Work picnic

20140521-224314-81794545.jpgYesterday, Dan’s work division hosted a picnic for the employees and their families.  A lot of times, when his work has an event, we skip it, because these things aren’t always family-friendly, even when they intend to be.  But a picnic sounded perfect!  We decided to go, and we were all very much looking forward to it.

This is how I imagined this was going to go (before it happened):  there would be food, drink, and socializing; there would be space for the kids to play, other kids for them to play with, and not too much worry about spills and messes; we would get a chance to visit with some friends, and I would get to meet some of Dan’s co-workers that I don’t yet know; good times would be had by all.


In reality, this is more of what it was actually like:  there was food, drink, and socializing; there was plenty of space for the kids to play … but every bit of it was at least semi-hazardoous (we were alongside a river, at the bottom of a steep hill that the kids wanted to climb up and run down, at the top of the hill were two bike lanes and a low wall . . . which had a 20 foot drop down to a highway on the other side, and there was a large, low and very hot grill); there were several other kids of just the right age for the boys to play with;  we did get a chance to visit with some friends (several that I hadn’t seen in qiute a while) and I met many of the people Dan tells me about every day, but there were also lots of people crowded around in a pretty small area, nowhere good to sit, and several people who made it very clear that they weren’t happy there were kids there at all; good times were generally had by all, and we all ended the evening happy but EXTREMELY worn out.


Also, I hadn’t realized it, but I’m around more Austrians than expats these days.  I’m so used to assimilating now that I don’t really remember entirely how to be American.  And I’m very out of practice at being American while NOT accidentally being rude to a non-American.  (I think I’ve squarely entered that part of expat living where I’m not at all a local but it’s getting uncomfortable to put my old culture back on, too.)  I’m also an introvert (maybe now more than ever) and I so often underestimate how much these types of social events — especially with many people I don’t know — will take out of me.  (As an interesting note, every couple there was made up of pepole from two different countries.  I guess that’s how you know you’re at a UN function!)

A rare picture including me!

A rare picture including me!

Although it might sound like I’m complaining about the evening, I’m not.  Ths is life with kids.  We went, we supervised the kids intensely, tried to convince them to eat while sneaking quick bites of food between managing cups of juice and preventing Liam from literally diving into the brownies.  It was fun, and social.  We managed a few half-conversations with some old and and new friends between moments of running after the boys.  Our kids had a FANTASTIC time playing with the other kids and were so happy to have made some new friends.  We all had a really good time, in fact.  But, the days of the relaxing, carefree social picnic are behind us, at least for now.


The Wild, Hairy Haggises and the Hogwarts Express

And now another installment in my much overdue recounting of our vacation to the UK last summer . . .

Our first day through Scotland last August was a little insane.  We took a 2-3 hour drive and made it into an 8 hour drive.  We drove through or stopped by at least a half dozen places I’d like to go back and see again.  But we were only just beginning.

My main reason for wanting to come to that particular piece of Scotland, both on this trip and on our previous one (where it didn’t work out) was Harry Potter.  Or, more specifically, the Hogwarts Express.  Harry’s journey to Hogwarts in the movies was mostly filmed along an actual train line in western Scotland.  It’s possible to actually ride a steam train along the route they used for filming, but we knew we’d want to explore along the way, so we drove the (theoretical) hour each way.  (Of course, it took us much longer, and we thoroughly enjoyed it!)


We started our day with a trip to the grocery store to pick out a picnic lunch.  (Wherever in the world we are, grocery shopping is always an adventure.)  Once we had managed that, we got on our way.  From the very beginning of the journey, we’d catch snips of views and vistas that were familiar from the movies, but a lot of the scenery was obscured by trees.  No worries, it was still beautiful.  Our first real stop along the way was one of the most iconic images from the movies — the Glenfinnan Viaduct.  It was pretty cool to stop and see it, and a nice piece of our ongoing collection of visits to Harry Potter places.


We walked around a bit, and the boys really wanted to cross the road to check out the loch across the way.  While Dan and the kids began their explorations, I explored the gift shop.  I’d been looking for something small, kid-friendly and iconic to get them as souvenirs, and I found exactly what I was looking for: the “Wild, Hairy Haggis“.

401Most people have heard of the traditional Scottish dish called haggis (which Dan tried on this trip and which I tasted … REALLY not my thing) but the Haggis creature is not as well known (mostly because it’s entirely made up).  They are sweet little stuffed animals with a cute story, so I got one for each of the boys.  It was love at first sight, and our new Haggises were excellent companions for the rest of our trip, immediately befriending Ignis, who was also journeying with us.  (Dragons feel very much at home in Scotland, as it turns out.)

I am so glad that the boys were dying to play at the loch, because it would up being not only one of the most beautiful spots we visited in all of Scotland (which is truly saying something) but also another staple from the Harry Potter movies — this lake, Loch Shiel, across from Glenfinnan Viaduct, is known as the Black Lake at the foot of Hogwarts Castle in the movies.  And it was absolutely stunning.  (I love Scotland.)





438As we trekked on, we again found many places worth stopping for a look.  (Did I mention that I love Scotland?)  And we caught many views of the train line we were following.  The further north we got, the more rugged, and the more coastal, things became.  We eventually started looking for a place to picnic, and found a beach on a river that looked public and promising.  We ate our sandwiches and played in the sand.  B bravely waded into the frigid (even in August) water.  We watched people play with their dogs and saw a big group of kayakers arrive along the beach.  We got a bit chilled and very sandy, but it was a great picnic.




We continued on to our “destination” (pretty much as far as you can go in that direction without catching the ferry to the Isle of Skye, which, incidentally, I wish we’d done) — Mallaig, a tiny fishing town, and the farthest north I’ve ever been in my life.  We stopped for an ice cream and then turned around to repeat the beautiful journey back in the other direction.  It was another amazing, beautiful day in a stunningly gorgeous place.  We chose this place to see where the Hogwarts Express made its trip, but that had almost nothing to do with how much we loved our time there.


Picnic and pumpkin cake

Another beautiful Sunday here in Vienna.  The last few weekends have been like this, and each time, we think it’ll probably be the last one.

I’m holding out hope for yet one more, because I was sick again today and missed out on enjoying the beautiful autumn weather.  I didn’t leave the house.  I didn’t do anything, except sleep and occasionally attempt to keep my children from meeting an early demise.

Dan did a great job of wrangling everyone, but I’m also incredibly grateful for our downstairs neighbor.  She called up earlier and invited us all to join her family for a picnic in the park and some of the cake she was baking.  I was too sick to go, but Dan and the boys took her up on her offer.  From all accounts, they had a great time (and they even brought some cake back for me — yummy!).  They ate cake, my neighbor’s oldest daugher played endlessly with Benjamin (and a little with Liam) and Dan got to chat with our neighbor.

It’s always a bummer to be sick.  Worse for it to be on the weekend.  Worse for it to be on a beautiful day.  Worse for it to interfere with plans I have with the kids (we were planning to go to the zoo today).  It was really nice that my kids got to get out and enjoy the day, even though I was stuck inside.  With any luck, I’ll be feeling better tomorrow!  And with an extra bit of luck, next weekend will be beautiful, too.

Indoor Picnic

Benjamin has been asking us to do a picnic lately.  We’ve wanted to, but somehow the timing, opportunity and weather just will not cooperate.  (Which is complicated by the fact that we have good picnic “stuff” — coolers, a great blanket, etc. — but all of it is, of course, still in transit.)

014Today was rainy and cool, so we decided to do a picnic . . . indoors, in our new apartment.  After nap time, we packed the boys up, picked up lunch on the way (along with a couple of Eiskaffees, which are my new most favorite thing) and headed over to our new apartment.  It’s nearly empty, so there’s a lot of room for Benjamin to run and have fun, and plenty of picnic space.  We laid down a pad of 5 blankets and a towel so that Liam would have a somewhat comfy place to join us on the floor.  Benjamin played soccer and cars while Liam proceeded to roll over (from his back to his front) for the very first time.  (He then repeated this feat several more times.)  We all had lunch, and wandered around, planning where all the furniture would go, while Benjamin drove his cars and trucks all over his new room.

We had a wonderful time.  It was so lovely to spend the afternoon in our new place . . . and to finally give B his first Viennese picnic.