26 February 2009

It's Giant Tortilla and Cheddar Cheese Time!

The Naschmarkt has a Turkish/African food store, where we bought some huge tortillas. Mexican food ingredients are very hard to come by in Vienna.

Here I am spreading some $9 per pound cheddar cheese on the largest quesadilla known to man. Since we are cheap we watered down the pricey "imported" cheddar cheese with some gouda cheese to make it last longer. Gouda has become a staple in our house because it is so cheap.

Elora was really excited to have Mexican food again. Ollie liked it too. Notice the large griddle and nice frying pan, two items which we packed in suitcases from the US because we just couldn't do without them! (and griddles are unheard of in Vienna)

But Oliver liked the strawberries we gave to him while Elora was playing even more. If Elora ever sees any strawberries she has to gobble them all up as fast as she can. Luckily strawberries were reasonably priced so we bought a few packages.
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25 February 2009

Win It Forward

win it forward...first five comments win!

I think this is an awesome game! So I decided to post it and we'll see what happens... Do you want to win something? Read on...

Here are the tagging instructions: The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me! My choice. For you.

This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:
1. I make no guarantees that you will like what I make!
2. What I create will be just for you.
3. It'll be done this year. (might be a little while)
4. You have no clue what it's going to be. It may be a story. It may be poetry or an article on properly cleaning your face before a masque. I may draw or paint something. I may bake you something and mail it to you. Who knows? Not you, that's for sure!
5. I reserve the right to do something extremely strange.

The catch? Oh, the catch is that you must re-post this on your blog and offer the same to the first 5 people who do the same on your blog. The first 5 people to do so and leave a comment telling me they did win a FAB-U-LOUS homemade gift by me! Oh, and be sure to post a picture of what you win when you get it.

Indoor Hobbit Garden

You can take the farmer out of dirt but you can't take the dirt out of the farmer. We thought it would be nice to grow an indoor garden because we miss our garden back home and Elora talks about it all the time. Everytime we eat corn or green beans she says "we grew this in our garden." And, as if our house wasn't dirty enough we had to buy some dirt to make it more official. If only Chris hadn't left his farmer pants at home.

Here is Chris-wise Gamgee examining 'is soil. Looks good to me, but it better since it cost so much. We should have just dug some dirt out of the apartment courtyard, but the neighbors might have noticed the huge hole or wondered what we were trying to bury...
Elora and Ollie were really excited to play with the seeds. Elora only dumped out two bags this year (too bad one of them was the carrots - the seeds are very small and there are a lot), and since she dumped them on the carpet we didn't have to worry about random plants growing in odd places like they do back home.

Elora helped us plant: Carrots, Green Beans (we even bought some little poles and wire we're going to try to string up in the window), Snow Peas (with a bamboo trellis), Onion, Garlic, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Oregano, Sage, Basil, and Cilantro. So excited about the Cilantro since it's not commonly found here. Now all of the window sills in our house are lined with long pots. It's only a matter of time before one of them gets dumped out by Elora...

24 February 2009

A Snowman Named Degobah

As it has been snowing so much we went outside during one of Ollie's naps to play in the yard for a few minutes. (don't worry Grandparents we checked on Ollie a few times)

Elora always wants to build a snowman even though she does nothing to help. She just eats the snow and stomps around. But that's probably ok.

Elora loves throwing snowballs at everyone, but even more she loves to take a bite of the snowball before throwing it.

Mommy gave her a nice snowball to throw at Daddy but she got distracted by its yummy icy flavor. Maybe next time we go out we should bring a bottle of cherry syrup!

The snowman was so huge that we could barely lift the 2nd snowball. It took both of us, to pick it up, and even then we had to remove some snow from the ball first. Our final snowman is about 6 and a half feet tall! Elora really loves her snowman and gave him lots of pats, hugs, licks, and bites. She named him "Degobah" which is interesting because she's never seen Star Wars, but she does love R2D2. Random Elora factoid - one of her first words was mimicking the noise that R2 makes (in addition to making a strange Yoda like noise).

"Degobah the snowman" is very happy with his bushy eyebrows, hand drawn eyes, carrot nose and 20-cent smile. Everytime Elora walks past him she says she wants to eat the carrot and says "I need some money."

We also built Elora snow castle, complete with "snow mice" and "snow birds". She loves Cinderella and named her mice after the mice in the Cinderella movie.

23 February 2009

Snowy day, time to play

It has snowed pretty much every day for two three weeks. So we took Elora out for some sledding on the Rote Berge (the big hilly park near our house).

Elora really liked sledding and kept singing "Casey Jr coming down the track." over and over again as we would go down the hill.

As you can see, we have an old school sled. Our landlord left it in the building for us. We call it the "powder cutter" because it cuts through the powdery snow like hot fudge on top of ice cream. (eh?)

Daddy was taking pictures of the smiling happy Elora while Mommy was chucking snowballs at him. Elora meanwhile was eating a snowball that she calls a popscicle.

This weird basket swing thing had like 200lbs of snow in it and we were expecting the chains to break any minute. Elora calls it the "birds nest swing". As you can see she loves throwing snowballs.

Meanwhile, Ollie slept the whole time...

And it's still snowing strongly outside...we've probably got about 35cm of snow outside. Good luck relating to what that number means...

Finally Legal...

So we're finally legal residents of Vienna. Here's what it took to get here. The process was very lengthy, but if you want to get a glimpse of the bureaucracy, take a look. I'm curious if the US is worse, we've heard it's pretty much terrible everywhere.

  1. A trip to the Salt Lake City consulate in August after spending 2 months collecting the required paper work (letters from the county stating we're not criminals, photos, translated/notorized documents etc.). The consulate did nothing but take all our documents and stamp them with an official stamp and hand them back to us.
  2. We mailed the stamped documents to the LA consulate.
  3. The LA consulate mailed the documents to Vienna.
  4. In the meantime, some of the documents "expired" because they could only be 3 months old so we had to get new ones just in case we got hassled about it.
  5. We moved to Vienna 2 months later.
  6. We registered with the Magistrate/police as you're supposed to do when you move in.
  7. 4 months later, and 1 month after our tourist visa expired we get a letter telling us to come in for a meeting with a bunch of different documents. The letter did not say if we were approved or not...
  8. We arrived for our meeting, and the building was filled with lots of rooms and a lot of immigrants like us. The room we were supposed to enter said "do not enter wait for your name to be called." So we waited, wondering what we were supposed to do. Then we noticed some people had numbers from a ticket machine. So we got a number. Half an hour later we noticed 1 number was called. We were only 30 numbers behind that 1 number so we figured our number would be called in a couple days plus or minus an hour.
  9. We decided just to barge into the room because there is no way they could call for us if they did not know we were there and our paper told us to show up at a certain time for a meeting.
  10. It turns out this is what you were supposed to do. The numbers were for something else. Who knows why they have the sign saying not to enter...
  11. The lady is a little bit aggressive in German, but she takes our papers, gets mad because we didn't have everything neatly lined up and in order and because we didn't have our passport stamps photocopied.
  12. Chris rushes outside looking for a photocopy machine because the one in the building was broken. Finds one and makes copies.
  13. Returns to the office to give the copied passport stamps to the lady and then she tells us to wait outside.
  14. We wait outside for another half hour.
  15. Our name gets called, and we walk in the same room and are sent to another room with another lady.
  16. We start to talk in German, but she realizes we don't know the official bureaucratic language so she nicely speaks in English and explains we have to leave, go to Croatia and then come back because our temporary stamps expired, even though we submitted our paper work 5 months ago and are now just getting to speak with them.
  17. We leave, go to Croatia and then come back.
  18. We go back to the office with our new copies of passport stamps.
  19. Enter the office that says "do not enter unless your name is called" and drop off the new stamps and are told to wait outside.
  20. We wait outside for 45 minutes until our name is called.
  21. We go into a different room, with a different lady and explain the situation.
  22. She informs us that our insurance is listed as "travel" insurance and since we are applying for a student residence permit "student insurance" is not the same as "travel insurance". She also says our paper work does not say anything about our coverage.
  23. We point out that our "travel" insurance was good enough, and this was not mentioned before, plus the paper says exactly what our policty is, what the deductible is, what the maximum payout is, etc.
  24. She says to go wait outside until we are called.
  25. We go wait outside for 35 more minutes until we are called. Keep in mind we've got two kids that aren't happy about always having to go here and wait, but aren't screaming either, just getting grumpy.
  26. We go back into the same room, and she says to come back in 2 weeks with 500 euros and our passports.
  27. We come back in two weeks and enter the room that says "do not enter unless your name is called" to tell them we are there and ready. They take our paper and tell us to go out and wait until we are called.
  28. We wait for 40 minutes until our names are called.
  29. We go in and she gives us an invoice and tells us to leave and go pay it.
  30. We rebundle the kids with their coats, hats and scarves, leave the building, walk around the corner and go and pay it in a seperate building hand a cashier the invoices and pay.
  31. He hands us back a receipt and says we're finished.
  32. We wonder what we're supposed to do, so we ask and he explains 4 seperate times in German until we figure out we just need to go back to the other office and wait.
  33. We go back to the other office, enter the room that says "do no not enter..." drop off our receipts and passports and she says to go outside and wait until our names are called.
  34. We go outside and wait for another 25 minutes until our names are called.
  35. We go inside, she hands us our passports and our new residency ID cards and has us sign our forms and says "auf wiedersehen".
  36. We notice the cards expire in a year and ask, what we should do next year. She says to come back 3 weeks before they expire to do the whole thing over again.
  37. Yay! We're now legal, although nothing has really changed other than we're a little poorer, Austria a little richer, and we have a nice ID card.

22 February 2009

More zoo time fun

It was a cold, blustery day filled with hufflumps and woozzles, so we decided to head to the zoo. On the way there we saw a team of no less than 3 grounds workers cutting down an old tree outside of the zoo.

The more educated among you will observe their keen use of Stihl Chainsaws (guess who is commanding the keyboard for this post). It's also interesting to note that although there was never more than one person actually sawing at the tree at a time, they needed to employ 3 people, each with a $1000 chain saw. There was also a sign, explaining why they were cutting down the tree, in case any huggers got an idea and wanted to chain themselves to it. I didn't bother reading the sign, and instead silently cheered the chainsaw brigade on, wishing I had a trailer on hand to pick up all that extra firewood.

The Cheetahs were sleeping right by the glass so we got a good view. Everytime we go, we get to see at least one of the big cats (Tiger, Panthers, Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs) up close.

Karen speaking now - I've always wanted to get a picture of these crazy looking squirrels with their huge tufty furry ears and bright red furry tails. They're fun to watch because they skitter across the top of bushes and jump from tree to tree.

The zoo has various enclosures where you can walk inside right up to various animals. This one was a bird enclosure. There is also a bat enclosure, which is quite possibly the scariest thing known to man when you walk through a curtain into a cave and, not knowing what to expect, a bunch of bats come flying at your head. The less you move, the closer they get to you on their flybys.

Elora loves the penguins, and the sea lions, which are right across from the penguins. She barks pretty well. Oliver also really likes to watch the penguinen schwimmen.

And we end with a sad picture. The elephant on the right was seperated from all the other elephants, and Elora was actually saying "Dumbo are you going to fly? Is he sad? Does he miss his mommy?" It was very sad...but the elephants smelled so we didn't linger long.

21 February 2009

Restaurant Fun

Karen came to visit me during the lunch hour of one of my classes. Actually it's a lunch-hour-and-a-half, because good meals require lots of relaxing and talking in Europe. Elora was passed out by the time we found a place to sit down in. She doesn't take naps anymore so anytime she's in the stroller in the afternoon it's only a matter of time before she passes out. She has predictable stages -- 1. Denial "I'm not tired" 2. Aggression "I don't want to go to sleep!!" 3. Unconscious Acceptance - she never says anything and never actually accepts the fact that she's tired, she just randomly goes from talking or wiggling around to passing out.

Here is a Mohnenudeln, a dessert I got at a dinner gathering with some other MBA'ers. It's a noodle pastry, sauteed with butter and covered in poppy seeds and powered sugar. All of those black things are poppy seeds. In Vienna they love poppy seeds. When they make a cinnamon roll, 50% of the time instead of having actually cinnamon and suger its actually poppy seeds and sugar. So they actually don't call them cinnamon rolls. But "poppy sweets". ps - I failed my drug test the next day...
Karen's dessert was much tastier. It was a Nougatknodeln. It's a sweet dumpling filled with vanilla or chocolate sauce. They were pretty tasty and as you can see very gooey.
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20 February 2009

Van Gogh Exhibit

There was a Van Gogh exhibit here that I really wanted to go to, but I kept forgetting until the last day... so off we went to the Albertina to see it and there was a huge crowd. It was awesome though, because they have to line up on the stairs, and they let us go up the elevator in the stroller, and then one of the employees escorted us to the front of the line! Apparently they want to rush those of us crazy enough to bring our kids inside, so that we will hurry and leave before our kids have caused too much trouble...


Of course you are not supposed to take pics inside, but we chanced a few just to prove we were there. Elora actually really liked looking at all the paintings, she always wants us to tell her what is in each picture. It works well for seeing all the paintings...

After we got sick of the crowds in the exhibit we went upstairs to view the other galleries from contemporary painters. Elora found one painting she really loved and stood looking at for a long time... Of course, after taking this picture we were quickly rushed away by the security guard. (I think the artist would appreciate this photo...)

So the moral of the story is, go to the exhibit earlier to avoid the crowds, but always bring the kids so they let us cut in line!

18 February 2009

Valentine's Day Cookies

On Valentine's Day Elora and I decided to make some cookies for Chris. Elora loves making cookies, because she is allowed to stick her hands in the flour and sugar, but mostly because she gets to eat the dough (we always have to have little talks about how much dough is okay to eat...)

Here she is hugging her little cookie she cut out before putting it on the cookie sheet. She said, "I LOVE my cookies!!!" And look how cute she is in her apron. It came from her cashier set she got from her Uncle David, and she loves to wear it whenever we are making dough of any kind.

Placing them on the tray... (before taking a pinch of dough off each cookie to eat)

She kept trying to pull the tray off the counter while the oven was preheating, so I finally just pulled it down so she could see. You may notice the one cookie that is no longer in line... I forget that she is tall enough to grab things off the counter! The cookies on the cookie sheet are no longer safe from my little cookie monster (Or should I say, Cookie Dough Monster)!

Ollie wanted to cut out a cookie too. I have to use cups and other random household items for cookie cutters because I don't have any cookie cutters...

While waiting for the cookies to bake, Elora and I made Chris a Valentine out of some cut out hearts, crayons, and glue. It was our first attempt at using a glue stick. Elora wanted to use all the hearts I had cut out, because "This glue game is fun!"

17 February 2009

Ollie Valentino's 1st Birthday

Ollie "the Valentine" Williams celebrated his 1st birthday in style in the chic Vienna Hietzing district.

He loved having us sing Happy Birthday to him. We ended up singing it three times just because he had such a cute smile while we were singing. He was also entranced by the burning candle...

Oliver got a little heart shaped cookie instead of a cake. Elora and I had baked them earlier, and we figured it was sweet with frosting, so it was just as good as a cake. It ended up being really fun for him because he could pick the whole thing up.

I'm pretty sure he enjoyed his cookie.

What a happy birthday boy!

Oliver loved his new clothes. They work well for playing peek-a-boo, his favorite game.

The curly ribbon was his favorite part of opening presents. After he got the ribbon he started crawling away, so we had to bring him back to finish opening his gift! Elora was a little impatient and wanted to help so she could see what was inside. She kept saying, "What is inside? Is it a surprise? Here Ollie, let me help you!"

He started to see that ripping paper IS a really fun game!

Oliver got a little people farm. His favorite is the sheep. Elora also really loves the farm. "Can I please share your toys, Ollie?" Then she ran off with most of the animals... Luckily Ollie still had the curly ribbon and wasn't all that concerned...

13 February 2009

A Membership to the Kunsthistorisches Museum

Here we are at the Kunst Historisches Museum, which is a huge art history museum. We bought a year membership which gets us into like, 7 different museums... Elora loves to look at paintings and statues, but only for a short period of time, so we figure this way we won't feel like we have to make the kids stay longer than they want to, we can just view a little of each museum at a time... This museum is one of the most beautiful buildings in Vienna.

I love the ceiling inside this building. It is incredibly ornate, and you get to see it when you walk into the main entrance.

When you enter the building there is a huge staircase you can go up, and the top floor of the museum is just beautiful. Elora still looks too small to walk up that many stairs... She kept telling us to hurry up as we tried to admire our surroundings...

As you walk up the stairs you get to a landing with this huge statue on it. Chris loved that it is a statue of a centaur, I haven't seen many of those.

I just love the lighting in this picture... This museum had a floor full of statues, but also Greek and Roman artifacts. I have never seen so many interesting items. I want to describe it, but it's impossible to make it sound as cool as it was. There were tons of dishes, jewelry, candlestick holders, those rings that people used as wax seals on letters, just tons of interesting stuff. I am excited to go back and spend more time in each room.

Elora loves statues for some reason, so she walks around asking us what each one is. I wish I knew more about each statue, she always wants to hear stories about the people in the statues. I should probably get one of those audio tours one of these days...

This is me explaining to Elora that we aren't supposed to touch the items in the museum. This one has lions carved on it, and when saw it she ran over to pet the lions! A museum employee rushed over to us. I swear I only turned my back for a minute, but she is quick... She was a little sad to find out the lions couldn't be touched.

This is a statue in the plaza in front of the art museum, and the Natural History museum that is across the plaza from the art museum. Also a very cool museum. This is the area called the Museums Quartier, and it is probably my favorite spot in Vienna. So many cool buildings to look at, museums to explore, and statues everywhere....

There are a bunch of these statues around the plaza, and I love them! Each one is a little different.

I just love that this building has statues and carvings all over it. It is incredible! We took a ton more pics, but this is already an incredibly long post...

This is one of the statues that is next to the entrance to the plaza.

The top floor of the museum is all paintings, we didn't really get a chance to explore up there because by the time we finished walking around the statues, Elora decided it was lunch time... We'll have to go back another day!