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

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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!

The life of an Oreo

The life of an Oreo is pretty short lived. As the World’s Number One biscuit it quickly becomes of lifesaving importance for my cookie obsessed self. Chocolate flavoured sandwich biscuits filled with a brilliantly white milk cream … who can resist such a temptation!? Certainly not me, no, Sir! Anywhere a package in the near vicinity? I can smell it! Going on the search like a bloodhound, snagging the signature blue package, tearing it open and devouring the smell of … well, Oreos!

I had my first encounter with this American institution on my first trip to Canada in my early twenties … yes, that was a while ago. Don’t rub it in that I’m already … nope, not going there …

Needless to say that I got hooked immediately and my addiction let me dread the return to my home country.

Back in Austria I fell into a deep depression, yearning for all those cookies I had to leave behind – and please remember, in those days online shopping was still something quite futuristic. And then, a few months later I happily freaked out in the middle of a grocery store in my home town, when I discovered them displayed prominently in the shelves. Those lovely blue packages smiling at me, gleaming in all their American cookie beautiness … I could hardly believe my eyes! My torture was finally over! Oreos in Austria!

End of story, you think? Wrong! Because … a few months later … gone! All of a sudden! Gone! GONE! Just like that! GONE! I was shocked, seriously shocked and was wondering whether I had dreamed those past blissful Oreo months … oh, had I only known! I would have at least stocked up on them! But nooooo! I was not prepared for this AT ALL! I asked myself: Why, oh why? Why were they gone? Didn’t my fellow Austrians treasure them enough? Had I been the only one buying Oreos?

Slowly I got used to my “life after Oreos”. I had to live without them, but they were never forgotten.

Thankfully those dark days have passed and they are available here as well – and not only at the exclusive delicacy grocery store “Meindl am Graben” in Vienna’s most expensive inner city district. I’m in heaven back again, even though I miss the terrific assortment one can get in the States, like Regular Oreos, Golden Oreos, Oreo Cookie Bars, Reduced Fat Oreos, Chocolate Cream Oreos, Double Stuffed Oreos, Mint and Cream Oreos, Fudge Oreos, Oreo Cereal … and the ultimate Oreo delights: Oreo ice cream and Oreo cream cheese pie!

Oh, gotta go! I can hear my Oreos shouting for me!