Category Archives: Life

My Favourite Things 2012

Out with the old & in with the new?  Yes but before that, move over Oprah it my turn to announce my favourite things for 2012!  Now this list below isn’t exactly what every person desires, hopes for or even wants BUT I think I wouldn’t be alone in saying that many Mommies around the world would think my list is well… pretty good.

Some are old-time favourite and some are new discoveries that I think are just fabulous.   Whatever tickles your fancy these things could bring joy to your life just as it has with mine 🙂

Here are my picks for 2012, in random order.

sale1.  After Christmas Sales.  You heard it from me folks. Once the Viennese puts down their Gluwein and move forward into the New Year you will have to fight the crowds to scoop up Christmas decorations at a special discount of not 10% off but 11%!  Truly amazing eh?!

2.  Motivation to keep my house clean.  Is it wrong to hope that he will appear after I clean the toilets… every time?

3. Gangnam Style.  Everything!

facebooksomeecards4.  Someecards humour.  For times when you wanna say it but don’t.  Post it instead 🙂

5.  Letting Daddy take over for a day.. or two.

6.  Taking a night off from motherhood to catch up with the girls.

7.  Nuff said.  Lifesaver.  Long live vodka.

50 shades of grey8.  50 Shades Bandwagon!  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my latest reading material.

earplugs9.  Earplugs.  Any kind.  For the sake of a good night sleep next to the husband “who never snores” and the children who dare to wake from a nightmare.  “Sorry honey I swear I never heard little Bobby cry…”  Works like a charm.

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10.  Pinterest.  Even though I always turn to Pinterest for ideas I must also thank Pinterest for pointing out to my husband that an organized household can be achieved.  This website has killed my “it can’t be done” card.
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11.  Finally, a special thank you to PicMonkey.com for helping me reverse the signs of age, stress and depleted energy and even giving me a little boost or nip and tuck here and there…  Now all my Facebook friends will know my little best kept secret…. that I am not a wrinkle free big boobed goddess.  Damn it.

Photo credits 1 2 3 5 6 7 8
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What’s on your bucket list?

At some point in your life you will come across someone who has written a “bucket list”, that checklist to complete before you turn 30, 50 or before you “kick the bucket”. Normally, this list is created at the same time mortality starts playing on the brain. Everyone always starts out feeling the same way, invincible teens, “plenty of time” 20’s, then like a fly swatter to the face it hits you.  Whack.  You wake up one morning look in the mirror and say to your reflection “who the eff is that staring at me?”. You may have discovered a few more grey hairs (100 or so in my case), a new wrinkle or two or perhaps experienced back pain when you sneezed. Little annoyances like these somehow crept in overnight and caught you by surprise. This morning discovery happened to me in my 35th year. I was a mother to two beautiful children, a wife to a workaholic and a woman whose life was once occupied with a career, sports and a very active social life that had evolved into a stagnant routine of cleaning, cooking and chauffeuring. It wasn’t until when life changing events started happening at rocket speed that I put my heels down and said “enough is enough”.  After 5 household moves (3 of them International) since 2008, a cancer scare (thankfully benign) and starting a new career after 8 years of full-time motherhood, life was accelerating way beyond my comfort zone and I’ve done my best to slow things down!  Live in the moment.

Enter my bucket list or shall I call it a “basket” list.

It will be less than 6 months till I hit my 40th year on this planet (shocker I know, considering that I’ve brainwashed my kids into telling everyone that I am 31) and since I am the type who is always ready to plan the next adventure, I decided that in order to successfully map out my future bucket list I first need to look back and acknowledge my achievements so far. The basket list below show my significant moments, accomplishments, and experiences that have happened in my life so far. I won’t highlight the obvious (college, career, marriage, kids… ok may be kids) rather the little blips on my life’s radar that have left permanent impressions in my soul, conscious awakenings that have reminded me just how precious life really is; moments to which has helped me develop into the person who I am today.

  • Born with an instant play mate – my twin
  • At age six caught a catfish. I was so proud!
  • Candy apples at the Bolton Fall Fair every September
  • Ran the 100m dash in 14 seconds flat at age 10. Placed 1st in Peel Region.
  • Partied at Speirsfest
  • Made the perfect dipped cone when I worked at DQ
  • Lost clumps of hair after too much perming
  • Sold a $25,000 Instant Win scratch ticket when I worked as a cashier at I.D.A Pharmacy
  • Jumped off the roof of a two-story house into the backyard pool (now that I’m a mom… stupid idea!!)
  • The Lavender Booth at the Royal Winter Fair every November
  • Left home at 23 to sail around the world
  • Was in London the day Princess Diana was killed (very sad moment)
  • Got to celebrate the Millennium New Year twice by sailing over the international date line
  • Danced on stage with Sha Na Na
  • Scuba Dived the Great Barrier Reef
  • Crawled in the Cu Chi Tunnels
  • Had two quick and easy (thank you epidural) births
  • Made a fool of myself in front of a famous person
  • Held a tarantula
  • Stood on Maho Beach under a 747 landing in St. Maarten
  • 2008: house burglarized, dog was poisoned, hurricane Omar
  • Searched for nesting Hawksbill sea turtles on a Caribbean beach in the middle of the night
  • Broke my wrist from a simple fall
  • Ate unpasteurized soft cheese rolled in fresh lavender and LOVED it
  • Horseback rode in many countries
  • Visited a concentration camp
  • Waltzed in the Hofburg Palace at the Officer’s Ball
  • Started a blog
  • Was chosen as a finalist in a Russell James photography competition
  • Congratulated my daughter on a perfect school report card
  • Climbed Austrian Mountain Schröcken… ok so it wasn’t Everest but it was bloody high!
  • Nearly saw my husband get hit by a car
  • Met a dear friend in Rome for 24 hours
  • Went on a blind “friend date”

When was the last time you took time to review your life achievements or reflect on great memories? So often people focus on setting future goals without first taking a look back and acknowledge what they have done in the past. Although I may not physically have a “bucket list” written as of yet, I do make an effort every day to work on meeting my next goal, whether it is to learn a new language (helps living in Austria) or to taste a new ice cream flavour. AND most importantly, I try to approach each new experience with a sense of humour.

“A day without laughter is a day wasted”. Charlie Chaplin

Stay tuned… my bucket list just may appear in the near future 🙂

Photo credits: 1 2


Playmobil what isn’t to love?

If you were born less than 37 years ago chances are you owned a Playmobil toy.  These miniature size plastic movable toys are as popular today as they were when they first hit stores worldwide in 1975.  What started out as the basic themes of construction sites and knights have multiplied into any theme imaginable.  I bought this farm set for my children for Christmas and of course it was well received.  After dumping out the teeny tiny pieces we quickly built our set and the playing has never stopped.

The attention to detail is what I find so fascinating, which helps me understand the price tag that comes along with such a great activity.  From this particular set nothing was forgotten, heat lamps for the mama pig & her piglets, labeled battery for the wire fence, even the cow poop was included (my kids found that quite amusing).  Not sure if this farm set sold in North America would also include the solar panels on the rooftops, just like you would see here in Europe.  So environmentally friendly 🙂

The big question however, still remains.  How long will it take before one of these pieces falls victim to the vacuum cleaner?


Bauernhof… the Austrian way

I must admit I do love a luxurious travel experience (who wouldn’t?) however, there is something about getting back to nature that is a part of who I am.  Always a Canadian at heart I enjoy open spaces, fresh air and polite people and I can pretty much guarantee that you will find that in the Austrian countryside.  Here at Ferienhof Gressenbauer not only can you experience country living but you can actually participate in it too! “Ferienhof” means “vacation place” and “bauer” in English is “farmer” so by putting two and two together and I’m sure you have figured out this country retreat belongs to the Gressenbauer Family.

We discovered this Bauernhof in 2010 ago when my husband and I escaped Vienna for a quick mountain weekend get-a-way.  Karen & Florian run this “B&B”, as us North American’s call it, along with his parents (we refer to them as “Omi & Opa”) and their three children. This farm has 60 beef cattle, 2 ponies, 2 bunnies, many cats, a goat and a pig.  When they are not taking care of their guests they are hard at work in the barn feeding, cleaning and so much more.  Guests are welcome to join in with the daily chores too if they wish – hey, it’s always nice to have a helping hand right?  My husband likes to feed the cows in the afternoons and Florian appreciates the help.

Accommodations are simple & clean and your overnight stays includes breakfast, which is what you expect in a typical Ferienhof.  Fresh milk & eggs come from the farm down the road, homemade jams and marmelades change according to the season and freshly baked bread is delivered every morning.  “Omi” normally bakes a “pick of the day” treat for all to enjoy every afternoon and there is nothing like coming home from a 5-hour mountain hike to the smell of fresh apricot cake or apple strudel.

Also included in the rate is a “Pyhrn-Priel Aktivcard”, which is a “free pass” to use for chair lifts up the mountains, admission to the local public swimming pool and discounts on other entry fees to local nature parks and activity centers.  This card in itself will save you a bundle, especially when you are traveling as a family of 4 like us.  My kids favorite is the “Sommerrodelbahn“, which is like a toboggan run ride on a giant slide that’s 1532 meters long down the mountain.  You can also zoom down on the Alpine coaster ride (on a track) too.

Typically, Austrians choose their Ferienhof carefully and once they have found “the one” they become loyal customers.  Thankfully we found “our favourite” right away and we are grateful for the wonderful hospitality the Gressenbauer family provides.  We look forward to our bi-annual holidays and to our children who will grow up with fond memories of their farm experience.

Ferienhof Gressenbauer

Ferienhof Gressenbauer – Karin & Florian Gressenbauer
Edlbach 15
A-4580 Windischgarsten

Tel./Fax +43 (0)7562/5172
ferienhof@gressenbauer.net


The Cafe Experience

Many of you who have traveled around Europe may understand the importance of “the cafe experience”. Whether it is to taste Europe’s best coffee, catch up with a dear friend or simply indulge in people watching, sitting at a cafe here IS an experience.  As you may guess Vienna is FULL of cafes and depending on your mood the right cafe is probably a few steps away.

My husband and I decided to have a quiet Sunday morning breakfast at Edison in the 8th district of Vienna since we were child free (thanks Omi & Opa).  On the recommendations from another Viennese food blogger, sushiandstrudel, I wanted to give it a try.  As always, it was another refreshing change from the last cafe experience.  This one in particular had a clean & fresh atmosphere, decorated just to my liking with shabby chic decor and rustic charm.  As you would expect in Vienna, the coffee didn’t disappoint.  The breakfast menu offered an assortment of traditional pastries, health conscious dishes and richer (dare I say it) fattier alternatives.  Since I’m too lazy to make any sort of eggs at my house, I indulged in some ham & eggs.  Delish.

For a different cafe experience altogether you could walk downtown and soak up history in one of Vienna’s oldest coffee houses, Central Cafe.  Here you can experience Vienna’s traditional morning routines, perhaps the same of that Sigmund Freud had enjoyed.  Cafe Central has a rich & mysterious atmosphere which made me feel like I had stepped out of a time machine.  Newspapers were placed in the traditional wooden frames for all to enjoy, assorted pastries were displayed in glass casing and what appeared as cafe regulars chatted warmly with the staff.

In this type of coffee house the wait staff will always be formally dressed, which includes a bow tie.  Coffee is always served with a glass of water and one could spend an entire day occupying a table with a single order of coffee.  There is never the expectation or pressure to drink your coffee and go.   No way.  The Viennese enjoy their coffee ritual and may spend hours chatting with friends, conducting business or  simply enjoy a good morning read.  This tradition goes ways back to the turn of the 19th century.

Whether you fancy something fresh & trendy or formal & traditional every cafe will offer a unique experience.  With over 1000 coffee houses in Vienna to choose from I know that I’ve got my work cut out for me!  Thank GAWD I love coffee!


You know you’re Canadian if…

Canada turns 145 years old today!

As a proud Canadian I have been told by many that we are as a nation polite, funny and hospitable.  And when I was asked “How can you tell who’s a Canadian” by my Austrian friend I thought of this list below.

So in honour (not honor) of this special day I’d like to share all those great quirks & qualities that makes us Canucks so darn cool and well loved by all!

Read ’em and enjoy eh?

  • You know how to pronounce and spell Saskatchewan without blinking
  • You put on shorts as soon as it hits plus 10, even if there is still snow around
  • You know what a tuque (toque?) is
  • You are excited whenever an American television show mentions Canada
  • You make a mental note to talk about it at work the next day
  • You use a red pen on your non-Canadian textbooks and fill in the missing ‘u’s from labor, honor, and color
  • You have Canadian Tire money in your kitchen drawers
  • Pike is a type of fish, not some part of a highway
  • You drive on a highway, not a freeway
  • You know what a Robertson screwdriver is
  • You understand the sentence, “Could you please pass me a serviette, I just spilled my poutine.”
  • You drink pop, not soda
  • You love your fries with poutine
  • You go to the washroom, not the restroom or bathroom
  • Someone accidently stepped on your foot. You apologize.
  • You stepped on someone’s foot. You apologize, then apologize for making them apologize
  • You have worn shorts and a parka at the same time
  • “Eh” is a very important part of your vocabulary and you understand all the 1,000 different meanings of “eh”… eh?
  • You only know three spices: salt, pepper and ketchup.
  • You design your Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
  • Canadian Tire on any Saturday is busier than the toy stores at Christmas.
  • You’ve taken your kids trick-or-treating in a blizzard.
  • Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled in with snow.
  • You think sexy lingerie is tube-socks and a flannel nightie with  only 8 buttons.
  • The local paper covers national and international headlines on 2 pages, but requires 6 pages for hockey.
  •  You know which leaves make good toilet paper.
  •  You find -40C a little chilly.
  • The trunk of your car doubles as a deep freeze.
  • You attend a formal event in your best clothes, your finest  jewelery and your Sorels.
  • You understand the Labatts Blue commercials.
  • You perk up when you hear the theme from “Hockey Night in Canada”.

credits: 1 2


“Mommy.. Where did Grandma go?”

There comes a time in every child’s life where he/she will question death.  “Mommy, where did Grandma go?”  How would you respond?

  1. “Ah sweetie, <kneeling beside the child> Grandma’s in a beautiful place called heaven.”
  2. <With a hug>“She’s no longer with us but will always be in our hearts.”
  3. “Your father forgot to renew the plot tax so they dug her up to make room for Frau Schmitt.”

Answer #3 can be a true if you live in Vienna.  You see, when a loved one passes away, your options for a final resting place can be limited.  Since 78% of Austrians are Roman Catholic they still believe in a burial rather than a cremation and living in a highly populated European city = a lot of bodies to bury.  The question remains, when real estate is at such a premium, can cemeteries accommodate everyone?  Not exactly.  Here families do not buy plots to lay their loved ones to rest, rather, they rent them out for 10-20 years instead.  If they wish not or forget to renew the plot agreement and do not pay the tax the likelihood that the plot will be rented to a new family will be inevitable.

Where do they put the remains of an exhumed grave?  Dunno?

Zentralfriedhof (German for Central Cemetery), which is located on the outskirts of Vienna has a total of 2.5 square kilometres and contains about 330 000 graves today.  Over 3 million people have been buried here, which is almost double the population of the city of Vienna.  Popular on the tourist attraction list, people from around the world visit  Zentralfriedhof which is packed full of famous people.

Just check out just some of the famous people who are buried here:

One thing I can vouch for is that Austrians do take pride in their cemeteries.  It is the family’s responsibility for the upkeep and most plots are immaculately maintained, however you will see the odd overgrown “forgotten” plot.

Strolling through most cemeteries usually eases my spirit.  I don’t know what it is but I always feel a sense of peace and love and  I enjoy looking at the tomb stones and wonder what the lives of these people were like.

Whether you are a religious person or not I highly recommend a visit to Zentralfriedhof.

 


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