about a dream: November 2012

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!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cruise Blogging: Argostoli

Argostoli was my least favorite port, which is good because I'm not in the mood to do a lot of blogging tonight. I feel like I'm fighting a cold. Or maybe it's just that I had a headache and then the tylenol or whatever it was that I took upset my stomach. It's hard to tell.

Regardless, Argostoli was the least exciting city we saw. It was also overcast and even rained a little. Still, we had fun wandering around the city, having some donuts, coffee, and a smoothie at a nice cafe, and playing in a playground:

Mom and dad got a great picture of the inside of this church. If I get around to it, I'll download their picture and put it up. But that's unlikely.
Even though it was overcast, the scenery was still gorgeous.

We spent a relatively short amount of time in port anyway, so there wasn't a lot of pressure to do more than we did. Which was nice, really, because the girls needed a break from sightseeing. Besides, we got to stick our hands in the Mediterranean in Argostoli, which is a must. It was nice and warm, too! Warmer than the Maine ocean in August, that's for sure.

Wednesday night was a big one on the boat, though. That was the night that we got to see the magic show (excuse me, illusions!). The girls LOVED it. So did we!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cruise Blogging: Corfu

On Tuesday (November 6th) we all visited a new country for the first time: Greece! So, so exciting. I've been wanting to go to Greece for as long as I can remember, and especially after living in Astoria for 5 years. I will, upfront, admit that I didn't eat a Greek salad there. No, we were total gluttons and stuffed our faces with Baklava and ice cream (I'm pretty sure the girls ate ice cream in every port). Not one vegetable crossed our lips!

Corfu was beautiful. I was surprised to see that many of the beautiful old buildings were abandoned (or, at least I hope they were abandoned. If not, the poverty there is even worse than I thought). You can easily see that the crisis has hit them hard. It was sad, because I'm sure Corfu was a successful city not so long ago. But today, buildings like this make up at least 25% of the city:
Nina guessed that this building in particular was probably home to 1,000 ghosts. It looked even creepier in real life.

Aside from ghost-hunting, eating baklava and ice cream, checking email at the ice cream place (wifi was everywhere) and voyeuristically watching people get fish pedicures, we decided to check out the fortress.
Here it is, in the distance. Apparently it was only recently opened to the public, lucky us!
This classic Greek temple was inside the fortress walls. So Greek looking!
Here are the girls, almost to the top. They were great troopers about climbing all those stairs. Well, what we thought were a lot of stairs. Turns out Monenegro would make the hike up Corfu's fortress seem like a cake walk!
Finally we made it to the top. And what a view from up there!
If you've ever wondered why my purse is so heavy, it's because I always carry a rhino with me, wherever I go. You know, for good luck.
Beautiful, clear Mediterranean!

Then we climbed back down, swung by Palaia Anaktora--the "old palaces," which used to house the King of Greece, and now look decrepit and scary. Behold (I'm stealing this image from wikipedia since we didn't take a picture of our own):
It doesn't look so creepy in this picture, but trust me, in real life it was scary. It was so creepy looking that Nina said under no condition would she ever want to live there, and she'd be happy in castle ruins (so long as grandpa was engaged in fixing them up).

Then it was back on the ship! I think it was Tuesday night that we took the girls to their first theater show. They loved it. There was singing, dancing, comedy, and an acrobatic routine. They were hooked, and after that we caught every show.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Yesterday, the girls and I took part in an Austrian and German celebration called Laternenfest. So exciting! We don't have anything like it in America.

It's held in honor of Saint Martin and basically involves the kids making paper lanterns and walking with them while singing songs about St. Martin. According to wikipedia, in some parts of Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, kids get candy too, but here in Baden we had a little party at the school with lots of sweets and cookies. St. Martin's feast day is actually on November 11, but the celebration at Maggie's school was yesterday, I'm not sure why. According to wikipedia, Laternenfest is celebrated on the feast of St. Martin, but maybe they do it differently in Lower Austria?

Anyway, the kids started the fest by acting out the story of St. Martin, who apparently gave half of his cloak one cold winter night to a beggar, and later dreamed that he saw Jesus wearing the cloak. One little boy from the school rode around on a hobby horse, carrying a wooden sword and wearing a red cloak while one of the teachers played the part of the beggar and the rest of the kids sang a song, presumably about St. Martin. Here:
I'm not sure why my child wasn't chosen to play the part of St. Martin, except perhaps that she's wholly uncooperative and would never in a million years do what they wanted, on top of not speaking German well and being a girl.

But here she is, with her lantern:

And one with Nina!

After the St. Martin re-enactment, we all walked around the block with the lanterns, then headed inside for some punch, cakes, and cookies. Our American chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies were a hit! So was the cookie decorating station:
The cookies were in the shape of geese, which are traditionally eaten at Martinmas (that's what it's really called. It's also a harvest celebration, much like American Thanksgiving). Goose is the traditional dish because according to legend, St. Martin didn't want to be made bishop and so hid somewhere. Unfortunately, he was betrayed by the honking of a goose. Cute.

Also according to wikipedia, the feast of St. Martin/Martinmas marked the beginning of a 40 day fast in the middle ages, which was eventually shortened to our modern advent. It was not related to the 40 days of Lent, though. 40 is just one of those commonly occurring Biblical numbers. So, that's interesting.

Unrelated to St. Martin, the kids have no school tomorrow because it's the feast day of St. Leopold III, the patron saint of Austria. Nina's school also has an in-service day on Friday, and Maggie will stay home too, both because her teacher isn't going to be there that day, and because Maggie always stays home when Nina does. So it's a four-day weekend for us!

Cruise Blogging: Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik was just... wow. Its beauty was utterly shocking. You'd think a thousand movies would have been filmed there and everybody would know about it, but it's like some kind of secret. It was just amazing. We have practically 100 photos, but I'll just pick a few of my favorite for now:
This was the view that greeted us just outside the city walls. The surf was crashing beautifully. I had noticed the boat rocking some overnight; not enough to make us seasick, but enough that I could hear the hangers in the closet clanking every now and then.
This is some kind of palace. Usually wikipedia has a list of famous sights in each town, but their Dubrovnik page is focused almost entirely on the political history of the city, which is long and boring, so I just skimmed it. In a nutshell, it's changed hands a whole lot, but interestingly was once under Austrian rule. Then of course there was all that unpleasantness in the 1990s, but now it's all good.
I like this picture because it shows both the arch, which was a common feature of the town, and the paving stones. They were beautiful! Smooth too. There wasn't an ounce of dirt in the town, it was entirely paved. Interesting.
Loving sisters in the old town
Nick took this photo from the top of the city walls. You can walk the perimeter of the entire old town along the top of the walls, and Nick and dad did the walk after we'd all spent a few hours walking through the town. The girls were done, so mom and I decided to take them back to the boat. A good call it turned out, since it wasn't totally childproof up there, and there were lots of steep steps. I probably would have ended up carrying Maggie half the time, and she's getting heavy!