Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Posting Every Day??

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Well, I’m going to try, again, to post every day in November for NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month.) I’m needing more structure in my life, so thought I could manufacture a bit through this system. I have a feeling these daily posts will be short, but as good friend Sue says…it’s MY blog!

It was a busy week this week so yesterday I ended up conking out when I put Annie to bed. I actually started to get sleepy while reading to her, so she turned on the bedside lamp and read to herself (and me) while I nodded off. That child can be so independent already. So here I am at 5 in the morning (which is actually 4 in the morning due to daylight savings time) wide awake and ready to go.

The grand opening of the square in front of the cafe on Tuesday went well. I was there for 13 hours helping out but that was nothing compared to Markus who ran around working and organizing from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. We were very worried about the weather, as the day before we had quite a bit of snow in Innsbruck. But the sun came out in the afternoon and, although cold, a few thousand people did show up. And most importantly many people came into the cafe who didn’t realize that it was there. Hopefully that will help business over the next few weeks.

Today a few expat families are forcing a Halloween celebration in this land where it doesn’t exist. We are meeting at a restaurant and carving some pumpkins and, most importantly, letting the kids dress up in costumes. Annie is pretty excited, as she wasn’t going to be allowed to wear the Ariel mermaid costume Mom brought her until Fasching, which is next February. When I told her it was only one sleep until she was able to dress up in it, there was a very big smile.

I’ll post some pictures tomorrow for your enjoyment…and so that I have a topic for Day 1 of NaBloPoMo!

Cappuccinos and Croissants

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

The new cafe is open!!

Reflections on a Quiet Afternoon

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

In celebration of our move into our new lovely home, Annie’s children’s birthday party was a home event.

Invitations were sent to 11 of Annie’s nearest and dearest friends. The children arrived attended by parents who, except for a couple of helper-parents, were then allowed to go off on errands. Everything was so well-organized and under control.

Children went on the trampoline one or, at most, two at a time while the remaining children happily and quietly participated in alternate activities, patiently waiting their turn.


This was to ensure that there was no chance for accidents or collision.


After some fun and friendly games, it was time to open the presents. Each child quietly sat with their present in a well-formed circle. Annie politely opened each gift, admiring the present, acknowledging the gift-giver, and saying a well-rehearsed “thank you.”




Since this was a party of fairly equal number of boys and girls, no gender-specific games were played, such as fairy princess dancing. And certainly no-one went onto our kind neighbour’s front patio.



I’m so thrilled that, through careful planning and calm diversion of the children, these beautiful shots were taken of the cake, blowing out the candles, each child individually with Annie and at least one shot of each of the games and activities.

I’m delighted that my calm and quiet little flower had such a sweet birthday.

*Thanks to the unsuspecting parent helpers. Without you, even these few meager photos would not have been taken.

***I’ve decided not to mention the flagrant nudity of a couple of the boys…while jumping on the trampoline. No, let’s not talk about that.

***Oh, and one of the more rambunctious boys (see point above) told his dad that the party was “cool”, so there you go.

A Wedding in Paris

Monday, June 21st, 2010

The guests came from many places. From the UK, Austria, Germany, France. From Canada. All descending on Paris in the springtime.


So much rain pouring down all week. Would it ever stop? The rain stopped. For that one day only.

The Rodin Museum closed their doors to the public, opened their doors to our special gathering. Pictures were taken by The Thinker, thinking about this lovey day no doubt. We gathered on the beautiful lawn, in front of a quiet pond.


They walked out of the trees together. The bride glowing, happy. More beautiful than I’ve ever seen her. The groom handsome and confident and caring.


Words were exchanged, heartfelt and tear-inducing. Everyone cheered.




An amusing transition from the ceremony to the reception. A bride in flip-flops and 20 lovely-dressed people riding the grimy Paris subway. Many, many heads turned and smiles given.

Dinner in the winter garden at a gorgeous hotel. Food to savour, from beginning to end. Introductions and speeches, kisses exchanged on top of chairs and under the table. Much, much laughter.

Congratulations Ryan and Renata. May an entire lifetime of happiness and growth and love be yours.



Monday, April 12th, 2010

Well, it looks like we finally have a plan. It has been a very stressful, very exhausting couple of months waiting to see what path our life would take. I learned a lot about myself through this process. I consider myself someone not only open to change, but someone who craves and needs it. However, when I am faced with so much instability that I don’t even know what continent I will be living on come the next season, apparently I actually stop being able to function. The lack of blog posts the last few weeks is a good testament to that.


Last Friday Markus signed a contract for a lease on a cafe. It is a Testa Rossa Cafe, a successful franchise here in Austria. The location is good, fairly close to the city center. But more importantly, it is surrounded by provincial government buildings. So the crowd will likely be mostly local…not a bad thing in our estimation. It has 40 seats inside and 4o seats outside the first year. In the second year, once renovations to the square in front are complete, another 60 patio seats will be added.

Markus will continue to look for a hotel to operate, but for now he will focus on making this new business work. Our current hotel shuts down at the end of April. It is sad and frustrating that we were never able to come to an arrangement with the building’s owner, but it is also very much time to move on. We are all excited about that.

At the end of April the three of us will move into our new apartment. It is an area called Arzl, which is about 10 minutes drive from Innsbruck’s city center. We are renting one of two apartments in a bright yellow house, so our apartment is actually on three floors. There is a small office on the entry level, the main floor has the kitchen/living area, our bedroom, the main bathroom and a guest half-bathroom. Upstairs is a big room for Annie with a half-bathroom as well. We will relocate Annie when guests come so they will have a floor to themselves.

The pros are a good-sized balcony and a front yard for Annie to play in. The views are nice, although not as lovely as our current apartment. (I’ll post pictures once we move, of course.) It certainly has the feel of a house more than an apartment, which I really like. It is completely newly renovated, so hopefully fairly easy to keep clean. There is a shed for sports equipment outside, and some storage under the roof on the top floor. A shopping plaza is a 5 minute walk away, and there is a frequent bus line just a few minutes away as well. If we end up going with just one car for a while, it is only one bus to Annie’s kindergarten. I’d like to keep her there as she has such a great circle of friends already. And she loves the teacher, which is also important at this age.

The biggest con is that Annie is on a different floor than us. With a windy staircase. She has never in her life fallen, or even slipped, on the millions of stairs she climbs every day here at the hotel and at Kindergarten. Here’s hoping that trend continues. Our bedroom is small, so we’ll have to store some of our off-season clothes in boxes or in a wardroom in Annie’s room.

I can’t really comment if the house is small or big; my perspective is so mixed-up about that at the moment. It is about 1400 sq. feet (135 sq. meters), so it is big for a European apartment, but less than half the amount of space we had in Canada. No guest room, no real laundry room, no walk-in closet. But I’ve been living without these things (as do pretty much all Europeans) for some time now, so I’m not sure if I’ll even notice anymore. I guess I’ll just have to update you on how I feel about that once we are settled in.

And now the amusing part. When I moved to Europe one of my deal-breakers was that we had to have at least two bathrooms. Now I’m looking at our sort-of 3 bathrooms and thinking, meh, I’d rather have more closet space. Ah, perspective changes so fast.

As for the rest of life, lots of plans for that too. Annie and I are off to Winnipeg for two weeks at the beginning of May to help Mom celebrate her 75th birthday. Then I’m spending three or four nights in Paris when I return, as good friends Ryan and Renate are having their wedding there. In the middle of all of that is Annie’s birthday, of course. Four years old. 4!! 4?? Unbelievable.

I’m quite excited about spending a summer in Austria, although I hear it is HOT. There are lots of lakes and outdoor swimming pools and play areas for Annie and I to hang out in, and we might even travel a bit. Markus will be very busy the next few months (although the cafe will be closed Sundays. Yeah!), so Annie and I will be mostly on our own. I think we’ll also just enjoy hanging out at home and making it our own.

My dream is to spend two or three weeks in Victoria and Vancouver in autumn, but that is going to depend on lots of things. So I’ll just keep hoping it all falls into place.

Big breath, a few moments to give thanks that it is all working out, and now off to pack.

I Guess You Can Never Say Never

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

So I’ve been having a thought the last few days. And it is something I was sure I would never think. Ever.

O.K. Here goes…

I’m sad winter is over.

A couple of weeks ago I gave Annie’s Kindergarten teacher a memory stick to load up with pictures from the last few months. She gave it back to me late last week and I was delighted to discover that she had put 500 pictures on there, (ah, the magic of digital images) with quite a few of Annie.

Going through their activities…skating, sliding, ski week…made me realized I’ve loved this season. And now that I’m starting to catch the skiing bug, I’m going to miss the snow even more. We might try to squeeze another day or two out of the mountains at higher elevations or get a run in on one of the glaciers, but as the buds start to peak through on the branches there is no denying that winter is done and spring is in the air. And my overriding thought is “darn.” That is enough to make one ask, “Who are you and what have you done with Hillary?”

I’m thankful Annie’s teachers are so shutter happy, as the last day of Annie’s ski week, the day when parents came to watch, was windy and snowy and Annie started crying when she saw me (no idea why, as she loves skiing) so my pictures from that day are less than excellent.

Here are a few of the highlights of Annie’s winter.

Rutschblatten at the park near the Kindergarten:


Climbing up the hill at the park near the Kindergarten. (Annie is pink and blue)


Rutschblatten 2010 from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.


Annie went skating twice with her class. These are from the first session where I joined in. (Ah, the benefits of being unemployed.) Annie is towards the end of the video. (I probably should have taken the time to edit it, but then this post would never actually be posted. Patrice at the beginning is trying skating for the very first time!)


Skating 2010 from Hillary Samson on Vimeo.

Ski Week:

Every educational institution in Tirol, from Kindergarten to High School (Gymnasium) has a ski week sometime after Christmas. Last year I was constantly side-stepping gaggles of three and four year olds piled up on the sidewalk waiting for their bus. They looked sooooo cute in their helmets and ski boots! And now this year it was Annie’s turn. She loved skiing (except for the last day.) It is such a fantastic family sport (as long as no one breaks a leg), that I’m really thrilled both she and I are learning to be comfortable on the hills.

Getting ready

Getting ready

Up, up, up in the gondola

Up, up, up in the gondola

Ready to rock!!

Ready to rock!!

Magic carpet ride. Seriously, how cute are those kids?!!!

Magic carpet ride. Seriously, how cute are those kids?!!!

Learning the "pizza"

Learning the "pizza"

Annie is at the front of this line (at least, I think that is her), but you get the idea.

Annie is at the front of this line (at least, I think that is her), but you get the idea.

[MISSING: Actual pictures of the ski race.] Between needing to console a crying Annie at the start gates and user error of the video camera, pictures were a bust. But hey, life’s like that sometimes. But trust me, she was fantastic! She made it the whole way down the beginner run with her hands on her knees and chin up. And she even did great pizza turns between flags!

Proudly showing off medals and certificates!

Proudly showing off medals and certificates!

So that is it for Winter 2010. I’m sure not nearly as exciting as it was for my B.C. friends and family who were able to experience the Olympics, but it was pretty great here in Innsbruck in its own small way.

Yesterday as I was walking with Annie home from school, jackets flung on our arms, she held my hand and said “I like snow.” Yes, my love. Me too. Next year…more skiing, new adventures (cross-country or ski touring), more ski-jumping competitions to watch, more snow to play in. We can’t wait!

Fasching 2010

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Fasching season, that crazy time leading up to Ash Wednesday and Lent, is over for another year. It is a historically a time of excess and overindulgence before 40 days of austerity. It is also a celebration to push off Winter and, hopefully, welcome Spring.

For more details, pictures and a video of the parade, check out my Fasching post from last year.

This year Annie, like every other little girl in her Kindergarten class, was a fairy princess. It was hilarious dropping her off at school and seeing a gaggle of pink-winged girls tumble out excitedly into the hall to greet Annie.

We didn’t make the parade this year. Well, we did, but the first group to go by was a colourful set of clowns. Freaked Annie right out so we came home and listened to the partying from our apartment all night.

Here are some pics from the day.






I wonder what next year will bring…hobo maybe? Not likely.

Markus Joins My Tick Box

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

As my 40th birthday trip was such a success, we decided to try another to celebrate the start of Markus’ 5th decade. Since my mom was not on hand to watch Annie, we made it a family trip. (Seriously, this post is mostly about Annie, but that is the way it goes with a very cute 3-year-old around to take pictures of.)

Markus scouted out a ski region in the province of Salzburg called Ski Amade that had reports of excellent snow and hundreds of ski runs to choose from. We originally were going to book a package at a hotel that included breakfast, dinner and two 3-day ski passes. But after more internet-poking around, Markus discovered a small apartment on a hobby-farm about 10 minutes from the lift. So instead of €900 for a single hotel room, we paid less than €400 (including ski passes) plus food money that wasn’t much different than we would have spent at home. And that was for a much larger space with a kitchen as well as separate living and sleeping area.

It was a bit of an experiment, this farmhouse accommodation, as they are very popular all over Austria. If this worked out it would be a great and relatively inexpensive option for our family vacations throughout the year.

We drove into the town of Wagrain on Wednesday afternoon, which is an absolutely adorable village with the proud claim that Joseph Mohr, the writer of Stille Nacht, was perish pastor there during the early 1800’s. On arriving at the farmhouse we were greeted by the owner who showed us to our room with this view from the balcony:



The Austrians have a phrase for this kind of snow-covered wonderland: “kitschy-beautiful.” I think it is fitting for this almost over-the-top scene.

All in all we had an absolutely wonderful time. We decided to ski only two days so that we could visit a wellness pool driving back to Innsbruck. We put Annie into half-day ski camps, which she loved. Markus stayed with me for the first couple of hours on the first day making sure I didn’t kill myself with my pathetic ski skills. But the hill he set me up on was very forgiving and the snow was perfect, so I did my own thing for a bit after lunch while he explore more challenging options. The second day I took it a bit easier while Markus went off on his own for over 3 hours of skiing bliss.

Getting ready for a day on the slopes.

Getting ready for a day on the slopes.


On the second day after skiing, Annie was tearing up the floor with her moves at the apres-ski restaurant. (As my friend Nicole often says to me regarding Annie: “Hillary, you’re screwed.”)

Shy she ain't

Shy she ain't

The Solid Gold Dancers live!

The Solid Gold Dancers live!

The birthday itself was rather low-key, as suited Markus. We had cake on Thursday for the official birthday and Annie and I made a card.


Blowing out the candles. (Annie as usual, is featuring her no-pants look frequently seen these days.)

Blowing out the candles. (Annie, as usual, is featuring her no-pants look frequently seen these days.)

In terms of the farmhouse aspect, Annie adored feeding the ponies and bunnies as well as sliding down the snowy sidewalk on her plastic disc.

Crazy kid

Crazy kid




Feeding the rabbits while wearing her ski participation medal, which she didn't take off until...well, she's still wearing it.

It looks like both ski holidays and farmhouse vacations are going to be at the top of our list for the rest of our time in Austria.

Happy 40th Birthday Markus and here’s to a wonderful year ahead!

Jumping over Innsbruck

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Every year, just after Christmas, is a ski jumping competition in Innsbruck, part of the Four Hills Tournament that takes place in Germany and Austria. Markus was sorry we missed it last year (all 20,000 tickets were sold out by the time we investigated), so we made sure to get tickets early this year.

The event is at the Bergisel Schanze, just outside of Innsbruck’s city center. So our gang jumped on a street car and joined the hoards hiking up to the viewing area.

The large bowl where the ski jumpers land, and where the crowds view the event, means that there really isn’t a bad spot in the house.

The view from Bergisel is, well,…


stunning. It was a perfect clear day, ideal for viewing.

We were all dressed up in our winter warmest, and Nicole brought a big pitcher of glühwein and lots of sandwiches.

Friends Tom and Nicole

Friends Tom and Nicole

Renata, Ryan and Rebecca (don't think I didn't have problems with those names all week!)

Renata, Ryan and Rebecca (don't think I didn't have problems with those names all week!)

Markus, Annie and bundled-up me

Markus, Annie and bundled-up me

Whenever an Austrian was about to jump, the crowd went crazy with cheers and horns and cow bells and flag waving.

The crowd goes wild

The crowd goes wild

Annie was an ardent flag-waver

Annie was an ardent flag-waver

It was excellent viewing, but the pictures of the jumpers turned out to be a bit of Where’s Waldo?.

Can you find the flying man in the trees?

Can you find the flying man in the trees?

And to top it all off, a Tirolean, Gregor Schlierenzauer, won.


He is a 19-year-old phenomenon, who has won several races during the season and is one of the favourites for the Vancouver Olympics.

I thought I would enjoy the day, but instead I completely loved it! It was so much fun. And Annie managed to make it through 4 hours outside and still keep her smile. She was a superstar. We are talking about trying to make all four races next January and becoming official ski jumping groupies. And to think I used to hate winter.

Merry Christmas Everyone

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Wishing you a very wonderful Christmas day.

Lili and Rebecca

Lili and Rebecca

Lili and Annie

Lili and Annie