Sunday, February 27, 2011

Simplicity in Material Things

Dear friends,

Happy Monday! On this end of the world it is about bedtime on Monday and the week is full steam ahead. It was a fantastic weekend with some great friends. Lots of laughter, food, wine and more laughter.

Anyhow, we said that we would begin with a series on simplicity in order to combat the excess that exists in our lives.

Let's just get one thing straight. We believe that we must combat the excess in our lives not simply for combating excess; but for freeing ourselves for more important things. In other words, we get rid of the excess so that we may have more. More of what?

More of life... love... family... quite times for contemplation...intimate moments... laughter... tears... times of joy...(you get the idea).

It sounds like a paradox and you could call us crazy, but we firmly believe that the less that you have the more you can have.

Let's start with today's topic... Material things. (It's so hard to give insight on a problem when you know you suffer with it right? Let's try anyways...) We mentioned earlier that for most of us there is certainly an excess of material stuff in our lives. The sad thing is that these multiple things are not even good quality things. Is it possible that nowadays people are just obsessed with having a gigantic assortment of poor quality things?

It seems that instead of having 1 really good product that will last a long time, we would rather have a bunch of mediocre products that last a fraction as long.

We need to simplify the way we buy and own things.

Here's how we see it:

1) Don't be Swayed by the Trends - Trends are exactly what they are... trends. They are fine now, but next year you will most likely look a bit off when you still have it. Go for classic styles and products.

2) Think before You Buy - Before you go all crazy on the 10 for the price of one at your favorite department store, ask yourself... do you really need 10 of them? Are you really going to use them? Also, avoid impulse buying. Kinda like not going into a grocery hungry (guilty right here), you can't go into a store when you are feeling impulsive. How do you know you are feeling impulsive? Easy... it's when everything looks appealing to you. It's best to approach purchasing with a calm and sound mind. And ask yourself... do I really need this leather bag? Do I already have one like this? Do I really another one? But what if it is...ON SALE! ONCE IN A LIFETIME! - Come on now. Do you think that it will never be on sale again? Or at least something like it. And even if your battery-powered-flame-throwing-espresso-machine with DVD player never goes on a sale again ask yourself again... is this really necessary?

3) Buy for Quality and Longevity - This is SUPER important. One of the things I like to ask myself when I am buying something these days is "Could I still use this 10 years from now?" Examine the quality. Ask about the product. Compare the product with other products. See if there is a warranty and ask if you can hit it with a baseball bat (just kidding). But seriously, if get the best quality in the end you will be saving tons of money, because you won't be replacing it as often.

4) Get Rid of the Old when You Bring in the New (or Just Get Rid of the Old) - Cay and I need to follow through on this. Whenever we buy something new, we should recycle something we already have. After all that's why you bought something new right? Because the old thing no longer served it's purpose. When you buy yourself a new hat, bring some of your old ones to the local Salvation Army or charities. Moreover... if you have are one of those that have tons of things, I suggest you immediately implement the one year practice: If you haven't used it in a year, then toss it (give it to someone else - charity, ebay, relatives, enemies, whatever.)

5) Try to Support Your Local Artisans and Suppliers - I love finding products that are made in the geographical area of where I am living. Plus, you are supporting the local economy; and a lot of the local artisans and craftspeople make things better than some mass producing machine. Sure it will cost you a bit more, but I the payoff is worth it when you know you have a good product that was made by someone's bear hands. (p.s. Local artisans are also more likely to repair your product if you need them to)

6) Be Minimal - One thing that I am trying to do right now is get all my belongings into one closet, and I am getting closer everyday. Why? Because I am tired of having stuff scattered all over the house. The house just seems more spacious and free when you have less things occupying it. There is something beautiful about sitting in front of a beautiful empty wooden table in the morning. I believe that being minimal with belongings gives you more room to move and think and just... be. When you have less you have more.

7) TAKE CARE OF THE THINGS THAT YOU HAVE - Now that you have the thing. Take care of it. Put it in a proper place and keep it in good condition so that you will not ruin it. Clean out your coffee machine and put shoe trees in your quality shoes. When you take care of the things that you have it lengthens the life of the product.

8) Be a Good Example to Your Family - Remember that children do what the parents do (so I've heard). What kind of example do you want to set for your kids? Sit down and talk with them about the importance of being prudent with things and how to take care of them.

9) If You Can't Afford it then You Don't Need it - Pure and simple. This will surely get the excess out of your life. I cut up my credit cards 2 years ago and have paid everything with cash since then. It has been challenging when it comes to buying things like plane tickets, but I have never felt more free than I do now. We do not buy anything that we cannot pay and cash, and if we can't afford it now, then we SAVE till we can.

10) You Own Things, not the Other Way Around - Ponder this statement.

More to come...


Vince and Cay

Friday, February 25, 2011

Simplicity in living...

Dear all,

Cay and I had a great conversation this morning when we went for a walk. It was a really sunny day (which is rare here in Austria this time of the year) and our conversation was great. We tend to talk very deeply when we go for walks, which is one reason why our walks take a long time. Anyways... we came to some realizations today.

We realized that (even in our lives) we have an excess of STUFF. And it ranges from all aspects in our lives, from physical things (clothes, cars, computers, teddy bears, etc) to obligations and commitments. We even came to find out that some times we carry an excess of feelings (particularly guilt). And furthermore, in this age, it seems that “excess” is not only acceptable; it is necessary.

I mean seriously, look at the condition in the United States (and maybe other countries as well):

You need to have a credit card in order to buy a… house, car, land, donut shop, etc.

TRANSLATION: You need to have debt to have more debt.

WTF? Why would I want more debt to have even more debt?

Perhaps the deeper question is actually: Why do I want these things so badly? And what will do to get them?

In the end we don't really need that much to survive. If you want to get technical what you need is simple: food, water and protection from the elements (i.e. clothing, shelter, a Gore-tex jacket if you live in Austria during the winter). Ok, I realize as well that we need love and human contact as well, so go ahead and chuck that up there as a necessity.

But we believe that anything more than the above mentioned, and we are actually living in excess, or more than what is necessary. (Again, Cay and I are just as guilty as everyone else). Here is a simple example: go to your coat rack and count how many coats you have. Chances are that you have more than one. You may even have more than one for the season. I am mortified as I look at my closet, because I actually have 3 different coats that I can wear for the winter. The bottom line is that we have an excess of stuff in our lives, and I believe that this does not always make things simpler, or even enjoyable for that matter. A lot of times when we have these excesses we are not satisfied, but quite the opposite; we want more. Over the following days we are going to publish a series of blogs that Cay and I have really thought about. The theme is simplicity.

Why simplicity? Because it is the opposite of excess. (Notice I didn’t say “having nothing” is the opposite of excess… I’ll explain more about this in a later post). Simplicity, or simplifying allows us to examine our lives and to take out the excess stuff that is cluttering all the aspects of our lives. Man, and we have a lot of it. Some of us have no idea how much we have.

Stay tuned for more…

- Vince and Cay

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Contest is Finished! The Amazing Stories...

Dear friends,

The contest is done and now it's time to dish out the goodness!

I have always found it hard to judge things such as contests. And how can you judge stories that are based on love?

But there has to be a decision in this case, and after much debate and thought Cay and I realized that there was only one story that actually followed the instructions of the contest (You were supposed to perform a small act of love and write about it)!

Therefore we decided that in all fairness only one person will get the promised prize.

However, because the other two stories that touched us were so good (very good actually) we are still publishing them, and we are splitting the prize meant for the second person and sending it to the writers of the two stories.

So... the big winner of our contest is Kristina (aka Tin-tin) from Texas!

The two runners up are Mary (New York) and Chiara (Texas). Their stories can be found here:



I am not going to write much about their entries, because I want them to speak for themselves...

Anyways... congrats to Kristina, Mary and Chiara and expect your prizes of Lindt and Milka chocolate to jump across the pond and be in your mailbox any day now!

So without further ado... here is Kristina's story:

So, here's my act of kindness...

Everyday, on my way home from work, I pass by this homeless couple on the corner of Buckner Blvd. and Interstate 30.

They hold signs that read: "Red Lobster would be nice, but even McDonald's would be a treat. Just hungry."

And everytime I pass them, I feel conflicted. I never carry cash and it hurts to just turn my head, especially since they're asking for food, not money. So, I made it out to Albertson's during my lunch break, bought some food, and filled two paper bags. I got apples, chips, donuts, bottle waters and little cereal cups. And, on my way home yesterday, I gave them one bag each.

They kind of looked confused, but when they looked inside, they were thankful.

Thank you both for giving me the kick in the pants to do what I've been wanting to do for some time now. I also have some old clothes that I think would fit the homeless woman. I might pack it in a Central Market reusable bag and give it to her next time I see her.

I love you both!

Kristina... this reminds me of a quote made by a very beautiful woman...

"We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love" - St. Therese of Lisieux

Blessings to you all,

Vince and Cay

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Contest of Love...Win something free by just writing!

Hello beloved friends,

Cay and I were talking tonight about the biggest problems that we believe our generation currently faces. It was an amazing conversation that we had (and I highly suggest you talking about this with your significant other; it makes for great insight) and we reached some very good points. One of the points that we talked about was an attitude of indifference that seems to be spreading through our society like wildfire. It's an attitude of "ok people are dying, but it doesn't bug me any."

That may be a drastic statement, but I think some of you may agree that this is true.

"It's all good as long as it doesn't affect me."

This leads to mindsets that are even more disturbing such as...

"As long as it benefits me, it must be good."

I believe that these mindsets can lead to catastrophic ends such as this one.

But alas, we are small and the world is large. What can we really do?

A lot actually. Mother Teresa said, "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed one." We are called to change the world in small ways. Think about what could happen if everyone in the world did something small every single day to help each other. Something so small like paying for the toll for the person behind you on the interstate, or talking to the kid in the cafeteria who everyone avoids, or buying Vince and Cay a new house (kidding).

We are therefore having our first contest on this blog!

We want to hear the stories of our beloved friends doing small acts of kindness! You have the next 3 days to do this. So start immediately. And we want to hear all the details. You can send your stories to

And the best part is that there is a prize (yes we know this defeats the purpose of being altruistic, but hey we can have fun too right?)!

The prize is 25 euros worth of Swiss and Austrian Chocolate (and it won't be all Milka in case you people from Vienna were wondering), which will be mailed to your doorstep, no matter where you are in the world!

Awesome... good deeds and free Swiss and Austrian Chocolate.

The prize will go to the best 2 stories.

Soooo here are the details for this contest:

1) One story of doing a small act of love for someone else, and explain why you think it was a good act. :-)
2) 3 days to do it. The deadline is on Tuesday, February 22 2011 at 9:00pm (CET).
3) Submit your entries to
4) The entries will be reviewed by Cay and Vince and we will choose two winners.
5) We will post the winning entries on Wednesday, February 22 2011.
6) We will mail the winners each 25 Euros worth of Swiss and Austrian Chocolate!

Some come on people spread the love!


Vince and cay

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Killing ourselves

Yikes, the title...

woah... let me explain...

Cay and I were having a discussion last week and I made a comment about a certain nationality that doesn't seem to have a clue of what is going on outside of it's own nation.

Actually I don't think this is just limited to nations, but to people - particularly ourselves. We get so centered on ourselves. I remember once when I was younger I was in a band competition and our band ended up doing pretty badly. All we wanted to do was win the competition that night. We wanted the glory of winning the medal. So imagine the disappointment when we didn't even make it to the final round. After the competition the band director came up to us and said...

"Well we didn't win tonight, and there are million people in Africa who are starving and don't give a shit."

It kinda put things into perspective at that moment and we continued on with our lives. Now many years have passed and I seem to have forgotten that lesson I learned long ago: Our problems, at the moment, seem big, but in grand scheme of things they are really quite inconsequential. And the world will continue and so will our lives. I learned after the competition that night that we should take our problems for what they are and not let them get the best of us. But there was something more that hit me that night. My band director opened my eyes to a world that was bigger.

There is so much crazy stuff that happens in the world... Did you know that 4 people died in Bahrain today? 4 people will never see the light of day again. The blessings (and curses) of modern media are that we can see all the crazy things that are happening in the world today. The curse is that we have heard about all these calamities in the world soooo often that we become quite numb to them now. I think sometimes the Moscow Airport Bomb Explosion may have had the same affect on some people as Bear Hibernation. Sorry I digressed.

As we were watching the events of the Egyptian revolution unfold over the past weeks in Cairo on our TV I felt a small twinge of discomfort, and 5 minutes later I went back to sipping my tea. The next morning as I was at my desk at work I caught a glance of my coworker (who happened to be from Egypt) as he/she was passing. It turns out that his/her family members have been involved in the riots, and he/she was afraid for their lives. He was praying to God/Allah for all of this to be over so he could know if they were safe. Wow. Big reality check.

I then made it my duty everyday to ask how he/she was doing in the midst of all of the chaos that was ensuing. I also prayed for his family whenever I could.

Yeah we have our problems. God knows I have a lot of them, and my lady wife knows that I have them too. But the thing is that there is a huge world out there that is suffering. Actually, forget the world out there. There are people in your family, circle of friends, work, bowling club, etc. that are in pain. (Take my wife for example - she is super pregnant now... love u honey) But you wouldn't know because you are so caught up in your issues. I know I am, and I thank God for my wife for bringing me out them everyday.

Therefore I say again what I said in the beginning of the blog.

We need to kill our "selves"

Stop obsessing about what you do or do not have.

We need to kill that constant fixation on our own suffering and look to needs of others who are in way worse shape than us. I don't believe that this is a form of ignoring our problems and pushing them aside; because the thing is that our problems will never disappear entirely. We will always struggle and be faced with challenges. It's called life people! It is not easy. It is a journey. And not some wimpy stroll around the park journey, but a perilous one that requires you to get outside of yourself live for something greater than just you. I am a man of faith and I believe that there is an end (and a beginning). Furthermore, I believe that at the end there is more. I believe that we will stand and be held accountable for what we did in our lives. And I do believe that we will be held accountable not so much for what we did wrong, but for what we DID right and what we did with what was given to us. How much did we love?

Side note: I want to take those people who blog about living carefree lives and spank them with their father's belts.

I believe we were made to love extraordinarily, and I believe that when we look to the needs of others and help them carry their burdens we will realize that our burdens are not as heavy. We are not alone in this challenge of life. We are one. We are our brother's keeper and we must love till the end. It's freakin tough. And we can't begin until we kill our "selves."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inner dialogue on becoming a father...

Dear all,

It is difficult for me to comprehend that in less than three months I will be a father. I tell you honestly that it has always been my dream to have a whole bunch of children, but to be hit with the stark reality that it is really going to happen is another story entirely. This is when my mind starts talking to me.

Begin internal dialogue:

Me: Serious Vinson, you are going to be a father.

Me: Really?

Me: Serious, you better get your crap together... or else... Look how you turned out!

Me: Wait a minute... I didn't turn out that bad.

Me: Ok fine, but seriously you better get your crap together.

Me: You might have a point, but how will you ever be truly ready to take on such a responsibility as raising another human being? I mean you can never do it perfectly. Look at my parents, although they are great, they made mistakes all they way through. I think it's something you from and try not to screw up, but if you do you learn and most of all you love your children through it all.

Me: Hmmm... ok you got a point.

Me: And I think you are forgetting a huge aspect.

Me: What's that?

Me: You (and I) are not alone in this. Do you forget that you have an person to share the beauty of the burden with?

Me: You mean Mr Schuester from Glee? Yeah he does seem to have all the answers; I especially love how he m

Me: No you idiot... you're amazing wife!

Me: Oh yeah! It doesn't seem that bad.

Me: Yeah!

Me: Alright!

Me: I'm excited!

Me: Yeah!

Me: Yeah!

Me: Wait which one is speaking now?

Me: It doesn't matter...

Me: Do you feel any less intimidated now?

Me: Well kinda... a bit...

Me: Don't worry, after all you didn't turn out that bad.

Me: Lord help us.

Me: He will. Trust me (us).

Me: Wait, how many of you (us) are there again?

Ok... *end inner dialogue *

Whew... Fatherhood... here we come! May 8 2011 (or sooner)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Naschmarkt in Vienna...

Dear friends,

Today was an incredible busy yet fulfilling day. Basically the day went like so:

1) Wake up early and bring our friend, Numer, to the airport at 7:30ish.

2) Headed to the 6th district for the Naschmarkt

3) Did a little more shopping somewhere else

4) A Valentines party

But let's focus on the Naschmarkt.

I was reading in my most trusted resource, Wikipedia, that the Naschmarkt is an open market in Vienna that "has existed since the 16th century when mainly milk bottles were sold there." Apparently milk bottles used to be made from ash wood, and hence the market was called the "Aschenmarkt." Somewhere along the way from the 17th century to 2011 the named evolved into Naschmarkt. If any of you Vienna history buffs has any insight please enlighten us in the comments section.

Nowadays the popular market has fruits and vegetables from all over the world. It also boasts freshly baked breads, spices, teas, coffees, confections, even clothes from exotic places in Asia and the Middle East. There are even small restaurants that serve up some of the freshest seafood in town.

Cay and I arrived at Naschmarkt at around 10am on Saturday and it was alive with mix of Viennese, tourists, merchants and people who are recovering from festivities from the night before. We luckily found parking right away and quickly headed towards the produce.

We grabbed some greens for a salad that we planned on having later that evening, which turned out to be enough greens for 4 evenings. We also picked up some incredibly sweet cherry and vine tomatoes (as pictured) and then headed to the cheese shops.

I must recommend one cheese shop in Naschmarkt (there are many). The name of the shop is Käsehütte, and it is outstanding. It boasts a large collection of both local and imported cheeses from France and Italy. We opted for a creamy French type cheese, which we sadly forgot the name. The texture was smooth, mild, buttery with smokey hints. We also got a very delightfully sharp Pecorino that I will use later to make a cacio e pepe pasta. The service is outstanding at Käsehütte and the people are very knowledgeable about cheese.

Out next stop was to buy flowers. If you ever purchase flowers here be expected to get rude service; it's just part of the culture :-)

After the flowers we did a quick run-through of the rest of the Naschmarkt, and I must say that after I did that I realized we could easily spend the day just looking at the exotic things there. One of my favorite things to see were the different spices:

I also liked the "flea market" which extended past the food booths. And let me tell you, it is an antique junky's dream. I especially love how they sold old theatre seats!

It was a great time, but the only thing I suggest is that you go to the Naschmarkt with a fixed budget and somewhat of an idea of what you want to get. You can easily get lost in all the foods and products that it has, and for sure you wallet will take a hit if don't go in there with a sound mind. Thanks for reading as always... And have a great Sunday!

Friday, February 11, 2011

On a road to a free Egypt...


It always amazes me how peace prevails over violence. Take for example the recent goings-on in Cairo over the past weeks. The people wanted this corrupt Mubarak out of office so they could have democracy. They gathered in Cairo's center, ordering for an end to his reign. They would have no compromise on his behalf; the dude had to leave. What is so cool is that, for the most part (sadly there were some casualties for this great cause), it was done in a peaceful manner. The Egyptian people that wanted him out did so with patience and perseverance. I honor and commend all of you that fought for this cause. Congratulations and blessings to road to freedom... You will be in our thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Restaurant Review - Le Bol (Vienna, Austria) for Breakfast

Greetings friends,

I hope all of you are well today. It has been fantastic weather here in Vienna, which is quite odd for this time of the year. Most of the Viennese can attest to the fact that at this time of the year, it should be cold and dark to the point where you may want to consider moving. But then you think of all the theaters, museums, music halls, cafes, coffee houses, bakeries, and other indoor establishments and you get happy again. These gems make you remember why you are living in the #1 city in world. Holler.

So to keep things fresh here at our blog we will give reviews of some of the establishments that we frequent here in Vienna. Here is our first installment :-)

Le Bol

(French for "bowl")

Neuer Markt 14
1010 Vienna +43 699 1030 1899

Let me just say that since I have moved to Europe I have really come to enjoy food from all parts of the Euro-zone. From the pizzas in Rome to the perogies in Krakow. But nothing quite compares to the pastries of France. The French have a way of making all their baked goods seem like heaven. Has anyone ever had the fresh baked croissants from Paul in Paris? Nothing quite like it. However, once you take the French cuisine out of France you gotta be careful. Some of the stuff you find outside of France is down right aweful. However, Le Bol is a beacon of French light in sea of mediocrity. We went to Le Bol this past Sunday and we were very happy with our experience.

The best part of Le Bol is the casual atmosphere. It is pretty much a cafe with food. The deco is very rustic with some cool modern and vintage things thrown in (i.e. old French ads, solid oak furniture, and bowls all over the place). I personally liked that the tables look they are taken straight from the French countryside. They were minimally decorated (see picture). Don't you like the little bowl of sugar cubes?

The staff is unpredictable... but you gotta love them anyway. We have been to Le Bol on numerous occasions, and it seems each time they are...very... French :-) Depending on their mood and on the chaos in the restaurant they can be pleasant or just plain rude. But take no offense, it's just how they are. Smile whenever you talk to them, try a few French phrases, and you should be fine. This morning it was nice because we had what seemed like a newer waitress (she had not yet fallen to the dark side). Of course the whole staff speaks French, and I wouldn't be suprised if they were all flown over from their motherland just to waitress there.

We got to the restaurant at around 10:30am, so it was still breakfast. It was busy! Seriously, most places in Vienna are somewhat barren on a Sunday morning (the Viennanese like their sleep and/or their Church on Sundays). Le Bol had people standing waiting for tables, so its a good thing we reserved!

We were seated immediately upon arrival by the new, nice waitress.

Cay and I both ordered the very typical Cafe au lait. Amazing! The coffee was served in a small bowl (nice), and the milk was steamed and frothy. The espresso in the drink was quite impressive as well. I caught a glance of their machine. It reminded me of the ones we used to use at Starbucks, before they incorporated their new-fangled-espresso-monkey-machines that a toddler could operate. It takes skill to operate the espresson machine they had. Needless to say, they had very good espresso.

Next we ordered the food. I had the Grand Le Bol. It was composed of a soft boiled egg, bree, ham, marmalade and butter. I must say that I am now a big fan of soft boiled eggs. I think it's because the yolk is still accessible without having to crack the egg and fry it in oil or butter. It just seemed healthier eating it. Plus it came in a cool little plate. Being an American from Texas, I had little knowledge on how to eat the soft boiled egg, but after a tutorial from my very cultured wife I was able to enjoy the delicacy. The bree was extra creamy and complemented the not-too-salty freshly sliced ham.

Cay had the Petite Dejeuner Francois (just like mine, minus the ham and bree) with a side order of Oeuf a la coque special. The Oeuf a la coque was a small salad made up of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and a hard boiled egg. Although this was not exactly French, it was still quite tasty. The tomatoes were perfectly tart, which complemented the smooth, yet firm pieces of buffalo mozzarella.

Both orders came with a fresh basket of croissants, baguettes and some brown bread. I am not exactly sure if brown bread is a French staple, but it is definitely an Austrian one. Maybe that's why they threw it in there. Either way it was delicious. Plus, the bread was made fresh and you could definitely tell through the crispness of the crusts.

The only critique I have was that the croissants were not as flaky as I would like. A bit too greasy, but hey they are croissants right? They still tasted great. Also, we need to teach the waitresses to smile more. Come on ladies.

Cost (all prices in euros):

Cafe au lait - 3.40 x 2

Petit-dejeuner Le Bol - 6.70

Petit-dejeuner francois - 3.80

Oeuf a la coque special - 3.10

Total: 20.4 (not too shabby)

It was well worth the 20 Euros. I do suggest when you go to this fine cafe/restaurant that you reserve in advance. Also, it is almost well worth it to people watch in this cafe. You have a fabulous mix in here because of the international clientle that come to this spot. Everything from French diplomats to Russion tourists and Asian couples (ourselves). Fine place. Go to it if you are in 1st district in Vienna for breakfast and you will not be disappointed.