An Italian love story

As you probably have realized by now my travel preferences usually take me to the Northern hemisphere like England, Ireland, the North Sea, USA, Canada … because usually the Mediterranean mentality is just not my thing … which distinguishes me clearly from probably 80% of the inhabitants I share this country with. Germans love, love, love Spain and the Balearic Islands. Together with cheap all-inclusive trips to Turkey and Greece. Which is one of the reasons I absolutely avoid going anywhere near there. Even though I’m sure there are very beautiful parts too … I’m just very reluctant to do what most people do and be a mainstream tourist.

Ah, now you wonder! What’s different about Italy? What Spain is for the Germans, Italy is for the Austrians. True, I guess! While the Germans flock to the Ballermann, Austrians head to the small Italian beach villages like Lignano, Bibione, Caorle … but this is not the Italy I’m talking about! My Italian Love Story is all about one of my favourite cities in the world: Venice! Famous for its canals, hundreds of bridges, beautiful palazzi … tourists and pigeons! Which both are, by far, the worst accessories Venice has to offer. Loud, obnoxious tourists trampling through the city day after day, snapping away with their cameras and smartphones, listening to their tour guides, standing in incredibly long lines to get into the Basilica di San Marco, overrun the Rialto Bridge-Piazza di San Marco route and nag about the ridiculously high prices of everything. And to make the horror complete, all those pigeons which either look like from a romantic movie or Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, depending on your mood and your personal experiences. Being crapped on from all directions or being lucky to escape unharmed. (My advice: Keep close to the buildings and beneath the arcades at all times! Let those other stupid tourists become the target of bird droppings, wondering how to get rid of the white stinking gunk again since public restrooms are basically non-existent!)

Doesn’t sound like a love story to you so far? It is! I love Venice! Some say Venice on rainy or foggy days depresses them, even makes them suicidal! That’s just nonsense! There’s nothing more beautiful than Venice in rain or fog! It’s so wonderfully mysterious you feel like Casanova himself, sneaking around the narrow “calli” (streets), escaping from bedroom windows and fleeing from the husband of one of his paramours. Or you’re transported back into the best film noir times! To sum it up, it’s as eerie as it’s beautiful, soothing … at least it is to me! I visited Venice at several stages in my life. As a kid with my parents, as a teenager on a school trip, as a young adult with friends for the carnival, alone and with one of my best friends. Summer as well as winter, spring and fall.

I love to wander around, away from the usual tourist treks, sit in small cafés or ristorantes and shop in even smaller Venetian shops or real Venetian products and not those ugly masks cheaply produced in China. I even found a genuine 20s theatre coat I couldn’t resist buying …

And of course, the “Café Florian”, the first and most expensive café on the Piazza di San Marco, is always on my schedule. I love the beautiful antique interior, the waiters with the white gloves, the feeling of the past … and I don’t mind paying 10€ minimum for a small pot of hot chocolate (real hot chocolate, by the way). And I really despise those tourists who basically know that having coffee there is more expensive than anywhere else and are still indignantly complaining. Which usually results in my desire to look at them from head to toe with disgust and tell them to just get out and not spoil my “Florian joy”.

Venice for me – especially in winter – is one of the few places on earth where I can really find inner peace. It’s not just the city and the delicious food (if you avoid the tourist traps), it’s also the real Venetians, those few who still live there and avoid the usual tourist places in summer, trying to get away at all or moving to another part of the city. That’s Venice to me! One of the loves of my life!

Mum …

IMG_1439Five years! It seems so long ago and on the other hand it seems as if it had happened yesterday. The last time I saw you. The day you decided you didn’t want to continue the treatments. The day you called your closest friends to visit you at the hospital to say goodbye. Because you were exhausted and we all had to accept that. With Dad gone much too early … he would have been so proud of you, Mum. Your strength, to hold on for me … and we all understood, as hard as it was. You had fought long enough, we granted you the peace, not to be in constant pain anymore.

I know we didn’t always have the best relationship. We were too different and you were overprotective, always wanting the best for me.

But no matter what, you were always there for me. Driving me to ballet lessons and wherever I needed to go in my elementary school days, picking me up from the train station in the middle of the night when I returned from my weekends in Styria during my high school years, being a stay-at-home mum which I treasured so much. Having a warm home cooked meal when I returned from school every day. The fun we always had as a family before you became sick and were in pain most of the time, struggling through the days, every step, every little thing an ordeal with you having to use those crutches because after three tries they couldn’t risk implanting another hip replacement. I don’t know how you did it after Dad died. We admired you so much for going on, day after day. And we all would have been lost without some close friends of yours and my aunt, your little sister, who – apart from my sister and cousin – is basically all I have left now.

I had a great childhood, Mum! So many happy memories. Like waiting in the kitchen, looking down on the street from the 8th floor, playing word games while waiting for Dad to return from one of his business trips. Or counting red cars and singing in the car on our occasional way to Styria. Or helping you make vanilla crescent cookies during Xmas time. Or …

It’s the little things I miss the most. Not having a home anymore. Not having a place to go. Not being spoilt and cooked for. Not being able to call to ask for advice. Not being hugged by you. No Christmas, no birthdays, no funny gifts. No one who puts some effort into anything. Like you and Dad did. I try to keep up our traditions, to keep the memories alive, but it’s so incredibly hard sometimes. Missing the fun we had at our holiday feasts in Styria and Carinthia, the warmth, the laughter, the silliness … and realizing that everyone is dead apart from my aunt, your sister.

I was lucky, Mum, to have parents like you and Dad, supporting me, making me feel loved all my life and that makes it even harder for me to not feel completely lost at times. Even though you set me free to start a new life, my life, as difficult as it was to move to another country and start new, alone, knowing no one.

Dad always said that one day we all will see each other again. And I imagine you all sitting around a huge table up there, enjoying a cold Gösser beer, laughing and partying the way we did, all of you looking healthy and not ravaged by the cancer that took nearly all of you, looking down on me, protecting me from beyond. And that’s giving me the strength to go on …

The Ori

IMG_1387

I bet once again you’re wondering what I’m up to this week! The Ori? Who or what the hell are the Ori? Why is she writing about the Ori?

I’m letting you be part of a big secret! Once upon a time – a few years back – I was a big “Stargate” fan. I started watching it because of Richard Dean Anderson, the hero of my teen years in the role of MacGyver. And he’s just become more handsome as he got older. And me too. So, I bought the first season … and now still possess the remaining 9 seasons. Hidden away in the depths of my Ikea Kallax shelf. (Hope you are not too disappointed with me now!)

In seasons 9 and 10 a new enemy appears on the stage: the Ori. Ascended beings feeding off the beliefs of their followers. The more believers, the more powerful they become. Their will is being executed by the “Priors” and those who do not give in are punished by, well, being wiped off all kinds of planets. (Just a little background information for you! Considering to stop reading now? But then you’ll miss the good parts! The really good parts … so bear with me for a few paragraphs longer!)

What first struck me was the incredible resemblance to every fanatical religion, including Christianity. How many unbelieving human beings were murdered in the course of history? And the sad thing? It’s still going on! Every single day! Where Westerners are condemned because they are not still stuck in the dark Middle Ages like others? I mean, how … (insert appropriate word) can one be to bomb himself to pieces, taking dozens of other lives with him? Do they really think our ascended being called God or Allah or whatever else you want to call the old man with the white beard wants us to MURDER each other? Well, if you look at history, “God” has always been a good excuse to commit the most horrible crimes. Killing in the name of God? How convenient! You shoot your neighbour because his dog pooped on your pristine front lawn for the hundredth time? “God told me!” Burning down hospitals because they do abortions? “God told me!” Kidnapping planes, cars, trucks and crashing them into buildings and people? “God told me!”

You wonder what my point is? And you wonder what is wrong with me? After all, faith is the highest treasure, isn’t it?

My point is: faith has got nothing to do with religion. Every church’s / sect’s main motivation is power and money. It always has been and always will be. My hope? See the light, people! Don’t you have better things to do than running to church every Sunday, praying, pretending to be holier than God … and then quarrelling with your neighbour because he cut back his hedge too much on your side!? I rest my case …

Well, I still wish you a great weekend and hope you’ll forgive me for my critical point of view.

Books? Books!

Yes, I do have a Kindle! Yes, I have an iPad! Yes, I also read downloaded books on both devices … nevertheless, I still do buy books, real books, paperbacks, hardcovers. Books for me are essential! And whenever I’m in the States or in England, I’m in heaven! Book stores with English books wherever I look.

When I started to read English books in earnest – nearly 20 years ago – Austrian book stores were equipped with one shelf max displaying English books – IF there even was a shelf. (At least in the medium sized 24000 people town – tiny compared to US standards – I used to go to university to!) And then I either already had the books, they were typical English school literature books like “1984”, “Animal Farm”, “Lord of the Flies” and “Catcher in the Rye” (not among my favourites anyway) or they simply just were of no interest to me.

So, in my severe pain all I could do was use the internet – remember, Kindles and iPads were in the distant future still – and order the books I wanted to have. Not such a bad thing either, but it’s definitely more fun to browse in actual shops and have them immediately instead of waiting for a few days!

Occasionally I went to Graz or Vienna and then was in 7th book lover heaven visiting the “English book store” or larger book stores with two shelves of English books.

Yeah, yeah, I know, you’re turning up the whites of your eyes right now, sighing, asking yourself, “Is there anything she doesn’t like to buy? Clothes, shoes, bags … and now books!”

You are so right! But hey, I’m a girl! What else do you expect? But in my defence, I DO love books very much! Does it surprise you that I bought and bought? Lugging home suitcases and backpacks of books from my London trips? Stacking them next to my bed until they were in danger of toppling over? Not putting them in one of the book cases, which, as my friends constantly pointed out, are designed particularly for books? Nooo, they absolutely couldn’t go onto a book shelf, at least not onto one with the other read ones. They haven’t earned their right yet to be displayed next to the others. I have to read them first before they are allowed there.

Times have changed, of course! Thanks to eReaders! I love my Kindle too, cause I don’t have to take at least ten books on vacation but have dozens stored on my Kindle and iPad. Book stores still tempt and draw me in like moths to the light, though. All those beautiful books, the smell of printed paper … just lovely! Thankfully, HE loves books as much as I do. Even though we completely differ in our tastes. While I’m more into mysteries, Regency era romances, romances and political conspiracy novels, he’s into the more serious stuff like history … Which makes our book discussions even more interesting. And I just love to have him pick a book for me to read, expanding my horizon. Totally and absolutely different but usually surprisingly well written, fascinating and even entertaining. Both of us always put much thought into which books to get each other, and so far neither of us has been disappointed. Am already looking forward to the next one HE will pick for me … I already have something in mind for him. Happy reading, you all!

Summertime

IMG_1103

I’m in trouble! Big trouble! My holidays are coming up and I still have no idea where I’ll spend it! Time is ticking and my inner selves have been quarrelling with each other for months now. Thinking about one location, discarding another …

The beach? The mountains? No, not the mountains! I’m not the adventurous kind of girl who likes camping with ants and mountain lions … or whatever wild creatures are out there! No, no, no mountains in summer! Mountains for me are only good for skiing – and après ski after that. I think I want to go shopping. There are lots of places I haven’t been yet. Rome should be a marvellous place to shop! You can’t deny that the Italians have more style than, well, basically anyone! Or Paris! Paris, the city of love, savoir vivre, dirt and dilapidated buildings. Berlin, I like Berlin, but it’s more like a long weekend getaway for me. And London … always love shopping in London!

And then there’s the other me, who tells me to relax for a change! Two weeks of doing nothing … really? Me? On a beach? With all the sun? For two whole weeks? I must be crazy to even contemplate it! So, my inner selves are debating, each of my selves throwing good and bad arguments around!

My point: Sun is dangerous! You can get sunburnt!

My other point: Just lather up with sunscreen! You can go shopping all the time! And shopping is dangerous too! You can strain your muscles by carrying all the shopping bags! Or get dehydrated! Or …

My point: Carrying the bags is my workout …

My other point: Forget the shopping! Just think of all the relaxation you get at the beach! You deserve some down time too! You need to recharge your batteries, M, badly! You know it!

My point: What am I supposed to do for two weeks with nothing to do? I need the city!

My other point: You don’t! You’ve got several dozens of unread books on your various devices! And didn’t you always want to give mystery writing a try?

My point: You know for that I would need to rent a British cottage as inspiration … and that’s not in the budget this summer! You can’t convince me!

My other point: You can’t convince me either!

Now, without consulting my non-existent regular psychiatrist to solve my problems I decide to do it the old-fashioned way! Writing a Pros and Cons list … boring, I know, but effective! I decide to compromise with myself! Because, sadly, my other self is absolutely right! I need at least a week this year to just lie somewhere on the beach, just reading, listening to music, writing, looking at the sea … with great food thrown in. Nothing else. No sightseeing, no shopping! Just the sea and me! (Of course, the Maldives would be perfect, or doing another transatlantic crossing, but this is out of the question this year as well!) I need to find my inner peace again. Still no clue where I will go, though! Guess, for once this will be a more spontaneous thing! And for my other desire? The shopping, cultural me? I promise myself to get to London for a long weekend as soon as possible!

Well, there you have my brilliant solution! May our vacations begin, for some sooner, for others later! Happy holidays, yours M

It’s BBQ time

Summer is finally here and everywhere you go on the weekends the smell of barbecued sausages and meat is following you. So, I’ll let you in on my thoughts about men and their favourite summer pastime: eating and barbecuing. Of course, they like to be cooked and served at for the rest of the year, but place them in front of a George Foreman or Weber grill and they get all emotional. With teary eyes they become the kings of the world, protecting their loved ones – their BBQ grills – from every danger. (As in any female that dares to come too close. After all we could damage the holy grail of BBQ kingdom and just spoil its karma!)

They are taking care of their grills the way we take care of our shoes, as if they were their most beloved treasures. Even men who sneer at the mere thought of cooking a hardboiled egg in the kitchen – evil, evil place – would never allow a lowly woman come into close vicinity of their grills. They are the MEN, the masters of the BBQ universe, God’s greatest creation! No woman can ever BBQ as well as they do!

Men seem to return to their most primal instincts at the mere mention of “BBQ”. Salivating at the thought of thick, raw T-Bone steaks, jacket potatoes and corn cobs, dripping with globs of butter – the only kind of vegetable allowed on their grill. Everything else is for “pussies”. (Excuse the language!)

Watching men proudly throwing hamburgers and steaks onto their luxurious BBQ grills, handling knives and forks like pros, I let my mind wander … travelling back in time, hundreds of thousands of years ago, when cavemen victoriously dragged their loot back to their caves, dissecting and expertly grilling them over the fire pit. While their gorgeous cavewomen were allowed to watch and provide the after dinner entertainment …

Every single man I know fits right into this picture. I see them in tight animal skins, with long and wild manes, chest hair you need a lawn mower for, thumping their chests victoriously, a wild dead animal thrown across their shoulders and the typical male behaviour we all know so well. The incredible thing is, it doesn’t matter where you are and what you grill on – an expensive BBQ, a fire pit or a simple coal grill on the balcony – if it’s got to do with fire and meat, you’ve got your man for the job! Ah, well, at least we only have to provide the side dishes, look pretty in a nice summer dress and for once enjoy being cooked for …

(Pics courtesy of one of my Austrian friends … am still deciding on the right grill for girly ME!)

40 is the new 30!?

Yeah right! And who is going to believe that? Well, I don’t feel like 40 – apart from those tiny moments in the morning when I am a little stiff getting up, then looking into the bathroom mirror – big mistake -, trying to face the day. To me turning 40 resulted in a full-blown midlife crisis which is still going on. (And I had always thought only men start to freak out at a certain age!) And who has to suffer? Mostly everyone around me … and I appreciate my colleagues and friends even more for putting up with me.

I’m behaving like all those midlife crisis men, thrown in with a healthy dose of female hormones, panicking in between that life is running away from me. My first act of rebellion at turning 40? Now, guess what I did! Well, breaking out of a loveless marriage was not an option … since I’m “happily” single. I did the next best thing! And every male out there will nod appreciatively now … I did some shopping. Some serious shopping. A whole lotta shopping. I bought a car. A cool car. Forget the obvious female choice like an Audi A1, BMW 1, Fiat 500, VW Golf … nope, I wouldn’t even look at those. I got a big car. A British car. A Range Rover Evoque. Even though I would have preferred the even bigger version I kept at least some of my senses and chose the baby of the Landrover SUV range. After all, one has to consider the parking in my favourite parking garages for my usual shopping trips … which are usually not made yet for the big ones. So, my Evoque is the right size. And it made me incredibly happy … forgetting about the big 4-0.

Until … but that’s another story and would definitely blow this whole post up and you would certainly stop reading.

So, where was I? Right! Turning 40 … and buying a cool car. You want to know about my other acts of rebellion? I went from good girl to bad girl. For the first time in my life. Attending my first rock concert (metal no less) was only the beginning. Going out until the early morning hours? Dancing the night away at a club? Yep, also did that! I can’t even remember the last time I did that … if ever. (It’s just perfect for forgetting my real age and act the way I feel. Definitely not more than 30.) Everything else I have to keep a secret or you might be truly … shocked. Or at least mildly surprised. Let me just tell you one thing: it’s better to experience things late than never! At the age of 40 (plus 1 since not too long ago), I’m still in the process of finding myself, or – let me rephrase it – finding back to myself, trying out new things and trying to get over my midlife crisis, because, let’s face it … life can be over in a heartbeat!

So, enjoy your lives … you definitely don’t look more than 39!

 

How to survive your 30th birthday

Get drunk, girls! That’s my simple advice! Get drunk!

Yes, I know, you’ve guessed right, this is one of my older articles … since I have to admit that my 30th is waaay in the past. But since I sincerely hope that you, my faithful readers, are of all ages … I hope you will enjoy this one too. Don’t worry, the 40th article will follow soon …

So, where was I? Right … back to the original article, which started with my brilliant advice to get drunk!

I spent my 30th birthday in London – and as you might already suspect, I did some serious shopping! And if I say “serious” I mean serious! I think I didn’t leave out one single shop on Oxford Street and was totally enamoured with those cute little shops at Covent Garden, where I spent a small fortune on Lush soaps and Crabtree & Evelyn products (all in sale, of course). I practically dragged my old depressed self from one shop to another, building up lots of muscle power to get my stuff back to my closet sized hotel room.

Three days of pure shopping pleasure! I only stopped to – as mentioned above – get drunk and stuff myself with chocolate cake on my big day! (You can’t survive your 30th birthday without chocolate cake! I know every single variation London’s grocery stores have to offer! Fudge, with walnuts, with raspberries, with cream … name it, I know it!)

Now you might think: Wow, London, that’s huge! How can you afford THAT?

Remember, dear readers, I come from Austria. Europe! A two-hour flight away from Queen Elizabeth’s empire! Thanks to cheap flights us Austrians fly to London like you Americans fly to Las Vegas for the weekend!

So, apart from saving up for my birthday trip, my relatives had been quite generous with money donations for my centenary birthday, so I didn’t feel all too bad throwing my money around to buy whatever caught my eyes. “Sale” signs particularly drew me in like bugs to the light … unable to resist those huge discounts. (Yeah, right!)

Oh, darn, I’m babbling again, am I not? I got totally distracted from what I had wanted to write originally: How to really survive your 30th birthday! (Apart from the getting drunk part!) Since London might not be an option for everyone, let me just say: ANY fun city will do! Just get away from your everyday life, with friends or alone, whatever makes you feel good! Always act as young as you feel, no matter whether you are 30, 40, 50 … in our hearts we’ll always be 25, right?

Gift guide for women

FullSizeRender 2

No, girls! I haven’t forgotten about you! I know first-hand that it’s not that easy for us either to find the perfect gifts for our boyfriends/husbands/dads/uncles and all the other males in our lives. Our advantage over the men? We listen, we like to go shopping and therefore know quite well what to get where. Nevertheless, I myself regularly wonder what in hell I should get for the men in my life. With the help of some of them – I call it research – I came up with a pretty cool list of what and what not to buy for our guys.

YES: Tickets – the ultimate gift ever for sports freaks! And I hardly know any guys who are not into sports at all. One way or another there will always be some kind of sports they will be interested in. Just watch out to pick something your dearly beloved is actually interested in. Ice dancing probably is not one of them … Your gains? A few hours to yourself every other week while he’s cheering for his favourite team, drinking beer and having hot dogs. Much better than him being at home, yelling at the TV and waking up the kids, don’t you think? And if he’s not into sports, concerts, monster truck shows or any other kind of manly man thing will do.

YES: BBQ – everything and anything! As long as it’s got to do with fire and meat, you’ll be fine! Do I really need to say more? Actually, that just gave me an idea for another posting, which you’ll get to read soon, I promise! But back to the BBQ related gifts! Your men will adore you for treasuring their manly BBQ skills by giving them a new motorized grill cleaning brush with dual revolving brass brushes, simple push-button control and ergonomic handle, the mini fridge they always dreamed of for keeping beer and steaks cool or the monstrous grill tool set to expertly dissect the huge slabs of meat!

YES: Since we’re already talking about food and partying, two essentials shouldn’t be missed: booze and cigars! Beer, wine, whisky, scotch, vodka, gin … you name it, they usually love it. Alcoholic beverages are probably the most common, boring and unimaginative gifts that ever roamed the gift giving universe. Every one of us has turned to this last resort at least once when we were absolutely clueless what to buy. (Or completely forgot! Since you probably always have the one or other bottle of wine at home, just in case you need a gift! You should be careful, though, to not give it back to the person you got it from! Would be a little embarrassing, don’t you think?) So, I advise you to just give alcohol when everything else fails. Cigars? A completely different matter! Even men who usually don’t smoke like to puff the one or other stoogie from time to time. It makes them feel gentlemanly and like in the good old times when men (were) still obeyed and spent their time in gentlemen’s clubs!

YES: Small toys for big boys! Basically everything you can get at Radio Shack, Virgin Megastore, Apple, Home Depot. Cell phones, Playstation, cameras, power tools, … just to be on the safe side, you better get the newest equipment possible. The way you know which shoe store has just received a new collection, they know which smartphone offers most gadgets no one ever needs, which computer has the best and fastest processor … it’s not easy, isn’t it, girls? But don’t worry! Shop assistants will be eager to help you out and sell you the most expensive stuff available …

YES: Big toys for big boys! Darn, big toys? Isn’t the latest Playstation worth 500 bucks big enough? How can it get any worse? Well, let me just say, the bigger the better! Has your guy always dreamed of digging a hole with an excavator? Drive on the steepest mountain roads in a Landrover? Or take part in a NASCAR race? Jump from helicopters or planes in skydiving gear? Dive with sharks? Drive a speedboat? Ride a bull at a rodeo? Hit scrap cars to a metal pulp? Take the Harley on a trip through the desert? Flying lessons? Bungee jumping? Deep sea fishing? Paintball afternoon? Survival training on a remote island? As long as it’s BIG, ADVENTUROUS and DESTRUCTABLE you can’t go wrong! You’re a little short on money? No problem! Just drop him off in the woods with a Rambo style machete, some water and a cereal bar and let him find his way home.

YES: Clothes! Probably the section you’re most comfortable with, since you basically spend most of your time in department stores and boutiques anyway. And since men tend to leave the clothes shopping to us, being incredibly bored to have to it themselves, it’s definitely an advantage for us. No more stupid T-Shorts with silly prints like “It takes ball to golf the way I do” or “You’ve been a bad girl, now go to my room”. Or colourful shirts that should have been shredded in the 70s. Not to mention suits he shouldn’t be caught dead in. They will be well dressed at all times from now on!

YES: In case you want to be on the safe – and cheap – side: there are always “neutral” gifts like shower gel and after shave gift sets, calendars for the coming year, picture books – never ever get them a REAL book where they have to actually READ with NO pictures to look at (unless you’re lucky enough to have caught a book connoisseur) – or one year subscriptions for their favourite computer/car/motorcycle magazine … and of course there’s also “Playboy” which is only of interest because of their articles … (yeah, right!)

So, let’s take a deep breath and be honest for a moment! Since I’m pretty sure you’ve made the big mistake of giving your men a gift from one of the following categories:

  • Cosmetics: Big NO! Unless your man specifically requests it, you should NEVER EVER give him facial creams, body lotions, bubble baths, concealers or any other cosmetics stuff that is not shower gel, after shave or deodorant. Everything else is considered “girly-like” and not manly. Even though you constantly wonder why your newly bought expensive and hydrating night cream seems to be vanishing in high speed. Of course, they would never admit they’re using your lotion, so you better let them believe you have no idea what they are doing. And not embarrass and annoy them by actually buying them their own facial cream. (Little advice: next time you just refill the old jar with a cheap drugstore version and hide your expensive cream! You will be saving tons of money!) The same goes for bubble baths which they officially consider a waste of time. (Unless there’s naked you involved! They won’t care if they smell like roses and gardenias afterwards!)
  • Comic hero clothes: Oh no, you didn’t! Please, tell me you didn’t buy that ugly Mickey Mouse tie! Or the adult Superman PJs! Or the Simpsons socks! Or the Sponge Bob T-Shirt! Or the Santa and reindeer boxers! Pretty please, tell me that’s not true! What might look nice and cute on kids NEVER EVER looks nice and cute on full grown men! It doesn’t matter whether you can see it or not – as in underwear and socks. It’s such a turn off I can’t even express my disgust. There might be men out there who like these kinds of clothing items – after all they’re still kids at heart – but don’t encourage them to actually wear those hideous garments. And even though Superman boxers or a silly T are scraping the outer border of taste, a snowman / Santa Clause / reindeer pullover with glitzy applications can not only ruin your holidays but also your relationship!
  • Books: Well, as mentioned, this is a little tricky and totally depends on your man! There are still men out there who do like to read! For all the others … waste of money and time! Should you be of the opinion that surely there must be something he has to be interested in … at least buy and exciting thriller and hope for the best. Murder, mayhem, spies and conspiracies are at least something they can relate to.
  • Flowers: Come on! Flowers? Men don’t even possess vases, so what are they supposed to do with flowers? Getting slightly embarrassed because you just might have given them a hint they are never thoughtful enough to give YOU flowers? Crisis ahead, I tell you! You want to risk your relationship or what? Forget the flowers! Unless you are lying on bed – naked again, in sexy lingerie or just in hold-ups – on a bed of red rose petals, they couldn’t care less about flowers!
  • Tickets: Ballet, theatre, art exhibition, classical concert! Well, thinking of the reaction of my male colleagues who look at me weirdly when I tell them about the latest museum I went to … that usually says everything! How lucky I am to have a man in my life who actually likes art, classic and theatre. The common guy, not so much! And ballet is absolutely the worst of all! Men just cringe at the imagination of men in tights jumping around gracefully on stage, with basically everything on display! So, unless the concert is of the heavy metal hard rock kind, the art exhibition about the original Superman, Batman and Spies vs Spies drawings, the theatre play something light and funny (forget dramas and literary pieces) … you might actually give him something he likes. But don’t count on it …

So, I hope, I’ve given you enough ideas to make the men in your life happy. Sorry, sorry, sorry for this loooong post! Have a great weekend!

Gift guide for men

Are you scared to death because it’s one of those times again and you don’t know what to buy for the women in your life? Does your wife always look at you expectantly, hoping this year you’ll have finally got something she likes? Does your mother smile bravely about shawl No 29 you had your secretary buy for her? Guys, help is on the way! From now on your troubles are over! Just follow my instructions and you’ll have a happy girl on your hands because you got her the perfect gift. And since my own birthday is coming up … well, you get my motivation don’t you?

First of all, start listening to your wife! Really listen! Women – knowing you’re all too often lost and clueless when it comes to presents – drop hints like crazy. Subtle or less subtle. (Depending on your husband material!)

Should your lover/wife/daughter/sister/mother not give you hints – which I seriously doubt – keep reading for a few leads.

  • Jewellery! Always on top of every girl’s hit list! You can never be wrong with jewellery, no matter which age … no, wait, actually, it’s not that easy! There’s always the danger of choosing the wrong pieces. What your wife would consider the ugliest jewellery on earth your sister might totally love. The solution? A) You take your sister with you when you want to purchase your wife’s gift and vice versa. She will know what your wife likes, even though it’s not her style. Women just know such things! B) You’re observant enough to see which kind of jewellery your wife is wearing. Worried about not getting it right anyway? Guys, be a little resourceful! Just borrow one item for references, make puppy eyes to the shop assistant and you are home free.
  • Lingerie! A gift for you as much as her! But please, only to be given in private! Or do you really want to ruin her day by presenting her with lacy nothings in front of the whole family? Bad idea, very bad idea! Are you one of those guys who happily looks through your wife’s / girlfriend’s potential future lingerie and then tell the shop assistant when asked about the bra size, “A handful!”? Let me ask YOU this: how would you measure a handful in logical, mathematical terms? I know you like to use the last day possible to get all your shopping done but it’ll be much easier and quicker with a little preparation. As in risking a secret peek into her closet to take care of the size matter. There’s nothing more annoying for us girls than having to go back to the shop to return it because it won’t fit. (And expensive for you and your credit card since we tend to find a couple of other items we absolutely need! Okay, WANT!!!)
  • DVDs, Amazon Prime, subscription of her favourite series …! Does your girl like to watch all those girly TV series and shows? Get her the latest season and you’ll have endless days to yourself cause she’ll be glued to her TV set to watch all those episodes she missed because of you hogging the remote control to watch dull football games on exactly those days HER series was on …
  • Cosmetics and perfumes! Basically everything! From shower gel to body lotions, make-up sets, the 100$ facial cream she’s always wanted and never buys for herself, the latest perfume from ____________ (insert brand) … yeah, I know, it can’t be that easy, can it? And once again you’re absolutely right! She won’t be very thrilled if you buy her the same scent you a) bought her last year and never wears or b) she already has or c) she totally hates because the smell makes her sick. How to get it right then? Don’t despair, guys! Ask for advice at the counter! Again, know at least one perfume your better half likes and your shop assistant will sell you something similar! In the case of buying something for the other women in your family … either beg your better half to do it or be on the safe side and just get a bath gift set!
  • A day at the spa! Or at least a visit! Depending on the kind of money you want to spend! Or can! Even though you might think spas are a total waste of time, since a simple massage surely will do the trick – after all one can have peelings and baths at home just as well -, girls just love to be pampered and relax from all the work, housework and kid raising.
  • Books! Being a book lover myself books are nearly on top of my list! So, you think, “Boy, that’s easy! I’ll just go to the closest book store and get a book! About cooking sounds perfect! That way I’ll profit too!” Well, I’m afraid, you’re wrong! Again! Not that easy either! Wondering what you should do in case you decide to get a book and don’t know – shame on you, what in hell are you even talking about at home? – what genres she likes? Buy one of the latest bestsellers – maybe not the psycho serial killer thing, but a romance or mystery. Are you wondering why you should even bother getting a real book in times of Kindle, Nook, iPad? Putting some thought into buying a real book is much more romantic than just getting an Amazon gift card … add a personal inscription and you will be her hero!
  • Subscriptions! Another gift you don’t have to think about too much! Women love magazines, all kinds of magazines! And it doesn’t matter whether it’s to download onto her iPad or sent by old-fashioned mail. Gossip, fashion, interior decoration! (And if you are lucky your girl will also like MAD Magazine, so you get to read it too and save on getting a subscription for yourself!) Just pick something and voilà! Apart from magazines there are plenty of other subscription choices: flowers for a year, chocolates, cheese, tea, coffee, … the list is endless!
  • Vacations! Who doesn’t like a vacation? Even if it’s just for the weekend! Either for the both of you, the whole family or you share your idea with your wife’s best friend’s partner to send them away on a short wellness trip! (Like on Superbowl weekend, do I need to say more?)
  • And at last: gift certificates! A very practical and last resort option! Never to be given as a single present! Women need the feeling you at least put some thought into your gift for her. So, add one of the above mentioned! The beauty of gift certificates? SHE can buy what SHE wants! Avoid places like Home Depot, Restoration Hardware, B&Q, Radio Shack, Conrad Electronic and Apple, though! Those are YOUR favourite haunts, not hers! You can never go wrong with places like Body Shop, Sephora, Barnes&Noble, Whittard’s, Borders, Neiman Marcus, Marks&Spencer, Victoria’s Secret, Ann Summers, …

Well, my dear guys! I hope from now on your female companions won’t complain about your insensitivity. Happy shopping!