Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010: The Year We Make Contact?

Here we are on December 31st and it feels as if the year 2009 has only just started. While we could not expect the year 2008 to end given it has been laden with quite a lot of negative events on all different ends, this time round we almost have the opposite attitude. Even though the economic crisis casted very dark clouds early in the year we have seen a significant improvement from March onwards. For us the birth of our beloved son Jakob in July was the dominating event, which helped us leave the economic woes aside as our focus was on the enlargement of the family. Once Jakob has arrived our life has reached a completely different dimension. Things changed completely, and even though we did expect that to happen we were surprised by the extent of the change and the time from the first scream to the arrival of the first tooth to the first real meal went by extremely fast.

So what will 2010 have for us? More big changes have to be expected on the horizon on all fronts. We are pretty confident, that Jakob and all the other little babies that have popped up with the group of our friends will remain the main drivers of changes and will keep us all very busy throughout the year, but we better expect the unexpected so we are not surprised about changes also on other fronts. Obviously the most important thing we are wishing for 2010 is health for our little superstar as well as our families and friends and for ourselves. As long as we are in good form, everything else can be mastered.

In this spirit: A happy, healthy and prosperous New Year to all of you!

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Rainy days at the end of December

One could almost interpret the weather the past two days like that: Heaven is crying for Sandra and Flo having left to Thailand. Their timing could not have been better to leave as it is almost constantly raining the past two days and it for sure is much nicer in Asia with 30 degrees rather than ca. 8 degrees and raindrops. Jakob, Kerstin and Markus were lucky enough to have used a dry window on Wednesday lunchtime for a walk to Bregenz allowing Jakob a good amount of sleep during the day and his parents as snack and some shopping in Vorarlberg’s capital. As both the weather was stable and Jakob still fast asleep they also decided to walk all the way back and so the junior only woke up once home has been reached after more than three hours of sleep.

Wednesday afternoon was spent inside improving further the sitting skills and keeping the parents busy entertaining little Mr. Sunshine. While Jakob was very much resisting to fall asleep in the evening once he did reach the land of the dreams we enjoyed a relatively good night which ended only at 0715 on Thursday, in sharp contrast to the usual 0515 wake-up time. Unfortunately the rain was persistent and even got stronger so that preparations for the New Years Eve celebrations are going to be focussed on the inside. Kerstin’s uncle and family will join for raclette for dinner and Markus has planned some fireworks for midnight. Fingers crossed, the rain stops as otherwise one has to fear the fireworks to be extinguished.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Laa gòn Austria - Sawasdee Thailand!

Monday was simply a lazy day and so no one of us really did much but waiting for the time to go by, eating and relaxing. Sandra and Flo were pretty exhausted from the snowshoe tour to the Burgl-Huette on Sunday and were far from nervous about their trip. One needs such days every now and then. On Tuesday morning though, Jakob, Kerstin and Markus got changed after the regular early morning snack and drove to Bregenz where a large breakfast with Sandra and Flo was on the agenda and Jakob received another present from his godmother before really helping them to pack the backpacks. The two were exemplary as they tried to keep the stuff they wanted to take on the trip to a minimum. Markus nevertheless still found a few items, which he proposed to exclude and leave at home. In order to get more and more into holiday feeling Flo showed a diving movie from Koh Tao of one of his friends and this movie definitely did its trick with all of us!

"Once the hat fits, I will come along as well!"

In the afternoon we all had late farewell lunch, which Kerstin prepared – her delicious spinach strudel, we gave the two backpackers some more off our hints and wishes as to what to do and what to buy and the excitement rose more and more. In the final hours before Sandra and Flo were picked up for Munich Airport by Flo’s mum Christine the whole Meier family stopped by for coffee and cake. Anja has arrived Monday night from Barcelona (bringing some more outfit and toys for our junior as presents!) and so they had 18 hours or “whole family” as Katrin has left early Wednesday morning again for Gran Canaria. Werner must have mutated into a shuttle service between home and several airports nearby.

Ready for the adventures in South-East Asia

When Christine & Norbert turned up at 1730 we were all very happy for Sandra and Flo that they finally get to see the land of the smile, but at the same time we all were very sad about their departure on the Thai Airways flight TG925. During the whole Tuesday (with packing the backpack, watching the diving movie and waiting for the evening departure to the airport) Markus built up a strong feeling of itchy feet especially as 3 and 4 years ago it was Markus and Kerstin who left for Thailand at this time of the year. We are sure that the time will come that the three of us will travel to Bangkok and the Turtle Island. By now Sandra and Flo have landed safely and on time with the Boeing 747 on Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport where they now are waiting for their connection flight to Chiang Mai probably having their first Singha beer.

Jakob, Kerstin and Markus

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Food, snow & beach

The past two days were characterized by the typical activities at Christmas: A lot of eating, playing games and playing with the presents, sleeping and not doing much else. Jakob was probably the most active of all of us as he was permanently in motion, attempted countless sit-ups, stood up with help of an adult and improved his balance and skills to sit upright. An ideal position to play with the wood bricks that he received as gifts. The young carrots, which Jakob has now every day for lunch, are helping him getting all that energy. Not only that our young one is now safe to sit upright, but he also has made a big move in growth which we realized in the fact that some of his trousers have become too short. Jakob has reached now a length of 70 cm while his weight has moved slightly above 8 kg.

Got no milk, but carrots

As Markus still has not fully recovered from his cold he had to skip the snowshoe tour to Balderschwang, which he was very much looking forward to. Flo has organized this tour of ca. 4 hours uphill, which was rewarded with the apparent best Kaesespaetzle – we always thought Heidi would be responsible for them? - at the top of the mountain. For Monday our agenda foresees packing a couple of backpacks for a trip to Thailand – Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Tao and probably some other destination by the sea. Unfortunately it’s not us, who are going, but Sandra and Flo who leave for almost three weeks on Tuesday night. We are jealous, but in a few years we are going to do the tour again. Hopefully.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Friday, December 25, 2009

Something new on Christmas Day

As Jakob was sleeping so well in Katrin’s bed Kerstin decided to not transfer home but spend the night at the Meierei and thus giving Markus the opportunity to recover during the night. In the morning though he decided to go and see a doctor as his coughing still hurt a lot and so he spent 1 hour with 10 other patients in the waiting room. Markus has been diagnosed with a throat infection and he got some medicine prescribed which relieved him from the pain. In the meantime Jakob had his second carrot meal and it got very obvious that he likes this kind of food. We also got a very clear signal from his digestive system in the form of a decently filled diaper telling us that he is ok with the nutrition change Once Markus was back from the doctor he set off soon for the Meierei again Heidi, Jakob and Kerstin for the usual lunch on Christmas day.

"With these cards we have to win!!!"

The afternoon brought a few premieres again for Jakob: Firstly he teamed up with grandma Heidi and played his first Jass game. The result was by far less important and interesting for our little Buddha than the faces and pictures on the cards but we are positive that in the coming years this preferences will shift. Later in the afternoon Kerstin’s dad Eugen visited us and grandpa not only had another present – self-made wood bricks and a new outfit – for Jakob but also had the first session of football practice with our junior. Jakob rounded the fitness afternoon up with a few successful attempts to sit up from underneath his green trapezoid toy. Not surprisingly after such an active and exciting day, Jakob fell asleep fast and allowed us some more time to chat with chat with Eugen.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Merry Christmas everybody

24th of December has been long awaited by all of us. We had a safe journey to Vorarlberg on wednesday and are now expecting the arrival of the Christ child. Unfortunately the warm weather the past few days has destroyed all hopes of White Christmas, but this will not prevent us from enjoying this nice and reflective time. Markus managed to somewhere pick up a cold and therefore has to skip the afternoon in Bregenz near the Esel with Flo and his friends and stayed in instead. Jakob got a long awaited present already before lunchtime as we fed him the first time ever fresh carrots. We have been hesitant to give him something else than breast or tee, but he sent out clear signals over the past weeks that he would prefer feeding with the spoon. The result was extremely promising. Jakob was eating properly and he obviously enjoyed the taste of the carrots. Now we have to wait and see what his digestive system thinks about the change in nutrition.

"Finally they give something else than milk!"

In the evening we were waiting for the arrival of the Christ child at the home of the Meierei as this year it was their turn. Jakob was well behaved, neatly dressed and was all excited when we heard the bell ringing in the other room indicating the arrival of god's child. When he saw the beautifully decorated Christmas tree with the lit-up candles his fascination was very obvious and he had lots of fun unwrapping the present he received underneath the tree - a bag full of wooden bricks. The bricks were immediately tested for being water proof and resistant to pressure and they passed Jakob's mouth test. After a while of playing with the new present and some dinner - mum's breast - our little one went to bed and slept to our all surprise for three hours. We used the time for the traditional dinner on Christmas Eve - sausages with potatoes and horseradish cream - followed by the annual general meeting of the Vorarlberger Wichtel Bengel Verein, where all members got a present. With the exemption of Markus' throat getting worse (painful coughing and loss of voice) the day was absolutely wonderful and enjoyable. A good start into this year's Christmas season.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Singing and driving home for Christmas

Usually we celebrate with Markus' family the weekend before Christmas with the world's best Schweinsbraten which his mum is famous for. This year though we had to change plans and therefore we met on Tuesday afternoon in our flat and had a nice evening together in Vienna. We left our kitchen partially to Stefan who prepared meat, fried noodles and vegetables and Kerstin prepared two trouts in the oven with lemon, tomatoes and thyme. Once all dishes were ready we were convinced that we would never be able to eat it all, but the seven of us - mum & dad, Stefan & Viki, Ines, Kerstin and Markus went all the way with the main course and also left hardly anything of the desert prepared by Ines, a yummy mascarpone cream with rapsberries. After dinner a flood of presents for Jakob swamped the place and we are seriously thinking about limitations to the number of presents for our little one for the coming years!

No way we could offer someone a ride

As Markus and his dad packed the car to a large extent Tuesday night before and after dinner it was relatively easy to leave early morning for our Christmas vacation in Vorarlberg. At 6.20 we set off with a car that was packed to the roof with outfit for three weeks for Kerstin & Jakob, some Christmas presents and lots of other stuff which we better use at least once to justify the effort of finding a place in the car. Markus even had a co-driver consisting of jackets, paper and plastic bags. Jakob was awake half the journey and wanted permanently to get out of his Maxi-Cosi, which obviously is a no-go while driving. In order to calm him down Kerstin was singing a lot of songs to him, he was singing back his song and one time Chris Rea was singing to the three of us. Driving home for Christmas. Thanks to good traffic all the way we hit the ground at 1200 in the most western part of Austria and are now ready for our first Christmas as a family.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One last time: Bella Familia in da house

Monday presented itself ice-cold again with temperatures far below the freezing point, but apparently this cold winter weather shall take a break the next days with temperatures rising again. As a consequence of the cold Markus had to leave his Vespa at home, the Italian lady was on strike for the low temperatures, and Kerstin only had a short walk with Jakob covered in a lot of layers.

Not only mummies were at our place. You spot the dad?

For the afternoon Kerstin has invited all our friends with their children to our place and so we have had full house yet again. The little ones – ranging from 3 months up to 6,5 years – had a good time and made our flat a very lively place while the parents had a last possibility this year to sit down and spend time together. When Markus came home around 1800 it seemed to him as if the noise level was highest as even an discontent Jakob, who in such case can be heard from a long distance, did not really stand out. The more the afternoon progressed the more fatigue spread within the juniors and thus marked the end of the get-together. We are all looking forward to more days with ouor friends like yesterday in 2010!

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Monday, December 21, 2009

Jakob has been Trip-Trapped

With Christmas approaching fast cold weather and snow is something one would expect and appreciate a lot and so the fact that temperatures started to drop below the zero mark mid last week and snowflakes appeared towards the weekend made lots of people happy, some annoyed and others very busy. When we got up on Saturday morning the roofs were covered in a layer of snow and so where the roads and just as if snow on the roads would be something very exotic, the traffic was chaotic and slow. Even main roads were not freed completely from the snows and therefore drivers were overly cautious and inner-city traffic was really bad. Jakob did not appreciate the snowflakes too much either as it meant that he had to be covered by many layers of clothes and blankets as well as the rain cover in his Bugaboo and this plastic shield disturbed his view up until the point he fell asleep.

Late Saturday afternoon we decided to put together Jakob’s newest piece of furniture, a
Tripp-Trapp highchair. While Markus was screwing and working on the chair Jakob watched very observantly and was most excited whenever Markus used the rechargeable screw driver which also helped to speed up the process. Once the chair was ready we positioned it by the table and decided to allow Jakob to test his chair. What happened then completely took us by surprise: Our little one was so excited about his new chair that he went absolutely crazy screaming, “jumping” in his chair and smiling. The fact that he can sit by the table, have a good view and in addition see both Markus and Kerstin must have provided Jakob with lots of joy. As he was joyful for another 20 minutes Markus even had the opportunity to take pictures and a video, whereas the first moments in the Tripp-Trapp are memories which Kerstin and Markus will not forget for sure.

Sunday morning we headed south to Oberwart for our by now traditional Christmas lunch with Nikolaus, Michaela and Klaus. While there was no more snowfall and roads were clean the temperatures of below –10 degrees in combination with blue sky and sunshine offered a beautiful winter setting. Having arrived in Oberwart Nikolaus showed us all his toys(a lot of large trucks, tractors fire engine) and presented us their Christmas tree which the Christ Child has delivered early to their house (given they leave for a Christmas break at Michaela’s parents on Monday) before we had delicious lunch with Tafelspitz & Schnitzel. Jakob yet again presented himself in good form to family Kojnek as well as to Andi who joined us for the lunch as well. Unfortunately the afternoon went by far too fast and we had to get on our way back to Vienna at 1645 in order to have a bath and spend some time in the highchair.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Una Bella Familia

The past weekend was exciting and eventful as firstly we had Spanish/Italian guests from Thursday onwards. Gianluca surprised us with presents for all of us, foremost by making Jakob an early fashion victim with a full outfit by Giorgio Armani, which is his (Gianluca's) most favourite designer. As soon as Jakob is grown into the latest Italian fashion trend, we will have a photo shooting and share the trends with you! Due to rather unfriendly weather on Friday Anja and Gianluca explored Vienna on their own while Kerstin and Jakob were hiding at home. After a late breakfast and a looong time in the bathroom the two set off for more sightseeing, visiting Schloss Schoenbrunn and the Christmas market there.

The Spanish-Austrian-Italian Trio Anja, Jakob & Gianluca in action

We skipped that as in the late afternoon we were invited to the traditional chilli-party hosted by Evi and Cristoph and our junior is not so keen on a full day of programme. When we arrived at the Jaeger's home at 1700 Cristoph has just started to prepare the chilli - just in time for a party that starts at 1900. Jakob and Anna who also came early had a very good time together while Christoph worked hard on the onions, garlic, chilli and minced meat, but at the end of the day he had to make a round of calls to let people know the start of the party was postponed by 1 hour. We having been looking forward to the delicious Mexican food quickly tasted it on the way out when we left for home at 1945. Christoph, who was still working on the food at that time resolved to start earlier next year. Bets are being taken if that happens.

One of our new favourite restaurants?

On the way home from Christoph and Evi Jakob was very unrelaxed and cried all the way, but after changing to the pyjamas and a good dinner he fell asleep peacefully and had one of the best nights in a long time allowing also us to relax. Sunday morning we had brunch with Anja and Gianluca before they left for Vorarlberg at lunchtime and in the afternoon we had the third big event this weekend: the Bella Familia Christmas get-together in the Praterfee, which is a very children-friendly restaurant near our home in the prater. While the mobile children Emma and Max (Valentin was missing due to illness – we wish him a fast recovery – used the restaurants playroom as well as the possibilities to play outside Anna, Leo and Jakob entertained the parents and presented themselves from their best side. As it has been quite a while that we all have met we had a lot of things to chat about and we all had a very good time time was really flying by and a wonderful weekend ended far too fast.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

A Fistful of Dollars. Eh... months!

Another months has flown by for Jakob who is turning 5 months today. Our little treasure has developed a lot and is regularly telling us stories which we are not entirely sure to understand correctly, he is working on a six-pack several times per day attempting sit-ups and loves to stand on his feet even though he is far from keeping the balance.

Anything I can do for you?

Jakob is still teething a lot, but so far he is left with the two bottom front teeth he got two months ago but whenever he sees us eating his eyes tell us: "Please let me have a bite". For the time beeing we keep him though on breastfeeding only and so he keeps on biting our hands and fingers, which hurts immensely. We are still making up our mind whether as christmas present we should feed him some carrots or whether we should wait with real food until he reaches 6 months.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus

Friday, December 11, 2009

Will PIGS and a Darling go for a swim?

With Christmas approaching usually also the travelling activity for Markus is intensifying as around the end of November his strategy team tends to publish its outlook for the coming year and this entails many presentations and discussions with the clients. This time the strategists are pretty much bullish for Emerging European Equities in 2010 and expect a strong start into the year. Even though the past few weeks have rather brought up new risks and dark clouds on the horizon with the debt-troubles in Dubai and most recently downgrades of Greece and Spain as well as fears about more troubles within the PIGS the chief strategist is leaning out of the window with his strong call. Let’s hope he is not falling out.

While in London, there was also another big issue part of almost all discussions: The fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling introduced on Wednesday a special one –off tax of 50% on bankers’ bonuses exceeding 25.000 GBP caused uproar with the financial industry. Given that the remuneration in London is pretty much biased towards the flexible part, i.e. the bonus, this represents a significant cut in the annual payment. This move not only upsets the employees but also could lead to some banks moving their investment banking operations away from London and harming its status as financial centre. Future will tell whether the waves calm down again or whether we will see an of exodus of bankers.

Markus seemed unimpressed by the special taxation and helped the UK economy by hitting the high street on Wednesday evening and spent a few pounds on apparel and electronics. Back in Austria Jakob made his first experience as free-diver on Thursday as this week’s baby swimming session included also diving. Even though our little one was a bit tired due to the lack of sleep the night before, he obviously enjoyed the short time under water and as far as we can judge, he is looking for more under-water-experience in the coming weeks.

Thursday night, before Markus came back home from London, Anja, Kerstin’s cousin who is living in Barcelona and her Italian boyfriend Gianluca arrived and they are staying with us for the weekend. The two are on holiday in Austria, have spent some time with Anja’s parents, followed by a few days skiing in Tyrol and a weekend in Vienna which all of us have been looking forward to already.

Jakob, Kerstin & Markus