A Marvelous Thanksgiving Abroad

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I would never have imagined we'd have it so good. Thanksgiving here in Graz with our new friends was just magnifeek!

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Amber with her bird. {her photo from her blog}

Thanks mostly to Amber, who found a turkey, butchered it and managed to pull off six other delicious classic T-Day dishes with a twist. She and David also hosted the evening at their apartment complete with decor and enough serving dishes! No small feat for recent expat newlyweds. {They got married in August in Paris..in the Rodin Sculpture Garden!} She has her own great recap of her Turkey Day trials and tribulations here.

So, here are some pics. I will say that conversation with this group is never dull. We always manage to get into heated political discussions after some a lot of vino. It always keeps it interesting, especially with the different perspectives and cultural backgrounds. I just kept trying to feed people more dessert. Brownies and apple pie are universally good to all taste buds.
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Amber and David and Ania and Thomas (Sweden) listening to one of Bruce's many stories

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cute Thomas and Ania

Our meal consisted of hors d'oeuvres of toast with goat cheese and caramelized onions, cranberry,
walnut & feta salad, baked bourbon sweet potatoes topped with candied pecans, romano garlic
mashed potatoes, chestnut/apple/sausage stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, gravy, turkey,
apple pie and warm brownies with ice cream.
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I only made the salad (after the green bean debacle I nixed 'real' veggies) and the brownies.
Poking holes and filling them with ganache was my favey part:
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So, needless to say...besides family (and maybe football) we weren't really lacking over
here across the pond this Thanksgiving. Dankbar is what we are.

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas

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Since all of Austria is heavily decorated for Christmas, I thought I should join in on the fun and give the Life in Graz header some Christmas love. Quite exciting, I know. I'm not sure how much real decorating I'll get to do in the apartment, so I gotta get out my 'spirit' somewhere.

I did have a little inspiration from my friend, Marimekko:
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It's Saturday night and I'm doing blog headers on Illustrator. Yikes.

Thankful for...

- the chance to live in this great city
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- my lovey husband (of almost 10 months)
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- elsie*
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- wood/laminate floors and for not buying any rugs yet (*see above)

- my big, wondey family
(some young lookin' 61 year old parents, 3 brothers, 3 sisters, 1 sis-in-law, 2 bro-in-law, 2 nieces and a nephew)
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(i'll miss the McConn Thanksgiving zoo excursion and Mom's newly updated, fab dining room)
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- my new family (Art's parents...a mother-in-law that defies all stereotypes..I can honestly say I love talking to her!)
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- Skype
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- Christmas in Graz (pics to come soon...it's all set up and beauty!)
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- an intensive German class that paid me!
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- new friends i've met here
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- old friends i'm missing back home
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- Graz's 'milder' climate (than the rest of Austria..I couldn't handle colder)
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- no traffic for the past 8 months!
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- and much, much more that I don't have time to jot down as I'm thankful I get to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends here in a couple of hours!

Mahlzeit!

Hike up the Hochlantsch through the Bärenschützklamm

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{Flickr}

Not me...Art.
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Two weeks ago, Art's whole office (biomedical engineering researchers and PhD students) went on a full day hike up the rocky Hochlantsch mountain, which includes a long trek through the Bärenschützklamm gorge. A six hour hike up 1,720 meters and back down. Nein danke. The top looks pretty rewarding though.

This is higher and harder than my Schöckl hike with Lindsey. And, we didn't even hike back down (which is the hardest part)... we cruised down on the gondola. And I'm quite alright with this. My ambitions in hiking don't rise so high...and I'll show you why:

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{Flickr}
These bridges were a big part of going through the gorge. Having a fear of heights and not being a huge
fan of rickety bridges, I think I'll pass for now, K? (not that I was invited)
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{Flickr}

Despite the sore muscles for two days, they had a lot of fun and got to see some pretty
spectacular views.
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T-Day cookin' & bakin' in Austria...takes more plannin' than normal

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We are lucky and have two Thanksgiving celebrations with friends while in Österreich. Yesterday afternoon we went to my friend Bettina's house. I met her back in April at the English club (remember she let me borrow her bike and I rode down her huge hill with my Ikea meatballs?)...she grew up in California, moved to Graz after college and ended up staying here forever. It helped that her mother was from Austria and taught her German from a young age. Not fair.

There were three other families there as well as bundles of kids..cute kids speaking German...again, makes me feel quite stu-pee. Bettina asked me to make a vegetable (the forgotten dish), so I picked green beans. I've never cooked for Thanksgiving (or really at all for that matter before Austria)..I always let the wondey McConn ladies take care of it...they are experts! Anyways, I found Giada's green beans and thought they sounded good. I didn't realize that the THREE stores I went to the day of would not have fresh green beans. NOT ok. Ok, well, one store had these tiny packages of organic green beans with about 12 in the pack and they were 2 € each and I would need about 8 of those useless packs and they only had 3 anyways! So, I bought frozen ones...as well as a huge bag of Elsie's dog food and trucked it home. Yes, I walked and it wasn't so close. This was my third store mind you. I had no time to be waitin' on the ole bus. Every time you wait, it ends up that it would have been faster to powerwalk home. Well, this time...it would have been much faster to wait for the bus as it sped past me.
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Frozen green beans come out much soggier and this recipe definitely needed hard ass green beans so that by the time you cooked them for the required time with all the extra stuff, they are the perfect consistency. Mine were soft to start with after cooking the frozen ones and a mush pile once done. Now Giada's parmesan crisps..that go on top of the green beans for some zest...those saved the day. I ate half of them before they made it to the green beans. You just grate fresh Parmesan and put it in little heaping mounds (tbsp full) on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake them for 4 or 5 minutes and you get these delish Parmesan chips! Fresh grated parmesan is also quite fine by itself.
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We had a great meal and conversation. Bettina also had a coffee/espresso maker that I want now on the double. It makes such good coffee. We had baked apples and pumpkin pie (pumpkin ingredients from the States) for dessert. Both delicious...I almost passed on the apples thinking...I don't want no cooked fruit...give me the sweets, but then when Bettina busted out the homemade vanilla sauce to go on top I was like bring those apps on over Bettina. They were REAL good. Put some sauce on the pumpky pie too.

Then after dinner, naturally the thing to do is sparklers! The kids (some were only 2 but they get them also...some things Austrians aren't strict about...fire is prob. not the best one to let your over-the-top, strict rules slide on, but oh well...not my kids) well, they of course LOVE this. Sparklers are a big part of Christmas as I think it's tradition to put them on your Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Someone was telling us all the traditions, but by this time I had 2 champagnes (I rarely drink so this was plenty) and I was licking my vanilla sauce so I didn't quite catch it all. (and I have zero pics because my battery ran out..hence the internet photos for some visuals to break up my long, rambling text..thanks Martha)
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Whoa...this post is getting out of control long. I haven't even written about trying to plan for our next Thanksgiving meal this Thursday, the actual Thanksgiving, with our American & Swedish friends from Art's office. Every time I look at a recipe it's like "oh, nope...no chocolate chips...or whoops...no pumpkin puree either (I am NOT making my own, k?)..oh, no cream of this..will I be able to find Nappa cabbage? and so on.) So, I have to be very quite careful. My Pumpkin Spice Cake from last year (in America)...was really good, but is out of the question as I can't get canned pumpkee. A chocolate dessert could be quite nice but I'm not so sure you can find unsweetened baking chocolate. I haven't seen it yet. I cut my own chocolate chips for about 40 minutes the other day to make chocolate chip cookies (with my cherished vanilla!) It was actually worth it to taste that ole Nestle Tollhouse recipe that reminds me of mama.

So, thank goodness German Class 1 is finished and I can grocery hop this week to figure out what I'm workin with here. I also have our English Club dinner on Tuesday at an Indian restaurant featuring a belly dancer (she's in the club!)...I'm not missin that!
Happy Happy Thanksgiving!
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(something tiny to be thankful for is limitless variety and foods in American grocery stores! and of course the big one...family to celebrate with)

My First Outing

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Elsie here...back by popular demand (that would mean 2 people asked for more of me) and guest blogging while my parents take a break for awhile. They think having a puppy can be exhausting...ha! Wait til they have children...I don't have any, of course, but I've heard.

It was my first day to explore Graz and naturally that meant the Schlossberg. I woke Coco and Art up nice and early with a big plop on their bedroom floor. They always argue about who's gonna clean it up while I secretly snicker pretending I don't know what happened. Hey, I can't wait til 7:30 am...glad they think that's early, but it's not.

Here are some pics my photo-takin' mom captured of my cuteness. I'm not gonna lie..I know I'm cute and it's almost annoying out and about because everyone stops, stares, follows and wants to touch me. Who am I kidding? I love it. My tail wags 400 mph (excuse me..644 kph..I forget we are metric sometimes) at every new human that crosses my path.

I love me a good romp in some flowers.
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This cave was a little freaky.
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I sniffed every square centimeter of that cobblestone path. Lots of good smells...such a diverse city I can tell.
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Can you believe I didn't go #1 or #2 once while we were out (3 hours)? I go every 30 minutes at home.

I almost thought about charging people per pet. Here I basked in the sun while they had some coffee.
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Then they woke me up for another damn picture.
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and then another! (he is always getting frustrated with my leash.)
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crunching through the leaves is so fun. (I think Art was annoyed that mom kept taking pictures of us.)
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and here on the way home, I passed out. It was a long day and I met a lot of other dogs (all adults),
chased many a bird (that's what I was bred to do), and really loved it all up.
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Holland's May Carpet

We had a student teacher from the Netherlands in class on Monday and I was talking to her (or trying to in German) about how much I loved visiting Holland (on a summer college trip) and going to the flower auctions. Holland is known for its gorgeous tulips...one of my favey blooms. I did a little searching on the subject and look at the beauty I discovered:

{Must have been some serious April showers for these May flowers...}
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This is in May in northern Nethey during the tulip peak. More than 3 billion tulips are grown each year and
2/3 of these are exported...mostly to the U.S. Take note boys : Tulips Are Always a Good Choice.

And you too can have this in your own home courtesy of Ikea:
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I wonder if this was their inspiration? Sweden ain't too far from ole Holly.

{Photos from this article}

Why is German Difficult? the ARTICLES from hell...that's why.

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My German Class Girlies (Elahe is my bestie in the class)

Many other languages have masculine and feminine articles. German has three: der (m), die (f) and das (n)...they added a neutral in there to spice things up a bit.

Not only must you memorize each noun with its appropriate article, but you also must memorize the 8 billion rules that go with them depending on the noun's grammatical case in the sentence. Meaning...it changes depending on where it is in the sentence...whether it is the subject of the verb, the subject of a preposition or just chilling out in the nominative case. Each one of these means a mutated form of the original der, die or das. (And die is not pronounced like 'die' like I know you are reading it...it's pronounced 'dee'...and 'der' is 'dair', k?)

So...everytime my teacher introduces a new rule and different forms of the articles I get a little peesed. Can't you just use 'the' and 'a' with the occasional 'an' and call it a day? Our class is over next week and we haven't even learned all the cases. I'm signing up for the Level 2 class as soon as I can. I am no where NEAR fluent. I can finish a worksheet (that's usually just repetition of the same subect) in no time, but speaking is a whole 'nother story. So is writing. So is understanding the dialect...I have no hope there. Have I mentioned that sometimes they use one way in writing and another in speaking? All past tense is different when written than when spoken. You Deutsch $#$@!

Today I went in to do my Lebenslauf (resume) with the lady from the government job place. Umm...she barely knew how to use the computer. I took the keyboard from her and started typing it out myself at one point. She was actually glad not to have to peck it out herself. You MUST have a photo on your resume (naturally, so they can judge you based on how you look), your date of birth, nationality and sometimes religion. Oh, and you put down every school you went to since Kindergarten. I was doing math on a scratch sheet of paper for the years. They are not joking.

Not that you care (because I sure wouldn't if I still lived in the Land o' English Bliss), but I'm just gonna show you some examples. "Zum Beispiel" if you will.
"the"MasculineNeuterFemininePlural
Nominativederdasdiedie
Accusativedendasdiedie
Dativedemdemderden
Genitivedesdesderder
Nominative: Der Apfel ist grün. (The apple is green.)
Accusative: Ich esse den Apfel. (I eat the apple.)
Dative: Ich gehe zur Schule mit dem Apfel. (I go to school with the apple.)
Genitive: Die Samen des Apfels sind braun. (The apple's seeds are brown.)
(Nouns are always capitalized)
Possessive pronouns also change depending on the noun's gender and case...and so do the damn adjectives!
Once I master these (I have my doubts), well, probably by then it will be time to move.

P.S. I gotta stop taking Elsie out in the streets because I'm stopped every 5 minutes with oohing and ahhing women (and men!) "Mein Gott! Sie ist sehr süß! Wie alt ist sie?" and I can't take anymore non-fresh Deutsch breath.