Modern Travel Guides for Stylish Travelers

You may think you don’t need actual travel guides anymore, since you can get just about anything you need from a quick search on Google or Pinterest. But these modern travel guides are so beautiful and stylish, you may just change your mind!

Beyond just looking good, they are also filled with great tips on the best places to go and things to do in some of the coolest cities in the world.

Whether you like to have travel books around for inspiration, or you are planning a specific upcoming trip, you are sure to find at least a few you will want to have on your bookshelf.

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10 fun facts (that you might not know) about Vienna, Austria

The more time I spend in Vienna, the more I fall in love with this magical city. One of my favorite parts about living here is that I learn something new about Vienna nearly every day. Interesting tidbits about history, food, culture and more.

Here are 10 of my favorite fun facts about Vienna, Austria:

1. The Wine Capital

Vienna is the only capital city in the world to produce significant quantities of wine within its city limits. Home to over 1,700 acres of vineyards and 320 vintners, the Viennese love their wine. While the most popular are white wine varieties such as Grüner Veltliner, Rheinriesling and Weißburgunder, you can also find some nice reds.

The best way to enjoy the local Viennese wine is in a heuriger (wine tavern), or by walking along Vienna’s Wine Trail.

2. The City of Music

Vienna is often called The City of Music, or the World’s Capital of Music, as more famous composers have lived here than in any other city in the world. And 4 of the top 10 classical composers in history worked in Vienna between 1750 and 1825. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert, Johann Straus and Johannes Brahms are just a few who called Vienna home.

While in Vienna, you can visit the former apartments of many of these famous musicians, which have been turned into museums. And don’t miss The House of Music. Here you can “discover the fascinating world of sound and Viennese music in an interactive, playful way”.

3. The City of Dreams

Vienna is also called the city of dreams. Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, lived and worked in Vienna for much of his career. During this time, he had a significant impact on the city, causing it to be known as the birthplace of psychotherapy.

The Sigmund Freud Museum is housed in the apartment where he lived and worked for nearly 50 years, until he was forced to flee Austria after the Anschluss.

4. The Imperial Menagerie

The Vienna Zoo, or Tiergarten Schönbrunn, is the world’s oldest and only baroque zoo. Built in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace in 1752, the zoo was once the private menagerie of Emporer Franz Stephen and Empress Maria Theresa.

Tiergarten Schönbrunn now boasts over 700 different animal species and was voted the best zoo in Europe. Plus, with its original baroque architechture, it is also considered the world’s most beautiful zoo.

5. Austrian Croissants

The famous French pastry actually has Viennese origins. They are based on the Austrian kipferl, which means crescent in German. Bakers in Vienna made kipferl to commemorate Austria’s victory over the Ottoman Turks in 1683, their shape based on the crescents seen on the uniform of the enemy.

In 1770, when Maria Antoinette of Austria married King Louis XVI of France, she introduced her favorite pastry to France. The French made a few changes, and called it a croissant.

6. The Wiener Riesenrad

The Wiener Riesenrad, constructed in 1897, is the oldest still operating ferris wheel in the world. Located in the Wurstelprater amusement park, this is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions. For many, it is also a symbol of the city. It is perhaps most famous for its part in the 1949 film The Third Man, considered one of the greatest films of all time.

7. PEZing Allowed

Pez, the fun little tablet candies that we all know and love, were invented in Vienna in 1927. The name Pez is an abbreviation on the German word “pfefferminz”, meaning peppermint. Because the original PEZ candies only came in that one flavor! The dispenser was invented in 1949, designed to look like a lighter. Smoking was prohibited at that time, so the Pez slogan was “No Smoking – PEZing Allowed.”

8. The Snow Globe

The snow globe was also invented in Vienna. In 1900, Erwin Perzy, a fine instruments mechanic, was trying to improve the brightness of lightbulbs for a surgical lamp. But instead, he accidentally invented a snow globe. This first snow globe featured The Basilica of Mariazell, and was the catalyst for Perzy and his brother to open The Original Vienna Snow Globe shop.

Over 100 years later, they are still making traditional snow globes right in Vienna, all hand painted and manually assembled.

9. A City Divided

Like Berlin, Vienna was also divided into four parts after WWII, and occupied by the United States, France, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union. The first district of Vienna, the inner city, was administered by all 4 powers. The occupation, and division, of Vienna ended in 1955 with the Austrian State Treaty.

10. Vienna – The Best City in the World

Vienna has been voted the world’s most livable city for the last 7 years in a row. Taking into account such factors as political, social and economic climate, medical care, education, recreational opportunities, environmental conditions, infrastructural conditions, Vienna consistently comes out on top!

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2016 reader survey

Hellllllo friends!

Many of you have noticed that there have been some changes going on around here lately. (Thank you for all the nice emails!) I have been publishing new content much more regularly, added in a lot more travel, and slowly but surely I’ve been giving the site a little facelift.

And now I need your help!

I want to make sure that I am giving you more of what you want, so I am sharing my first annual reader survey. It will only take a few minutes to fill out, but will help me immensely in planning what is coming next. And at the end, there is a place for you to ask me anything – it could be about travel, expat life, kids, DIY, etc. I will be sharing the answers to your questions, and the results of the survey in a couple of weeks.

Thank you so much for taking the time to fill out the survey, and for your continued support of this little blog ‘o mine.

Take the reader survey now!

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Easy DIY dreamcatcher tutorial - fun to make, easy to customize, and a great gift idea

Dreamcatchers originated with the Native Americans, became popular with the hippies of the 1960’s and 1970’s, and are now loved by just about everyone everywhere.

Have you heard the story behind the dreamcatchers?

According to Ojibwe legend, there was a spider woman known as Asibikaashi, who took care of all the children on the land. But as the Ojibwe nation expanded, Asibikaashi wasn’t able to reach all of the children every night. So the mothers and grandmothers crafted dreamcatchers for the children, using willow hoops, natural twine, and feathers. They would then hang the dreamcatchers above the beds of babies and children. These dreamcatchers were thought to filter out the bad dreams, only allowing the good dreams to pass through and reach the minds of the children. When the sun rises in the morning, the bad dreams disappear.

Cute, right?

So when my daughter started getting bad dreams at night, we made her a little DIY dreamcatcher to help her sleep. She is convinced it works, and only has bad dreams when she is sleeping in a different bed without her dreamcatcher. (We may have to make a travel dreamcatcher soon!) She loves hers so much, that we recently made another one for her little sister’s upcoming birthday.

How to Make a DIY Dreamcatcher

These DIY dreamcatchers are quite easy to make, but difficult to explain. The photos will likely help you much more than the written instructions. I have made 4 of these little dreamcatchers, and every one of them has turned out significantly different. I love them all, but couldn’t exactly replicate one if I tried. So embrace the personality of your own little DIY dreamcatcher.

Easy DIY dreamcatcher tutorial - fun to make, easy to customize, and a great gift idea

You Will Need:

A note on choosing gemstones: For this DIY dreamcatcher I chose to use Amazonite, because they are thought to dispel negative feelings, aggravation, worries and fears, and soothe and calm the mind. These properties seem ideal to prevent bad dreams. But you can choose whichever gemstone resonates with you. Other gemstones to use include Amethyst or Selenite, which have soothing and calming properties that help promote sleep.

Easy DIY dreamcatcher tutorial - fun to make, easy to customize, and a great gift idea

Instructions:

  1. Start wrapping the suede lace around the metal hoop, leaving a tail of about 6 inches at the top of the hoop.
  2. Continue wrapping the suede lace around the metal hoop, trying to keep it as tight and close together as possible.
  3. Once you get to the end, nestle the suede lace so that there is no metal showing. Both tails should be pointing up.
  4. Tie a tight knot at the base of the tails, right at the top of the hoop. Tie another knot at the ends of the tails. This will be used to hang the dreamcatcher.
  5. Tie one end of the embroidery floss around the suede lace knot at the top of the dreamcatcher.
  6. Bring the embroidery floss around through the inside of the hoop, over the top of the hoop, and back through the loop just made by the embroidery floss. (See the photos for clarification)
  7. Continue this motion around the hoop, until you have wrapped it around the hoop 12 times and are back at the top. Keep some slack in the embroidery floss.
  8. Do the same thing again around the hoop, but instead of wrapping around the outside of the hoop, you will wrap around the middle of the embroidery floss loop.
  9. Keep wrapping around and around, pulling a little tighter with each pass around. Add in the gemstones beads at any point during this process. (Depending on the size of the hole in your gemstone beads, you may need to use a needle to thread them onto the embroidery floss.)
  10. Once you have gone around as much as you want, pull the end of the embroidery floss to tighten the web and tie with a secure knot.
  11. Thread the embroidery floss through the loops at the top of the feathers. (Or tie them securely if your feathers don’t have loops) The add as many beads and you like on each string.
  12. Tie the feathers and beads onto the dreamcatcher loop evenly along the bottom.

DIY Dreamcatcher Tutorial - easy step-by-step instructions on how to make an Ojibwe Dreamcatcher

Customize Your DIY Dreamcatcher

The customization possibilities for this DIY dreamcatcher are endless. A few of the ways you can customize your dreamcatcher:

  • Use a bigger (or smaller) hoop.
  • Choose embroidery floss to match the colors in your room (or your baby’s nursery).
  • Use a different color natural suede lace.
  • Instead of wrapping the embroidery floss around the hoop 12 times (in step 7) wrap it just 8 times.
  • Choose natural gemstone beads with properties that resonate with you.
  • Add ribbons, yarn, or string to the bottom of the dreamcatcher, instead of or in addition to the feathers.

Easy DIY dreamcatcher tutorial - fun to make, easy to customize, and a great gift ideaEasy DIY dreamcatcher tutorial - fun to make, easy to customize, and a great gift idea

Make a DIY Dreamcatcher Craft Kit

Sometimes gathering the materials, instructions, and inspiration for a DIY project is too overwhelming. Having everything all wrapped up nicely would be such a nice treat!

Package up all of the materials to make a DIY dreamcatcher in a muslin drawstring bag, add a link to this post, and you have the perfect craft kit gift.

Easy DIY dreamcatcher tutorial - fun to make, easy to customize, and a great gift idea

If you like this post, you may also like:

DIY Mini Tassel Garland

The Very Best DIY Burpcloths

DIY Mini Notebooks

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The best gifts for 3 year olds - you can't go wrong with anything from this list of awesome books, toys, puzzles and games for three year old boys and girls

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

My baby turns three next week, and I have been trying to come up with the perfect gift. Between her and her older sister, they have quite a few books, toys and games. And I want to make sure that anything new is really adding value, and not just clutter, to our home.

So I did what I always do and did a ton of research. I talked to other moms, asked all the kids I know, and made lots of lists. And I came up with a pretty exceptional list of the very best toys, books and games for three year old girls and boys.

If you are looking for something special for the three year old in your life, there are options here for every interest and price point, and all are high quality toys that won’t be thrown out after a few months.

The best gifts for 3 year olds

Play Kitchen

A play kitchen is a favorite for toddlers, preschoolers, and even older kids. But 3 year olds are the perfect age for a play kitchen.  It encourages creativity, role playing, and  They come in many different sizes and price points, to fit your space and budget. We first got a play kitchen for our oldest when she was 2 and a half, and it was a huge hit. It is actually still played with daily, almost 5 years later! (For more information on all things play kitchens, read: The Very Best Play Kitchens and The Best Play Kitchen Accessories)

A few of the best play kitchens for preschoolers:

Dollhouse

No, not a fancy collector’s dollhouse with precious accessories. A durable, gender-neutral dollhouse that can stand up to the rough play of toddlers and preschoolers. My girls received a doll house for Christmas last year, and I have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of time they spend playing with it, and the valuable insight I have gained from watching them role-play with the dolls.

Great gender-neutral dollhouse picks:

Dress Up Clothes

The ultimate in pretend play, the dress up clothes collection is always the first thing that gets played with when my girls have friends over. The wonderful thing about dress up clothes is that you can add just about anything to the collection. Sure, buying some starter outfits is great, but items found around the house such as old scarves or other accessories are perfect additions as well.

Some fun dress-up clothes to get you started:

Arts & Crafts Supplies

Even for the kid who has everything, it is always nice to get new art supplies! For the little ones, I always look for ultra-washable crayons, markers, etc. And if they are sized for little hands, that is even better.

Arts & Crafts supplies perfect for a 3 year old:

Building Toys

Blocks are a favorite for kids of all ages. They are a simple, open-ended toy that can be used for years and years. And they have excellent benefits as well! Blocks and other building toys are great for hand-eye coordination and spatial skills. Playing with blocks also teaches concepts such as counting, sorting, ordering, size and shape, and primes little minds for important mathematical skills they will learn in the years to come. Plus, they are appropriate for any age. All of the choices below are as good for a toddler as they are for elementary school aged children, making them a smart investment.

A few of our favorite sets of blocks:

Puzzles & Games

Puzzles and games offer so many benefits for children as they develop and grow. They teach patience, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, shape recognition, problem solving, memory and more. And depending on which you choose, they also introduce letters, numbers, colors and more. I also love that they are a nice activity for some quiet playtime with your child.

Puzzles and games that any 3 year old would love:

Ride on Toys

A great way to burn off energy, and a nice alternative to a stroller. Preschoolers love ride on toys, and are ready for more of a challenge. A push bike and a three wheel scooter are both good options at this age for building balance, coordination, and confidence.

A note on the balance bikes: We have this little Puky Push Bike that we bought here in Austria, and it is awesome. It has a low clearance for getting on and off, and a place where the kids can rest their feet as they are gliding along. Unfortunately it is quite expensive in the U.S., so I have come up with a few others that are a bit more reasonably priced. If you are located in Austria or Germany, I definitely recommend getting the Puky Push Bike!

The best ride-on toys for three year olds:

Books

I think books are the perfect gift for just about any age! But they are especially important at this age for building a love of reading in your children, and also developing essential pre-reading skills. Three year olds are beginning to recognize letters, learning how to hold a book properly and turn the pages with care, and understanding story lines. At this age, look for repetition, rhyme, interactivity, and beautiful images.

Some of our favorite books for three year olds:

What do you think is the best gift for a 3 year old?

Please help me out with more ideas for my list! What are your kids favorite toys, books or games?

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