtier and seedier, though, with a serious stray cat problem.
Girls in front of a palace
See, slightly seedy
Nick and the girls looking pretty.

The real highlight of Kotor was hiking up the walls built by the Venetians to protect the city a very long time ago. I don't know when, exactly, wikipedia is letting me down here.

But wow, what a hike. And what a view from up there!

After a while, mom and the girls and I turned back. Nina could easily have made it up the rest of the way, she kept running ahead and hopping up and down while she waited for the rest of us to catch up, but she was getting bored with it. Maggie wanted to be carried most of the time, and I was getting pretty tired of that, and Mom was getting tired and a bit dizzy from looking straight down. So just Nick and dad reached the old fort, but we saw their pictures from up there, good enough. See:

It was a good thing we turned back when we did anyway, because I had to carry Maggie most of the way down too, and that was harder than I thought it was going to be. She's getting heavy! I also had to reign Nina in and keep her from beating the rest of us down by half an hour.

After that we had some juice, wine, and beers at a cafe in town, then headed back to the comfort of the boat.

Nick took a few more pictures before joining us on the boat, like this one of a church:
And this one of the wall lit up in the dark. This doesn't really capture it's height; it reaches nearly 1,000 feet above the city, but I think the photos from the top convey how high up you get.
What an experience that was!