about a dream: December 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!