Things I Love About Austria

November 28th, 2011

Here is a random list of things that I love about living in this part of Austria. Much of it isn’t new, but it is fun to put it all into one place.

  • The beautiful mountains. Hiking, alpine zoo, skiing, tobogganing, just watching them as they change day by day, season by season
  • The old city. The buildings are up to 800 years old and I find Innsbruck’s old town especially beautiful
  • Christkindlmarkt. I’ve written about my love of the Innsbruck Christmas markets several times on this blog. After experiencing it 5 times, it still is magic to me
  • Festivals. It seems like there is always some festival or another going on in Innsbruck or one of the near-by villages. From ringing out winter to driving the cows down from the mountain, there is always a reason for beer, pretzels and wurst
  • Hütten. Anywhere you can climb, hike or ski there is a rustic restaurant-in-the-hills waiting for you with hearty food, a warm fire and an amazing view
  • Erlebnisbad. It takes a combined effort from the city, citizens and sponsors to create these fantastic swimming complexes that are scattered throughout this part of the world. It is a fun and relaxing way to spend an hour or a whole day
  • Living so close to Italy. It is a breathtaking, incredible country that I’m glad I visited and hope that I get to explore more at some point in my life
  • Travelling. Given that we haven’t been rich either in time or money the last 3 1/2 years, we’ve managed to do alright in the travel area. This is because everything is so close and accessible by train or car. Of course I would have loved to have gone to more places, but I’m grateful for what we have been able to see and experience in our time here
  • The opportunity to learn more about people from other cultures. Of course, I could have done this in Canada, but I never really did much. My circumstances as an expat who didn’t speak German led me to meet and interact meaningfully with people from Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, the Congo, Serbia, Russia, Montenegro, England, Holland, Australia, France, Italy, South Africa, Slovakia, and on and on

This is just off the top of my head, and it is a long list already. Our time here has been difficult and has strayed far, far from our original plan. But I don’t regret coming here. I know I’m a different person, a better person for this experience.

Stille Nacht

November 27th, 2011

I remember one of our first visits to Europe, probably close to 10 years ago. We were on a longer road-trip around Christmas time and to pass the time I asked Markus to try to teach me Stille Nacht. As long as I can remember “Silent Night” has been one of my favourite Christmas carols and I thought it would be a good way to pick up a few more words in German.

I think I managed to get about two lines down, and certainly wouldn’t have remembered them a few days later.

Now our choir is singing it for our Christmas performance. I know the song and understand all the words. I love the music and think the lyrics are beautiful. And it reminded me that last year we went skiing near the town where the lyrics were written in 1816. These are the kinds of lovely memories and connections that have been a gift from our time here. I will never forget them.

A Break

November 26th, 2011

Earlier in the week I thought that I might struggle with having Annie by myself for the whole day, as Markus works on Saturdays. So I called in the grandparent cavalry, which I don’t do often.

They took Annie from 10:00 to 4:00, and I had a lovely, lovely day alone at home. I worked a bit, crafted a lot, and just chilled out. I finished a scrapbook page and then painted a bit in a new art journal. I’m just playing around with colours, not even attempting to paint anything real, but I still really enjoy it. Maybe I’ll try a painting class in the future.

When I picked up Annie I stayed and talked with Oma and Opa for almost two hours. It was good to connect with them again, as the relationship between the family has been strained. Ah well, such is life.

Tomorrow is our family day. It has been a long, stressful week for Markus, so I imagine we won’t do much. But a totally do-nothing weekend is fine with me once in a while.

I’ll go back to being busy and industrious on Monday.

A Nice Evening

November 25th, 2011

The stress level at our house has been, to put it mildly, in the red. The first thing that happens when I’m anxious is I lose all patience with Annie. Poor duck.

So I’m grateful that we had a nice, easy evening together. I picked Annie up at 2:00 and we talked about making a domino set. She had cut one out of a kids magazine, but didn’t quite get the concept of a domino and so cut each square out individually instead of keeping two connected. She asked about taping them together, which we could have, but instead I suggested finding a printable one on the Internet. I love the Internet. It is absolutely magic, and especially for anything kid’s-craft related.

I found a zillion choices, so we picked one that had flower pictures and one that had the alphabet. There was an option to print them out black and white and colour them in ourselves (smart!) so that is what we did. Annie ran around with Dad for a bit on errands, and then when she got home we started colouring and cutting while listening to music. Between crafting and playing and dinner, over two hours flew by. Books and teeth and bed and it was an easy, easy evening that we both totally enjoyed.

I very much look forward to more of the same once things reach some level of normal again. I’m ready.

Not much today…

November 24th, 2011

The writing part of my brain isn’t feeling very creative today. It was a good day, with some work projects completed, a nice walk to the store in crisp fall weather, and lots of snuggles with Annie.

But now I’m just ready to turn on Q and do some crafting.  More tomorrow.

Fluid IQ

November 23rd, 2011

I watched the Tedx video by Gabe Zichermann, one of the current leaders on gamification.

I don’t agree with everything he says…like the value of reading books!…but it is a thought-provoking perspective on how games can actually support a child’s education instead of working against it.

My favourite part is the five things that increase fluid intelligence (good for problem solving). They are:

  • Seek novelty
  • Challenge yourself
  • Think creatively
  • Do things the hard way
  • Network

I’m really an expert at number four! But actually, I do most of these five things frequently, and I’m a pretty good problem solver in a work context. Now if I could only use that super-power to figure out some of my other life challenges….

There is always next year….

November 22nd, 2011

Darn. I forgot to post yesterday. I’m surprisingly disappointed. I’ll keep going through the month, though, because I’m enjoying daily posting and I like the feedback from friends and family.

Annie and I were eating waffles for breakfast. She was talking, non-stop, as usual. She said something a bit odd and I asked, “Why did you say that?”

“It just popped out, Mom. Sometime I think something in my head and I try hard to hold it there (grunting face) but it just goes down into my mouth and pops out!”

I know that feeling well, honey, I know it well.

Making Cookies

November 20th, 2011

It is a lazy, lazy Sunday at our house. This is about the sum total of our busyness today.

Whew! I’m exhausted. Off to bed.

Too Plugged In?

November 19th, 2011

My world is shifting from feeling somewhat disconnected to way too plugged in. With the time-change between Canada and Austria, it is important I check my email first thing in the morning as well as late at night. And now that I’m trying to boost business in Europe, I’m getting mail throughout the regular workday as well.

In order to keep myself organized, I have my three email addresses on separate accounts (forwarding them to one inbox was way too confusing), so that means two web browsers open and frequent checks throughout the day.

I’ve installed TweetDeck so that I can see activity on my personal twitter account, work twitter account, LinkedIn, Facebook and various twitter searches (such as “Pug Pharm”) at one glace.  Update, retweet, repeat as necessary.

My Skype is on all the time I’m at the computer, so I see the online/offline activities of my contacts popping up throughout the day. I occasionally have more than one chat conversation going on at the same time.

And I don’t even have a smart phone yet! With my obsessive tendencies, this could get very scary very fast.

Christmas Season in Innsbruck

November 18th, 2011

Annie brought a friend over after school. The two girls played happily in Annie’s room for over two hours. When they started to get bored…and hungry…Markus suggested we check out the Christmas Markets, as they just opened.

In looking for a parking spot Markus parked farther away from the market than I would have liked, and I was all grumble, grumble, grumble until we walked out of the parkade into the opening festivities of the inner-city skating rink.

This is a relatively small outdoor rink used mostly for public skating for kids. Annie used to go all the time when we lived around the corner at the Delevo. But one of the larger local banks is the rink sponsor, and they sure do put on a great opening show. We only caught about 10 minutes but we saw dancers, figure skaters, fire breathers, a stunningly-dressed violin player, small pyrotechnics and a fantastic aerial artist. The girls were all wide-eyed with wonder. Impressive.

Then we walked through old town, marveling at the Christmas lights. There were zillions of people, a brass band playing from the Goldenes Dachl, and of course the market stalls. Markus and I ordered kiachl with sauerkraut and kiachl with cranberry for the girls (although they ended up eating half of our sauerkraut ones…good Austrian mädchens,) We snacked on honey roasted almonds and drank mulled wine. So lovely.

After dinner (is fried bread considered dinner?) we went to the main market where the girls went on the pony ride. On the walk back to the car they ooohed at the stuffed giants lining the streets and tried to guess which fairy tales were hanging up on the walls.

I absolutely love Christmas season in Innsbruck. It is a magical, amazing time, with so many things to do it is hard to keep up. Once we get a little snow up on the mountains, it will be perfect.