Archive for November, 2009

Thanksgiving, Part II

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Yesterday Markus and I left Annie with the just-arrived grandparents (Nana and Grandpa Drew) and went to our friend’s place for a U.S. Thanksgiving dinner.

Nicole and Tom are from California. Tom is working here at a high-tech company and Nicole is learning German (I met her in class) and looking for work.

We arrived with our wine and a salad and a dessert in tow to be greeted by the most delicious turkey smell that sent me right back to holiday dinners of my childhood. There was a great mix of people: two Canadians, three Americans and the rest Austrian or German, including three children to fill in the required giggle complement. The conversations switched between German and English with topics flowing from politics to wine to work to travel.

We also had some stomach-splitting laughs. My favourite was (and this next part is kid-unfriendly drunken bawdiness) when Tina, a Marketing professor from San Diego, and Nicole shared an obviously inside joke from days gone by, by toasting with “up yours!” instead of Prost! or Cheers! One of the German speakers didn’t quite get the phrasing, and the next round he toasted with the much more x-rated, “Up your ass!” This quickly deteriorated into Ring of Fire comments. Ah, to be drunk and able to make sarcastic juvenile jokes in my native tongue. Loved it.

But the greatest things was the food. Oh my goodness, was it spectacular. Nicole had ordered a turkey, as you can’t buy a whole bird in the stores. Roasting an entire turkey just isn’t a tradition here. There was apparently some tension, as the small Euro oven just barely fit the turkey, but Nicole managed to squeeze it in.

As well as the juicy bird there was mashed potatoes, mushrooms baked in filo, Brussel sprouts, cheese-covered cauliflower, and amazing homemade stuffing and gravy. I ate so much my stomach hurt, and then I ate some more. Just as Thanksgiving is supposed to be. For dessert there was a sort of apple-looking-cake-thing (they don’t have pie here) cobbler, whipping cream and ice-cream. I sigh in satisfaction just thinking about it.

It sure made me miss my old life. But as long as I can carve out these occasional home-styled moments, perhaps that will be enough.

Words, Words, Words

Monday, November 16th, 2009

I’ve had a couple of occasions lately to notice that, despite my frustration, my German really is improving. Today I had a teacher-parent interview with Annie’s last care-giver to wrap up her time from Kindergruppe (daycare) and talk about the transition into Kindergarten. Last year Gabby had prepared this in English, but this year she thought I could handle it in German. (We speak enough that she has an idea of how I’m progressing…not just Annie.) I understood almost all of it. Gabby spoke slowly and clearly with no dialect, but still.

And last week was the lantern festival through the park again. The video is useless, as Annie was having a bad day and so was crying unless I held her hand. Oh well. But I did notice that this time last year, I didn’t understand either the words to the songs or what the school director was saying in his speech afterward. This year I caught most of it.

Annie is going through her own language phase. Although she has loved books from the time they were merely chew toys, she hasn’t shown much desire to learn the letters. I’ve given it a go periodically, but she hasn’t been interested in much past “A is for Annie.” Then a couple of weeks ago she started to be able to find the “O” on the bus we take. (The orange “O” is best, being somehow superior to the bus with the green “O”.)

And last night we were playing in the tub and I happened to say that boat starts with a “B”. Well, we then had to go over every thing in the tub (and there are a lot of toys in that tub!) several times and talk about what letter each one started with. It was lots of fun for  both of us.

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I think it is such a gift to be learning a language at the same time as my daughter is discovering language. I think it gives me an interesting perspective on how her little brain must be processing the information.

So on that note, here is Annie “reading” a book. This is one of her favourite activities; often she will ask to read to herself before going to sleep after we have finished reading together.

Here is a few seconds of a much longer video of Annie reading/remembering/singing a nursery rhyme book. (I think I took over 5 minutes of this.) As I’ve mentioned before, my movie making skills are bruuuutaaaaal, but I guess that isn’t the point. (And please ignore the crazy hair. We just had had a major tickle fest before getting ready for bed.)

Annie “Reading” from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.

The Hills are Alive

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Do you all know that no one here (and I mean NO ONE) watches the Sound of Music, and many have never even heard of it? Preposterous, I realize. But very true.

My friend Mara-Lee is visiting me from Canada. We met in high school and have kept in touch on and off through the decades. This is her first trip to continental Europe, her only other experience in these parts being a Grade 10 trip to Britain.

We have been having a good time and packing in quite a few adventures. On Saturday we decided to head over to Salzburg, as this was Mara’s grandmother’s favourite place and she wanted to see it for herself. She suggested that we do the Sound of Music bus tour, and since I have visited the inner-city castle three times in the last 18 months, I was game for something different.

Oh you scoff, you unsentimental people. But mix a totally whacked-out British tour guide, fun stories, plenty of singing, and gorgeous scenery on one of the most beautiful days we’ve had in the last few weeks, and you have yourself a most enjoyable day.

I won’t going into the details, as I don’t want to bore you non-lovers with tales and tidbits of a story often told, but here are some of the photos that I think everyone can enjoy.

One of the mountains that the real von Trapps didn't cross on foot.

One of the mountains that the real von Trapps didn't cross on foot.

Lake and gardens used as the back of the von Trapp house.

Lake and gardens used as the back of the von Trapp house.

Don't try to pretent you don't know what this is!

Don't try to pretent you don't know what this is!

Entering the stunning lake area outside of Salzburg.

Entering the stunning lake area outside of Salzburg.

Imagine children in clothing of curtains climbing these trees.

Imagine children in clothing of curtains climbing these trees.

The church where the wedding was held. We stopped here at Mondsee for a walk around the lake town and tasty treat.

The church where the wedding was held. We stopped here at Mondsee for a walk around the lake town and a tasty treat.

Mara-Lee by the Doe-Rae-Me dwarf statue.

Mara-Lee by the Doe-Rae-Me dwarf statue.

So, are you humming the tunes yet? If not, here is one of our family’s favourites.

Of Devils and Angels (well, fairy princesses…)

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

Last Saturday Annie woke up possessed by the devil. BY THE DEVIL I say. The last four days Markus and I felt like we were in a very, very hot place. Annie’s independent streak has been building for months now. Years, actually. But it has gone to a very unhealthy (for the parents) place. If I do something completely ridiculous and horrible like, say, turning on a light in a dark room or handing Annie a spoon so she can eat her cereal, crisis ensues. “But I wanted to put on my clothes/choose my socks/peel my banana/stir the boiling hot soup/etcetcetcetcetcetc.” Any one of these things (except the soup maybe) would be great. A real show of independence. But every single second for every single thing is exhausting.

Markus and I are getting our ducks in a row with this, as we haven’t had too much of the tantrums in the past to need to strategize about. We are trying time-outs, taking away toys, ignoring, praising (the moments of good behaviour), reasoning, redirecting, bribing. And I certainly try letting her do whatever she can by herself when at all possible or giving her choices to let her feel like she is in control. What I found works the best is if I take a time-out. I leave her wherever she is freaking out (so far only at home, so that is doable) and tell her she can come find me when she can speak properly to me. We’ll see how long that works. I’m chalking it up to the fact that we are phasing out afternoon naps, and so she is undoubtedly more tired than usual. Here is hoping this is a very short phase.

On top of it, Annie didn’t want to get dressed or go out all weekend. So along comes Halloween. Well, not really, as they don’t have Halloween here. But I’ve joined an expat group and we organized pumpkin carving and dress up for the afternoon at a local restaurant. I made a commitment to go, so I needed to get that girl dressed and out the door. Annie was having none of it. Finally I took her downstairs naked, and then, after  more drama and trauma, managed to shoehorn her into her costume in the car.

And, of course, once she got there she had a wonderful time. And mommy had a drink.

Here are the pictures. (It was fairly cold, so the crown was replaced with a hat and scarf after some time. Next year I’ll find a costume that goes over the coat.)




With new best bud, Max, from English Club

With new best bud, Max, from English Club

The restaurant was also a farm (common in these parts), so here is the fairy princess feeding the animals.



And a couple of Annie and Dad carving a pumpkin at home. (Who needs pants?)



Doesn’t she look like an angel? Sigh.