Summer Reading List

With no ocean in Vienna Summer is time for straight up pool side chilling. And apart from a cool drink what every poolside person needs is a good book to relax back with while you soak up some of the summer rays. Here is my top summer picks so far.

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Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

fates-and-furies.jpgLauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years. Exploring the theme that even two people who live together intimately can end up feeling they hardly know each other. First half of the novel is told by the husband and the second half by the wife. Exploring the theme that there is always 2 sides to one story.

When you find out the world is against you by Kelly Oxford

when-you-find-out-the-world-is-against-you_1.jpgTwitter celebrity Kelly Oxford is known for her hilarious tweets about motherhood and life. A funny and honest collection of essays and observations surrounding parenthood, anxiety and even politics. An easy read but to be honest I was a little disappointed as I was expecting much more from this book after reading her first novel – Everything is perfect when you’re a liar. Which I absolutely loved.

Too fat, too slutty, too loud the rise and reign of the unruly woman by Anne Helen Petersen

too-fat-too-slutty-too-loud_1An analytical look at how female celebrities are pushing boundaries of what it means to be an “acceptable” woman.  Thoughtfully written and thought-provoking  look on female celebrity and feminist culture.

A Little Thing Called Life By Linda Thompson

162594.jpg God knows I love a memoir. Linda Thompson is a completely uninteresting woman of no real merit but the fact she dated and lived with Elvis Presley and later married Bruce Jenner was just to tempting it was begging for me to read. I loved the first part of the book that chronicled her relationship with Elvis Presley and what life was like at Graceland from there it kind of went downhill but an easy poolside guilty read for anyone.

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Happy Summer reading.

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Just Peachy

Summer is finally here and I am feeling just peachy.  Vienna is almost a whole different city in Summer. It;s like the whole city collectively comes outside again to enjoy the open air and parks and plazas.

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So I grabbed the prefect loose dress for a 30 degree day to stroll around town and eat ice cream. This peachy dress is Mango from a few seasons ago, but I think its pretty timeless.

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It has the prettiest shoulder embroidery and I am obsessed with this muted peachy orangey pink pallete lately. It’s also loose and forgiving for maximum ice cream consumption.

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Also new in finally are my new favourite summer sandals. The Arizona Birkenstocks in metallic copper.  I am a Birkenstocks girl from way back when and love to wear them in an ageing hippie ironic way. I also have a very delicate foot from years of high heels in my hooker days ( thats a joke) Can I just say these are so unbelievably comfortable i may just sleep in them.

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Come On Vienna Smile On Your Brother

Everyone come together to love one another.

After 5 years living in Vienna as an Australian expat there are many wonderful things I can say about this country. The culture , the arts, the socialism. The access to reasonably priced organic seasonal food and so many more fantastic reasons to love this city.  We have all read those reports Vienna Austria has topped Mercer’s list of cities offering the highest quality of life year after year.

Truly apart from the long winters which is no ones fault apart from some geographical bad luck Vienna is truly a great place to live, to raise a family & to grow old in.

But…… If I could change one thing about Vienna it would be society’s approach to people. People on the streets. People in the shops. On the trams. In the bars.

More specifically people you don’t know. Strangers.

I was raised on the ethos that a stranger is a friend you haven’t met. Here in Austria all strangers seem to be considered enemies you don’t know or just people who don’t seem to exist.

Don’t get me wrong the Viennese are among some of the nicest people I have ever met. But the word met is the operative word in this sentence. For a local to embrace or entertain you without wary and a level of caution it is usually by the way of introduction. Then you are welcomed. And then as people the Vienese are exceptionally kind and very gracious. But as far as walking into a bar or strolling in your neighbourhood and meeting someone new – you will be always be held  at an arm’s length by a Viennese person.

When I first arrived in Vienna I was overjoyed. Happy to be in a new country with the man I love & full of excitement at the start of a new adventure. I smiled at everyone and everything around me. In the post office line, at the supermarket & in cute coffee houses.  Basically everywhere I went.  Eventually my Austrian boyfriend cautioned me to perhaps stop smiling at everyone. Explaining smiling can makes Austrians think you are hitting on them or perhaps you could be seen as intellectually a little disabled. Or even worse your smile makes them uncomfortable.  At first I thought he was crazy and killing my buzz. No one had ever told me to stop smiling except when i was a child getting in trouble and wasnt taking the matter seriously enough. But it turns out he was right. 

I once did a small experiment of my own I was traveling from one side of the city to the other for a teaching gig on the Vienna subway. Which is amazing by the way. I smiled at every single person who crossed my path. Most looked away. Some people looked at me in shock and then distasteful. Some looked at me like I was crazy and some men took it as a sexual invitation. But not one Viennese adult smiled genuinely back at me. The only people to return an easy smile were all the children. They werent old enough to have become cynical and wary but were just little open-hearted creatures.

Why the fear Vienna?

Is it a remnant from your war-torn history? Which I in no way pretend to understand. What’s to be afraid of – a young woman in broad daylight smiling and saying a hello to a stranger? 

Eventually I adapted to the Austrian way. Quiet subways. My head down as I strolled briskly on the streets. Eventually those 1.8 million Vienna strangers surrounding me in this beautiful city slowly stopped existing to me. Like shadows on a street. I tried my hardest to accept and respect the local customs. Telling myself the old age adage when in Rome do as the Romans do. 

Until 2 years into my Austrian expat life I found myself feeling anxious, depressed and isolated. Even though I lived in a new country and culture with a different language I wasn’t learning anything and despite a great group of friends & a supportive loving partner.  I felt desolate and less like myself than I ever had.

And one day it hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasnt the incredibly long winters. Although it’s not my favourite.  I missed the sun in winter but more strongly I missed the sunshine in my soul that I always loved sharing with the world around me. Being warm to others.

I missed smiling at strangers.

Not just that I missed desperately connecting with people on the very base level of perhaps chatting to an old lady on the bus. Cracking a joke with the barrista. Not meeting or connecting with anyone I wouldn’t normally meet outside my close social circle left me feeling more lonely than missing even my own family.

And isn’t that what humanity is Vienna? That connection collectively to other humans? Not just those you have known since grade school?

Humanity means to me the kindness of strangers. Chance meetings with other people. Smiling at someone who looks sad. Asking someone who is upset if they are ok.

Giving someone you dont know a complimet. Or receiving one. A compliment from a stranger can cheer up even the worst day. Not a compliment from someone who loves you enough to feel obligated to give one. But just a random person on the street telling you they like your outfit because they think its truly bitching. Or something as simple as being told to have a great day.

I know what you want to say Vienna in defence. I’ve been told by many. You can see that this is something sadly missing in your culture. But isnt this a better approach than the American school of over gregarious phony friendliness? Which the Vienese  have a big no time for. My reply is that no one is asking you to jump up and down on a couch Tom Cruise style. All I am asking from you is a tiny little smile.

So after this realisation I decided to not do as the Romans do. And do what the Australians do and just talk the ear off anyone. And just be myself. I am a super friendly and curious person. I am also self deprecating and I love to make people laugh. And what makes me feel the best about myself is connecting to everything & everone around me. Even the grumpiest of Vienese old ladies.

So I started smiling. Not caring what  faces reflected back at me. I started to say hello to people in my neighbourhood. I made it my personal mission to make the supermarket employees laugh. I danced jigs in grocery stores. I asked people that looked distraught if they were ok. I started patting every dog I met and asking the owners what their names are. I told mothers their babies were adorable. I played peek a boo with todddlers on the tram. And it made me happy.

I didnt feel the need to conform. I didnt want to contribute to propergate the fear of unknown people as something to be scared or stay away from.

And slowly I felt like myself.

If I could have one wish for this beautiful city it’s for all Vienna to smile on their brother. Talk to a stranger. Meet someone on the street and learn something you would have never learnt in your circle. Smile more. Be kind to people. Recognise that sometimes it’s not the love of those we already have that we need. It’s a greater love between humans that is the connection we all seek.

So I implore you Vienna open up your arms a little wider. Trust in people a little deeper. Nothing bad will happen except that just maybe you may end up feeling  a little happier and alot more connected.

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My Vienna

There is a million websites and blogs dedicated to Vienna culture and travel. I am not one of those. I attended a classical concert when I first arrived in Vienna expecting to be transported to an upper echelon of culture.  Turns out I have never been so fucking bored in my whole life. I ended up counting the tiles on the ceiling and squirming in my seat for 2 hours. Give me a rolling stones concert any day. Don’t get me wrong I like art and culture and a little history but as far as deep classical culture mine is a cafe type culture.

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So here is my personal top 5 things I like to do in Vienna

1.The Danube in summer.

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No surprise here that the beach bunny likes swimming in the Danube river. I call it the Austrian beach. It took a year or two to come around to swimming in the Danube. I imagined it rocky and full of dysentery. But it’s actually super clean. In summer the water is a perfect temperature and I am my most happy in the sun and water. Minus the sand here.

2. Strolling in the city

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Vienna is beautiful. I must give it beauty props. The architecture. The churches. The old buildings. The mix of old and new in the city. I love strolling, shopping and people watching in the city.  Going for a coffee. Window shopping on graben. And my favourite view is stephansplatz at night. It lights up so beautifully.

3.  The Therme

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Spa culture is just as popular as schnitzel here in Austria. There are so many huge spas everywhere. Swimming. Sauna. Infused steamrooms. Infrared. Massages, Aromatherapy rooms. Lounging beds. It’s a perfect way to survive winter. I love how dedicated the Austrians are to the art of relaxation in the spas here.  But don’t get me started on the nudity.

4. Nature Time

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I have never really been a city girl at heart. I like the beach and grew up in smaller towns. Vienna can be so congested and space here is at a minimum living in smaller apartments so I find myself needing nature time.  In spring, summer and fall are great times to get out and start exploring.

5. Prater

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Beer, pork and candy floss. I am sold.  It’s an Austrian Disneyland. Including dubious old rides that look a 100 years old. Prater can be way fun if you don’t overdo it. Rides cost a few dollars. There is something called langos which is deep-fried bread.  And the beers are humongous.

These are some of my favourite austrian pastimes. Along with smoking, drinking and eating.  Full of highbrow culture. But they make and keep me happy.

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Apartment Therapy Kitchen

Second to fashion – interior decorating is my second love. Just ask my pinterest. I literally can’t spend a length of time in a space without making it my own. Even as a child.  I have decorated every cubicle or office I have ever worked at. I redecorate hotel rooms i stay in. Before I even unpack I place my things in hotel rooms that make me happy. I have taken hideous art off hotel walls and hid them under hotel beds. I once rolled up an ugly hotel room rug and hid it in a closet. It’s a compulsion. I need to claim my space and fill it with things that I think have beauty and make me happy. My home tops that list of spaces and here is a glimpse of what makes me happy.

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My 80sqm flat in Vienna does not give me a lot of designing decorating space. Coming from Australia I am used to larger living quarters but Europe comes with a price and that price is space. Luckily we live in an altbau (an old building) And have beautifully old ceilings that make it fell larger. But I don’t actually mind small spaces. I find them womb like but I would die for an extra room or perhaps a balcony. Starting with my kitchen which also doubles as my office and art space. I do way more work or creating in this room then I do cooking.

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Since I work from home. The dining table is mostly used as a desk for myself. And I sit facing this window most of the time I spend at home. Which is actually a view into my next door neighbours bedroom. Thank god the blinds are always closed. The radiator is covered in magnets because my fridge is integrated into the cabinets. And a kitchen isn’t a kitchen without many magnets.

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So despite the awesome view I have decorated almost every inch of this space with things that inspire creativity and happiness for me.  I have art on every wall.  A pinboard of memories and images and tickets and postcards. I am NOT an indoor plant person but I love a branch with some tissue pom pom flowers. My nod to nature. I have my easel. Paints and paintbrushes. A chalkboard. And bunting! And other boring kitchen stuff that is functional.

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My kitchen has a vintage vibe its bright and colourful. And it inspires some of my best work sometimes. I would love to one day have a wall of metal that acts as a giant magnetic board and I can fill every inch of it. Also I would love some subway tile. An exposed brick wall and a chalkboard door.

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By Vienna standards we are lucky to have a larger type kitchen that can fit a dining table. There is no open plan living in this hundreds of year old building. But its nice to have the kitchen in a room of itself as it creates a separate space for me. As we have a one bedroom apartment. So this is the room I make the most magic in, apart from the sex I have in my bedroom. It’s a work in progress ever-changing and updating but mostly adding. The kitchen decorating that is – not the sex. I have gone way off topic.

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The kitchen table is from Butlers. The table is no longer available but it’s part of their cabbot cove collection and I have plans to add perhaps this kitchen buffet hutch soon to increase much-needed storage. And now I need a new table because I just saw this Damn it.