Thursday, June 30, 2011

An Austrian Walk About Part I

I had two goals this summer: lose weight and enjoy my vacation from work. Generally when I have over indulged and added lots and lots of fat to my framework, I can cut back on food and walk it off. As for vacation it couldn't come fast enough and I had many "do nothing" plans. However, what fun would life be if it just went along as we planned it? I mean an Austrian Walk About was not in my plans.

My brother and his wife had been planning for most of last year to do a European vacation. My sister-in-law invests a great deal of time researching and planning for active vacations on a shoestring. My brother, to put it as gentle as I can, is a miser. It is extremely difficult to separate him from his money. We tease him all the time. Now he'll never live down his most recent incident.

They were expecting to be gone from the middle of June to early July. My brother, prior to leaving, was really after me to make plans for some vacation. Initially we were going to go on a cruise but decided not to do it this year. He really wanted hubby and I to take a break from caring for my mother. For those who don't know, my mother has been living with us since last August. She has dementia and requires home health care providers during the day.

Anyhow, I was into my first week of summer vacation walking routinely and cutting back on calories when my miserly brother decided to have a massive heart attack just prior to paying his bill at a very nice restaurant in Salzburg. We received an e-mail from my niece, who had just arrived there to take part in their vacation, sharing this unwelcome news. I remember starting to read it and thinking "what is she saying?". Once hubby finished reading it to me, there was only one thing to do: hop on a plane and go!

Within twenty-four hours my niece, nephew and I were off on a seventeen hour trip to Austria. Hubby quickly got my computer set up for communications. My daughter hauled me off to Verizon to get a Droid with global whatever. My poor nephew had to fly from Texas to LA to get his passport then on to Philly. I think he managed to get some sleep prior to boarding a plane for Paris, Munich, and on to Salzburg via train. My poor niece spent the time before our flights updating her passport to her married name. Meanwhile on the front lines my sister-in-law and niece were trying to cope with the life and death situation at hand in a foreign country. The language barrier, customs and financial issues that presented only added to their immediate anxiety levels. On the plus side though Salzburg is probably one of the best places to handle such a situation.

Naturally as you spend idle time on the plane traveling your mind is all over the place and you're trying to find something to occupy it. My idle time was spent looking out the window of the plane.

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

Then France came into view.

After a three hour lay over, being patted down and having to check the carry-on, we were off to Munich. Once in Munich it was to be a simple train ride to Salzburg. Just to let you know traveling is not my thing. I like point to point. Obviously this wasn't going to my liking.

We found the local train at the airport and managed to make it to the central train station where upon my Bank America card didn't work to purchase the tickets. Back up credit cards are a good thing. The credit card issue in itself is an entirely different story. Maybe some day I'll feel like talking about that.

With train tickets in hand we were off to find our train. I am sure if we were on a reality show no one would have been able to control their laughter. We looked like tiny ants let loose in a bunch of sugar; scrambling around without purpose. Of course everything was in German - and silly me I thought English was the universal language. With the assistance of a security guard we were pointed in the right direction.

At least Denise was still smiling. That's our train in the background. We grabbed some drinks and finger food to sustain us. On the train though they came through with a drink cart and yes my nephew and I indulged in a beer. It truly hit the spot and relaxation was merely a sip away.

We arrived in a timely fashion and caught a cab to our hotel, Hauswartenberg. It certainly is unconventional, traditional and quaint.

The two windows with the flowers are where my sister-in-law and kids stayed. This was an outside garden dining area.

We didn't spend too much time there as we wanted to see my brother before the end of visiting hours. He looked pretty bad but was at least sitting up and talking. However, after seeing his kids he perked right up.

If nothing else he had a great view.

Yes, you are seeing correctly - cows.

We learned more of the details over a delicious dinner at the hotel. As I mentioned before my brother, his wife and daughter had completed a their dinner and were awaiting the check when the heart attack struck. If it hadn't been for a local doctor having dinner at the same restaurant at the same time and willing to step up, my brother would not be here today. In addition here in Salzburg a doctor accompanies the ambulance to a scene. It just so happened that the head of the ER was that doctor. If not for both of them I could not have written this Blog with levity. I shall go into more detail about medical practices here verses U.S.A. later.

I retired to my room after dinner. It was really cool - literally. Merely keeping the windows (no screens) opened cools the room nicely.

That is the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in when traveling.

The shower presents a bit of a challenge. It's rather small and one of the doors is off it's hinges but manageable.

The hotel is really more of a bed and breakfast. The facility is over 300 years old. Each of the rooms is different. There is an option of eating within the lounge, dining area or outside in the garden area. I should clarify that breakfast is only served within the lounge.

Breakfast consists of cereal, fruits, bread, cheese, ham and of course coffee, tea and orange juice.

Day two found me off on a mission that led me into the heart of Salzburg. Where my Austrian Walk About was about to begin.

For now have a Firecrackin Good Day!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hot Date Turned Into A Wet Night

Wow! That should have some people read this Blog!

When our kids were young date nights were far and few between. Now that my mother is living with us date nights are still far and few between. Therefore we try to take advantage of Thursdays because my brother takes my mother to the hairdresser's and she usually doesn't get home until around 8 p.m. So last Thursday night was a date night to the Phillies game.

I had been looking forward to the outing as I hadn't been to any games up until that point. Have to say I've been very comfortable watching them on the TV because the games have been pretty boring to say the least and the refrig is not so far away. However I was still anxious to go.

Just to put you somewhat in my frame of mind I'd like to share that for the third time that we have lived in our house, I have resurrected our lawn. That means endless hours seeding, fertilizing and combing those fine green hairs that make your house look wonderful. It also means hours of sweating, aching and exhaustion. Fortunately we had some pretty good rains in April and the middle of May and the lawn looked beautiful. It was certainly rebounding. I figured we could enjoy it until July - NOT! Nope, we went into a longggggg dry spell. It hadn't rained for three weeks, the lawn was burned and of course it was getting verrrryyyyy hot and humid! Ah, nothing like living in New Jersey.

One other thing you'll need to understand is that I refuse to go to ball games if there's a threat of rain. No, I'm not afraid of bad hair, nor that I might melt. I hate it when people put their umbrellas up in front of you. Not only do they prevent you from seeing the field but the water drips off and onto my lap. Buy a poncho! It's my belief that umbrellas are a weapon and should not be permitted in the ball park.

Now that you understand me a bit more, you can understand that this date night to the ball game was very welcomed. We watched the weather - Action Weather on ABC channel 6 - and all day they said we shouldn't have any rain. That the pop-up storms would most likely travel north and west of the city - Great! However it was to be the hottest day of the year - 99 degrees with of course the humidity in which it will feel like its over 100 degrees.

I could live with the heat for a night out. So off we went to the game. The crowd took longer than usual to gather. Maybe because it was so hot but we didn't care. We didn't have to wait in line at Harry K's. The food isn't great and it's expensive, but we had seats by the railing and watched the Cubs' batting practice. The atmosphere was perfect.

This year our seats are in a different section and up higher - just barely under the overhang. They were ok, closer to third base. Once we were settled out came my camera.

We were almost directly across from the bull pen. Hubby had given me a telephoto lens so I was able to capture this shot. We could not believe how great this lens was.

Shortly after taking out seats, which wasn't bad early on because virtually no one was around us, pre-game activities began. Fans started dribbling in and the stands filled up. Needless to say the heat became more intense. Hubby and I determined it wasn't so much the weather heat but more body heat. If you've never been to a game let me just say there isn't much room between seats. As a matter of fact the only thing that separates the seats is one lonely very thin arm rest. Hey, who cares though. You are among happy, fun loving and enthusiastic fans having a good time. Oh, and the best yet - the Phillies' Phanatic!

He is sooooooo funny! I love the Phanatic probably more than kids.

The last picture was as Dan Baker introduced Dominic Brown in the line-up. He's the baby on the team.

Then the game finally began with Kendrick pitching and pretty much the regular team behind him. I think Ruiz was the only one missing. Kendrick did well which was a highlight considering his past starts. Not only that but the bats were swinging the first three innings with Rollins hitting a 3 run homerun! If you have been keeping track that's within the high average range of the runs the Phillies have been scoring a whole game over the past couple of months. Hubby and I looked at each other and hoped we had not seen the last of the action.

As we enjoyed this great moment and watched the bell ring in celebration, I noticed the sky was getting really dark back behind us. I pointed it out to hubby but didn't think too much of it at that time. However it didn't take long for the darkness to slowly creep further in and over the ballpark.

It was getting down right ugly and it wasn't just that it was getting dark time wise. They were clouds! As the wind picked up and the crowd started realizing a storm was moving in, a big gust of wind blew across right field kicking up the dirt in a funnel like manner. The strangest part was the umpire kept the game going while the players were becoming very antsy. It wasn't until the ground supervisor came out and told the ump he better cut the inning short that the game was stopped.

With that the tarp was rolled out onto the field. The fans were cheering because even though it appeared it was going to downpour any moment, there wasn't even a drop. The wind though really picked up. Hubby commented that we must really be in for a big storm as the grounds keeper were trying to stake the tarp down but it kept blowing up.

It was so bad that it looked like a John Deere dealership out on the field. I think they finally needed nine vehicles to hold the tarp in place.

The tarp was finally secured and the grounds keepers left the field. Fans remained in their seats as the only thing that was happening was the sky getting darker and more threatening. There wasn't any thunder or lightning. As a matter of fact I think everyone thought the storm was going to bypass the city.

Isn't that wild looking??!!

Now look at these -

And that is not night time -

Again that's not night time. The flags are blowing straight out. There is no rain. There is no lightning or thunder. We had never seen anything like this.


I love our seats! If we were one more row down - we'd be soaked and I might have melted.

Notice it was raining so hard that you could no longer see the flags blowing straight out into right field.

I am so glad we didn't have to squeeze into the crowd up under the decks. That would have definitely caused a claustrophobic attack.

The rain delay was about 45 minutes. Hubby got after me because I didn't take pictures of the grounds crew removing the tarp. I was too busy laughing and commenting on the procedure they used. There were perhaps 9-12 guys out there with large brooms sweeping the large puddles of water off the tarp. Of course I understood that was necessary before rolling it up but brooms!! What about a very large wet-vac?

Anyway the game finally resumed. Kendrick was no longer pitching. It became a bull pen duel between the two teams. Also the Cubs tied the score. So we left at 10 p.m. after the fourth inning I think. I had to go to work the next day, the Phillies had reached their average runs early on and hubby was tired from his hard day at work. We got home in time to pick up pretty much where we had left off. Only I was very comfortable in the air conditioning and recliner.

As usual hubby provided another exciting, memorable and unique date. No wonder I married him.

Now this business man's special below was a great game to see. The weather was perfect and so was the game. The Phillies won!

For now have a Firecrackin Great Day!