Thanksgiving for pyromaniacs

Hello, lovelies, can you believe it's already December?! We just got back yesterday from a spontaneous mini-vacation in Barcelona, which has inexplicably left me feeling jet-lagged despite the lack of time difference (I'm blaming it on 10pm dinners—how do those Spaniards do it?). I can't wait to tell you all about it, but first I wanted to share a little something from our Thanksgiving celebration last week.

For CM's birthday this year, my parents sent him a special pot for making Feuerzangenbowle (Fire Tong Punch, obvs), a traditional German Christmas punch. My first reaction was that a kitchen appliance was a completely bizarre present to send someone who is living out of suitcases while his belongings are in storage on another continent, but then I realized I was being narrow-minded and that it was actually totally brilliant and a perfect excuse to get tipsy and light things on fire.

Here's how you make it. You pour 2–3 bottles of red wine into a pot on the stove. We used Beaujolais Nouveau ('tis the season), but you could use any kind. Throw in a couple cups of orange juice, slice up an orange and a lemon, add a cinnamon stick, a handful of whole cloves, and a couple star anise, and heat it all up together. Your kitchen will smell divine.

Then you pour the hot wine mixture into the special pot, which sits over a little tea light to keep it warm. The pot comes with a metal grate that you set across the top. On top of the grate you put a sugar cone (Zuckerhut—literally translated, Sugar Hat), which is a thing you can buy in the Austrian grocery store for precisely this purpose.

Then you pour highly alcoholic rum (we used Austrian Stroh rum, it's 160 proof!) over the entire sugar cone so it gets soaked through.

Now here's the fun part. You light that rum-soaked sugar on fire! Turn out the lights so you can admire how pretty it is.

The sugar caramelizes and drips slowly into the punch, making it oh so delicious.

Once the fire's out, you drink.

Or, alternatively, if it's not fiery enough for you, you can also pour more rum onto the lit sugar until everyone screams that you're going to burn the ceiling.

THEN you drink.

If you want to try it but you're not in Feuerzangenbowle country, you can buy a set here, although if you don't feel like paying $99(!), you could also use the fondue pot gathering dust in your cupboard and just buy the $10 grate to put on top. You can also buy a Zuckerhut here or you can make your own. For best results, you should use something like Bacardi 151.

Photos by CameraMan with a couple iPhone shots of my own thrown in.

Happy weekend!

My dears, what do you have planned for the weekend? Apple picking? Pie baking? Thanksgiving planning? We've vowed to have a productive weekend, tackling projects that have been on our to-do list for far too long. It won't be all work, though—I'm sure we'll still manage to fit in a walk and some Christmas market exploration.

Some links for your Friday:

This is fueling my retirement dreams, in which I become a goat farmer, renowned for my delicious cheeses (it could happen).

This made us cry-laugh so hard.

This makes my nerdy side (is there a non-nerdy side?) so very happy.

We watched this documentary on Netflix this week and loved it.

I've been listening to these guys lots (did you see them on Jimmy Kimmel?). Fun fact: Rhiannon Giddens sang the title role in Susannah when we were in grad school together (square-dancing hussy).

Totally into this new video series.

Pretty please to have this life.

Here's a gratuitous photo of Lola being adorable:

Taken by CM (she's generally only sweet with him)

Hope your weekend is full of lazy mornings, productive afternoons, and Glühwein evenings. xoxo LMB

Home on the Road: Erin Morley

Home on the Road is a series in which I interview opera professionals about how they survive their nomadic lives. You can find previous interviews here.

© Wesley Johnson
I'm delighted to bring back the Home on the Road series, which has provided me so much comfort whenever I'm tempted to shake my fist at the sky screaming, "Where are all the role models????" (which is fairly regularly).

I first met soprano Erin Morley way back (cough, cough) years ago at Wolf Trap, and she is having much-deserved huge successes all over the world. She just finished up a run of Konstanze in Abduction in Paris, and now she's in rehearsals for Gilda in a new Rigoletto here in Vienna (lucky us!).

I'm so happy Erin agreed to chat about how she's handling life on the road, traveling with a 3-year-old, and keeping her marriage strong. Enjoy!

LMB: Can you give me a few stats: how long you've been on the road, how much you've been at home in the last 12 months, how much time you've been able to spend with your husband John during that time?

EM: I've been singing professionally (i.e., out of a young artist program) for about 4 years now. New Haven, CT, is home for us; in the calendar year of 2014, I will have been there for 3 months total. This year is actually the most I've ever traveled, and I've been planning for this year for quite some time. I'm quite lucky in my family situation right now. My daughter Maria is 3, so she's able to be with me all the time. My husband John is a professor at Yale Law School, and was able to arrange his teaching schedule in various ways that allowed him to travel with me for much of this year. We've spent only two months without John this year. (THANK YOU, YALE.)

LMB: Do you have any stuff you always bring with you to make your temporary home feel more like a real one? Or any special routines to help you acclimate quickly in a new place?

EM: Family calendar, refrigerator photo magnets, Maria's blanket, and $5 Home Depot paper blackout blinds for Maria's room . . . What's far more important than these things, however, is maintaining schedule and family time. We read scriptures together as a family, we pray together as a family, we eat dinner together when possible. When we do these things, it feels like home.

LMB: What special things do you do to get Maria acclimated to a new place, before you leave home or once you've arrived?

EM: We try to focus on the positive aspects of an ever-changing environment, and we make absolutely sure that some things in her life are never-changing.

For instance, we talk to Maria about the city we're going to see, starting several weeks before leaving. We talk about special things she might like to see there (and show her pictures), and people she might get to meet there. We've tried to condition her to love all people and not be afraid to befriend them (although she seems to have come to this earth that way anyway!), and to like new experiences, new apartments, new places.

But we also emphasize the things that can and should be constant for her. Most important to me is that she always knows and feels that her parents love each other, and love her. This requires a certain amount of attention on the marriage. Date night every week, and regular emotional check-ins. Also very important to me is a consistent sleep schedule and general time organization within the family unit. I try to arrive in a drastically different time zone at least 3 days before my work starts, so that I can help Maria get over jet lag, help orient the family, have a chance to feel settled and secure before work sets in and my energy is required there. The faster we can adjust to a new time zone as a family, the easier it is on everyone.

LMB: Your family is such a beautiful example of really doing it all: 2 major careers, a child, a strong marriage. Do you think you've found that elusive work/life balance? What has helped you guys in making it all work?

EM: The work/life balance is a lifelong quest, to be sure. Our situation is constantly evolving, especially as our daughter gets older. Planning for these trips takes an enormous amount of time and organization. When I accept a job, I consider a million different factors. Besides voice and career considerations, John's needs, Maria's needs, childcare situation, time away from home, etc . . . all of these things come into play. John may need to talk to Yale about a leave of absence, or pushing the year's teaching into one semester rather than two. If he can't leave, we look at his schedule very carefully to make sure he can visit often enough. On rare occasions, I've decided to leave Maria home with John and nanny because it's better for everyone, but those periods must remain short. Relationships must be maintained, or the balance is upset.

In my opinion, the biggest factors to a successful balance in a situation like this are your choice of spouse and your choice of nanny. This is the "team." I must sing the praises of my husband for a moment, because he has supported my goals from the moment he met me. He has been an incredible partner. On those occasions when I have to travel without him, I feel his absence acutely. He bears a large part of the parenting load, he cooks dinner almost every night, and he also maintains his own high-pressure career.

However! Odd as it may seem, the nanny truly sits at the top of the food chain! We have a saying in our house: "If nanny's happy, everyone's happy." We make sure to provide our nanny with time off, social opportunities, and the tools to have a life outside of our family. We also require a lot of her within the job. She must bring a positive energy to the house, and we need to be able to trust her and rely on her with no doubts.

LMB: I am the absolute worst at packing, and I don't even have kid stuff to pack. How do you pack for several months away? Any helpful tips?

EM: My best tip for packing for long trips with kids: Start thinking about it at least two weeks before you leave. There is so much to prepare. My second best tip: Take a round of antibiotics with you.

LMB: In order to have the career that you have, you have to be willing to be away from home most of the time. How have you made peace with that? What makes it worthwhile for you?

EM: I've not yet had to confront the prospect of traveling for long periods of time without my family. I've thought about what we might do in the future, but I have to take things one step at a time. For now, I'm quite satisfied with the situation I have. It's of the utmost importance to me to have balance in my life. Being a mother and a singer. I need to be both. Both of those occupations are in my DNA; I feel like I'm meant to be both. This is where I find the peace.

It's absolutely true that both occupations are full-time, and so by definition, I spend less energy on my job than I'd like, and I spend less energy on my family than I'd like. However, the benefits to my family are greater when I'm singing: mom is happy and balanced, my family gets to see the world, Maria is having a very unique international education . . . Likewise, the benefits to my singing are greater since I became a mother: I don't have time to obsess over my job like I used to, I'm physically more active, I have a whole team to support me (and distract me when needed!) on the road, and I have a rich pool of experience to draw from. When Maria was born, it was such a beautiful change in our lives that I found myself saying, "Being a parent is the secret to life!" Now I never let myself believe that my career is more important than my family. And if I start to toe that line, Maria brings me back down to earth. :)

Traveling and not being able to be in your comfort zone, it makes you appreciate what you *really* need to be happy. For us, that's being together, nourishing the marriage, having a very reliable and full-time nanny, having a place of worship (we're Mormon, so this is pretty easy anywhere in the world), forming relationships with colleagues and friends from church, those are the things that keep the peace.

LMB: Any other advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out? Or advice that you did get that has been helpful to you?

EM: Organize your time. Don't try to be a mom and a singer during the same hours of the day. This is when guilt takes over, and everything suffers. Maria is out of the room when I'm practicing. Likewise, I don't answer my emails or look at my music when I'm "momming". ;)

John, Maria, and Erin

Maria and Erin in the Met dressing room during Rosenkavalier

Many thanks to Erin! It's so inspirational to hear how people in our business are making this crazy lifestyle work. You can find out more about Erin at and follow her on Facebook for updates.

Winter is coming

This weekend's Christmas market excursion

It's getting chilly here in Vienna, perfect weather for wrapping your hands around a hot mug of Glühwein while you wander the Christmas markets. The Viennese are completely undeterred by the cold weather—nobody's hibernating just yet. From what I can tell, the key to enjoying spending time outside in the late fall and winter comes down to a simple question of wardrobe, as so many things do.

I should point out here that I am no stranger to cold weather. I spent the first 11 winters of my life in a drafty old New England house, hot water bottles warming my flannel sheets at night. Then there were those 4 unforgettable winters during my undergraduate years in Wisconsin, where my wet hair would freeze on my way to class and flannel-lined khakis were my favorite J. Crew purchase. And, for the past several years, even though I've lived in sunny Houston, cruel fate (aka the Met schedule) has brought me to NYC for a good portion of every winter, where I seem to slip on ice on my way to work on a frighteningly regular basis.

Somehow, it was only last winter that I realized I didn't have any warm clothes. I had finally bought a down coat that was long enough to cover my butt, and instead of reveling in how warm and toasty it made me, I started focusing on all the parts of me that were not warm (that is, every part of me that was not covered by my new coat). I suddenly realized, while talking about it over dinner, that I was cold pretty much all the time during the winter, and that maybe, just maybe, it didn't have to be like that. I happened to be having dinner with a Uniqlo Heattech aficionado, and the rest is history.

Of course, Rome and my winter wardrobe weren't built in a day, so I've been gathering essentials over the past year: Heattech t-shirts for layering (spread the gospel), a hat that covers my ears, Heater Hog shirts and ear warmers for running, flannel pjs and furry slippers for at home, woolly knee socks to go under boots, sweaters, and my most recent purchase, fleece-lined leggings (which might actually change my life). Next on my list: shearling-lined boots, a giant cozy scarf that can double as an airplane blanket, and warm gloves. Let the temperatures drop. I'll be ready. (But do tell me if I'm forgetting something! I will stop at nothing until I've achieved Ultimate Coziness.)


Photobooth on my birthday this year

Friends, I am going to let you in on a top secret marriage tip. Though in the interest of full disclosure I feel I must qualify that my research is purely of the anecdotal variety and based only on my own experience, I'm pretty sure this one is going to blow your mind. Are you ready? Here it is.

Spending time living in the same place as your spouse will make your marriage better.*

Mind blown, am I right? I mean, who knew that spending time together could actually strengthen our relationship? Obviously I knew that I was happier when we were together, and it seemed like that was probably true for him as well, but somehow I did not make the cognitive leap that we would also grow closer than ever and better attuned to each other's needs. Weird.

Over the course of the almost 7 years we've been together, CM and I have spent an awful lot of time apart, sometimes as much as 6 months out of the year. We spent 165 days together in 2010, 200 in 2011, 183 in 2012, and 186 in 2013. It was after that all-time high in 2011 that I ambitiously added #85 to the Bossy List: Spend at least 250 days with CM in a calendar year.

Well, I am ecstatic to report that, as of November 8, 2014, I can now cross this item off the list. Better yet, we have no plans to be apart for the remainder of 2014, so we are definitely going to top 300 this year. That's completely unheard of, and it's a direct result of some hard choices we made that are paying off in spades.

85. Spend at least 250 days with CM in a calendar year.

*This is only true if you really like your spouse, I should probably mention. If not, it could have the opposite effect.

Happy weekend!

Friends, have you had a good week? We have been spending lots of time attempting to make Big Life Decisions, and it has left me with very little brain space for things like blogging, or taking photos, or ANYTHING ELSE. Phew. I will try to use the weekend to calm down. Apologies for the vagueblogging.

In the meantime, some links:

I love when hardworking, talented people are recognized for their work.

We have been sitting around listening to this like some old-timey couple in an era before TV existed. You should too.

When I need comfort food, I always come back to this. (But I halve the recipe.)

This better be amazing.

My cousin Gunnar made this cool thing.

Proud of my alma mater.

I finally tracked down some brown sugar in Vienna, so I will probably make these this weekend.

Are we still saying "girl crush"? If so, this.

And here's what's happening all the time at our place:

Here's hoping your weekend is filled with bowls of warm comfort food, snuggly cats, and a newly found Zen attitude. xoxo LMB

Happy Halloween weekend!

Happy Halloween, everyone! Do you have big plans for the weekend? Halloween isn't a big thing here, but we are going to a little pajama party with friends tonight. And rushing to get all our errands run today, since tomorrow is a national holiday and nothing will be open. CM has the whole weekend free(!), so we're looking forward to lots of lounging and maybe a bit of exploring as well.

Some linky goodness for the weekend:

This is me.

Good news for moms.

On the top of my wish list (in bordo).

So beautiful.

Lazy Halloween costume ideas.

Made me laugh.

My new favorite Instagram feed.

This was a big hit.

And in case you missed it on Instagram, here is Lola discovering nature:


Hope your weekend is full of hot chocolate, treats not tricks, and lazy lounging. xoxo LMB

Yes please

Today I finished (oh, and started) Amy Poehler's new book, Yes Please. I adored it. She is sassy and wise, and I defy you to read this book without wanting to become her best friend. A position that has already been taken. By Tina Fey. Sigh.

Here are a few of my favorite parts.

On writing:

"You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book."

On career:

"Too often we are told to visualize what we want and cut out pictures of it and repeat it like a mantra over and over again. Books and magazines tell us to create vision boards. Late-night commercials remind us that "anything is possible." Positive affirmations are written on our tea bags. I am introducing a new idea. Try to care less. Practice ambivalence. Learn to let go of wanting it. Treat your career like a bad boyfriend."

On work:

"You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look."

What are you reading? Anything you'd recommend?

My new favorite German word

We discovered this incredible nature program on Austrian Netflix, called Wildes Deutschland (you probably got that, Wild Germany). Each episode explores some beautiful out-of-the-way area of Germany, showing what life is like for the people who live there, as well as the many wildlife varieties. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the narrator enunciates well, so it's a good German exercise for us.

Last night we watched an episode about the Nordfriesland, which is all the way Northwest in Germany, almost in Denmark, on the North Sea coast. One village in the area, Bergenhusen, has become a home for countless storks, who fly there every spring, build nests on the rooftops, and hatch their baby storklings before flying south for the winter. It's considered good luck to have storks choose your roof for their nest (probably helps if it's a thatched roof, see above), and they even have a map showing where storks are currently nesting.

The town is so proud of the storks that they call Bergenhusen the Storchendorf (Stork Village).


Well, since watching that episode I have probably said the word Storchendorf at least a dozen times. I love it so much. Imagine my surprise when I searched a little (I may or may not have fallen down a major internet rabbit hole here...) and found out that Storchendorf is an official title granted to European towns with storks in residence. There are 13 (Bergenhusen isn't actually one of them), and there's one very close to Vienna! I'm sad we won't be here in the spring, because I'm dying to make a pilgrimage to a Storchendorf. And not only so that I have an excuse to say Storchendorf. Really.

STORCHENDORF. Okay, now I'm done.

The Great Hibernation Urge

Seemingly all of a sudden it's cold here. I was wallowing in colorful leaves, and long sleeves, and that crisp fall air, and it crept up on me. We're getting down into the 30s here at night, and because Daylight Savings Time ends a week earlier here than in the States, it's dark before 5 o'clock.

This is not me complaining. It is, however, me fighting a losing battle with the Great Hibernation Urge, that which roots me to the couch and ensconces me in blankets and gifts me with snuggly kitties keeping close for warmth. CM was gone for the weekend, and I whiled away the hours cooking chicken noodle soup and this incredible roasted applesauce which I cannot recommend highly enough, reading this fascinating book, and Netflixing endless Gilmore Girls episodes. I visited friends while wearing yoga pants (this is not normal here, FYI), essentially just transferring from our couch to theirs for the evening.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, I dragged myself out to wander through the gardens at Schönbrunn, and the Great Urge was vanquished, at least for an hour or so, as I remembered how gorgeous this city is, and how very lucky we are to be here.

The Gloriette, from my Instagram feed

A good Monday reminder

From Adulting. Obviously I have already ignored this advice today.

Vicarious living

© Erin Snell/Thrillist

Is there anything better than watching the people you love finding success? It's definitely one of the perks of coming into your (ahem, MID-) thirties—everyone's finding their thing, that thing they can be experts in, and they've paid their dues and put in the work, and now they're really doing it. It's pretty great when the world starts noticing what you knew all along: your friends are amazing.

Take my friend Snellybean, for example. A couple years ago she moved to Salzburg without a totally concrete plan of what she would do there, because she's brave, and also she is good at lots of things. She's built a full life in the 'burg (seriously, everywhere we went together while I was visiting she ran into half a dozen people she knew), and she recently took on a new business: travel writing! She recently had an article published by Thrillist, and I just had to share it with you.

She spent a weekend shadowing a team of waitresses in the Hofbräu tent at Oktoberfest in Munich. She took all the photos and video herself, sang on the stage of the tent (like you do), and even managed to learn how to carry TEN liters of beer at once. And, I should add, the whole thing was completely her idea to do it, and when she pitched it to Thrillist it was immediately accepted. So cool. She shared a few of her photos with me.

© Erin Snell/Thrillist

© Erin Snell/Thrillist

© Erin Snell/Thrillist

© Erin Snell/Thrillist

Do reading the article and seeing the pictures make you want to go to Oktoberfest? I have to admit, even though it's on the Bossy List, hearing all about it made me wonder whether I would actually enjoy myself. Being a person who doesn't like crowds, or super drunk people, or crowds of super drunk people, potentially looking at pictures is the closest I should come? What do you think?

© Erin Snell/Thrillist

Big thanks to the lovely Snellybean!

Happy birthday weekend!

Friends, do you have big plans for the weekend? It's been a full week over here (which is why it's been a light blogging week). I'm looking forward to a lovely relaxing weekend of hanging out with CM, eating lots of yummy things, and (of course) a little Sunday excursion. Plus, tomorrow's my birthday! CM is taking me out for a special date. I'm crossing my fingers that it includes a showing of Gone Girl, hint, hint.

Some links from the week:

Two things I did to chickens this week. You really can't go wrong if you start with a whole chicken, can you?

Google street view camel. Come on.

The magazine I'm into right now, even though I'm preeeeetty sure its core demographic is post-menopausal (there are an awful lot of ads for anti-aging creams).

One of my favorite authors has a NY Times Magazine column now!

The product I swear by for a little glow.

My favorite weather app (thanks, Papa Bossy).

The show we've been catching up on.

150 wines for $15 or less.

Jennifer Garner is awesome.

Dying to do a project using this.

My favorite shot of the week (not of cats, if you can believe it):

from my Instagram feed

Hope your weekend is full of autumn leaves, flushed cheeks, and celebrations. See you back here Monday. xoxo LMB

Why our marriage is better in Europe

The weather's turning colder, have I mentioned? We've turned the heat on in the apartment and broken out all our sweaters. Also, it's now definitely comforter (duvet, if you like to be fancy) weather, which has reminded me of an amazing, marriage-saving element of living over here: separate comforters.

from the swanky 25Hours Hotel in Vienna

Why share a comforter when you can have your very own? Why bother with hospital corners when making the bed can be as easy as folding two comforters in half and plumping the pillows? If you're always cold but he's always hot, if either one of you is a covers hog or a covers thrower off, if his stabby toenails are always grazing your leg, if she insists on putting her ice cold feet on you to "warm" them, if you are not a snuggly sleeper and prefer to pretend you're alone in bed, there is but one solution, and the Northern Europeans figured it out a long time ago.

Not convinced? Try it for one week, and you just might become a convert.

First day of (online cooking) school

We've been trying to eat at home more since we got here, so I was excited to see that The Kitchn (one of my favorite online recipe resources) was launching a free online cooking course this month! It started today with a refresher on knife skills. CameraMan gave me a knife skills class at Sur La Table as a Christmas gift a couple years ago, and it was incredible how much I learned in just a few short hours. The biggest surprise for me was actually how to hold the knife, with your index finger touching the blade. I'm feeling smug today that I actually already knew what was being taught, and I'm looking forward to what's coming next.

Care to join me? The Kitchn will send you an email every weekday for the rest of the month with a new lesson and your choice of homework assignments. I can't wait to learn some new tricks!

Happy weekend!

My dears, did you have a good week? We saw friends, ran a very cool 5K, and I got to see the final dress rehearsal of the new Idomeneo at the Staatsoper. Tomorrow night we're going to the Lange Nacht der Museen (Long Night of Museums), an event all over Austria where you buy one ticket and can get into any museum from 6pm to 1am! CM went four years ago, and he said it's a great way to get to know smaller museums that you might not otherwise visit. If the weather's nice on Sunday we'll be tromping around again, and if not we'll just be snuggling up at home braising meat. What do you have planned?

A few links in the meantime:

The book I devoured this week. Even better than I imagined.

The video that had us DYING each of the eleven times we watched it.

The science I can get behind.

The article making me super proud of my awesome friends (there might be one of these every week, as it turns out).

The show I will be watching all weekend if it rains (all 154 episodes are on Netflix as of this week!).

The recipe that is just as good as I remembered.

The brilliant way I'm reading magazines overseas.

The magic that's keeping my skin from drying out as the weather changes.

The best place for fall jackets.

Also, I made pretzels from scratch yesterday, and I'm very proud.

from my Instagram feed

Here's hoping your weekend is full of successful kitchen experiments, carb consumption without guilt, and adventure! xoxo LMB

Cat update (you were too polite to ask)

We have brought our cats with us to Europe for four months. Because we are crazy people. Because two transatlantic trips with a cat were not enough for one lifetime—we needed to add two more, this time with TWO cats, just to keep things interesting. Because I have repressed most details of the first time around. (Although I do have a hazy memory of walking the mewling Bossy Cat (in her carrier) up and down the plane aisle like I'd seen mothers of fussy babies do. Possibly that was a dream?)

You may remember the Bossy Kitten from such posts as this and this (#tbt). Man, was she adorable. And still is…in her way. But also very bad. She bites with what feels like increasingly sharp teeth, she swipes at us as we walk by, we have to cover her claws so she doesn't destroy the furniture (we figured this out too late for our own stuff, but just in time for subletting, yay), she hisses at children. Also, on a road trip this summer, and I can tell you this now because we already sold our car no questions asked to a Kia dealership, she emptied her apparently very full bladder in the way back, staring panicked into my eyes as I screamed for her to stop. That was a rough day. We have grown fond of referring to the cats as The Fat One and The Bad One. My mother tells me this is not good parenting.

One thing that helps on the plane: sedatives. For the cats, too, haha. We have now mastered the art of scruffing the cats and shoving a pill down their throats. Although one thing I don't recommend, if the pill wears off and the kitten starts crying, is teaming up with your husband to take her into the tiny airplane bathroom together, letting her out of her carrier, and trying to do the whole scruff/pill shove maneuver a second time in there. Also I don't recommend flying with your cats to Europe via Istanbul, where your second flight will probably be delayed, and which is technically not even on the way to where you're going, although it is on the way to everywhere when you fly Turkish Airlines, which is the airline where they give you Turkish delight almost the minute you come on board.

After we got through the TWENTY TWO HOURS of travel time to get here, it took the cats a while to settle into their new life in Vienna. We had to try a few different kinds of food before we found one they liked, we got them a toy that has become their obsession, we invested in this magical substance, and after about ten days all was back to normal.

But in the past week, The Bad One has transformed into a whole new cat. A BED cat. In Houston she used to sometimes sleep on CM in the mornings, but now she's in bed through the entire night, often curled up on or against CM (someone's a daddy's girl...). If I sit in bed during the day (it's the warmest place in our chilly apartment—CM calls it my "office") she sits in CM's spot and falls asleep. I've taken to sending picture messages to him at work practically every day: "Look who won't stay out of bed!" "Somebody's a sleepy bed cat...." etc. I don't know if it's because she's rarely been cold in her life (Texas girl) or whether she's just enjoying being where we are, but it is the cutest thing that has ever happened since this. Sometimes we're both in bed with a cat on each of our respective chests, and we just look at each other and laugh and say THIS.

Because we are crazy.

Here is a grainy shot of the Bossy Kitten sleeping in the crook of my knees. Couldn't you just die?

On snail mail

Our mail situation is a little bizarre at the moment. We are the proud holders of not one, but TWO post office boxes, one in Houston and one in NYC. We officially forwarded our mail to the Houston box, and a lovely generous friend of ours is checking it every week and emailing us pictures of anything that looks like it might be important. It's pretty much all bills and junk. Meanwhile, in Vienna we're mostly getting mail for other people. Sometimes it's unsettling to be a homeless nomad.

Have you guys heard of Postcrossing, a service for sending and receiving postcards from all over the world?  The concept is so cool. You register for free, and you're given the name and address of another user at random. You send a postcard to that person, writing whatever you'd like on the back, and when they receive it they register it on the site. As soon as your postcard gets registered, your address goes on the list to be given to someone else, and you start receiving postcards from other users. What an awesome way to get real mail and connect with people! Would you try it? I've just registered and will send my first postcard this week. Wishing I had all our leftover vintage Vienna postcards.

And speaking of postcards, I adore these photos by Michael Hughes. He started out photographing postcards in front of the sights they showed, and then he moved on to using cheap souvenirs from those places. So creative!

Resources for learning German

via the hilarious Itchy Feet

When we decided to move away from Houston, we knew we wanted an experimental year, testing out a couple theories we had about where we might like to live and what we wanted our life to look like. Well before CM got the opportunity to work in Vienna again we had blocked off the autumn to spend time in Europe. We wanted to see whether life over here was as attractive as we remembered (so far, yes indeed) and whether we could both find enough work to make a European home base make sense (TBD). My biggest goal was to improve/perfect my German enough to feel comfortable asking someone for a job here. We know lots of singers and pianists who start working here without being fluent in German, but my job is so language-centered that I would be at a huge disadvantage if I couldn't properly express myself.

I have been working really hard, and I've seen an enormous improvement since we arrived. I thought I'd share with you some of the resources I've used to supplement my formal classes.

Collins dictionary appThis dictionary has been a game-changer. It's amazing to have it on my phone at all times, and though it's a bit expensive, it is so worth it. It is so comprehensive, and it has verb conjugations built in as well. Plus, it saves a history of words you looked up, which is so helpful. I have used it every single day that we've been here.

DuolingoI still can't believe this app is free! I love the interface, love the mobile capabilities, and found that it really worked. I finished all the German levels‚ though—make more, Duolingo!

Memrise: Another free app, this one for building vocabulary. It's completely amazing. First it teaches you the vocab, then quizzes you on it. It keeps track of the words you miss and brings them back more often. There are lots of levels built in, but you can also make your own lists. I've gotten into the habit of writing down any word that goes by that I don't know, looking them up later, and building a Memrise list from them. Available online and as a mobile app.

Deutsche Welle: So many resources here for German learners of all levels. You can do actual grammar training, but we particularly like the videos (they have transcripts and little quizzes to accompany them) and the news read slowly, short segments that they produce daily.

YouTube: We don't have a TV here, so we rely on YouTube to watch various shows in German. Did you know you can see what videos are trending in any country here? Gives a little insight into the local culture. I've also found lots of interesting things just by searching "doku deutsch."

I haven't tried it personally, but I have a friend who swears by My Personal Language Tutor, and the prices are very reasonable.

I'd love to hear what you use for language learning—what has worked for you?

The best way to spend a Sunday in Vienna

We are having the most gorgeous fall weather here right now. Early mornings are chilly enough for us to linger in bed drinking endless cups of coffee with our snuggly cats, but they're followed by crisp sunshiney afternoons, perfect for enjoying outdoor activities. We're so aware that our time here is short and flying by too fast, so even though CM is working lots (he's already opened AND CLOSED a show, is in final rehearsals for another, and starts a new piece in RUSSIAN tomorrow), we're trying to take advantage of the free days to really explore.

Turns out the City of Vienna maintains a series of gorgeous hiking paths (Stadtwanderwege) around the outskirts of the city. We tried out #1 last weekend, #2 yesterday, and now we're hooked and want to hike all nine of them.

Each path starts at the end station of a tram or bus line, so they're easy to access with public transportation. The paths are beautifully maintained and fairly well-signed, and there are various cafés, restaurants, and heurigen (little wine-grower taverns serving wine and snacks) along the way for refreshments. Each path is around 10km or so, making for a relaxing afternoon's walk.

#1 and #2 are both in the wine-growing region of Vienna, the 19th district. They're pretty hilly, and both of them have a special lookout tower at the highest point of the path, in case you want to climb a spiral staircase right after you've climbed a steep hill (we did). We liked #1 better because of the breathtaking views of the city, but #2 is lovely for a more shaded, woodsy walk.

Yesterday was a bit crowded because it happened to also be Weinwandertag (Wine Hiking Day, I am not even kidding), an event with three routes through the vineyards, one of which overlapped with the trail we took. The special wine hiking routes focus less on strenuous hills and more on places to drink wine, and there was even a special path to take if you were pushing a stroller. I love this town.

We're crossing our fingers that the weather stays nice for a while, and we're planning to explore #3 on Sunday!

CM (official photographer) took some pictures, of course.

Everyone's drinking Sturm right now, young fermented wine that's only in season for a few weeks. We haven't developed a taste for it (yet?), so we're mostly sticking to white wine spritzers (perfect for day drinking) and beer.

Grüner Veltliner for miles!

The storm rolled in AFTER we got back home, lucky us.

View of all the Vienna sights from the Stefaniewarte on path #1.

It's just like Texas...

Another gorgeous view of the city

These are the old-timey signs that mark the trails. 

CM caught me taking this picture

We ordered the perfect weather.


Lovely shady path

The Habsburgwarte, which we climbed to see....


Here I am surveying the landscape.

Path #2 just happened to lead us by the spot where we got married! I didn't cry this time...


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