Once again, to the ball

743This year was our fourth February here, and we got the chance to go to the IAEA ball for the third time (we missed last year because we had no one to watch the boys).  And, of all of our visits, this one was our best so far.  I think we’re finally figuring out how to make it work.  (I think the secret is a combination of good preparation, being there with great friends, and having reasonable expectations — it’s easy to get carried away when you’re going to a BALL at the PALACE.)

First, our favorite babysitter (and neighbor) came over to watch the boys.  She brought games and face paints, and I don’t think the kids were the slightest bit upset that we were going out.  For simplicity’s sake, I wore the same dress as last time, so there were no surprises there.  And so, amid fierce lions and dragons, we got ready to go and headed out to the ball.

774Once there, we knew better what to expect this time, too.  We met up with friends, chatted and relaxed, and danced a bit.  Then we chatted and danced some more, and then explored the palace with some of our friends.  We listened to a few different bands (at least one of which was great), and danced even more.

With good friends, lots of music, and a beautiful palace as a setting, it was a fantastic evening.  (This time with no dress drama or any other complications!)  All in all, it was another great night at the ball!



Richard II

004Last Wednesday evening, Dan and I had a date night:  we went to see a play that was being performed live in England.  Luckily, we only had to go two U-Bahn stops to see it.  The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard II was filmed and broadcast, live, into movie theaters all over the world, and luckily enough, one was in Vienna.

I could claim purely cultured and scholarly interest motivated our desire to see the play, but truthfully, I have a massive crush on the lead actor, and Dan has likewise been a fan since first seeing him play Doctor Who a few years ago.  But although we may mostly have been motivated by general geekiness, we truly loved the experience (and did feel a bit more cultured as a result of having seen it).

It was amazing to see a performance like that, by such amazing actors.  Shakespeare is always impressive (done properly) but it can be hard to always get the whole understanding by just reading it.  Seeing it performed, by talented actors, run by experienced and well versed people, made it so easy to understand and become absorbed by.  It was captivating and moving, and thoroughly enjoyable.  What a treat to get to experience that, all the way from England, while here in Vienna.

I can only imagine, then, what a treat it will be to see it live!  In January, I’ll be traveling to London to see the show in person, along with one of my very best friends (but without Dan and the kids).  It will be my first “girls’ weekend” in a very, VERY long time, and I’m looking forward to it so much.  It also feels very grown up and sophisticated to being flying to London for the weekend to meet a girlfriend.  (Who does that?!?  Apparently, I do!)  I’m really looking forward to it (and I’m sure it will be fun to see the play again, too)!

More on skating

034After our overly crowded experience at the Wiener Eistraum few weeks ago, we’ve experimented a bit with various times and days to try to find the best time to skate with the kids.  So far, the weekend evenings are great!  They are much less crowded, and thus easier and more fun, than the daytimes during the weekend.  (We haven’t yet gotten over there in the day during the week, but with the number of kids I’ve seen walking in that direction with skates, I’d guess it’s pretty busy.)  With a fraction of the number of kids in the evenings (more like 10), and a slightly older average age, there is plenty of space to have fun, and lots of practice penguins.  Both of my boys have had a better and more relaxed time on our more recent visits.  (As a note, the children’s area becomes a 073curling rink on weekday evenings, so there’s no children’s area after 4 on weekdays.)

I’ve gone back a few extra times as well — once more with Dan as a date night, and once on my own.  We’re really enjoying it.  It’s a great way to enjoy wintertime Vienna, and it’s a fun way to get outside with the kids this time of year.  Next, I just have to convince Liam that the ice isn’t for eating . . .

A ball at the palace (again)

028Last year, we went to the IAEA Ball, at the Hofburg palace.  It was phenomenally cool, and the setting was gorgeous and fabulous and opulent.  On the other hand, I had a terrible time finding a dress, I wasn’t able to get my hair to behave, and I ripped my already frustrating dress in the first five minutes after we arrived.  And although it might sound ridiculous to let anything get in the way of enjoying a ball at the palace, all of that really dampened my spirits about the evening and the experience (although I did, ultimately, end up having a pretty good time).

What a difference a year makes!  Yesterday, we went to the IAEA Ball again, and this year, we had a blast.  After the frustration of dress shopping from last year, I planned ahead and bought a dress online from the US.  (I figured, correctly, that even buying a dress over the computer and not getting to see it or try it on before I purchased it would be LESS of a hassle than finding a dress here.)  It was a good choice.  I got a great dress for a fraction of what it would have cost here and got it successfully altered.  Just being able to look forward to having an appropriate, flattering dress to wear changed my entire outlook on the evening.  Instead of being discouraged and deflated, I was excited and enthusiastic.  I was able to do my hair (on the first try!) in a new, functional style that I really loved, and did my makeup in just a few minutes so that I ended up feeling pretty and put together.  And then, the kids were happy and relaxed to be staying with Jo and watching a movie while we went out.  We started our evening a little later this year, so we were home to do dinner and bath with the kids before we went out.  When we were all together and ready to leave, everyone was happy.  It was a great way to start the evening!

030We arrived at the palace for the ball, and hit our first (and only) real snag of the evening.  Dan had to switch out his ornately tied tie for a bow tie (which, apparently, is part of the required dress for the palace) which he had to buy on site.  We chalked it up to getting an extra souvenir and got on with enjoying our evening.

058We did a little dancing on a floor that was every bit as crowded and insane as last year, got our picture taken, walked around to survey the palace in all of its splendor (the chandeliers are particularly remarkable) and chatted with some friends and coworkers of Dan’s.  We made it back to the main ballroom just in time for the quadrille — a large, complex, semi-organized group dance that one of Dan’s collegues aptly explained this way: “There are long lines of too many people.  It’s like square dancing.  They give instruction, although not quite enough, and then the music keeps getting faster.”  Which is, in fact, exactly what it’s like.  It was tremendous fun to watch, but it went on for quite a while and, given the lack of appropriate seating in the main ballroom, I eventually just 043gave in and sat down on the marble steps to watch.  There was something fantastically inappropriate, and yet perfectly indulgent about sitting on the floor, in a ball gown, in a palace, listening to an exquisite orchestra frantically playing manic quadrille music for several hundred partially intoxicated revellers who had no hope of keeping up.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself (and I started a trend — I was the first to sit on the steps in my finery, but many others quickly followed)

051After that, the crowds thinned out somewhat, and Dan and I got to do some dancing ourselves.  We danced until it was late, we were tired, and my feet wouldn’t take any more.  We came home to sweet kids who had been asleep for hours and a happy (if tired) babysitter.  We had a great, magical evening.  It was everything that a ball at the palace ought to be.

Skate date

026Last year, we took the kids to the Wiener Eistraum (“Viennese Ice Dream”) — which is a massive, temporary skating complex constructed on the grounds of the Rathaus (city hall) here in Vienna. We loved it. The kids had a great time learning to skate a bit, and it was fun to be part of a big, festive Viennese activity.

There are two main parts of the skating facility — a large area with two skating rinks, connected by long ice paths that meander through the woods (on the paved walking trails through the park), and a smaller, enclosed area where the kids can play and practice during the day (it turns into a curling area in the evenings). When we took the boys, we stuck to just the kids’ area. It didn’t require a ticket, and we didn’t even have to rent skates as adults — we rented skates for the boys and we just walked around in our regular winter boots. It made for a fun (and inexpensive) outing.

023Somehow, though, we managed not to have a chance to go over and explore the bigger, “grown up” section last year, and I’ve regretted it since. The Wiener Eistraum reopened just over a week ago for 2013, and Dan & I went over last night, just the two of us, to check out the whole thing.

First of all, I am not a good skater. I’ve skated a few times, but never enough to get good at it. So, at first, my goal was just not to fall down and injure myself. After a few minutes of getting my feet under me, though, I got to relax and really enjoy it. It’s pretty wonderful. Skating on the colorfully lit pathways, through the woods, with the brightly illuminated Rathaus in the background is pretty magical. I was, by far, not the worst skater there (I even managed to help hold Dan up once when he fell!) and I really enjoyed myself.

029The skating part was definitely a challenge though. Although the wooded paths are fun and scenic, they also include very gentle uphill and downhill slopes — something I’d never attempted on skates before. It was pretty tough. The uphills weren’t so bad (as long as someone coming up from behind didn’t run into you — it’s hard to go fast up the hills) but the downhills were a bit scary. Especially after the Zamboni came though, it was easy to get going WAY too fast down the little inclines. (I managed not to crash, but I attribute a lot of that to just luck.)

We had a great time. We skated around, explored the pathways, circled the ice rinks with a few hundred other skaters and just had a fantastic time. We’ll definitely go back. It makes for a fun date night.

Going out

So, a Canadian, an Austrian, a Brit and two Americans walk into a movie theater . . . But it’s not the beginning to a bad joke, it’s actually what we did this evening when we went out with a few of Dan’s coworkers to see a movie.

We almost never go out. Before leaving the U.S., we relied on my mom as our main babysitter, but since we’ve been here, we’ve only had a few chances to go out, just Dan & I. With Jo being here, we took the opportunity.

And we had a great time. It was nice to go out, it was nice to be with other grown ups. It was so nice to watch a movie whose stars weren’t animated cars (nothing against Lightning McQueen). We saw the new James Bond movie, we had popcorn, and we got to see the whole movie (in English, even!) without interruption. It was a fantastic evening, and we are really grateful to Jo for helping us make it happen.

Date night

After being here 3 months, Dan & I had our first opportunity to go out, just the two of us, last night.  We put the kids in bed, left Dan’s parents in charge and went out on our own.

We went to a cafe near our place, sat, and had a snack.  We were only out for an hour, but it was really nice to have a break . . . together.

Life is intense right now, and there has been very little time for anything beyond the bare essentials.  Everyone gets fed and cleaned every day — everything else is a bonus.  We’re just starting to get organized and relaxed enough for me to take a little (much needed) time for myself every week — time as a couple just hasn’t been in the cards (exacerbated by the fact that we don’t yet have child care here).

As the leader of this parade of craziness, it’s easy to live a lot of my life in a space of organizer/facilitator/dictator with Dan as chief-co-executor of my very well laid plans.  That’s great, and we definitely have developed some impressive skills in terms of making things work.  But it is good, every so often, to take off my “CEO of the Calle family” hat and just be together.  It’s important, at least, that we check in and make sure we still like each other.

So far, so good.