Sunday, December 28, 2008

They gave us wings

As a premiere this year we were pampered on Saturday by Heidi’s neighbour Barbara with a huge plate full of delicious crispy Styrian deep-fried-chicken and endive/potatoe salad with pumpkinseed-oil. 4 large chickens were sacrificed for a total of 44 pieces of Backhendl and we did relatively well given that it was the 4th day running with lots of dishes. Hence after 1 hour 12 people had to capitulate and 7 pieces were left. We are still in negotiations with Barbara whether this early dinner (we started at 1500) will become a tradition (a prerequisite was actually that all 44 pieces will be eaten).

Not exactly what a nutritionist would recommend .

For Sandra, Flo and Markus this was not the perfect pre-race dinner, but they did not care much and were rather happy about some additional insulation for the Altacher Silvesterlauf on Sunday. As warm-up and relaxation after the dinner Sandra, Kerstin and Markus walked to Bregenz alongside the lake to take a look at Sandra & Flo’s Christmas tree – a truly beautiful and nicely decorated example!

Sunday morning Vorarlberg presented itself from its nicest but also coldest side since we came here. Blue-sky, no wind but -6 degrees in the morning when we got on our way to Altach, 27km away from Hoerbranz. Sandra started her race at 1100 and targeted a time of 40 minutes for the 6,3km which she beat clearly with a finishing time of 34min 28 seconds. As every athlete she would have wanted to be faster in the end, but was happy with the result.

At 1200 the boys got on their way for the 12,6km (four rounds - 3,15km each) through the streets of Altach. The atmosphere on course was great as many inhabitants have turned the race into an event with loudspeakers and music out on the streets, mulled wine and tea for the spectators and lots of noise and cheering for the racers. Flo unfortunately had to capitulate on the third round as he had problems with his knee and so he finished the race after ¾ with a time of 53 minutes 53 seconds. Markus not only surprised the cheerleaders Kerstin, Heidi and Sandra but also himself with a finishing time of 59 minutes 5 seconds and beating the magic 1 hour mark. Given the lack of training runs during November & December and the loads of food during December, he was quite happy with that result and a reconciliatory rounding off for his sports year 2008.

The next few days we are going to make our mind up what exactly we will do on December 31st in the evening. It will for sure be with family – Heidi, the Meierei (Renate & Werner) and Heidi’s brother Manfred with his wife Lissi and their two girls Barbara & Monika).

Enjoy the last days of this year and have a good start into 2009 in which
Carla Bruni will continue to be present, even though France hands over the EU-presidency to the Czech Republic!

Kerstin & Markus

Saturday, December 27, 2008

La grande bouffe - the day after

As expected and as every year the christmas days in Hoerbranz were full of laughter, joy, happiness and delicious & traditional food. Within three days we have had 5 large lunches/dinners (wienerle with potatoes & horseradish, beef-roulade with rice, boiled beef with vegetables and horderadish, crispy duck & chicken with bread- & potatoe dumplings & red cabbage and last but not least ham rolls with mayonnaise salad) split only by coffee and cake and cookies. On top of the great food we all got loads of presents and the best thing is that we got presents that we definitely wanted, thanks to the way we did our secret santa this year. All participants, based in Gran Canaria, Barcelona, Bregenz, Hoerbranz and Vienna have posted and updated their wishes in the weeks ahead of christmas.

Even though the snow is missing the temperatures are definitely wintry and thus Sandra, Flo and Markus are to a certain extent happy that they have added a few centimetres to their grease film over the past days as tomorrow they are participating in the
Altacher Silvesterlauf where Sandra will tackle the 6,3km race while Flo and Markus will do the 12,6km. The insulation provided by the additional weight is helpful, but at the same time over the whole distance we will have to carry the grease. As a consequence we will not care so much about the time, but rather the fun towards the year end.

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, December 22, 2008

Driving home for Christmas

Up until the visit of Sandra and Flo we were well on track for a pretty much stress-less time ahead of Christmas. It all got a bit messy when Kerstin showed the first signs of flu on Sunday after their departure and latest on Monday morning we knew that the flu has stricken: fever, headache and many other signs forced her into bed all week and knocked her out. As a consequence she missed the Christmas get-together of Bella Familia on Wednesday evening and as Markus had to go to Frankfurt that day we were only present with some chilli, which was liked by all family members.

The weekend we spent in Oberwart where we were invited for a delicious “Tafelspitz” at family Kojnek – Michaela, Klaus and Nikolaus – and while Kerstin rested in the evening in front of the log-fire with Markus’ mom, Markus went to watch the last home-game of his team, the Oberwart Gunners ahead of Christmas – a clear and undisputed victory against WBC Kraftwerk Wels.

Due to the flu last week both of us “lost” precious time for the search and acquisition of presents and thus the last days before Christmas are pretty stressful. Luckily it’s rather quiet at work, but as we are not the only ones who have to rush to the shops. Tuesday night we will pack our car, put on Chris Rea’s “Driving Home for Christmas” and then head for Hoerbranz for our Christmas break. On the 24th we will decorate the Christmas tree, the boys will get together in Bregenz at the “Esel” for one or the other mulled wine and in the evening we will hopefully get some of our wishes fulfilled.

We can’t wait for the holidays to come and wish all of you merry and peaceful Christmas!

Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Warm-up for the big eating

This Wednesday night Sandra and Flo arrived in Vienna for a long weekend hitting the high street for Christmas shopping, visits to Christmas markets and the blast round of intense practise for one of the most demanding events of the year: the big eating on Christmas starting on the evening of the 24th and ending on the evening of the 26th with a series of big breakfasts, long lunches followed by coffee and cakes or cookies and concluded with dinner. As 27 and 28 are Saturday and Sunday we do have the suspicion to prolong the festive season by two days. While turkeys and gooses are fed prior to the holidays we suffer that fate on the holidays.

As Markus only arrived back from London on Friday night he missed out the Spittelberger Christmas market and Italian dinner on Thursday and also could not enjoy the delicious Indian dinner on Friday night at Rani, in our opinion the best Indian restaurant in Vienna. Unfortunately Indian cuisine is so fulfilling that the Sandra, Flo and Kerstin were completely destroyed afterwards and so Markus found the three lying in bed together on their backs not able to move. Just like three bugs.

Saturday we all slept really long, went for a walk in the prate early afternoon before Markus cooked, on demand by Sandra, his speciality Thai curry which none of us can get enough. Dinner that early was necessary as we me met up with Flo's brother and a couple of other of his relatives at the Christmas market in Schoenbrunn for some mulled wine and punch. We definitely had less of those sweet and dangerous drinks than the three guys we shared a bar table with. After a while we witnessed what impact the drinks can have. First one of the three guys started to wrestle with the table (it was a close match, but after all he won and managed to overturn it) but clearly the fight took too much energy as the fell over a few times and suddenly has disappeared. After a while the second one had to give in to the (knock-out) punch and was taken to hospital as he tripped (we are not sure over what exactly he tripped) and pulled the brake. Unfortunately for him gravel and his cheek did not cooperate so ideally. On our way home we met the first guy again - he was sitting on a bench on the way to the tube station and is seemed he was "thinking" about where he should go.

The setting for a christmas can't be better than here in the imperial garden
Today morning we more kept breakfast rather short as we have planned Mexican food for lunch before Sandra, Flo and his brother Philip got on their way back to Bregenz. The tortillas were excellent, but are clearly not the ideal food for lunch as we now feel really tired! Overall the training session for Christmas was success- and eventful and we can’t wait to have the Christmas holidays starting.

Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The eye of the tiger

The past weekend which was luckily a long one due to the bank holiday on December 8th was not only used for some Christmas shopping on both Saturday and Monday but we also visited after quite a while again the zoo in Schoenbrunn on Sunday. It was a pretty cold and humid day and therefore the zoo was not overrun too much, but we were well prepared with warm outfit and we weathered the drizzle. We really missed the sights and smell of the giraffes (amazing how intense they smell!!), watched little Fu Long, the baby-panda, sleeping and were witness to the feeding of the two cheetahs, who were hunting the dead rabbit that was swished through their cage on a lift in order to give them some exercise and the visitors some thrill.

Unfortunately we missed the feeding of the family of the
Siberian tigers which had offspring a few months ago and so we only could watch the one of the young-ones playing with some huge bone and nibbling it, the other small one and daddy sleeping very well in front of the crowd and mommy overlooking the peaceful family. The tigers pretty much resemble their small relatives, the house cats, and do look quite cuddly, but one does not want to cuddle with them as one might not survive that TLC.

Should you ever look into this cat's eyes, keep your mind crystal clear!

Given the humidity paired with the low temperatures were biting we skipped the feeding of the seals and only spent some time watching some other young members of the zoo-family – the ice-bear twins followed by a walk through the garden of the emperor’s summer-castle and warming up with some mulled wine at the Christmas market in front of the castle. This rounded up Sunday afternoon perfectly and the fact that we did not have to go to work on Monday was the icing on the cake. We could get used to that! By now the week is well advanced and we are looking forward to Sandra and Flo visinting us from Thursday onwards.

Kerstin & Markus

Saturday, December 6, 2008

They are all coming down one way or the other

This week was a quite interesting and eventful one. Not only that Markus has been travelling a lot again, being in Frankfurt on Monday and in London from Tuesday night until Friday, we have also seen a big 100bps rate cut by the Bank of England, a surprising 175bps shoved off the interest rates in Sweden and (finally) 75 bps reduction by the ECB. Especially the latter move has been long awaited as Mr. Trichet has been focussing on inflation by far too long in Markus’ opinion. The move came late. Probably too late to have a real impact and therefore more cuts are likely. In the US they are even talking about interest rates of 0% (just like we have seen in Japan a few years ago). From an Austrian perspective the sale of Austrian Airlines to German Lufthansa, unless the EU commission steps in and prevents the transaction, has been another big event. This seems to be the best solution for both Austrian as well as Vienna International Airport. Markus is definitely happy that Lufthansa is going to be the new owner and not Air France/KLM.

During the trip to London one thing became quite obvious> the city is not expensive anymore for us Europeans! When Markus started working in London back in 2001 the EUR/GBP exchange rate was at 1,70 (1 GBP = 1,7 EUR) while now the FX rate is at 1,16! That means that for Europeans London suddenly feels much cheaper and certain goods are now less expensive on the island than in Vienna or any other European city. So for all of you who have not been to London or the United Kingdom: now is a really good time to fly over and do some Christmas shopping! And all the folks who haven’t been by River Thames for quite a while, pack your stuff, book a flight on and off you go. Shopping never has been so cheap and by now you can even get flats at bargain prices as the credit crunch has hit the UK economy and housing market severely as the headlines of daily newspapers proclaim almost daily.

Europe's financial centre is getting cheaper by the minute

We are yet again pretty much booked out for this year, but are planning a London weekend for Q1 next year in the hope that the prices are not taking off too fast. But first of all we enjoy the long weekend in Vienna and will use Monday for some Christmas shopping.

Kerstin & Markus

Monday, December 1, 2008

That's the way, the cookie crumbles

The past few years the last weeks of November and the whole of December usually were a rally from city to city visiting clients and having extensive lunches and dinners with them plus having a few internal Christmas parties. That always resulted in additional kilos on the scale, him being tired and on quite often hung over and desperate for the Christmas holiday-break. Thanks to the financial crisis, the bear market and cost savings this fast feeding will not be as extensive this year - in a way luckily, but somehow unfortunately as it was always good fun with the clients and colleagues.

2008 is different. We realised that in many senses already and therefore Markus took unmotivated 2 days off last week spending them mainly at home and in the gym. This short break gave him the opportunity to practice his skills in his favourite Playstation3 game – NBA2k9 – matching himself with his brother Stefan from 1000 till 1600 on Thursday yielding him in the end even victories thanks to some very helpful hints from his opponent!

The bear (market) is eating away the dinners - but we got our cookies

During the past weekend, the first of the 4 advent-weekends, for the first time real Christmas feelings came up: On saturday night we celebrated Tanja’s birthday with mulled wine and Feuerzangenbowle in the backyard of their house in Kritzendorf and on Sunday we took on the challenge again of baking cookies. We limited ourselves to three kinds: gingerbread, shortcrusts and vanilla cornets, whereas for the latter two we got a dead-poof recipe from Heidi which always works and provides for cookies that do not fall apart. Well, we do believe we dismantled the recipe of it being dead-proof, as the pastry crumbled massively. After all we somehow managed some cookies to stay together and got them out of the oven in one piece. And they are ideal. Ideal for people with no eyesight. They look horrible, but taste good. Some of you might be offered one or the other. In case that happens, please just close your eyes and enjoy!

Kerstin & Markus