Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

More Halloween Fun

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

How could I forget the carving of the pumpkin pictures? Oh yeah, because of a canceled pumpkin-carving event on the weekend, plus the busyness of the last couple of days, it actually didn’t get done until after Halloween. Oh well…Markus and Annie had fun.

Annie wanted a mermaid (surprise!) so Markus one-upped the game and carved a Hello Kitty mermaid. It really worked I think.

Halloween (ish) 2011

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

On Sunday the Innsbruck Expat group had a Halloween party at a local restaurant/playground/petting zoo. There weren’t so many kids there Annie’s age, but she still had fun and didn’t want to go home three hours later. She decided to dress up in her fairy costume again (from her birthday), and she sure looked cute!

This place also has donkey/pony rides. We tried the donkey and were reminded why they are considered to by stubborn! After my hands were red and raw from trying to pull that critter by the rope, we switched to the pony. Muuuuch better.

Due to a incident with a too-hard licorice stick about a month ago, Annie had a couple of “wiggle teeth”. The last few days they both came out, giving the Tooth Fairy a reason to visit. Here is a good shot of the new look:

Yesterday Annie’s friend, Emily, also had a Halloween party. The house was amazingly decked out for the occasion. I forgot the camera, but Annie dressed as a very sweet mermaid.

We got to the party and I discovered that Austrians, when they do anything for Halloween at all (which isn’t often), only dress their kids up as witches and ghosts and scary things. Annie didn’t seem to mind, and I just sat back and marvelled at how, after three years, I’m still getting caught out by the cultural differences. Oh well…everyone is used to that crazy Canadian by now.

We are in the throes of deciding if/when to return to Canada, so Annie might be able to experience a real Halloween next year. That would be fun for all of us I think.

Finally Five

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Dear Annie,

Yesterday you asked how old you would be in three weeks. Five, I said. Awwwwww, you moaned, deeply disappointed. You just turned five! Where’s the rush??

You were very, very excited about the party, of course, asking for weeks how many sleeps until you are five. You wanted a costume party, which was fine with me…as long as we just invited girls. (Costumes mean indoors, boys mean outdoors.) The day before we finished the unicorn cupcakes, (cupcakes with ice-cream cones covered in melted white chocolate and sprinkles, filled with gummy bears over a cupcake–everything coloured a very healthy pink, of course) blew up balloons, and created the photo corner.

The next morning started with a surprise…a new costume and fairy wings from the Vancouver Samsons left at the foot of your bed to wake up to. I heard your squeals of delight and then you came down the stairs, hair a mess, dresses up like Lillifee.

We opened presents from the family on the bed. So many great gifts and beautiful cards.

After breakfast we finished getting ready for the party. I managed to get your hair brushed, but no luck on the tights or shoes.

The party went quite well, despite the unfortunate weather. The guest started arriving right on time, decked out in lots of pink and glitter and fairy wings.

The party got off to a good start with crafting. Some children started by making beaded bracelets, while other decorated their butterflies. (I had bought cardboard butterflies instead of goodie bags, and painted them all white–2 coats!) With oodles of stickers, gel markers and glitter glue, the guests had fun decorating them.

Since it rained the whole time, sadly, we set up an indoor picnic to have lunch and the cupcakes.

Games were next. I had really planned on at least an hour outside on the trampoline (all the girls brought other clothes), so I kind of ran out of indoor games. Luckily one of the mom’s helped me out with suggestions and we made it through the three hours.

The last 15 minutes I just put on some music for dancing. Always a good standby with this group.

Annie 5th Birthday Party from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.

As the guests were leaving the sun finally came out, so parents stood around chatting as their girls bounced a few times on the trampoline. You had a great time and there were almost no tears, so I’m calling it a success!

Last year I really struggled to think of you as four, but this year five seems about right. You have made such a huge leap in your independence, skills, and confidence the last few months, it seemed so strange to say that you were only 4 years old when people asked.

Five is already starting out with lots of adventures. We went for four days to a family hotel (blog post to come), you are starting to really enjoy your new roller blades, and your class sang a song about Goldilocks and the Three Bears for the year-end performance…and you were Goldilocks! So confident walking across the stage, being just where you were suppose to be the whole time. Amazing, my love.

This next year, like every year of your life so far, is sure to be full of lots of adventures and lots of changes. I look forward to every minute of it.

A Lovely Week

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

The last week and a bit has been really, well, nice. Not thrilling or exciting or eventful. (Actually, I’m kind of done with eventful for a while), but just lovely.

My birthday on the 20th was so sweet. Annie and Markus brought me coffee and presents in bed, singing me a rousing chorus of the Happy Birthday. I had a relaxing day at home, mostly crafting birthday and Mother’s Day cards. After Kindergarten I brought home a friend for Annie to play with. I actually made the play date last week, totally forgetting it was my birthday…clearly this is not a big event in my life anymore. But these days it is usually easier with 2 than 1, so it all worked out.

We then dropped Annie off for an overnight with Chloe (Margriet’s present to me) and Markus and I went out for one of the best dinner’s I’ve had in Innsbruck.

Heading out for a birthday dinner.

Markus was taking pictures of me so Annie, of course, had to do some posing on her own.

The restaurant is called Chez Nico, and the owner is a French chef living in Innsbruck with his Austrian wife. There are only 12 seats in the whole restaurant. About a year ago he changed his menu to be vegetarian. I’m usually up for a good vegetarian meal anyway, but this was seriously fantastic. I even got a bit drunk on the wine course pairings, which doesn’t happen often these days. A great meal, time with Markus and Annie, and many phone calls, cards, emails and Facebook posts from friends and family made it a special day.

On Saturday I took Annie up to a family meet-up with the Innsbruck expat group. I’m starting to really enjoy their company. Such interesting stories about how people ended up here! The Easter bunny showed up and there was a big egg hunt. They actually hide colored boiled eggs here, but Annie just finds them and then passes them along to someone else; she sticks to the chocolate and gummy bears as keepers. It was beautiful weather and a great way to start the Easter weekend.

Sunday was our Easter egg hunt, of course.

After the chocolate-eating fest we went for a long bike ride. Markus kept me to flat ground, which my knees and lungs appreciated. We sat on a restaurant patio and had a light lunch while Annie played in the playground.

Markus had to pop into the cafe on Monday for something, so brought home the chocolate egg a friend brought from Italy. Apparently, so Markus claims, this is standard fare for Italian kids.

Ridiculous! Thank goodness it wasn’t filled with anything. At least the chocolate is decent so we are all pitching in to finish it off before…I don’t know…next Easter?

Besides that we have been enjoying our yard and the sunny warm weather this last week.

Markus is crazy busy in May with a bunch of catering (thank goodness) and hopefully a hopping cafe (at least on sunny days), so this was very nice that we got to spend some longer periods of time together…eating lots and lots of chocolate.


Friday, April 1st, 2011

The thing about taking an extended blogging vacation (no, not vacation…stress/laziness-related work stoppage?) is that when you start again you feel the need to fill the masses of readers (all 6 of you) in on what has been going on. So not to balk at convention, here we go.

A few months ago I started to really feel like I wanted to work more. One of those deep down feelings. Why I didn’t also realize what was coming is poor foresight, since after 40 years the one thing I know about myself for sure is that I am an amazing manifestor of work. Although this is in no way related to being able to manifest money (odd that), as soon as I think “more work”, “new job” or “I’m bored” something comes along. The last 2 years, despite verbally bemoaning my unemployed/work eligibility status, I didn’t have to dig very deep to realize that I actually wasn’t interested or ready to work due to a large and exhausting list of reasons.


This time, when that thought passed my consciousness, I knew it was the real deal. Fast forward a few weeks. Friend Lesli offers me a retainer for 20 hours a month to be her business manager. Pug Pharm gets a few hundred thou in funding so I sign-up with them 60 hours a month to start. Another former boss and friend starts a business and needs her website written. Despite two previous rejections, a friend at Swarovski prompts me to send in my resume to the Director responsible for online communications, and I have an interview for an (on paper) well-matched position (more on that in a sec), plus two positions for English-speaking jobs at a local non-profit (SOS Kinderdorf) get sent to me. Whew! (Reminds me of a story I once read about a rainmaker who did his thing after several months of drought and down came a massive flood of water. He commented he could make it rain, but had no control over the volume.)

And I’m still doing some shopping, laundry and the occasional lunch shift at the cafe.  All with Annie in Kindergarten 20 hours per week.

So what is the fall-out of all this? Firstly, I’m totally loving my contract work. Being involved with a new venture when it isn’t primarily your money at risk is fun. (Being involved in a new venture when your own money is at risk is stressful.)

I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it would look like if I worked full-time right now. In summary, it wouldn’t be pretty. Families with children here don’t have 2 full-time working parents (or one full-time working single parent) unless there is another family member to step in. (It is the 1950’s here in Austria, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before.) So Annie would pretty much be the only child at Kindervilla (of about 100 children) to be there full-time. And believe me, she would notice. (The word “unfair” gets a lot of play these days.)

Plus the cafe is picking up again (a very good thing!), which means Markus is working a zillion hours a week. (A 12-hour day is a shortish day, with at least 2 or 3 long days of 17+ hours.) So Annie literally would have no parent around most of the week. The fact that my (overly judgmental) response to my friend telling me daycare in San Francisco was 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. (to 10:00 p.m. and on Saturdays if pre-arranged) was “why bother having kids then?” does indicate that this doesn’t jive with my parenting belief system.

And don’t get me started on what happens once she goes to the first grade. School is over here for the day at 11:45. 11:45!!!!

Not to mention a full-time job would mean giving up my contracts, which as I mentioned, I’m loving.

So it was with this ambiguity that I got gussied up and went to the interview for Manager of Online Communications at the headquarters of the multi-national, multi-billion dollar, family-owned Swarovski empire. The job description was for a manager responsible for a team of four to work on the strategy and implementation for all online, mobile, and social networking communications. Very similar to my last job at AbeBooks plus some things I’m doing at Pug Pharm.

Ah assumptions. You would think in my middle-ageness I would have learned better. I sent my resume in English, the director answered me with an email in English, the admin assistant booked the meeting with me in English, the job posting (which was in German) stated that perfect written and spoken English was required…you don’t need to be a genius to see where this is going.

The incredibly hip, pleasant and obviously smart director gave long explanations of the position in his (thank goodness High) German, to which I had to concentrate so hard to follow that when he was done my brain was ready to explode so that I would give  insightful and relevant comments like “interesting!” or “good idea!”. Blink, blink, stare, stare. I don’t know whether I’m more embarrassed for myself or my poor friend who actually recommended me.

That was just a few days ago, so I’m going to let that sit for a while before doing anything else on the work front. In the meantime, I sent out my first set of invoices for the contract work, which felt pretty good after two years of not financially contributing to the family.

In other news…as mentioned, the cafe is picking up. Yeah! The franchise owner helped Markus out with a spring patio-opening celebration where they handed out 5,000 tulips to near-by office workers and people on the street. See photos here. And since the weather has been lovely the last 10 days, people have been making good use of the outdoor seating. That plus a good run of catering events means sales in March are double what they were in January.

And Annie is, well, Annie…..

That’s a wrap for this update. Here’s hoping this is the restart to something more regular.

It Had to Happen Sometime

Monday, February 7th, 2011

I’ve been so over growing Annie’s hair for a while now, but just hadn’t made the time to get it cut. And speaking of time…was it ever!

Friday was the day. I gave a nod to my alternative (flaky?) side and had it cut when the moon was waxing, and to my practical side by heading to the mall where cut, blow-dry and the cutest round-the-nape-of-the-neck braid was only €13.

Annie sat quietly smiling through the whole thing (because she isn’t, you know, two) and of course loved the results.

Before the event


Hair up....

...and cut!

Muuuuuuuch better

Likin' it

Yeah, I'm never going to be able to do that.


And dance!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Friday, December 31st, 2010

So here is how Christmas played out in our part of the world…

Traditionally Christmas is celebrated here on the evening of the 24. Family gathers, eats usually a fairly simple meal, and then the Christmas Child (I haven’t quite got the whole story yet on who that is. Jesus? An angel?) comes and brings the children presents.

We decided to have the family dinner at the cafe, as it was easier for everyone. Markus closed at about 1:00 p.m. and then we went back a few hours later to set up and get ready.

Pretty Christmas table

Everyone arrived together: Markus father and step-mom, sister Suzi with her daughter Lili and two dogs, and Suzi’s grandmother. Markus’s dad made steak tartar, which amazingly I actually like (just have to pretend I’m not eating raw meat.) Markus also put out breads and spreads and Italian meats and everything was lovely.

Franz, Renata and Uhroma, (she is 93!)

Suzi and Lili

Uhroma and Diego

The Christmas Child brought Annie a Princess tent, a doll and beads. Perfect!

On Christmas morning Annie woke up to a present at the end of her bed that Santa left. A ballerina-pink sparkly dress was inside. That Santa sure knows Annie well!

Downstairs the wonder of gifts under the tree and stockings hung by the fire (really laying on the couch) brought hoped-for squeals of delight. I actually didn’t take too many pictures, as we were just enjoying opening gifts and being together. Also, when I was a child, present opening lasted literally hours, so there was loads of opportunity for photos. Here, with one child and few adult gifts, it was all over in 20 minutes. I did snap these two lovely shots though.

AND!! (I’m so excited) I turned on the video to catch Annie spinning in her dress. It is way too dark and grainy, BUT I unexpectedly captured that iconic childhood moment when Annie’s little brain is trying to figure out why there is more than one Santa. She is saying that she saw Santa at the Christmas Market and he had a different face from the one that came to her kindergarten, Kindervilla. (Then she says the whole thing again for Papa in German, as he clearly doesn’t speak English.)

Just check out her face as her brain tries to process the information when I say that maybe one is Santa’s helper. Hilarious!

There are 2 Santa Clauses!! from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.

Happy New Year to you all.

Simply Free

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

*Update: So yeah, that didn’t happen. When we got to the concert our contact was frantically on the phone, looking very worried. Apparently the tickets weren’t at the box office and, to make a longish story shortish, we didn’t end up going. Markus and I caught a movie instead. But Annie gets to spend an overnight with Opa, which is pretty super in her books. She actually was literally pushing us out the door “go, go, go”. She grabbed my coat, pulled me into the hall, and then shut the door on us. Love you too sweetie. Separation anxiety is certainly not an issue in this family.

A regular at the cafe gave us free tickets to a concert tonight. A Simply Red concert. Simply Red? I can’t believe they are still performing.

Here they are, for your ’80’s viewing pleasure. (Love the hair!!)

Laternenfest 2010

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Another sweet afternoon put on by Annie’s kindergarten for Laternenfest 2010. She was a little put off by her row partner, but other than that, it was lovely.

Annie and Alexander

Lanterns are lit

The gang starts to line up

Singing in the pavillion

Halloween (sort of)

Monday, November 1st, 2010

My friend, Maria, lives in Antwerp and plans to take her daughter back home to Canada to celebrate a real Halloween some year. I’m imagining her daughter (and Annie) discovering at an older age that there is this place where you are allowed to dress up, walk house to house and then people give you a pillowcase full of candy. It is going to seem like Nirvana.

In the meantime, we do the best we can.

For our Halloween there was pumpkin carving…

And dressing up in costumes…

And the traditional Halloween donkey ride…??

The restaurant where we met, Nattererboden, is a favourite for parties as it is quite rural (although only 15 minutes from town) and has an outdoor playground, indoor play area, petting zoo and occasionally the donky riding. All in a large traditional restaurant setting with fantastic food. (I know I’ve questioned this before,  and I know there are exceptions, but why do restaurateurs in Canada so often think that “family-friendly” means lots of plastic furniture and processed food??)

The kids played in the playground despite it being rather crisp outside, carved pumpkins, made Halloween baskets from a pattern I found on a craft site, and ate candy. The trick or treating aspect wasn’t there, but the kids still had fun.

There are oodles of fun events throughout the winter in Austria, but I’m still glad I’m introducing Annie to my childhood traditions. I’m going with the belief that Annie will be an international child, instead of just confused. And of course for my girl, anything where there is sugar involved is a great event.