Long ago, I promised you one more post to wrap up the story of our life in Vienna, but I couldn't come up with a good way to write it. I didn't want it to be over. In fact, I'm not sure that it is. No, don't have plans to pack up and move back, but the friendships we made there carry on and the place where we made those friendships took hold of my heart.

So, first a bunch of photos for your viewing pleasure and then a short story about how knitting, Vienna and the internet saved a birthday cake. Enjoy!

Our favorite chef threw a farewell party for us a week before we left Vienna.

Friends from Germany and Vienna came to see us off.

We drank good Wiener Wasser (Vienna water) and a lot of wine.

Gino was sad to be saying goodbye.
Or maybe he just wanted to be in the middle, just like Loyd.

We took a break from packing to visit Bratislava.

ChestnutI took a break from packing to knit with Rita who gave me this gorgeous handspun, hand-dyed (with Chestnut) yarn.

We spent our last evening in Vienna on the Kitchen Deck, eating a wonderful meal.
This is "my" rhubarb/beet/potato soup.

Chicken skewered on cinnamon sticks with couscous.

the cheese course

Rhubarb Tart for dessert
Vielen dank, Angelika!

Fast forward a month... We've settled back into our MN home. We're loving having a dog in our life full-time again; missing Loyd was our only symptom of homesickness while we lived in Vienna. I returned to work. People keep asking, "what was the best thing?" At first I thought this was an impossible question to answer - how do I pick just one thing from a wonderful five months? Then, one time I didn't think, I just answered, "the people. I made amazing friendships there." So, if you're planning a trip to Vienna, we can give you recommendations of sites to see and things to do, but we're also going to tell you to make a reservation at theDiningRoom so you can meet one of our favorite Viennese and then I'll tell you to find a way to meet some new friends of your own.

My circle of Viennese friends keeps growing. Last week, I decided to make a Red Wine Chocolate cake like Jutta made for Curt's birthday. Yesterday was the 8th annual Leo picnic and one of my fellow Leos thought she'd really like that cake. Jutta had given us a couple of recipes in German. I tried one and it was a total failure. I had to guess at the amount of baking powder in a "packet." Instead of using my brain and mixing it like I always mix cakes, I tried to follow the vague instructions. It was AWFUL. I posted about it on my personal (mostly knitting) blog late at night, while waiting for it to cool a bit before tipping it out of the pan. By morning, there was an email waiting for me. A woman who had seen me at World Wide Knit In Public day in the Volksgarten wrote to tell me that, while she hadn't talked to me that day, she admired my yarn and found a link to my blog at Rita's website. She offered her Grandmother's recipe for the cake which I gladly accepted. She sent it and a translation, including the number of grams in her packets of baking powder (VERY helpful) and I made it late Friday night. It was a big hit at the party, especially with vanilla ice cream.

So, the answer to that question: "what was the best thing?" has become so easy. My favorite thing about Vienna is the people. IS, not was.


Safe and sound

In case you're checking here, we were safe at home when the bridge collapsed in Minneapolis. Our thoughts are with those who were on the bridge.


We're home!

Sorry for the silence. We owe you some wrap-ups about our fabulous last weeks in Vienna and a bit of news from Stateside, but in case you haven't heard from us yet, we wanted to let you know that we made it home safe and sound. The bags came, too. Our minor flight delays had more to do with weather than security concerns in London.

Loyd greeted us enthusiastically and now seems to think he was only away from the homestead for a long weekend rather than 5 months. It is awfully good to have a dog in our daily life again, even with the early morning walks.

More soon....


süsses Haupthaus

Home sweet home.

We're a bit busy with the Farewell to Austria tour just now. We have loads of photos on our cameras and we keep meaning to tell you about visitors from Germany, the 5-course (maybe six - there was a LOT of wine) dinner party Angelika threw for us, a trip to Bratislava.... There will even be one more tour guiding opportunity before we leave. My co-worker, Neil, will be flying through Vienna on his way to Kosovo so we'll show him around on our last day in town.

The thing is: with all these frantic "one more times" we haven't focused on the blogging. We promise to do a giant wrap-up post (or two) before we share the coming home culture shock. We have to turn in our modem tomorrow morning, though, so those posts will likely have be created "stateside." In the meantime, I have a little tour of our flat for you.

This has been home for nearly five months!

WC on the right, kitchen too
Lots of storage on the left, including Christmas decorations (no, not ours)

the kitchen may have more counterspace than ours,
but we won't miss the stove; the ignition gives us fits

The bathroom and our first DIY project
Remember this?

The washing machine in the bathroom
(drying happens on a rack in the bedroom, ironing in the living room)

Heading back out of the kitchen. Just past the clean dishes is the Wasserhahn.

our living room, with plenty of shelf space for hiding yarn

The dining room. Looks a lot like the living room, no?

our bedroom
If only we had closets like that in St. Paul!

I think Curt is itching to get back to yardwork (!) and I'm looking forward to bold paint colors instead of old-lady wallpaper, but this has been a great temporary home.


Budapest, Örülök, hogy megismerhetem!

we hope that's Hungarian for: Budapest, it is nice to meet you!

On the 15th, we traveled to Hungary to meet my college friends, Jon and Lina, and their daughter, Annemieke, who now live in Geneva. We arrived after a very hot, three-hour train ride from Vienna. In our compartment was a Serbian family traveling on to Belgrade. We really could not understand any of their conversations but a few things are universal: the two kids wanted whatever the other had; the other always got more than me; McDonald’s is obviously Mecca to anyone under the age of eight.
It was so hot the emus would have been running backwards and Curt turned upside down.

Our arrival in Budapest seemed to have transported us to 1890. The train station was grand yet sparse; no modern technology in sight. Although it appeared decrepit, it oddly seemed at the same time rather regal. We hiked around the area to find a bank and figure out how to exchange money. Not since March in Prague had we been in a place where the language seemed utterly unrecognizable. It is intimidating but also fun.
with a smile like that, A. didn't need to know Hungarian to get cookies from the waiters

Once we navigated the money exchanges, purchasing tickets, and a persistent beggar who had the nastiest black eye and the impression that I would be her sugardaddy, we made our way to the subway. The first leg of the trip was a visit to the former Communist days, complete with dull green paint in a somewhat classy cattle car. Cool art deco light fixtures however. We then transferred to the M2 line where we traveling to the Opera stop. This line is awesome and dare I say cute. The trains are three small cars and the stations are bright ceramic tiles with wood fixtures. Even cooler was the music playing when the car doors open and shut. Very similar to baseball organ music. No one else on the subway seemed to appreciate me yelling “Go Twins”.

public baths in City Park (next time we'll go in)

Our friends found an apartment rental service rather than getting a hotel. We met the owner who showed us to the top floor of what must have been a very grand apartment building in the 1880’s. A real Altbau. A rickety caged elevator brought us to the top floor that had a terrace overlooking the interior courtyard. Our apartment was huge with 20 foot ceilings. Beautiful wood wardrobes and endtables. The rest of the décor was rather non-existent. We had the only balcony on the exterior building which overlooked the opera and Morrison’s Music Pub. Interesting combo and we are certain more Jaegermeister swilling patrons were turned away from the pub than at the opera.
view of the Opera from our balcony

the building across the street with what appears to be damage from a war,
not typical preservation work in MN

the courtyard of our apartment building,
with sheepskins on the railing

Parliament in Pest, from Buda

lucky for us, Annemieke led us to some great sites
(like you didn't know she'd be in charge)

a tower in Buda

we almost skipped this cathedral, but were happy to go inside (good eye, Curt)
the interior is covered with art nouveau/folk art designs (I won't bore you with all the detail shots I took)

Széchenyi Lánchíd
or The Chain Bridge

the end of a concert outside Parliament

despite the heat....

you can't leave Budapest without some gulasch (served over a flame).

For those of you trying to keep track, Curt wrote the main text, Heather wrote the captions.


Eine traum Küche

a dream kitchen

I had the pleasure of helping out with a huge party on Tuesday night. Angelika's life dream, The Dining Room, was ready to be shown to all her friends and family. This great chef accepted my offers to help and I got a peek at the kitchen secrets while we prepared nine courses of little bites. You should really read The Flying Apple's blog for the details (and, to my delight, she's using my photos). Here are just a few memories from our busy days.

Angelika prepares the lamb tajine

nearly 80 little cups of the soup I've mentioned before

one of 90 smoked trout mousses with roe
we piped the mousse into the cups
spooning the roe rarely resulted in such an artful presentation as this

half the salmon rolls with hand-tied chives

one of two (plus) full refrigerators

mini spinach/strawberry/blue cheese quiches (waiting for the egg/cream mixture)

Gino, my shadow in the kitchen

the full line of Gangl's wines, offered exclusively in Vienna by The Dining Room

the chef and the wine-maker

The Candle Flame Stole posing with a Moroccan lamp on the Kitchen Deck

I mentioned yesterday that I would tell you about the stole I was working on at World Wide Knit in Public Day. That's a bit of it posing with the lamp. What follows is the story of the beginning of that stole's life. You see, I was running out of things to knit and I really wanted to try some Wollmeise yarn (hand-dyed in Germany). After I had dinner at Angelika's house last month, I knew exactly what I should make. I'd seen the pattern for the Candle Flame Shawl before and that concept fit perfectly with the candle-lit ambiance of The Dining Room. Next, I emailed Claudia (the Wollmeise) and asked for her help selecting a color from her fantastic selection. She looked at The Flying Apple and suggested a few colors. Next, I secretly emailed Angelika's Texan "sisters" for their color advice. I hadn't met them, but I was rightly confident that they would help. With four lists of favorite colors I noticed that one shade was on every one, always in the first or second position: Granatapfel. In English, it's pomegranate, but in German, well, it ties so nicely into that Flying Apple name, in addition to being a gorgeous color. I wound nearly 1600 meters of laceweight yarn into a ball by hand (thank goodness for great podcasts to keep me company). I cast on and started knitting like mad. Suddenly I found myself with a big project and a deadline. I was really grateful for our long train rides last week.
Now, the color selection was really fun and everything fell so easily into place for this project, but that wasn't the magic. The magic came while I knit. Remember: I was knitting for a chef. I might have noted the colors of this variegated skein in some other way, or not at all, if I'd been knitting for someone else, but as I knit for Angelika, I saw fruit, spices, wines... It was a bit surreal so I took notes. Here's a list of the "colors" I found in this yarn: beet/rhubarb/potato soup, aubergine ("eggplant" doesn't sound as nice; oh, and it's actually "Manzani" in Vienna), cocoa, nutmeg, cinnamon, cranberry juice, black currants, bittersweet berries, and a touch of deep, red wine - Gangl Grand Cuvée perhaps.


ein großartiger Tag heraus

A grand day out.

I'm doing a little bit of catching up here. It's been a busy few days. This post will focus on Saturday. The stories lack the dramatic finish of The Torte, Us and the Hair, but well, it's a glimpse at our (or my) daily life. That is why you're reading this, isn't it?

My hair got pretty long on this adventure of ours. Funny what not getting a trim for six months will do, huh? This is fine, but not great. And the weather has been very warm and a little sticky so it seemed that I was constantly pulling my hair into a ponytail. I was sick of it. So, I splurged and submitted an online request for an appointment at an Aveda-affiliated salon. The LA-born friseurin is on vacation all month, but I was offered an appointment with Alexander, for whom English would be no problem. I didn't want to show up looking terrible so I stole a dab of Curt's gel (I've been hating the Austrian "modeling paste" I tried to replace my American gel with). The long hair looked better than it had in months, but that didn't stop me!
it's below my shoulder, really

I left Curt and a classmate slaving over a Powerpoint presentation and ventured across town. I got to see the back side of the Anker Clock as I approached the salon. I like it even better from that angle. I was welcomed into the salon and happily found UK versions of fashion magazines available for my entertainment.

When Alexander was ready, he greeted me cheerfully, sat me in the chair, flipped the ends of my hair and exclaimed, "but I like this!" I convinced him that the daily ponytail was not a great solution and he seemed willing to do his part to rid me of a couple of inches. "So, go; sit; a girl will come and shampoo you. Then, we'll talk," he commanded.

I went. I sat. A girl came. She had me move to the chair in front of the adjustable height wash basin with the foam pad for my neck. She slid a small ottoman under my feet. She applied shampoo and massaged my scalp. She applied conditioner and massaged my scalp. She applied deep conditioner, combed it through and said, "ok. 5 minutes." I reclined with my hair in the sink for 10 minutes thinking that the only way this could be better was if I were on the Masai Mara and Robert Redford had been standing over the wash basin.

I was sent back to Alexander's station feeling quite relaxed. He was a little nervous to cut too much. I wanted to give him freedom to style (and get me out of my rut); he wanted to give me a style I knew worked for me (as if I have a clue). At last, he seemed to have a plan and started clipping away. I was amazed how much hair fell to the floor. snip, snip, snip. He offered to dry it out straight, but understood that since I'll never have the patience to do that, he should style it more naturally. I ended up feeling "refreshed" (his term), but there was no radical departure from the way I wear my hair most of the time. I guess I should appreciate the confirmation that my usual works on my face.
see? shorter!

I left the salon at noon, to the sounds of music pouring out of the Anker Clock and lots of tourists gazing at its dancing figurines. I watched for a minute or two and headed to the center of town. I braved the dressing rooms at H&M and bought a dress for Tuesday night's party (next post, I promise). I found a tiny French bistro and had a snazzy baguette sandwich for lunch. Then, I made my way to the Volksgarten.

Yes, it was World Wide Knit in Public Day! So, I grabbed my giant ball of Wollmeise lace yarn, 2/3 complete stole (more on that with the post about Tuesday's party) and met up with a bunch of strangers who knit. No need for shyness among knitters. The organizer, Yarnbird, speaks English and made me feel welcome right away. Rita, a spinner/felter/knitter speaks English (and six other languages) and invited me to a couple of knitting groups. Sure, it's our last (and busiest) three weeks of the semester, but I may try to get to a couple of the meetings anyway. She also requested my help with a double decrease stitch, reputed to be common in the US. I was able to help and she didn't mind having to twist a couple of stitches because I wasn't sure how to executed it on her combination knitting fabric as it was. Well, that was enough to start off a nice friendship. I think she wants to teach me to spin, too!

Yarnbird made sure everyone had a yarn craft to enjoy.

After being told sitting on the grass is "verboten," some knitters moved to the sunny steps.
Others took to the benches.

Rita is second from the right, knitting all her spinning samples in to a TV cover (maybe).

One of the knitters brought enough mini Erbeerplunder (delicious Austrian strawberry pastries) for all to taste. Yarnbird's photos of WWKIP-Wien can be found here.