Rejoice! Glühwein season is upon us.

5 Dec


We are nearly three weeks deep into Christmas festivities here in Vienna, which means every street is lined with twinkly lights and every corner has someone roasting chestnuts on an open fire. But most importantly, it means the miracle of glühwein is upon us.

For the uninitiated, glühwein is a hot mulled wine beverage, sold from quaint little stands at every Christmas Market across the city. It doesn’t necessarily taste good, but it’s warm and smells like Christmas and you get to drink it outside in the dark, so it feels a bit naughty and reminds you of high school nights spent drinking pilfered booze in the woods.

It’s also exactly what you need when your children are hopped up on sugar cookies and demanding another ride on the Christmas Market carousel. Liquid anti-anxiety in a decorative mug, I tell you.

There are other kinds of warm alcohol-infused mugfuls to choose from as well, called pusnch. These include a good dose of the hard stuff, like amaretto or rum or Jaegermeister. I tried something called a turbo punch that probably had all of the above, since it tasted like hot jungle juice and made my face numb. My favorite was a Mexicaner punsch, spiced with cinnamon and primarily based on straight tequila. Probably not the most authentic, but points for creativity.

That’s all to say that the glühwein/punsch options are vast and sugary, and the perfect accompaniment to a cold, snowy night. Or, afternoon, since the sun goes down at 4pm. Or morning, if you happen to find yourself at a market that opens early. I won’t judge, because I’ll probably already have a mug in hand.

A breakfast unicorn.

7 Nov

I didn’t think anything could be better than a warm croissant, fresh from the oven of your local Parisian bakery. The crackly exterior giving way to chewy, paper-thin layers of dough. The buttery flakes of pastry fluttering down your shirt. The extreme joy when you remember there’s another one in the bag waiting to be devoured (because honestly, who can stop at just one?).

Well, buckle up people, because IT GETS BETTER.

Imagine if that perfect Parisian croissant made a voyage back to the motherland of Viennoiserie and found itself entangled in a wild tryst with one of the many native pretzel folk. The resulting illicit love child would be a pastry creature of mythic proportions. Some might even reckon it a unicorn among the other pedestrian bread basket offerings.

Dear readers, I have eaten the unicorn. Behold! The Laugencroissant:

Image: Thank you Wikipedia!

Image: Thank you Wikipedia!

It is, essentially, a magical pretzel-croissant hybrid: The shape and consistency of a croissant, enrobed in the shinier, chewier exterior of your favorite bavarian beer tent snack. The rich buttery goodness remains in tact, and is inexplicably elevated by that distinct pretzelish flavor that only a good soak in food-grade lye can provide.

Sweet pain au raisins, I have found your Austrian replacement.

1 Year in Austria.

1 Oct

Ok, a year and 2 months. Close enough.

So what does a year in Austria look like? Well, for us it was a lot of snow, beer, hot dogs, baby butts and playgrounds.  Of course, there’s a lot more to this place than that, but moving here with a toddler and then popping out another baby right away has a funny way of limiting your worldview. I could have been living in the middle of Iowa for the past 12 months and it probably wouldn’t have been that different. I’m really only now slowly emerging from my Pampers-wrapped cocoon and getting a chance to explore my surroundings a bit. Which means I’ll hopefully have more to share with you in the year ahead.  So here’s to more beer, more snow, more of Austria. And way fewer baby butts.

What the Fork?

1 Jul

what the fork

Whoa. I just realized that I haven’t written on this blog in MONTHS. Seriously, did I get sucked into some strange time-space continuum from April until now? I mean, I feel like I’ve been crazy busy, but I don’t really have anything to show for it, other than two tons of diapers and four thousand loads of laundry. But I guess that’s life when you have crawler and a toddler. A toddler who’s talking up a storm and wants to do everything you do, only 10 times slower and at least 5 times messier.

Yes, The Babe is my tiny little shadow these days, tracking my every move through the apartment and making sure she’s no less that 2 steps behind me. If I’m making dinner, she’s standing at the counter with a spoon and mixing bowl. If I’m brushing my teeth, she’s there squeezing toothpaste all over the floor. And if I accidentally say a curse word when I realize she’s finger painting with AquaFresh, she obviously follows suit.

Which is my only explanation for the following exchange that went down a few weeks ago. Husband had The Babe up on the changing table when out of the blue she smiled at him and said, “F*&%.”

He raised his eyebrows. “What did you say?”


Always quick on his feet, Husband replied, “You mean fork.”

“Um, F*&%.”


“F*&% ?”


“Yah. Fork.”

Now maybe she really was going for “fork.” Or perhaps “fox.” If not, I will allow myself to take solace in the fact that she wasn’t using the F word in any specific context. Just testing it out for future use, I guess. Which is pretty forking scary since she’s not even two yet. What the fork is she going to come up with next?

I’ll tell you: Heiny Cheese. That’s what she told me she found when she stuck her hand down her diaper the other day. Good lord we’re in trouble.

Dear people of Europe

11 Apr

Please for the love of god, stop making me bag my own groceries. I’m already stressed out by the language barrier, and worried that I forgot to weigh my produce, and feeling sheepish about my conspicuously large, undoubtably American-size haul of goods. Oh, and I’m probably not feeling too good about the toddler screaming in the cart and the infant strapped to my chest either. So is it too much to ask that you just slide my groceries into a bag (that I paid for) after you scan them?

Apparently, yes.

Here’s how shopping goes in Austria: you push your wayward cart through the tiny aisles, using all the strength you can muster to keep it from swerving into the giant barrel of serve-yourself sauerkraut. If you’re wondering a) why the cart is so wayward and b) what’s up with the barrel of sauerkraut, let me explain: every single cart here, no matter the store, has wheels that are on the swivel. So as you’re trying to make forward progress, it haphazardly glides sideways. Usually into old ladies or the aforementioned barrel of sauerkraut. Which is apparently so popular that it needs to be sold in bulk.

Anyway, once you have all your stuff, you glide sideways with your cart toward the dour-looking cashier. He/she sits and stares at you with dead eyes as you unload nearly everything in your cart onto the conveyor belt. Only then does he/she perk up, as it seems the cashier’s only joy in life comes from watching customers scramble to the other end of the belt, fumble with their reusable bags, and frantically try to keep up pace with the rapid scanning.

I usually get about 3 items into an actual bag, and then resort to throwing everything back into the cart. It’s during this process that the most damage occurs: in all the haste, I’ve dropped yogurt containers, smashed bananas, and seen others break jars of jam and bottles of juice. No one in the store seems alarmed by all these damaged goods. Casualties of war, I guess. Perhaps they’re saving so much money not bagging your groceries that they can afford to waste a few things.

Once you have about 2/3 of your goods back into the cart, the cashier is ready to ring you up and the other patrons in line start breathing down your neck. So you have to dig out your wallet and work the credit card machine one handed as you continue to chuck groceries blindly in the direction of your cart. If you have a toddler kicking in the front seat, that spot may have shifted 2 feet to the left, thanks to those swivel wheels.

Cart chaos.After everything is paid for, you move quickly to the bagging area. This is where you take all the items back out of your cart and try to sort through the madness and get everything evenly dispersed into bags before your children implode. Then, you guessed it, the bags go back in the cart, and you go out to your car, where the bags go into the trunk. Finally, after returning your cart and getting your euro back (oh, did I forget to mention the part where you have to pay for a grocery cart?), you drive home, and one last time, just for fun, you pull all the groceries out again and put them away.

Does that sound like a whole lot of extra steps to anyone else? Aren’t the Austrians supposed to be super efficient? Should I write a letter to the UN or something to see if we can get this situation fixed?

Caption contest!

27 Mar

no wordsDon’t even bother trying to translate. Just come up with your own caption for the giant billboard of (dog? human?) poop.

In case you were wondering

5 Mar

This is how you pronounce “meme”:


And just for my wine snob Husband, how you also pronounce “Chateauneuf-du-Pape”:

Out of the loop.

4 Mar

One of the little-known benefits of living abroad is that you are relatively cut off from American pop culture. It leaves more space in your brain, space you can hopefully designate for foreign language skills.

Unfortunately this also means that our current American cultural context is pretty much limited to a dusty mental time capsule from 2009. Hit TV shows have come and gone and movies have made it all the way to the Oscars without us even knowing they existed. Music that’s blaring out of every iPod back home sometimes shows up on the radio here, but is often sandwiched between German pop songs and Shania Twain, which is very disorienting. That new hit single from Fun? For months I thought  it was Freddie Mercury, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out why the Austrians were playing obscure Queen songs every time I got in the car.

Anything that’s gone wildly viral in the States is also often slow to reach us, simply because we’re just a bit more disconnected over here: no TV, limited time listening to the radio, barely a few minutes to check email. Any cultural commentary we could read in print is in German. Which is how Husband and I found ourselves doing internet research on the Harlem Shake the other night:

Me: I keep hearing about this Harlem Shake thing. What the hell is it?

Husband: I don’t know! Let’s check The Wikipedias.

Husband: Hmm. It says here it’s some kind of internet “meh meh.”

Me: ? 

Husband: See! “meh meh”

Me: Pull the screen closer! I can’t see the text!

Me: Dummy, that’s meme.

Husband: I don’t know what that is either.

(we keep reading and then proceed to watch about 30 Harlem Shake videos)

Husband: Dude! We could TOTALLY make one of those! We could put the kids in it!

Me: YES!!!! And you could wear your spedo! We’ll plan it out after nap time. 

(At which point we both stopped for a minute and looked at each other in horror)

Me: F*&%. We’re not clueless expats. WE’RE JUST CLUELESS OLD PEOPLE.

Because nothing says wellness like processed pork.

27 Feb

healthy pigRemember how I said the dairy aisle in Parisian grocery stores was ridiculously stocked with 1500 different kinds of yogurt and cream? Well in Vienna, the aisles are resplendent with every kind of processed meat you could imagine. There’s fresh wurst and salami and hotdogs galore. The deli counter is the most popular spot in the entire store. And if you want to go the pre-packaged route, you’ll find a dizzying ham selection, including this interesting “wellness schinken.” The next time I feel a cold coming on I guess I’ll have to pick some up.

Vocab Friday: Backpfeifengesicht

22 Feb

Whoa. Where am I? What day is it? Last thing I remember I was face to face with a giant cutout of some guy’s manjammies, and the next thing you know it’s been 2 months since I last wrote a blog post. I guess a larger than life cardboard penis has that kind of effect on people.

Really though, maybe I just got caught up in holiday celebrations. Or maybe The Babe decided to start making this noise from 5am until my head exploded every morning. It could have been that last minute emergency trip home to the States for a month and the ensuing jet lag. But I think the final straw was the last minute ski weekend while we were still recovering from the jet lag, and the ensuing stomach flu that greeted us when we finally got back to Vienna.

That’s all to say that ever since I saw that big naked guy, I’ve barely been able to catch my breath, let alone unscramble my brain long enough to write something semi-coherent here.

(In case you’re wondering, that’s what children do to you. They beat you down to a frayed wisp of your former self, and leave you striving for nothing more than semi-coherence. Good thing I love those little A-holes!)

But you know what? That’s no excuse. There are plenty of people in this world that have it waaaaaay tougher, who have way more demands and hurdles and expectations to juggle, who still manage to blog something fabulous every single day. There are bloggers with 5 kids and one leg who still find time to share a detailed recipe and photo spread of their homemade dinners each week. There are bloggers that work full time jobs and write award winning, book-deal garnering blogs for fun on the side.

I want to punch all of those bloggers in the face. But instead I’m going to try to use that jealous rage as fuel to get this blog motor running again. So I hereby promise to carve out a chunk of time each week to write semi-coherently about funny things in Austria, and the occasional funny story about my children. But not too much kid crap, because then you’ll want to punch me in the face.

*    *     *

Backfeifengesicht: (noun) literally, a face badly in need of a fist. As in, a person you just want to punch because they’re so annoying or obnoxious or, you know, just fist-worthy. Where has this word been all my life? Hear how to pronounce it.



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