30 January 2010

Indoor Garden

Sam-wise admiring his new seed planter kit. It's that time of year again to start our indoor garden.

This year the kids are older so they both enjoyed it more.

Ollie was happy to help put the little seed pellets into the tray.

After filling a few window pots with dirt, Ollie and Elora were thrilled to start putting seeds in the little holes. Elora is all business while Oliver hams it up for the camera.

Elora had a good grasp of what was going on. She knows the seeds will turn into plants, but Ollie was just happy to play in the dirt. But every time he noticed he was dirty he would shake his hands around and ask for them to be cleaned.

Elora was very excited to give the seeds water. She checks the pots every day to see if there are plants yet. We tried to explain it will take eight days, but I don't think she really knows what that means.

We planted some carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and an herb garden. We will also be planting green beans. Lots and lots of green beans. The ceiling will hang with vines, and the walls will become the world all around... too bad there are no oceans in Vienna.

28 January 2010

Sledding & Siopao! + the Many Faces of Elora

Our friends from the Philippines told us about this awesome food cooked in a steamer like our favorite Nepali food Momo, which we've blogged about previously. It's called Siopao. Prounounced "Shoe-Pow". Which is what we will refer to it as from here on.

After hearing all about it, we insisted that Christine and Elcid come over and show us how to make it. To start, we chopped up 2 onions, cried a bit, chopped up a few cloves of garlic and sauteed in oil. Then cooked a mixture of chopped pork, soy sauce and seasonings.

Meanwhile, Elcid and Christine worked on the dough, which was 1kilo of flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup oil, 1 teapson yeast, 470-500ml of water and 1tsp baking powder + some salt. They kneaded the dough and while it was rising we took them sledding. It was the first time Elcid, who just moved here from the Philippines, went sledding.

We swiped the extra sled, sitting in the closet downstairs that our 75 year old neighbor probably never uses... Christine has only sledded once, 10 years ago, so we were glad we got to introduce them to winter sports. When we got home, we also showed them some ski videos.

The kids loved it of course. Elora did a much better job of hiking up the hill this time too. Having to trudge around in ski school for 4 hours a day in skis and ski boots seemed to help build up her snow muscles!


We love this picture because you can just hear what Ollie is saying by the look on this face. Yeeeaaaa.

On the way home Elora kept eating snow, so we told her we'd make some snow cones. We scooped up some nice clean snow, carefully avoiding the "pre-flavored" yellow snow, and flavored it with pomegranite syrup. This was also Christine & Elcid's first snow cone. Today turned out to be a cultural exchange for everyone! Christine wasn't sure if she should trust us and eat the snow... (considering it came from dirty nature) We think she finally did so out of courtesy... Elora gave Ollie her flavored snow and went back to eating the plain snow.

Now the dough had enough time to rise and we started rolling it out. Palm-sized balls of dough we filled with meat in the middle. Then we placed the balls on wax paper, flattened them a bit, and put them in the steamer for 10 minutes (no baking!)

Mmmmm.... culture tastes good.

Elora saw Mommy taking pictures and started posing. Here she is showing off her "MTV rapper" pose as she busts a cap in someone.... we have no idea where this pose came from or what she is doing...

More rapping? What's going on with our little homey girl?

Elora imitates the Predator.

And finally she proves that she's still a cute little girl as she reaches up to grab the camera so she can admire her faces in the pictures.

27 January 2010

Fun Memories with Google

So apparently Google Street View recorded our home town (previous) of Glendale, Utah just after we left. It's great for a trip down sunny Southern Utah memory lane when we want to forget the cold here in Vienna. Ya, sure it got cold and snowed there too, but you just don't see sights like this in Vienna:


Ahh... the infamous car lot with the awesome "Quit stealing from me" sign. I wonder if they even know it's famous. Names not mentioned for privacy reasons I guess. But it's pretty sweet and now the rest of the world can appreciate this awesome sign.

21 January 2010

Trip to Baden

On January 6th we planned on going to the small town of Baden with our friends Om and Sawreeta. At the last minute Sawreeta had to work, so Om came with us and the kids. Baden is a town that is built around a natural spring that has been used since the Romans lived around here...

Now Baden has nice warm swimming pools that have natural spring water in them. The spring water doesn't smell very good, but luckily they dilute it with nice chlorine water... Mostly it is just awesome to go swimming in a pool that is super warm.

Om hanging out in the biggest spring pool.

Elora in the kiddie pool. She thought all the pools were great, and was so excited to "swim" around with her floaties on.

Ollie was a big fan of the bubbling jets.

There was also a really warm outdoor pool that we went in. It is strange because it was freezing outside with snow on the ground, but the water is so warm, you don't even notice.

Hanging out with the kids.

Both of our kids love water, and since we haven't had much opportunity to swim this winter, this trip was a nice chance to play in the pool and forget about winter for awhile.

Chris thought it would be a great idea to get out of the pool and roll in the snow. Unfortunately there were plenty of posted signs that said not to get snow in the pool, so we figured rolling in the snow was out. Chris did convince me to put my feet in the snow. Strangely enough, when I got back in the pool he said, "didn't that feel great?" Um, no... my feet were burning from the cold...

Om and Chris hanging out in the snow... Chris said it made his feet burn, but he liked it. Strange man.

Time to get out and go back home! We had a great time swimming, and wanted to check out the town, which is a quaint little village. Unfortunately, we were visiting on January 6th which is a holiday here called Epiphany. It is the day the three kings saw the star indicating Jesus had been born and started on their journey. So all the stores and cafes were closed. We will have to head back another time when Sawreeta is off work though, she is the one who planned the trip and she didn't get to come! When we got home three teenagers dressed as wisemen came to our house and sang to us. Hmm. I guess that is tradition for the teens from different churches or schools to do this to raise money for charity. Learn something new on every random Austrian holiday...

18 January 2010

10 down, many more to go

Before we went skiing we did a lot of fun stuff. We're going to go back in time and re-live it now.

January 6th, 2000 is a day that will live in infamy. It's the day we got married. It's been 10 short years. We decided to celebrate our anniversary in the usual way like most people do, with a trip to a palace. The Belvedere. No, not that Belvedere.

This Belvedere palace was built by Prince Eugene of Savoy. He was a warrior general for the Hapsburgs who defeated the Turks many times over several decades. He built two palaces on the grounds to rival the Schonbrunn palace, which is also in Vienna not far from our house and we've blogged about many times. He built the second palace after he built the first and decided it wasn't good enough.

Now the Belvedere Palace is privately owned and houses an art gallery. Since the gallery was private we weren't allowed to take any pictures of the artwork, and the one time we tried, we got caught. We borrowed our babysitters camera and we didn't feel it was worth the risk of it getting confiscated... However, in the above photo you can not only see a very beautiful woman, but in the background you can also see a rather famous painting of Napoleon on his favorite horse.

The inside of the palace was very grand and classically styled.

After a couple hours touring the gallery, we went to Palatschinkenpfandl (try saying that 1 time fast). It's one of those little side-street restaurants recommended to us by some friends. Palatschinken is a crepe pancake. And they have dozens of pancake-style recipes on the menu. But not the way you'd normally think of them. There were crepes stuffed with beef or cheese or spinach or just about anything imaginable. Karen ordered the potato pancakes with spinach and cheese with a side of schnitzel (thin pork chop).

Chris got one that was rolled and deep fried with ham and chese, another with ground beef, and another with sauerkraut. It was all pretty tasty.

What a happy couple.

For dessert, Karen's favorite. Kaiserschmarren, with a twist. Kaiserschmarren is like chopped up pancakes, but these pancakes have more eggs in them. With lots of powdered sugar and raisons. This Kaiserschmarren had been made with Topfen in the mix, which is like a combination of cream cheese and ricota cheese.

And to top it off, some marilla (apricot) sauce.

After we rolled ourselves out of the restaurent, we decided to walk around and enjoy the lights of downtown Vienna around St. Stephans cathedral. It was a great night, and it's been a great 10 years!

17 January 2010

Last day in Kuhtai + Hochoetz skiing

On our last day in Kuhtai we took a trip to the next ski mountain, called Hochoetz, farther down the valley. Our tickets in Kuhtai were also valid at Oetzal and there was a free bus ride that took us 15 minutes down the road to the cable car.

Oetzal is not as high up as Kuhtai, but it feels higher because the valley floor is so much lower. If you could ski all the way down to the valley it would be a nice long run, but unfortunately the snow did not go that far down. This year, Tirol is not been getting as much snow as the rest of Austria.

After returning from Hochoetz we picked up the kids and brought them back to the apartment for lunch. This is usually their favorite time of day as they get to run around and squeal for an hour and a half before heading back out again.

Elora and Oliver are starting to become good friends. If they're both in a good mood that is. When either of them is grumpy, that spells trouble if one of them wants to play with the other. It usually ends in Elora shouting, "No, Ollie! Now I'm not going to marry you." We try to encourage that line of thinking...

Finally! On Elora's last day of ski school, and after some hands on work from us the night before, Elora is starting to snow plow. She did such a good job that her teacher had her practice carving turns on her edges by shifting her body weight.

Elora is very smart, but she's still learning the whole body coordination thing, as you can tell from this picture. She's supposed to be leaning from side to side with her arms out like she's flying. Instead she just turned her head sideways a lot. But it made for an adorable picture. You can't really see her instructor's face here, but I wonder what he's thinking.

A little bit of off-piste skiing on a steep powdery section. Most of the Austrians tend to stick to the groomed runs. They worhsip downhill ski racers here in Austria, which is nice because it means the powder off to the sides of the runs lasts longer!

On our last afternoon, we decided to take it easy and stopped for some hot chocolate at one of the many "Huts" (or Hutte) on the mountain. These are places where Austrians traditionally go to get completely drunk  on beer or hot wine before skiing down the mountain in the evening. It's not at all like the typical America ski lodge with a huge cafeteria inside. Just a little mountain restaurent. Many of them actually have beds in them and people will ski-hike from mountain to mountain sleeping and eating at the different Huts.

The menu had this interesting statement in it that we had to take a picture of. It's a quote from the Emperor Maximillian I in 1512 and says:

Ich leb, waiss nit wie lang,
und sturb, waiss nit wann,
muss fahrn, waiss nit wohin,
mich wundert, dass ich so frehlich bin.

Which roughly means:

"I live, and know not how long
I die, and know not when
Must travel, and know not where
It's a wonder that I'm so happy."

Personally, I don't need to wonder very much why an Emperor would be so happy...

After the hot chocolate we got a desert called Germ Knoedel. It's a huge puffy dough like pastery with vanilla sauce and ground up poppy seeds on top. What we didn't know was that inside of it was some kind of funky mixture of fig pudding flavored with gluhwein (hot, spiced wine).

These sunning chairs are really common at ski resorts in Austria. People will just pop off their skis, lay down in a chair facing the sun and order drinks from the waiter. It's a bit strange to see people lounging around in the sun when it's freezing outside, but Karen said she enjoyed it.

After our snack at the Hut, we skied down to pick up Elora. She was very excited at how good she had done. Her instructor Jonnas was just as happy, after going 4 days in a row with little progress. But Elora can finally make a few turns and control herself (a little) on her skis. She's excited to go to ski school again next month.

Before returning Elora's skis, we put them on Oliver. His kindergarten room overlooked the hill, and he loved standing at the window watching people ski. So when we asked him if he wanted to ski, he happily said, "Yaaa!"

It's pretty much impossible to tell a 23 month old to "bend your knees and lean forward in your boots". So we just had to push him around and try to hold him up the right way. He really enjoyed it as you can tell.

Oliver seems a little bit more coordinated than Elora, and if we buy Elora a set of skis in Vienna, we'll also let Oliver practice on them as well. As long as he doesn't get scared, he could probably start sking a year earlier than Elora did. But we'll see...

One last picture of our little skier. If you see the bruise on her cheek it's because one of the instructors who helped fill in one day put her up at the top of the hill a couple days ago and just let her go down and crash into another kid. We didn't see it happen, but just saw him hugging her afterwards and carrying her over to the side. Elora, surprisingly, didn't mind to much because he filled up her goggles with gummy bears and she just sat their eating them. That was the day we stopped skiing early and helped Elora work on her snow plow skills.

By the time we got back to the apartment, Oliver was so tired he just laid down on the chair in the middle of eating and went to sleep. We should take him skiing more often!

On the last day we posed in front of the Auf Wiedersehen Kuhtai sign before the long bus & train ride back. Overall the trip was awesome. Karen came out unscathed. Elora got a bruised cheek. Chris got a black eye, smashed knee (with rocks embedded in it), torn hole in his ski pants, ripped coat, gouged ski base, and a blown-out ski edge. That's what happens when you ski out of bounds kids... We also lost a camelbak bottle and sippy cup... But it was a great trip!