Pages

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Place Called Bad Ischl


            By the time you read this, I’ll be winding my way across Austria with my in-laws. They came for a visit and decided that we needed to do a car tour of the country. This will be very fun and I’ll have lots of stories to tell but right now, I’m going to talk about one of our first trips.
            One of my favorite places in Austria that we have visited is called Bad Ischl. It is west of us, toward the Alps and near Salzburg. Our first year here, we were lucky enough to visit it as we went for my husband’s birthday. The very next year, we went again for a short visit in the summer when we had friends visiting. And believe it or not, we will be visiting it again on this trip.
            The place is reknown for where the last emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph I, decided he wanted his cousin, Duchess Elizabeth of Bavaria to become his bride. Kaiservilla is where the proposal was delivered and much to everyone’s surprise, it was accepted. Duchess Elizabeth became Empress Elizabeth and was commonly known as Sisi, the reluctant empress. Yet, this remained one of the couples favorite places.
            What struck me was the beauty of the area as it was far from the Austrian court at the time and a great respite from those duties. It is still a respite in the modern era as I felt more relaxed than anywhere else in the country. We had lazy days and explored the whole small town on foot as we’d arrived by train.
            Just look at some of the wonderful things we saw!

            
At the top of the hill in Kaiservilla

Interesting gate at Kaiservilla

The grounds at the back of Kaiservilla

The back of Kaiservilla

View of Kaiservilla and Bad Ischl

One of the wings on Kaiservilla

A statue on the grounds at Kaiservilla


            Hope you enjoyed this look at another wonderful place in Austria! See you later this month!

            Lynn

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Reflections on Travel and Other Things

I love to travel. I'd almost forgotten how much until I received a follow on Twitter from someone who spends her life traveling and writing about it. My, how I envy this woman!

On her blog, she had a story about Vienna, Austria, focusing on restaurants, places to visit, things to see. It's been a few years since I last visited Vienna. When I first saw the city years ago, I had the most acute sensation of deja vu. I felt at home. I knew instinctively where things were.

On my last visit there, I had no fear of walking the streets alone. I got to hear the Boys Choir. I loved every moment spent in the city.

Do you have a special place you long to visit? Do you know a spot that is dear to your heart? Is it close to home, like Williamsburg?

"Williamsburg Gardens" - pastel painting ©Mary Montague Sikes
On Saturday, May 4, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., I'm teaching a pastel workshop at This Century Art Gallery Education Center.

This is for artists of all levels from beginner to advanced. Pastels are one of my favorite art tools. If you are in this area, I would love to show you the joy of working with them!

Mary Montague Sikes

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cooking Show Competitions

I admit, I’m addicted to cooking show competitions. Very strange since:

A – I don’t like to cook.
B – I’m nearly always on a diet and rarely get to eat anything that doesn’t taste like cardboard.
C – I can’t imagine any reason to make a meal of ingredients like black chicken, day-old anchovies, quince paste and leftover root beer.
D – Even the best prepared meals are followed by “doing the dishes.”
My favorite cook -starring show is Top Chef. I truly wish I could explain the appeal. If you haven’t seen the show, snooty chefs compete to make dishes analyzed by even snootier judges. At least one contestant is eliminated every week until only one (the Top Chef) remains. The producers often make these poor chefs perform in extreme conditions. On one episode, contestants had to catch the fish before they could make the meal. My ex was an excellent fisherman. You think I want to eat his food or Bobby Flay’s?
Chopped is a close-second on fav’s list. You have to admit, the producers of this show must be geniuses. Either that, or there’s some type of subliminal mind control occurring. Why else would we watch a show that requires contestants to combine four ingredients we’d never eat and finish a dish in less time than it takes to cook a microwaved baked potato? 

On one episode, contestants had to create an entrĂ©e from cactus pear, squab, frozen lima beans, and far far (Yes, far far is an actual food—an Indian snack made from potato starch and tinted sago. Don’t ask me what sago is). If that wasn’t bad enough, the dessert round ingredients included corn flakes, chili sauce, golden raspberries and labne (some kind of Greek yogurt—probably high on the gross factor).
Iron Chef is also a fav. I’m not sure why. Maybe because Bobby Flay frequently makes an appearance on the show. At least the food looks like it might actually taste good.

What about you? Are you hooked too?

 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Street Meditation




      take 3 deep slow breaths...

     and walk in any direction...

     and in front of you is a deserted street...

     the grass and weeds are growing through the cracks in the tarmac...

     and the wind  is blowing a broken window frame back and forth on its hinges...

     you can hear the creaking of the hinges  in the eerie silence...

     as you look around you become aware that there are hundreds of people silently standing and staring at you....

     their faces are devoid of all expression...

     and their clothes are torn and grey...

     their hair is matted and their faces are weathered and worn...

     the children cling to their mothers skirts, the eye round in amazement, their finger in the mouth...

     you smile at all these people...

     and they all move back...

     you feel bewildered by the fear you sense is filling the air...

     and wonder what you can do for the poor folk...

     as you try to work out what to do for them....

     go inside of yourself...

     and feel your feelings...

     hear your thoughts....

     and ask yourself the questions...

     and listen to the answers....

     take as long as you feel you need to delve deep within yourself for the answers you are seeking....

     and as you begin to find what you are seeking....

     you feel the warmth of the sun on your face...

     and you turn once more to the people standing silently, patiently, waiting for your next move.....

     as you look round you see...

     they are all smiling at you...

     no longer are their faces devoid of expression...

     as you smile back at them they come towards you...

     with their hands held out in greeting....

     the children let go of their mothers skirts and come and sit at your feet...

     touching your feet and the hem of your trousers/skirt...

     the women hug you and the men clap you on the shoulder...

     together you all go towards a communal camp fire you had not noticed earlier...

     and there the tables are full of food and drink...

     and you are invited to share with them...

     together you celebrate for as long as you want to....

     and when you are ready ...

     you take your leave of these wonderful people...

     secure in the knowledge...

     that by caring for and showing your concern and desire to help these folk...

     you brought healing to them...

     and by giving your healing, enabled them...

     to find and fend for themselves...

     and in return to learn to care and be concerned for others...

     know you can go back inside yourself if you want to help anyone one, situation, animal, or event...

     and just by being and doing...

     you will...

     now when you are ready...

     walk in any direction....

     and take 3 deep slow breaths...

     and in your own time...

     come back to the present and the room you are in now.

     Namaste

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Zumba: Fun Fitness or Knee-Blasting Torture

Zumba is my latest delusion. Yep, that’s the word I meant to use. You see, I have to trick myself into fitness. I’ve never been a person who likes to workout, nor do I strive for the endorphin rush.  Give me some foot-tapping music and let me think I’m having fun and I’m there.

Promoters of Zumba define the workout as “a Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party.” And that definition is accurate. To a point.
The “Latin-inspired” description of Zumba is definitely accurate. If you’ve ever done any of the Latin dances, you’ll find the so-called “easy” steps a bit, well, easier.  That said, many Zumba instructors also incorporate a bit of Bollywood influence and a lot of Afro-Cuban booty-shaking.

“Calorie-burning” can also be accurately applied to Zumba—assuming you actually do it. I burn calories for approximately twenty-seven minutes. Then I start wheezing and panting. I keep telling myself huffing and puffing burns fat, too.
“Fitness-party—hmmm. Isn’t that an oxymoron? For my sake, let’s just call it a party (see the delusion reference in paragraph one). Again, the party lasts approximately twenty-seven minutes, then it turns into the dinner party with your in-laws (a.k.a. workout from hell).

Joking aside, Zumba is a good way for a woman to get into shape. Just protect those knees with good shoes . The serious enthusiast will buy dance sneakers, but as long as your cross-trainers absorb impact, you’ll be fine.
On caveat. Ignore that skinny, twenty-something hot shot who’s hips don’t seem connected to the rest of her body. At some point in the very near future, she’ll only last twenty-seven minutes, too.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Beauty of Schonnbrunn

First, let me apologize to everyone for missing my last post. I am so, so sorry. I am on vacation in the States and visiting family. I really must say that I am missing Vienna more than I thought. I miss my husband, my apartment and of course, pup Harry. Still, I love being with my kids and grandkids but my house is way too small to keep us all comfortably.

Now I’m pulling something from my archives that I wrote my very first summer in Vienna. That has now happened nearly two years ago. Next month, I’ll be talking about our trip around Austria as we’re doing some car touring with my in-laws who are coming to visit.

Here’s what I had to say about one of the most beautiful palaces in the world…Schonbrunn…on my first visit.

One of the things I haven’t done much of so far since moving here to Vienna is visit museums or palaces. Not that I don’t want to, I really do, it’s just that I’m living still in a totally male dominated world that wants to do whatever they want. Sigh. I want to have my fair share and was surprised when they agreed to go to Schonbrunn Palace.

This place is huge with a zoo, a labyrinth and a variety of other things normal people can only dream about. The palace was built by Empress Mary Theresa in the late 1700s as a home for her family. She had eight or so kids and wanted a more roomier place. Never mind that she had Belevdere as one of her country estates, she wanted something more grand to accommodate her brood and to provide for their every need. 

And grand it is. This is one of those places it is better shown than told. When you arrive you enter through the front gate and go directly into the courtyard which is immense with a circular stair leading up to the main entrance. Here is one of the two fountains located there. The low buildings are where all the guards were quartered as well as some of the servants.



This courtyard is huge and could easily provide parking for hundreds of carriages in its day. Now, the palace itself is huge and really made me wonder just how would anyone use all one-hundred-eighty rooms of the place. True, some were used as personal quarters, some were used for balls and other entertainment, and there were those places used strictly for affairs of the state. Still, there were more rooms than anyone had a right to have much less use. Here’s a picture of it from the back, so you can see the immensity of the place.



One thing to remember is that this was in the country when the palace was built. As far as the eye could see was green, whether forest or meadow, I don’t know but I do know there were no buildings whatsoever except for maybe the church. Since this place has been here since the late 1700s, the church might be that old as well even though does have some sort of chapel inside as do all the palaces. As each ruler thought they were ruling by divine right, they made sure they kept God close at hand.

While it’s impressive, it’s in no way, the best the place has to offer. One of my favorite places is the fountain that was built in the back of the gardens. In the picture above, it would be just before the trees closet as the path up is a long, winding, sometimes steep path. I walked it very, very slow and will show you in another picture. Now, we’ll look at the fountain.



See...isn’t that impressive? The first time I ever saw it, it was iced over and the water wasn’t running. My husband assured me it was beautiful when the water was on and he’s correct. It is a lovely fountain and I’m sure happy that more than just royalty can enjoy it now.

Thanks for spending part of your day reading about this wonderful palace. Hope you enjoyed…see you next month!

Lynn

Monday, April 1, 2013

Zumba Classes - Have You Tried Them?

Reading the previous post about all those dances started me thinking. Have you tried Zumba classes? I have. The first couple of classes I took, I hated because the instructors gave so few cues it was impossible to follow anything. Then I discovered Indi at Gloucester Wellness and Fitness Center. I loved her classes, and although I knew too little to follow the steps at first, I kept coming to class and have learned the dances--at least enough to follow. If you haven't tried Zumba, you'll discover it's fun and a great cardio workout!

The A to Z Challenge starts today and it goes for the entire month of April except for Sundays. I'm trying a real challenge this month. I'm doing a painting a day, using the letter for the day to determine my subject, mostly animals and flowers. My painting for today is an alligator because of the Jefferson Hotel and all the alligators that once lived in the lobby. Hope you will check it out.

--Mary Montague Sikes