Monday, September 22, 2014

Perspective

We all have a vice that comforts us after a rough day or at the end of a terrible week. Smoking, drinking, shopping, eating. I cook. I also cook when I have had a great day, but whatever. I cooked a lot last week.

On Monday I pulled into the garage to discover that the new Jag-owner-who-can-not-park had returned. Because these new people have a bunch of junk stacked up in their space, their vehicle extends a meter into the lane, and their space is directly across from mine. Over the summer I left a note on their windscreen explaining the difficulty of parking my car and it went unheeded. So, I play bumper tag with their Jag. If they can not care, I can not care. 

However, I can cook. Dinner that night was amazing. Persian-spiced lamb stuffed in Hokkaido squash. The perfume of cardamom, turmeric, rose and the other spices drifting from my oven made me feel better.
 On Tuesday I enjoyed the first art group outing of the season, then spent the afternoon attempting the 1,326th version of Sichuan Dan Dan noodles. Anna Grace even asked to take leftovers for lunch the following day, the recipe was that good.
On Wednesday a friend and I made our quarterly road trip to TESCO, an all-happiness outing. Dinner was a tried-and-true slow cooker Tex-Mex dish, but it did not look appealing on my IKEA plates, so, no photos. While eating dinner we discovered that another new and unknown neighbor's dog had torn a hole in our connecting fence and was in our garden, happily staining our grass and leaving stinky land mines. So much for a happy day. There are six houses in the complex adjacent to us, and I have no idea who the management company is in order to help solve the problem. Asking my landlord for help would be pointless, as has long been determined. We just fixed the fence ourselves, and bought enough material for future repairs.

Thursday made me want to run to the airport with a one-way ticket back to a world in which I am a homeowner and not a tenant with a cheap, moronic landlord who seems to think we are content with a deconstructed basement; back to a career where even on the bad days I at least could take comfort in having a salary and a handful of good colleagues; and back to a life where I was not a second-class Haus Frau needing my husband to speak on my behalf, and in the process having that message become befuddled through two middlemen and causing protocol hiccups. I ate dinner and retired early.

At the end of the week I wandered the city's farmer's markets to cheer myself and be inspired for Friday's supper. The early autumn colors made me happy, as did the vendor who patiently explained to me how to prepare black radishes, and the butcher who muddled along in partial-English to my half-German about which cut of lamb was best for braising.





Dinner was a success thanks to the kindness of the market vendors. Braised lamb, Camembert on toasts, and black radish salad.
The three of us had a delightful weekend to make up for my mostly crappy week. Our activities were varied; one more international in scope, the other much more local. Yet even our fabulous weekend had a moment that made me want to cook for the wrong reasons.  While in the long queue for bratwurst at one of the events, an obnoxiously impatient, elderly Austrian couple behind us tried repeatedly and brazenly to cut us off. After our heels had been tromped upon a half dozen times, and Herr Impatient's proximity to me bordered on sexual harassment, I turned to the gentlemen and said, "Entschuldigen Sie. Bitte warten Sie."  (Excuse me. Please wait.) All I can say is that the old man's face turned as red as his wife's Dirndl's apron. Tony and I had been conversing in English, and possibly the old couple felt they could be rude to us, but not to other, German-speaking guests in the queue. Or, perhaps they are just rude in general.

Regardless, I cooked. Grilled tuna steaks with a caper and anchovy sauce. Beyond delicious.

Finally, while out with Clayton Theodore this morning, a Burqa-covered mom tugging a preschool-aged little boy with his backpack called to me from across the lane while pointing up the street, "Kindergarten?" I asked, in English, if the school she was looking for was on a nearby street. "Kindergarten?" was the only response. I tried again in German and received the same response. I motioned for her to follow me, an effort made rather challenging given that her son was terrified of Clayton Theodore, who only wanted to be his friend. I walked her to the Kindergarten, where she shook her head and asked, "Little Boy Kindergarten?" 

At this point I could not help her; I know of only one Kindergarten in my neighborhood. She gave me a nod of appreciation and then walked off in a different direction. I felt bad that this Mom was struggling in an unfamiliar country without much grasp of a useful language, and I was out of resources to help her. 

Making my way back to the house I could only ponder that rough days and bad weeks are really just a matter of perspective. 



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Horsepower!

Definitely a life for a teen girl to envy. Enviously thin young ladies with ponytails (it must be a requirement!) who spend their days doting over the expensive beasts their dads are all too happy to purchase (because the love of a horse means boys are nary a thought).  What we like about the sport of English riding is that it is equal--males and females compete against one another according to their abilities. What Anna Grace likes about the sport is that she has horse love and a rigorous workout every week. Whatever the reason, we were happy to indulge her on Saturday for a day outing to the Vienna Masters.
Equestriennes can not live by plain and boring accessories alone, and neither can their horses.

Italian handmade boots to covet. The four digit price tag? Not so much.
One of Anna Grace's AIS schoolmates competed in the 130cm Division. He fared well, but did not place.
 The equestrian equivalent of a Zamboni.
Why, yes, that is Athina Onassis competing in the 145cm Division. She also fared well, but did not ribbon.
On Sunday I indulged my big engineer and my little engineer-in-training with a pedal-powered Draisine 13km outing across the Weinviertel. Get it? "Engineers" operating a "train?"


The crossings at the occasional Austrian country road were manual, and Anna Grace was happy to step in as a Switchman.
 "Look, Mom!  No Hands!"
 Passing by a beautiful old village cemetery.
 Pausing for apple snacks along the way.
 A kellergasse along our route, my new photography obsession.
The rolling hills of our European home. Similar to the rolling hills of our American home.
 Just in time for the Halloween season, black and forlorn sunflowers and ghostlike thistle.

The summit, 298 meters above Austria. 
 
Woohoo!  It's all downhill from here!
 Zipping past early autumn colors to our destination, Asparn an der Zaya and its Bahnhof Fest.


'Twas a Schönes Wochenende!