Gifts for the person who has everything?

Many of you may be wondering what to get the person who has everything and needs almost nothing this time of year.

Ever thought about the person in the opposite situation?

the Honor e-Card we sent her after completing the transactionMy mom asked for a donation made to Heifer International in her name this year, instead of acquiring more stuff (and those of you who know my parents know that they already have nice stuff and no shortage of it). I thought that was an excellent idea, so this year, instead of opera tickets or stuff for their various residences or gift certificates of any kind, we got her a llama. She won’t have to feed it, groom it or clean up after it, but someone else surely will be glad to.

I personally would much rather see something like this addressed to our department at work rather than the usual annual competition to see who can get the most (meaningless, yet ubiquitous) Christmas cards from our suppliers.

Here’s a blurb about the organization lifted directly from that e-Card that went out to my mom:

Heifer International is a nonprofit that alleviates hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation through gifts of food and income producing farm animals and training. These animals provide a source of protein, such as eggs and milk, for children and generate income for families through the sale of animal products. Since 1944 Heifer has helped over 4 million families in 125 countries become self-reliant. Each family “passes on the gift” by giving one or more of its animal’s offspring to another family in need.

I really like the renewability built in at multiple levels — recipients get a gift that keeps on giving to them and others and in turn. You don’t have to spend much at all. You can provide a family with a flock of geese for $20, or pool your resources with other donors by contributing toward the cost of a larger purchase like a heifer (hence the name), a goat, or a water buffalo. This feels good.

Salzburg & Vienna Recap

Well, there we have it; another great trip in the bag. Clicking on the links below to the restaurants, hotels, etc., will take you first to our reviews of them (read the reviews for our specific opinions), and from there you can get to their own websites where applicable.

Here’s how it went down:

2006-11-19

Took an early train to Salzburg from Regensburg via Landshut and managed to put our BahnCard 50 discount train passes to good use — we got 25% off of the travel from Salzburg to Vienna. Dropped our stuff at the hotel, where we got a very good deal on the rooms thanks to Sarah’s internet travel scouting skills. Biggest benefit to the hotel (besides the price): Sound of Music Channel (all hills alive, all the time). Had lunch at the K & K on Waagplatz, which was recommended to us by the staff at the hotel. Then we took the Sound of Music tour, where Sue was our guide again, just like when Gabe and Potter and I did our Salzburg trip back in November 2004. Although the weather was much better this time, I liked the smaller tour group better last time. For dinner: the Sternbräu (another Frommer’s suggestion).

2006-11-20

Arrived via the Austrian Rail (ÖBB) from Salzburg at the vacation apartment and had a nice introduction to the city from the landlord. Walked around a lot taking in the city by night. Actually, it was kind of “by night” pretty much the whole time because in rainy November, Vienna doesn’t seem to get much light, even during the day. We had dinner at Zu den Drei Hacken and it was a very nice way for us to welcome each other to Vienna.

2006-11-21

Tried to visit the Schatzkammer. Shopped a bit for an extra shirt for Cliff and some scarves to match Sarah’s new jacket.

Attended a concert at the Wiener Musikverein. Selections from Mozart, Haydn and Chausson, plus two encores (a Ravel and a Brahms) piece. Some were just strings, some were strings and piano. Very, very nice, and fairly cheap.

2006-11-22

We ate lunch at the Gulasch Museum. It’s not really a museum, but rather a restaurant specializing in the Hungarian part of the cuisine of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Really good.

We had our Lunch-Dessert at the Café Central. We had such a fantastic cup of coffee and dessert here by ourselves (Cliff & Sarah) that we knew we just had to bring Carolyn and Max here later. And we did exactly that, on our collective last day in Vienna.

The Schatzkammer proved extremely interesting — if a little steep at €8. You can kill 1.5 hours easily gazing at the treasures of the Holy Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire and ecclesiastical collections from these regions. Note well: Frommer’s Austria (11th Edition) lists their daily schedule as Tuesday through Sunday, this burned us. Their actual day of rest is Tuesday, not Monday.

At the Belvedere we checked out the 19th and 20th century collection and really liked some of the later stuff (including Klimt, Monet, and Kokoschka). You can read more about the history of the building on Wikipedia.

Later that day, knowing it was our last night in Vienna, we decided to each get a Schnitzel at the Schnitzelwirt Schmidt. Very good food, but beyond the quality, the quantity was astounding.

2006-11-23

Alas, this was the day we were to leave Vienna. However, the good news was that there was plenty of leftover schnitzel for lunches, which freed up a little room in the budget for Carolyn and Max to treat us at Café Central, where they got to try the wonderful coffee and we sampled other desserts. That Mohr im Hemd was still the winner in my book, but I was quite happy with my Marzipankartoffel (yellow cake inside a potato-shaped marzipan mold, dusted with chocolate powder to simulate the dirt). The other good news was the weather; we got lots of bright sunshine in the early afternoon. This permitted us to take the elevator up the top of one of the wings of the Stephansdom to enjoy the view and admire other famous buildings while killing time, waiting for our shuttle to the airport:

So there you have it — now we’re back in Regensburg, Carolyn and Max are back in Detroit, and everyone is getting into their routines…until the next trip. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

international justice and family surprises

I just found out my cousin is also overseas doing some important, meaningful, helpful work with the International Justice Mission. I knew she’d traveled a lot in college, but I didn’t know she got a MSW or was into that sort of thing at all, really. I think that’s very, very cool.

What kind of neat stuff have you learned about your family lately?

jet lag getting you down? it’s (still) getting me up.

We’ve been here in Michigan for 5 days down, visiting the peeps and prepping for Narg ‘n Carrie’s wedding (Holy Cats! Holy Crow! Holy…Matrimony! « Burgansburg), and except for yesterday, when I slept in to a decadent half-past-nine, I have not failed to wake before 6 all this week. Looks like Tammy & Matthias are having some trouble like that of their own.

Oh, there goes Carolyn’s snooze alarm again — sounds like the classical music radio station from Windsor.

We spent the first half of the trip mostly over on the East side staying with my parents (thanks guys!) and the recap so far looks like this:

  • Got in on Sunday
  • Had a nice dinner with my mom’s family
  • Got some shopping in at Costco with my dad on Monday, doing what he calls “sample surfing” (saves money on lunch)
  • Caught up with Heather at Shogun
  • Did my homework for Mom & Natalie’s class presentations
  • Got our shopping on at Lakeside, Great Lakes Crossing, and Somerset (everyday wear plus formalwear for Sarah for the ceremony
  • Tried out Grapeleaves at Mariam’s suggestion (she works with me in Regensburg) with Carolyn and Max
  • Checked out Carolyn’s house — it’s really cute and surprisingly roomy!
  • Caught up on wedding and general stuff with Narg and Carrie just last night and met Fluffernutter and got cool presents (mmm, Pop Tarts and books) and revisited my friends the Atchafalaya and maque choux at Howe’s Bayou
    Yet to come:

  • Haircut
  • Tux fitting
  • visit with Gram & Stevensons
  • a Cuban restaurant my parents are jazzed up about
  • a Burgan-LaMay breakfast
  • the rehearsal
  • the rehearsal dinner
  • the co-ed bachelor party
  • the wedding
  • a date with Sam and Andrea (might have to reschedule that…sorry dudes)?
  • Chow with more family (mmm, chicken & dumplings!)

So far, it’s been pretty low-stress and yet high-activity.

more travel — this time with Carolyn and Max!

Regensblog » Itinerary suggestions for Carolyn and Max Nov. 2006

That’s link to the travel ideas we’ve been growing with Carolyn and Max for their trip in November. If you click on the link, you’ll see some firm stuff and some experimental stuff, provided you know the password (it’s Carolyn’s street name). If you don’t know it, just ask me in an email and I’ll tell you.

Here’s the best part: 1 € flights from Vienna to Nuremberg on Air Berlin!

So yeah, we’ve just got back from a great trip to see family and friends in KC/Puerto Vallarta, had a swell time driving around several regions of France, and are now planning a trip to Austria with Carolyn and Max.

Peanut Brittle from on high…

Thank you, Mema and the Kuhnleins!!! We got the care package today, bursting with fudge, graham crackers, barbeque sauce and Mary’s Christmas Peanut BrittleTM. But for future reference, there’s no need to airmail stuff to us. I appreciate the thought, but save your money by shipping your care packages surface mail and come visit us instead!

Senior Discounts

My old man is now officially retired… following last night’s retirement party. But that’s not the last of the festivities. Oh no. That was just the work buddies sending him off. Next up is the family retirement party. So far, this retirement stuff is really working out for him.

Many, many thanks to everyone who came and especially to those who organized yesterday’s soiree — especially Kathy and Bill.

plaque.jpg     tv.jpg     guitar.jpg

Need to see/hear a verse of the Blue Oval Blues? Check this out: