Friday, August 26, 2016

E- The Lou-Finn Olympics

It's not easy to find time to host a birthday party these we killed two birds with one stone when we put on the Lou-Finn Olympics at Kits Beach yesterday.

18 kids competed in Basketball, Volleyball, Shot Put, 100 meter dash, Long Jump and a 50m swim. We had a podium, medals, snacks, cake and a lot of fun. The weather was spectacular too. Happy belated 9th and 12th birthdays for a couple of special kids.

Friday, August 19, 2016

E- Lion Hunting

Thanks to Mark Creer and Dan Creer for patiently guiding us from Lions Bay to the peak of the West Lion. It was a long (10+ hours) hot (30 degrees) day that challenged the freshly 12 year old girl and her dad...but was a great worthwhile memory.

I couldn't be more proud of Finny for making it right to the top. She overcame her fear and pain in her legs to reach the summit in about 5 1/2 hours. For some reason she attracted the bulk of the bugs and came away with dozens of welts. Thanks for being our "jamboy" Finn!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

BBQ and Soccer in Hirm

One of the challenges of leaving your regular life for a month of holidaying around Europe is the real-life things that continue to need your attention back home. Eric and I found a somewhat happy middle ground of doing a bit of work every couple of days while on the move. 

It's easiest to do when you are somewhere for a few days...and when the people who are kind enough to host you have a lovely space for you to work in. It was great being a Lisi and Manfred's because we managed to get a lot done and have a lot of fun, too. It felt like being at home. 

We spent the morning in Manfred's office, which is attached to their house and has a beautiful outdoor space. That's my kind of office.

After a great day of hanging out around our new second home, we headed over to our friend Erwin's for a BBQ. Like Luki, Erwin was one of the young players on the team when Eric played here...we think of those guys as 18 years olds, but in the years since we have seen them they have grown into men. Men with houses and who make amazing dinners of ribs and potato salad.

While Erwin BBQ'd, the kids went for a swim in the beautiful natural pool in Erwin's yard. One half is lily pads and other plants, the other half is for swimming.

The sun was shining (actually, it was a super, super hot day) and the smells filling the air were incredible. We even had the Eurocup game to look forward to...and Austria was playing.

We also got to meet Erwin's soon-to-be wife, Eva, who is absolutely lovely. Lucky Erwin.

Dinner was great. The company was fact the only thing that wasn't great was watching Austria lose in soccer.

Erwin and Eva have a hover board, which was a huge hit with the kids...I watched with my heart in my throat as they "hovered" around Erwin's house (hopefully without damaging anything valuable). They took turns practicing circles, balance and speed.

When we went to tour Erwin's rubber factory the hover board came with us...the tour was great and the kids learned a lot and asked some good questions. Most of all, Eric and I were happy to see a good friend enjoying a great life.

And I was happy we got away from there with no broken bones, furniture or anything else. We won't be buying a hover board anytime soon...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Finny's 12th birthday at Loipersdorf

Well, just in case you didn't get it from the post title, or the inflatable crown on her was Finny's birthday.

We had a day planned at one of Eric's and my favourite places in Europe: Therme Loipersdorf. The therme (hot spring) was a sponsor of Eric's team the year we lived in Fürstenfeld, so we went at least once a week to enjoy the warm water and gorgeous setting. 

We set out towards Fürstenfeld and stopped to show the girls the public outdoor pool we used to take them:

The spring we lived in Fürstenfeld was spectacular and we logged quite a few hours by this pool...Molly wandering around and baby Finny splayed out on a blanket in the shade.

Eric was even wearing his Fürstenfeld fire department hat...we were almost like locals!

But we weren't there to swim in the public pool...we were on our way to Loipersdorf, so we got in the car and headed to our final destination, where Luki was waiting to join us for the day.

Luki had already scoped out great seats outside for us...we laid down our towels and hit the pools and slides.

The weather was perfect. Luki gave Finny a beautiful bracelet for her birthday and we even had a lovely lunch in the hotel Luki was staying in.

Finny, Molly, Luki and Lukey

The wave pool

The zipline
Pictured below is the wild river, a circle of fast moving water...we were in here zipping around when I noticed a little girl clinging the side, holding on for dear life. When we let go and went under, she resurfaced with a look of pure fear on her face. I grabbed her and she clung to me like a baby koala bear...she definitely thought she was going to die!

I got her safely to her grandma (who appeared to have no idea she had suffered a traumatic ordeal) and spent the rest of the day smug in the knowledge that I was a superhero (at least, to one terrified little girl!).

We logged some time in the sunshine and took turns taking the kids for slides and swims.

While the sun was blazing, the hot pools weren't too appealing...

But when the sun started to go down, the warm water was drew us in...there were timed jets on special seats all around the inside and outside pools. With the sun setting, it was spectacular.

One of my strongest memories of being in these pools when the girls were babies was the torture of getting out at the end of the night. It helped that the temperature of the air was so warm, but it is such a gorgeous pool that it is hard to get out any time of the year.

We finally dragged ourselves down to the showers and got out of our suits. On our way out of the building, there was a huge seating area and beer garden set up for an outdoor screening of the Eurocup games. We grabbed beers and had a snack while we watched the second half of the game.

We left late and weren't holding out much hope for finding an ice cream place still open, but birthday luck was on our side...just closing up in the middle of Fürstenfeld was a great gelateria. We all got cones and did one last drive around town.

A midnight play at the playground next to the gym Eric played in...I thought we might so those ice creams come back up...

Home to sleep after a great day and a perfect celebration of the start our Finny's 13th year...a day full of life, just like our girl!

As an aside, Finny may be full of life, but Eric was full of cake...Lisi and and Manfred gave us the rest of Finny's cake to keep in our fridge downstairs and I walked in to see Eric scarfing down another midnight snack...

Monday, June 20, 2016

Trip to Sopron, Hungary and surprise party for Finny

After a slow start (mornings at Lisi and Manfred's house were too easy to enjoy...eggs, coffee and good conversation greatly reduce motivation to get out!), we headed out for a little drive around our old local spots. One place we spent a lot of time when we lived in Mattersburg is Sopron, in Hungary.

There were a few reasons...the forint was really cheap, so everything was super affordable back then, there were a couple of restaurants we enjoyed, the movies in the little "mall" were shown in English with Hungarian subtitles instead of dubbed (and they were crazy cheap)...and, there was the rodelbahn Bob to partake in..!

Maria and Johann could never figure out why no one stopped in at their lovely restaurant...
We headed into Sopron (the kids weren't too impressed) and our first stop was the mall we used to go to...our old grocery store was gone (it was a strange place...some days there was just NO produce or NO meat. At all. And the produce was always odd looking, like reject fruits and vegetables. Did I mention it was cheap?). In its place was an H&M, so that is a good indication that things had changed somewhat.

We went up to the cinema and found that all the movies are now in Hungarian! What?! Our guess is that the cost of dubbing has likely gone way down. So, since our Hungarian hasn't much improved since back in the day, we gave the movies a miss...

We stopped by the rodelbahn and it was closed for cleaning! Wait, would we completely strike out in Hungary? No, the lady at the front desk assured us the cleaning should take around half an hour, but no promises.

With time to kill, we decided to hit up one of our favourite spots, which was within walking distance, the Hubertus. The prices had gone up for sure, but they still had my most craved dish: garlic cream soup served in a bread bowl. Eric nearly ruined this one for me years ago (and again now) by comparing the texture to phlegm, but I am not deterred (well, I am mildly deterred, but super stubborn).

The soup was just as good (and phlegmy) as I remembered.

With that done, we headed back to Bob to rodelbahn ourselves silly. Still cheap and still super fun, we bought tickets for the kids to go three times and we went twice.

You ride the little sled up a pully, hauled through a sun-dappled Hungarian forest. Very nice.

When you reach the top, the downhill track starts (obviously). I thought the kids would take it easy on their first go...but they really didn't.

We were happy!

On our way back to Mattersburg, I dropped Finny and Lukey off with Eric at the gym for a U12 training session, while Molly and I headed back to Lisi and Manfred's with some contributions to the surprise party they were planning for Finny's birthday (the next day).

This, apparently, is Joey in Euro-mode...which is very Blue Steel from Zoolander.

Lisi, who realized quickly that Finny was feeling alternately super excited and a little sad for her birthday (she loves, loves, loves her birthday, but was feeling far from home), decided to throw her a surprise birthday BBQ. Complete with decorations and two (!) homemade birthday cakes (one made by Lisi's mom and one made by Manfred's mom). She felt totally spoiled. And, since she has always wanted a surprise party, she was super, duper excited.

Lisi thought of everything. The Ollrams even gave Finny a chess set! It was such an incredibly kind thing to do...our little 12 year old felt very special. And Lisi really went above and beyond her hosting duties to pull this off!

Plus, the evening was really, really fun. We felt so at home and it was such a treat to have a great evening with friends.

A huge thank you to the Ollrams and the Vickerys for making Finny's day so special and also for giving us such a great night!