Wednesday, September 5, 2012

July with the Perlas

Well, the elevator at our apartment was broken today, so my “Grocery store-then-Park” plan was foiled.  It is one thing to carry a 20+ pound baby down seven flights of stairs, but a whole other thing to have to carry groceries back up.  Plus no trip the park is complete without at least four blankets and a bag full of toys (and by bag I mean the ginormous XL LL Bean tote that was given to Jack by the Wagners- we love it!).

So since we were stuck inside (and Jack played happily in his playpen for a moment, while Strela slept on the couch) I took this opportunity to catch up on the blog.

July was marked by a jam-packed visit from my parents.  It was their first time to Europe in about ten years, I think, and their first time to Austria.  If you know us well, you know that we sure did our fair bit of eating throughout the trip and my dad was good at picking out new places.  Here we are at our new favorite place, an Austrian Beisl that served delightful hot pretzels upon arrival.  We have been back many times since.

The weather was quite warm for the visit, but the hottest weekend was the one we spent in Budapest.  We truly loved the city and its sites, even though it was oppressively hot.  We even had to get in the hotel pool to cool off.  Sadly Mike stayed behind in Vienna (by the way, I almost typed Praia) with Strela, so we will definitely have to get another family trip to Budapest underway ASAP.  It's only a short 3 hour drive, so I have a feeling we will check that off our list soon.  Here is Jack in his luxurious train seat and in the pool with Grandpa.

Though we aimed to try many Austrian and Hungarian wines during the visit, the weather was so insanely warm, that we didn’t even want to drink!  We did enjoy some cold beer and “Soda Zitrones” at all our various jaunts.  Soda Zitrone has become the Perla Signature drink- so simple, I do not know why they do not serve it everywhere in the States.  It is just sparkling water with a generous amount of fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Some places will add a sprig of mint or other citrus fruits, but it is the most refreshing way to enjoy cafes outdoors when the temperature is nearing three figures in Fahrenheit.  I still can’t get used to the Europeans saying, "It’s going to be 35 on Sunday!" in horror.

Though we tried to fit in some site-seeing, it was really just a pleasure to spend time together.  Other highlights of the trip include my mom teaching Jack to clap his hands (here he is practicing) and watch Jack "crawl" around (he now does actually crawl on all fours, but just as of a few weeks ago).  

For more photos of the touristy activities and sights, see our Flickr page at

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Naked Father's Day?

American Father’s Day was Sunday and I knew that Mike would want to be outside.  Additionally, another homework assignment from the dog trainer was to get Strela out to the countryside for a long, fun walk.  A Father’s Day walk/hike/picnic was born.  One of the nicest things about the city of Vienna is that the countryside (and a national park) are less than 30 minutes away.  We headed there on Sunday afternoon and while warm, it was sunny and beautiful which was a welcome change from the rainy, dreary weather we had been having. 

Smiley Dog
Jack trying out the new Baby Pack

The walk was fairly uneventful (after getting past many a dog at the entrance), and Strela was able to roam freely on her new long 45 ft lead.  She was a happy pup.  Mike had Jack on his back in our new Baby Pack that Jack LOVES.  Being up high and able to look all around has him beaming. 

We settled under a tree for a delicious picnic (if I do say so myself) when we reflected on something a bit odd in Austria.  People love to be naked.  There are lakes and canals around this national park and many were sunbathing….naked.  Not your normal Sunday in America but we were warned of this. It was the senior citizen hiker buck naked wearing shoes and a shoulder bag, or the 40 something guy ahead of you, nude, on his bike, or groups of people walking together in the buff that really caught your eye.  Now I know that Americans are more modest (possibly to a fault) than Europeans in general, but even my new British friend agrees the Austrians take it to a new level.  Don't worry, we didn't take any pictures of that.
My Daddy is #1

Sleeping Jack and Sweaty Daddy

Mommy and Jack cleaning up to head back

Friday, June 15, 2012

Animal Antics

Pigeon Out.  I can't say with full certainty that it is true, but I haven't seen Lady Pigeon for a solid 36 hours.  Plus, yesterday I did notice some odd bird feathers lying around the lobby floor.  One can't help but wonder if there are somewhat connected.

Either way, we sat outside with friends last night in a pigeon-free environment.  Let's hope this means the case is resolved...

Strela...sit.  Well, sitting is the one thing that Strela can do rather consistently on command.  However for all of her other "special needs" we have brought in an "Animal Behaviourist" named Helen as Strela has never had any formal dog training. Helen is British, note that I call her a behaviourist and not a trainer, and note my use of the fancy British spelling.  She is nothing short of amazing, and would truly give Cesar Milan a run for his money.

Helen worked with us for a couple of hours on Wednesday night and gave us TONS of homework.  Our first exercise is to help Strela process all the stimulus in this crazy city life we have thrown her into.  We now walk at a snail's pace and talk to Strela the whole time.  "Strela, what is that smell?  Strela, do you see that car? Strela, did you hear that bird?"  We may look funny, in fact we DEFINITELY look funny, but it helps us all derive more joy out of the walks.  Many of you probably already know that the only member of our family that is not our dog.  So these walks are only peaceful until Strela terrorizes the smallest chihuahua or the largest great dane with her bark (which we hold out hope would be worse than her bite).  Sigh, baby steps- literally- in dog training.  It's a good thing we love her so much.

Now some photos for good measure:

How could you not love this puppers?  Curled up in Jack's room before naptime.

Jack loves Strela. Photos from our first days in Vienna.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Pigeongate 2012

Our new home in Vienna is really beautiful.  We have a “huge” kitchen by European standards, a washer and dryer which is still something unusual in European cities and though we certainly downsized from our palatial Praia home, we still feel like we have enough space to accommodate our family of 3+dog.  One of the best surprises about our place was that we have a small deck off the kitchen.  We were not expecting ANY outdoor space, so while it is tiny and has a view of…well, nothing at all, it is big enough for a couple of chairs and a grill, and that is all that we really need. 

Our kitchen when we first moved in.
Being on the interior courtyard (more like a shaft for lack of a better explanation) of the building, this little balcony of ours has been plagued by city-dwelling pigeons since we arrived.  Not to state the obvious but pigeons are really gross and they have taken to using our balcony as their toilet as well as a perch in which to torment Strela into endless fits of barking. 

The Embassy maintenance services mentioned the pigeon problem to us when arrived.  The landlord wanted to install a net over our balcony to keep away the pigeons. We were less than excited about sitting on this already tiny balcony underneath a net, so we tried to solve the problem ourselves…with a plastic lawn owl.  We were really banking on this owl to work, and moved it around to make it appear lifelike.  Not only did the owl not deter the pigeons, but the pigeons were so not fooled that they would sit atop the owl and even use him as their toilet as well.  

The owl is creepy to me, just not the pigeons.
So after the owl failed us, we agreed to have the net installed.  We were so pleased when the net did not just cover our little patio, but spanned the entire length of the courtyard really not altering our “view” at all and maintaining an airy feel to the space. This four-day operation was quite impressive, complete with men in harnesses repelling off the roof of the building.  {Sidebar:  Strela thought that they were trying to break into our house and that led to more endless fits of barking.}   After the job was complete Mike asked, “Do you think they made sure that all the pigeons were out of there before sealing it off?”  And I said, “Of course they did!  This is Austria.  Everyone is so serious and diligent, they would never make such a mistake.”  Well, I was the one who was mistaken.  Not only did they leave behind a pigeon but apparently a nest of baby pigeons besides.

Since then the pigeon issue has actually escalated.  Now the one pigeon left has made a complete home on our balcony.  I have come to realize that this is for two reasons: 1) She has much fewer options as she is TRAPPED BELOW THE NET! and 2) Our kind but, in my humble opinion, misguided neighbors across the courtyard above the net, have taken to throwing bread onto our balcony so the pigeon won’t starve to death.  What am I to say to them? Please don’t do throw bread onto my balcony.  This net that was installed solely for our unit should just kill this pigeon mama?! Not to mention our neighbor is the Ambassador from Panama so I do not want to create a diplomatic incident.

The net working...
Stay tuned for resolution of Pigeongate 2012.