Tuesday, December 27, 2005

This one's for you mom...

My mom got me the cookbook East of Paris by David Bouley for my birthday. It's an Austrian cookbook (but somehow I think they had to include the word 'Paris' in the title for it to appeal to Americans, most of whom think Austria is the continent inhabited by kangaroos). Today, it's been snowing all day long, and David is working from home, so I thought a fun project for me would be to try out a new recipe...
snow accumulation as of noon:
I decided to make 'Quark Spätzle' and the 'Beet Salad' (everything from scratch- we're talking raw beets, flour, eggs...). I chose these specifically because they looked like two of the easier dishes, boy was that was a error in judgment!
The Spätzle turned out to be *VERY* difficult. We don't have a Spätzle-press-maker-thing, but the recipe said one could press the Spätzle dough through a colander - I do not recommend this!!! I made a mess, and eventually had to ask for David's assistance. He did a great job working with the tools we had available, and was able to salvage the Spätzle.
In the end, everything was delicious! It took twice as long as I had expected, but I've learned my lessons for next time. So far, I think this is a good cookbook, even if it has the word Paris in the title.


We got a Spätzle-maker. It's a piece of metal with holes in it that sits on top of a pot of boiling water and you push the Spätzle dough through it. Much easier!!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas in Vienna

We had a relaxing time in Vienna for Christmas. The city has a great energy and it was fun to see all the decorations. The weather was a bit on the gray side, and there is a crazy wind that blows in Vienna!
The Rathaus had a big market infront of it.

St. Stephens Cathedral
An interesting clock
The Vienna Opera
Our hotel, Le Meridien

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Graz to Wien

We're excited to spend Christmas in Vienna this year.
We had a beautiful train ride from Graz to Vienna today through the foothills of the Alps. The snow was clinging to the trees hi-lighting the mountains with a white blanket and the sun was shining.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Do you still believe in Santa?

Christmas is a bit different in Austria.
They don't have Santa Claus. Instead they have the Christkind (Christ child) who brings gifts to the children on December 24th. The "Weihnachtsmann" is an American import, and a controversial one at that.
Advent is what marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Austria. In the USA it all begins the day after Thanksgiving (well, the shopping part). As we've mentioned before, there are markets set up around town where people gather for shopping, drinking, and hanging out.
Each of the four Sundays leading up to Chrismas during Advent, a candle is lit on a wreath.
Krampus comes on December 5th to punish bad children.

St. Nicholas comes on December 6th for the good children.

The Christkind comes on December 24th to bring gifts.
December 24th is also when the Austrians have their big family gathering and celebration, where we traditionally celebrate on the 25th.


The big news on the front page of the newspapers here today is that Arnold has told Graz to take his name off the city stadium by the end of 2005... a little explanation is in order.
Below is a pic from the Kleine Zeitung, the banner over the stadium says "Menschentoter" which means "man-killer"
As everybody in both America and Austria knows, Arnold refused to grant clemency to Tookie Williams. This makes for complicated politics here in Graz because Austria as a country is against the death penalty, and Arnold is a native of Graz. Arnold and the city of Graz have ever been friends publicly and this friendship was solidified by Arnold receiving a "Ring of Honor" from the city, and also having the stadium named after him. Finally, Graz uses the Schwarzenegger name to promote itself, with Arnold's permission.
Sensing the political tide changing, Graz politicians started to wonder if they should re-name the stadium. Arnie caught wind of this, and has said they are no longer allowed to use his name to endorse anything in Graz, and is returning his honorary ring of the city. In the letter he faxed to the town hall, he expressed:
"Er würde es nie wagen, eine Entscheidung der Grazer Politiker von Sacramento aus öffentlich zu kritisieren: 'Aber Graz schreit stets als Erster laut und öffentlich auf'." (Kleine Zeitung)
Which roughly translates as: He would never dare to criticize Graz politicians from Sacramento, 'Yet Graz is always first to cry out publicly'.
Politics! cited links:
Kleine Zeitung (Deutsch)
(PS- the ring is in the mail)
Most of the Grazers we know side with Arnold on this one, and many think it was a great move for him preempt the politicians.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Advent in Graz

Christmas seems like a magical season here. There are lights twinkling on every street, and many stands selling crafts and Glühwein. Every night the town hall is a giant Advent Calendar.

There's an ice sculpture of The Nativity

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Winter Ball

It's ball season in Graz. Last night we went to one for a high school, but it was nothing like high school dances in the USA. There were hundreds of people, young and old. Parents, friends, teachers, and students all dancing until the wee hours of the morning. We left at 2am and it was still quite crowded.
The theme of the ball was "welcome to the candy shop" (I think things are somehow more hip here when they're in English) To open the ball, the senior class did a Polonaise.
The location was a new building from the 2003 Capital of Culture embellishments to Graz. There was a main hall with long tables and the main dance floor, and two side halls with a disco and a bar. Below is one of the "smaller" side halls.

David and I danced a few times...
... and Ingrid & Alois were dancing up a storm!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Robin's Birthday

Yesterday was my (gulp!) 30th birthday. It was a holiday here, so David didn't have to go to work! He made me berry pancakes and bacon for breakfast (and he cleaned up too!). It was a sunny day, so we walked around the city and up to the top of the Schlossberg. Usually on holidays here all the stores are closed, but they were open yesterday for Christmas shopping. We have never seen this city so crowded... it felt like we were back in NYC!
Panoramic view of Graz from the Schlossberg (click to enlarge)
We ate dinner at the best restaurant in Graz, MOD (click for info). We had a six-course meal! Which was actually more like 10 because they gave us little complimentary things from the kitchen and we had a martini at the bar first and then a champagne toast. We were eating for 4 hours!
Along the walk to dinner: here's the menu (click to enlarge):

Dessert! (I could only eat half of it.)
The town hall in Graz is a giant Advent Calendar every night. Although, I think tonight was to celebrate my birthday :)

It was a special 30th birthday. A little quieter than I had always imagined, but that made the transition into a new decade easier.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

MGV Liebenau

Männergesangverein Liebenau
(Men's Singing Organization of Liebenau)
David has joined a traditional Styrian men's chorus. Last night they had an Advent Concert. The church was visually beautiful with great acoustics, however it was freezing!!!

After the concert was over, everyone went to Cafe Edler & Atzl to thaw out with beer and sausage. The cafe is owned by one of the chorus members. We enjoyed speaking mostly in German the whole evening!
Before the concert, I baked Weihnachtskeks (Christmas cookies) with Ingrid. I got creative with the left-over dough and made the Uhrturm (clock tower) on the Schlossberg.