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...

Happy weekend!

Have you had a good week? The trip to Salzburg made my week fly by, and I can't believe it's already the weekend! I'm looking forward to a lazy Saturday, and we're crossing our fingers for good hiking/outdoor wine drinking weather on Sunday.

A few things I'd like to share:

The shoes I'm wearing constantly.

The article making me proud to have awesome friends.

The German word I'm trying to use all the time in conversation (it means "quiet as a mouse").

The free app we're using to track expenses.

The video everyone in Austria has seen.

The chart I'm gawking at.

The book I can't stop thinking about.

The dinner party meal that never fails me.

The brilliant idea we're thinking about adopting as our own.

The blog you should be reading if you aren't already.

And here's the pretty Bossy Cat chillaxing in bed while we drink our morning coffee.

Hope your weekend is filled with open windows, long walks, and just the right amount of day drinking. See you back here next week. xoxo LMB

The cake you should make this weekend

I just spent a lovely couple days in Salzburg with the fabulous Snellybean, who showed me all around town, hiked up mountains with me, and steered me away from all but the best Mozartkugel. She was the perfect hostess in every way, but maybe the best thing she did was to introduce me to the two-ingredient Nutella cake. Possibly I'm the last to hear about it (clearly I need to spend more time on Pinterest), but let me tell you, this might just be the recipe for a perfect weekend.

All you need are 4 eggs and 1 cup of Nutella. Whisk those eggs up in a bowl until they're fluffy and lemon-colored. We did 10 minutes with a hand mixer, but lucky you if you have a stand mixer and can let it do the work for you. Meanwhile, heat the Nutella for 60 seconds in the microwave. Then, slowly pour the warm Nutella into the egg mixture, continuing to whisk, until it's completely mixed. Pour the batter into a greased and parchment paper-lined square brownie pan, put it in a 350 degree oven for 25–30 minutes, and let the magic happen. It's done when it pulls away from the edges of the pan and a knife comes out clean. It's a gorgeous brownie/cake hybrid, moist with a flaky layer on top.

Highly recommended still warm with vanilla ice cream. Also delicious for breakfast the next day.


Photo taken by CameraMan at Eataly in NYC (aka Heaven)

Bossy List. Is that still a thing?

Way back when in 2008, inspired by Maggie Mason's Mighty Life List, I started the Bossy List, 100 things I wanted to accomplish in the next 10 years. Over time I edited it and tweaked it and slowly (oh so slowly) actually crossed some things off the list. It's long overdue for a another tune-up, but in the meantime let me tell you about an item I crossed off this month.

February 1, fresh off my first Runner's World Run Streak followed immediately by a successful Whole 30, I was as lean and fit as I've ever been and ready to take on a new challenge, so I ran my first half-marathon. At the end of it I felt highly accomplished and simultaneously wanted to die. The next day we flew to Berlin for a week, I did not pass a pastry without cramming it into my mouth, then I was working, then I got SHINGLES (true story), and eventually I fell off the running/health wagon altogether. So what did we do? We signed up for another half marathon. For motivation! In September—so far away! So much time to train!

And we did train. We ran in hot and humid Houston, we ran in chilly and hilly San Francisco, we did another Runner's World Run Streak and even ran every day on a week-long cross-country road trip. And pretty much every long run went horribly for me. Many of them ended in tears (CM is a saint, yes I know). I knew the half marathon would be a disaster. But I kept running. Why, you ask?

Because before and after the race we would be spending the night in a castle. An actual CASTLE.

So we trained. And I ran the race. It wasn't a disaster, exactly, but it was about 6 miles longer than I wanted it to be, and I'm certainly not feeling the urge to run for 2 1/2 hours again anytime soon.

But back to the castle. It was schmancy and lovely and pretty much exactly how you'd hope it would be. But ultimately, maybe not totally our thing, as we're already contemplating a return trip to the area (the Wachau) and will probably stay somewhere more simple and cozy. But first!

88. Spend a night in a castle.

Some pictures from our weekend (some by me, some by CM—you'll be able to tell the difference):

So! Many! Runners!

Atmospheric panoramic from the starting line

BEFORE: smiling, cold

AFTER: smiling, NOT cold

Our castle room

View from our room

Spa area in the basement of the hotel. Guess who forgot her bathing suit? Sad trombone.
Luckily, there was also a sauna. And we were in Europe. No suit? No problem.

Scenic Dürnstein & the Danube

View from Dürnstein at sunset

The road Google Maps sent us down in our rental car that dead-ended at the bike path, which meant we had to turn around and drive back up through the pedestrians. Haha, Google Maps, you're hilarious.


So Netflix just came to Austria last Wednesday. This is big news for Austria and big news for us. We had been doing a tricky, potentially not completely above board thing to watch American Netflix over here, but this is so much better—everything's available auf Deutsch! We can still use our regular account, and we're getting a bargain, since we pay $7.99 a month and the Austrians are being charged €7,99 (over $10) for the same service. There's lots of American TV and English-language movies, most of which you can watch either in English or in German, with the option of German subtitles as well. So good for language study! Plus, of course, all kinds of German and Austrian titles we know nothing about. I can't wait to explore.

First, though, I might already be addicted to Modern Family dubbed in German.

Ausgezeichnet! Oder?

Hello out there

A few weeks ago, after a series of events so coincidental they could only be fated, I found myself saying five words I thought might never come out of my mouth again:

I should blog about that.

It's been ages since anything has felt particularly blog-worthy to me, but just the saying of it seems to have unlocked a door behind which every blog idea I've ever had was hiding, clamoring to be written down. They're following me around, filling my head as I'm running, or standing in line at the grocery store, or killing time playing Threes (so, all the time). It's thrown me for a bit of a loop.

I've been missing the blog, honestly. More than the act of writing itself (though I know I've gotten rusty in that respect), I've missed the lens of the blog, the parsing of my day to write about it, the surprise flashes of inspiration. There's a popular theory that our constant need to document our lives is hindering us from actually living/experiencing moments in real time, but I have found the opposite to be true. When you have a terrible memory like I do, you have two main options: 1) Surround yourself with people who have creepy total recall (as I unwittingly did during every embarrassing undergraduate adventure, as it turns out), or 2) write it down. Many of my strongest memories from the past few years are the things I blogged about—not because I re-read the posts, but because I wrote them, and through writing got to experience them twice.

So here I am, poking my head around the door, seeing if this is a room I'd like to live in again. I think it might be.

We don't have to do that thing where I catch you up on absolutely everything that's happened in the past 18 months, do we? That sounds tedious for everyone. Just the briefest of recaps to bring you into our present:

Some time ago, CM and I realized that we weren't spending nearly enough time together and that we hadn't come close to achieving any sort of healthy, sustainable work/life balance. So we set about to change that. We have moved our things into storage (AGAIN), packed up our kitties, and become homeless nomads. This season we're experimenting with being together a lot more, working a bit less, and trying to carve out a life that matches our stated priorities. For the moment the whole family's in Vienna (AGAIN!) for the fall while CM works at the Staatsoper. We'll be back in the States after Christmas while I work in Houston and New York, we'll take a springtime jaunt to Japan, and after that…TBD. It's all very exciting/terrifying.

I'm thinking about bringing you along for the ride. Care to join me?

Photo by CameraMan


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...