Monday, December 25, 2006

Frohe Weinachten und ein Gutes Neues Jahr!

A little of the girls Christmas - some White (drove a little up the hill to get some snow and out of the fog) and some American Girl Doll action. We leave for Minn. tomorrow am and then on to FL for some Disney, NASA and sun before returning 1/7. So - until then..... Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Barcelona architecture

Barcelona - A Feast for the Eyes

A view near the Olympic complexes looking down from the Museum of National Art (a castle in itself). What an amazing city. There is a lot of new construction due to the boom for the 1992 Summer Olympics (doesn't seem so long ago!) but it is mixed with incredible architecture from the last 5 centuries - a true blend of old and new. Some of which is absolutely wild of which I will have to include a photo or two with next blog.
View toward the start of the Las Ramblas at the Columbus monument. Barcelona is the port where Columbus was received back into Spain upon discovering the "New World". And, yes, I recognize the controversy with those of Scandinavian background who may also hold claim to the New World discovery - upon observing the character of Northern & Southern Europeans, I would say the Southerners yelled loudest about it.
Proof that American culture pervades the world - we cannot escape it. Is it just Disney - No!! - what I don't have are pic's of at least 5 Starbucks coffee shops within walking distance of each other (depends on who's walking of course). I did not succumb to Starbuck's in Spain! I ordered my cappucino's at the street cafe below our hotel. You have to draw the line somewhere. And proof that Bart love's me - he went and ordered my cappucino himself on our last morning - he doesn't even drink coffee. Oops - before I get too high handed about traveling and ignoring our "American" pop culture traps - we ate dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe - Barcelona!!!!! YES!!! It was soooooo good. Bart had ribs and I had a citrus chicken salad and the girls had regular old hot dogs with fries. You see - I have not had a salad that did not have either french (different than American french) or italian dressing on it since we left the United States. Yep - Switzerland has a variety of choices of dressing - French: full fat, lowfat or nonfat and Italian: full fat, lowfat or nonfat - hey, that's 6 whole varieties, right? And forget getting barbequed ribs unless you are a butcher and have a great b-bque recipe (yeah, I know we could make it from scratch but in some things we are hopelessly GenX and would like a bottle of KC Masterpiece). Now that I am totally guilty of blogging my runon thoughts - Will confess that we plan to indulge ourselves by drinking as much RootBeer as we can while we are in the States after Christmas!
Back to beautiful Barcelona - warmer than Zurich! We stayed on the Las Ramblas which is part of the heart of town, an avenue with little auto traffic - a large pedestrian boulevard full of souvenir vendors, small pet vendors (turtles, bunnies, ferrets,mice,exotic birds, roosters & chickens (can we say bird flu) and other various 'not legal to sell on the US street' small creatures) and a multitude of street performers (the girls really got into dropping change into buckets to see what they would do). Christmas market goods in Spain. It is interesting to see the differences in Christmas decor/goods in different countries. The nativities were very popular here - all the figures from the Manger to the Roman Army are available. And people were shopping - we had not been around that many people in a long time - Not even in London was it so crowded on the street at times. We kept a firm hand on the girls.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Nutcracker, Santa Lucia, & Samiclaus

Rachel and Friend as Mice for the Nutcracker performance at school.

Swedish Students celebrating Santa Lucia. Tradition that originated in Italy and brought to Sweden. Celebrated by songs remembering Santa Lucia (was burned at the stake by an irate fiance who claimed she was a witch - why he did this? she gave all her money to the church as God answered her prayers in healing her mother - the fiance lost his dowry!), candlelights and traditional Swedish ginger cookies and Lucia bread.

Those are real candles! The girl with the candle wreath on her head is wearing a scarf under the wreath to protect her head from all the dripping wax!

Kendra performing as the Snowflake Fairy in the Nutcracker Performance. Pic's didn't come out great in the dark.

The bounty brought by Samiclaus! In Switzerland (and other European communities), Samiclaus (the Swiss Saint Nicholaus) comes on the birthday of St. Nicholaus, Dec. 6th. He is a woodsman sort of "Santa" dressed more like a monk w/ long beard and accompanied by "Schmuzli" and a donkey carrying the load. Samiclaus "tells" the child what they have done good and not so good during the year and if not so good, Schmuzli (in black) will take the child into his bag and make them give toys to all the other children. Samiclaus visited the girls school and they were giving treat bags for being "good." This pic is of the bag Bart received at work - Samiclaus goes everywhere! - and apparently Bart was a good boy this year. Traditional bounty is clementines, nuts, dried figs, chocolate (of course) and these cookie type ornaments.
Reminded me of our Christmas stockings growing up - had a small present in it and then oranges, apples, nuts and Christmas candies (some of which stuck to the bottom of the stocking for the next year). Was this traditional from parents living in Germany? I don't know. Mom?

And then, Rachel class went thru the Dutch tradition of hiding a shoe/slipper for St. Nick who would then stuff it with goodies and leave bags of presents on St. Nick day. Rachel had grand plans of receiving her presents this last Wed. I kept telling her we were not Dutch and our Santa would arrive at our
regularly scheduled time during the night of Christmas Eve so they can open presents Christmas morning. She was happy with her goody bag from Samiclaus.
And the Swiss celebrate on Christmas Eve with a dinner (whatever the family likes to eat best) and the arrival of the Christkindt (Christ Child) which is announced by the sudden arrival of a Christmas tree and presents - apparently the Swiss mum is cooking, dragging the tree in thru the window (traditional thought of how the tree suddenly arrives) decorating and arranging presents while Swiss dad is either out for a walk with kiddos or has them tied up in a bedroom until they can come out. Santa down the chimney doesn't sound so bad.

Above all - our family enjoys reading and celebrating the story of God who humbled himself to come in the form of man, a tiny little baby - that he might know our temptations and weakness yet not succumb to them. And then give his life that we might have freedom! What an awesome Christmas gift! Merry Christmas!!!!!!! The Olson's

Upside down Christmas Trees!

I don't know where the upside down tree trend started and honestly, I don't care. I think it looks weird whether in Switzerland all hot pink & lime green or in the States, traditional but dangling against gravity. Yes, this strange display is right here in Wadenswil along with the traditional hanging lights and REGULAR Christmas trees. (And if any of you reading this have an upside down tree, well, I'm sorry - that you have an upside down tree! - Love you anyway)

A typical fall/winter looking day as we head down the hill toward town. The snow is getting lower but we've yet to see it our our house.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Time is here

Well, it has been a busy week and it is not quite over. Will probably tell all tales in a couple emails. This last Sunday was the Christmas Program, Choir Sing and luncheon at the church we are attending. It is held early as much of the Expat congregation starts its holiday traveling as soon as kids are released from school. Rachel was a narrator and did an excellent job of speaking - I really think she liked that microphone (who would have imagined that!!) Kendra was a sweet little sheperd - courtesy of an old sheet, the magic of mom's new sewing machine and a bit of a Star Wars costume. All the kids did such a nice job and the girls really enjoyed being a part of it. I did sing in the choir in spite of going to only 2 practices a month ago. Due to being sick, guests, etc... I hadn't gone in a while even though Bart & girls did, but bodies were needed and my recall is decent from lots of practise in IA. BUT, we started singing "I'll be home for Christmas..." and I about lost it.
This will be the first Christmas for me (Susan) that none of my immediate family will be together for the Holidays - since Kris was born (she's younger and I'm going to start using her age now :) ). And we are missing Des Moines. Looked at pictures with the house in it and Max last week - wonderful memories. Have had some emails from friends there and we miss Valley and the neighborhood. However - it is VERY COLD in DM right now and we still have had only 2 nights go down to freezing. Granted, they are canceling World Cup skiing events in Europe due to the lack of snow in the Alps (looking at the warmest winter, they say, in 1300 years) - but my snow shovel is still in the garage and I don't look forward to slippery steps.
Funny note: Kendra is standing in front of our Christmas tree - Yes, we dragged our beautiful, artificial Noble Fir over here. With two storage boxes of ornaments. As I am decorating I think "Where is the tree skirt?" In Des Moines storage. "Where is my this, that and the other thing?" In DM storage. As I am sewing "Where are my 'whatever'?" In DM storage. By time I got down to the basement to sort items for shipping, you can imagine that I was a little tired of making 3-5 year "take it or leave it" decisions. So, I did not really go thru the Christmas boxes or sewing boxes well and have much of what I don't need and stored much of what I do want. Funny, REALLY!!
Enough of my homesickness and will get on with the other events later in the blog.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Christmas Mart/Funnies

Mom & I found this amusing in Lugano - a bust of Giorgio Washington. A gift from the US - not sure why they chose to give it to the city of Lugano, and we don't think he ever went by "Giorgio" but it was one of those things that make you stop and say "Hmmmmm."

Here are a couple pic's from the Zurich Christmas Mart - one of the largest in Switzerland. It is held at the HauptBahnhof (Zurich Main Train Station) and has over one hundred booths of cheeses, sausages, baked goodies, international gifts and the Gluwein (spiced hot red wine - very hot, lots of flavor but low alc. content). The Christmas markets are very popular throughout many of the European countries and many make a vacation/travel tour of it. We love the giant Christmas Tree - is sponsored every year by Swarovski and is hung with over 6,000 crystal ornaments (all on white silk cords-much prettier than many of my ornaments hung by grey metal hooks) - and some of their bigger crystal figures are displayed at the foot of the tree - beautiful.

Again - we had some funnies/incidences/experiences with living in a foreign place this week:

  • We have a lot of roundabouts (traffic circles) here in lieu of traffic lights/stop signs and we have learned the rules about right of way BUT last night, there were two horses w/ riders waiting their turn - makes you think twice as we didn't see that one in the traffic book.
  • I (Susan) got to drive home from the KPMG Holiday party - the other partner's BMW 540 - Sweet!!! Dear Santa, This year I would like BMW 540...... Wake UP!!!! But I was very nice and careful as I do not wish to have my license pulled - they yank it at 30km over posted limits.
  • A lady in Lugano whom my mom & I asked to take our picture asked where we were from. On learning we were Americans, she said "Thank You - I cannot explain in my heart what I feel for you and Australians and what you did for us in Albania. My heart is full toward you and we have nothing to give, we are so small and you are so big. Thank You." Her eyes were starting to tear. Many times we are led to believe that people would rather spit at us (it is better to keep a low American profile here as an Expat - if you wonder about this - email) but there are others who have been helped by our country that are very appreciative.
  • After going into Zurich to say I would like to buy the sewing machine I looked at the previous week, I was asked to "please come back the next day" as they must have it delivered to the store. So I went back on Thurs. and found out they only accept payment by Postcard (many payments are done thru the "post office" - too much to explain now) or cash. I zipped to the "Bancomat" around the corner to pull out cash (we are now starting to hoard cash for when needed- thanks for the tip Brenda (Shanghai). And proceeded to spend an hour learning about the mach. with the nicest people who spoke very little English. Fortunately, I have been sewing for a long time (thanks Mom) and we had great fun - my working on my Deutsch and she working on her English.
  • Kendra crying this morning while waking up because last night's babysitter, Katelyn, was gone. Sounds like Bart & I need to go out some more!
  • Silly thought but - I am always talking to dogs here - they don't understand English words! Sounds silly but Max "understood" a good 35 words or so - I am just mumbling nonsense to the dogs.

Busy week ahead - Christmas program at church, Nutcracker performance and" Winter" Concert. Hope you all have a GREAT WEEK and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Lot's of Pic's - Elaine's Visit & Thanksgiving

Here is Elaine, Susan's mom, in Luzern along the water near one of the old bridges. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed ourselves walking around and seeing the old city wall w/ turrets.
Here is the family in front of one of the stores on the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. If you want to do some shopping, the Bahnhofstrasse is the place to go (and all the side streets around it). There are your high end shops (Gucci, YSL,Tiffany's, Bucherer, etc...) and your regular people shops (H&M, Zara's, Claire's - is there a city in the world that doesn't have a Claire's?, etc...) and restaurants and goodies in between. Something for everyone and people watching is an art form.
OK - Make a guess - Is it a big chicken or a little turkey? It was really good!!! We had Thanksgiving on Sat. night (Elaine & Susan were in Lugano, Switz. on Thurs/Fri) with Matt & Jill (IA) and Randy & Ashlee (CT) - also KPMG transferees. We had the "bird", mashed potatoes & gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, corn, cranberries, pumpkin and apple pies - halfway thru the meal someone commented "I feel so American right now - it feels good." The only "swiss" item on the table was the bread. It was lovely and soooo tasty! I don't know that we have appreciated a Thanksgiving meal like that in a very long time - Thank You Lord!!! And not only that but there was college football on TV (with time changes, games start around 6pm and go 'til the wee hours) and Jill, once again, beat the guys at Texas Hold'em. There is justice in the world. :)
Here is Mom with the girls at the Rhein Falls - largest falls in Europe (approx. 1 hr from the house). It was cold and misty but cool to see. Walked all around and then took the ferry boat back across the river at the base of the falls. Although you can land on the large rocks in the middle of the river/falls by boat, I (Susan) was/am still recovering and put the halt on getting wet in the middle of the river in the cold - just didn't sound like fun. We will have to go back and do it in warmer weather!
Here is Mom with the girls at the Zurich Christmas Mart - I'll have to add more pic's of that later. We went on Fri. night after she & I returned from Lugano and enjoyed looking at everything lit up. We checked out the Swarovski tree with it's thousands of crystal ornaments, checked out all the crafts and goodies, sampled the Gluvein and then headed down the Bahnhofstrasse to see all the Christmas decor there as well.

We really enjoyed Mom's visit and for me, Susan, it was the first time I've spent a lot of alone time with her since before I had kids. While the girls were in school during the day, we would go exploring - Luzern, Zurich, Wadenswil - and then we went on an overnight to Lugano (Italian part of Switz.) and Bart worked from home Fri. so he could do kid duty. We enjoyed our trip and it really felt like we were somewhere else. Once you go thru St. Gottard/San Gottardo you enter the Ticino region and suddenly the architecture/language/landscaping are different. And you are greeted with Buon Giorno instead of Gruezi - and then some speak Italian & English, some speak Italian & German - so at least we were able to do what we needed. I think we left a lot of smudges on the windows of all the shops - some of the loveliest couture/designer things I've ever seen in person - it was fun. And Mom went back with 2 pairs of shoes - she was thrilled! Upon hearing my cough in the cab, the Italian cabbie promptly rattled his recipe off for a cure - we'll see if it works - I have woke up less tired the last couple days so it may be doing the trick - jury is still out.

So Mom had to go back yesterday. I took her to the airport and saw her off - miss her already. It was so nice to have a visitor and especially family. We are off to a busy week already. We put up our tree last night and today I am in search of lights for it so we can decorate. Must make the girls Nutcracker costumes and must catch up on all I've not done since being sick and having Mom to visit. And speaking of Nucracker ballets - if any of you are going to the Sacto. Nutcracker production this year, our dear little friend, Rebecca Hambalek, is one of the Klara's. Give her some applause from us - she is the daughter of Frank & Ruthie whom we stay with in Fresno each year.

Well, I'm off to buy a sewing machine today (I hope). Love and Holiday wishes to all.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Update - Mid Nov.

Well - for those of you wanting a pic - I give you the girls on Halloween night. They don't do Trick or Treating here (but the Catholic Cantons observe All Saints Day as a holiday, Nov. 1). The girls did have class Halloween parties at school to dress up for and there was a "trunk or treat" held at school, but, it was on Sat., 11/4 and Mom & Dad had a date (1st one in 5 months!) so - no giant bags of candy to deal with this year. But we did carve pumpkins that night and had a candlelit, candy hunt at home so they had fun.

So - the blog has been a little silent. You will have to use your imagination for images portrayed over the last couple weeks. Our weekly lives revolve around the usual - work, school, etc... and weekends are up for grabs and usu. what I blog about - Hence the silence - not sure what I would say or how pathetic we might sound :) .

2 weeks ago - After 3 months of watching a 20in. screen TV, Bart & Susan, who admittedly like to spoil themselves with a bit larger screen than that, decide to look for a new one and try to buy a desk. While all the little villages have most of what one might need, you have to go into certain other towns if you want anything of variety. So just as someone in a small town in IA might venture an hour or so into Des Moines to hit Best Buy, we ventured into Dietlikon to check out MediaMart. We stop first at Ikea to check on desks - didn't find anything that would fit/we liked - Image 1 - Bart trying to race thru the Rat-Maze of Ikea where every "Ausfahrt" (exit) sign simply leads you thru another section. Took us 30 min. just to get out of there - Bart has declared he will NEVER go in there again. We cross the street to MediaMart - After a good bit of looking, we decide on a TV, find someone to help, are given a good deal and while I get the car, Bart goes to pay for it. Image 2 - I return to find Bart (uhm, perturbed) with the girls and no TV. They only take cash or their own Credit card and he didn't have his B-permit on him to get thier card (B permit is our residence permit - required by foreigners living in Switzerland). So we went home. And had family movie night watching "Empire Strikes Back" on a 20inch screen TV. At the time, it was too pathetic to blog about. But we just figure it's another "American" learning experience for us here.
Image 3 - Susan returns to Dietlikon the next Wed. armed with her B permit to buy the TV only to then be told that we must have resided here for 2 years!!!!! She is somewhat consoled by finding a desk (that Bart will get later) and going home with a basket of cute Christmas decorations.
(I won't mention that gas is about $5.22/gal - sounds like a cheapskate)
Image 4 - Susan calling Bart last Fri. morning to tell him that she does not feel better and in fact has a fever and thinks we need to cancel the weekend plans to Barcelona(with cheepo, nonrefundable, nonchangeable plane tickets - ouch)!! We won't go into images of Susan with a fever for 5 days but good news (sort of ) is that it was not flu but a bact. respiratory infect. (less contagious in this case anyway & antibiotics can be taken) - most likely the result of the allergic reaction to her grooming of the ornamental grasses on the roof. She has been plagued by these grasses since moving to IA - they are here too. Next house will have NONE of them and she's been forbidden to touch them ever, ever again no matter how zealous she feels about getting them cleaned up.
Image 5 - Since Barcelona is canceled, Bart goes to the bank to pull out enough cash and drives back to Dietlikon where he picks up the desk and gets the TV - for a better deal than the weekend before as he found the same saleperson. But surprises the cashier when he pays cash - go figure.
Image 6 - Family movie night again. Rounding it out with "Return of the Jedi" on the new TV (Susan under blankets, quarantined away from family on the other side of the sectional).

Lessons learned: Ever so often, we are reminded that things are not as easy for us as expatriates/foreigners. We are not used to using a lot of cash as Americans - here they don't blink when you pull out a 100 or 200 chf note. Just think on this - we were not able to lease our car or get our credit card here until after our legal residence permit came in: we had to register our arrival into the country within 8 days of entry then wait 8 weeks for the permit.

We have grown so accustomed to swiping a card and having what we want, that we forget it is a privilege (as well as a responsibility). And in Switzerland, we are welcomed guests but guests do not always have the same 'rights' as residents. So don't take what you have at home for granted! Enjoy your conveniences and your choices (though I've found with less choices, I have less "wants").

And - I promise to never, ever, EVER touch the grasses again. I am praying for a peaceful night of sleep tonight!

Next pic's should have Susan's mom, Elaine, in them - YEAH!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Our very own Jack'O'Lantern!

Rachel is proud to be the recipient of 4 chf cumulative from the tooth fairy so far since we moved to Switzerland. Mom has been trusted with pulling the last 3 teeth. I always tell her that she must have a lot of trust in me as I would never have let my Mom or Dad pull my teeth. So we laugh right now at our little jack'o lantern.

News for the week: Managed to get thru it! There were cupcakes and cornbread to make for Worldfest at school, a Halloween party to organize (I was responsible for activities & getting decor. up - will seek MORE help next time) and a pie to bake for the Harvest/Thanksgiving dinner at church. I am as busy in Switzerland as I was in the US! How does this happen? I obviously suffer from the volunteer syndrome that plagues many mothers. But - my children will thank me right? NOT! By the way Mom, thank you for the cupcakes I do remember you made for 2nd grade - 30 odd years better late than never.
Worldfest - An interesting and taste-tantalizing experience at school. Many of the 40 countries represented by the school population had food/product booths (fantastic foods - Italian, Greek, Sth American, Indian, Asian, American, Middle Eastern, Australian, UK, Scotland, Russian, etc.............) and entertainment as well. Never had I been to a school function where there were South American Carnivale Dancers, Indian dancers, Roy Orbison/Bob Dylan (songs by Amer. Music teachers), Wine & Scotch tasting and Inflatable Slides/houses all in one place - Very interesting. I won the American - taste of Home raffle so will be picking up my load of such goodies as Choc. chip cookies, baking powder, Bisquik, cake mixes, Maple syrup (the fake kind - they only sell the real stuff here!), many other misc. and the most coveted by all middle age school kids - Twizzlers and Skittle flavored Bubble Gum. I think I could auction those off and feed my family for a month!
There are always small challenges to face - esp. when trying to help with all these activities. There is NO canned frosting - I have made 3 batches of buttercream frosting in the last month from scratch. There is no Marie Callendars cornbread mix so I made that from scratch for the first time (should I be embarassed). But the baking challenge culminated when I went to make the Apple Pie. I usually use good old Crisco for the crust - they have no Crisco here. But they do have pig lard, rindbuerre (meat butter?) and a vegetable oil something that has the consistency of semi-solid bacon grease. Sooooooo - I improvised and made a new crust recipe and substituted butter for shortening - IT WORKED - key is unsalted butter(harder to find salted butter here period). The crust tasted great! Yeah! I was not embarassed by my pie. And it is the little successes that keep you from getting discouraged by the small challenges. I pray I don't sound too pathetic - former CPA turned HausFrau! Hee Hee

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Scrapbooking & Fighter Jets

As I was sitting at the desk looking at approx. 200 photos I just rec'd from the States (cheaper for me to process digitally online and have shipped than to do it here), I thought of the girls who last week spent about 6 - 8 hrs of their free time working on their scrapbooks. They are so up to date! I am soooooo far behind! And I just added another 200 pic's to my pile. I'm ill and need to find a recovery group for people who take too many pic's. But I would fall off the wagon quickly as I do like all my pic's (those that turn out anyway) and I do actually print them out vs keeping them forever on disc.
And as I sit, 2 fighter jets just roared by down the length of the lake. Awesome!! We like to go outside and enjoy the noise of it as well. Sometimes it is only 2 jets, sometimes 8 - 10. As we have read, the Swiss does not have an army as the Swiss ARE an army. There is compulsory military service for all male citizens and they basically serve in the Reserves until 40? yrs of age. It is not unusually to see a man/men riding the train with his machine gun on his way to reserve duty - the guns are theirs to keep at home. Of course, if it is not convenient for a man to serve when requested, his company can of course pay for his absence. Anything(legal) is possible here with the appropriate currency.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Happy Birthday Kendra!!

Well, our baby turned 6 on Oct. 18th. She was so excited and had some girlfriends over after school for a Birthday party. They get out at 2:30 every Wed. so it was very convenient for an afternoon party. She also received several boxes from the various Grandparents so that was also a big thrill. She was 'crying' as she opened the "12 Dancing Princesses" DVD from Gpa Paul. We asked her why and she says "you know how you're so happy it makes you want to cry." It was a bit of a fake cry but we got the message. Kendra at 6 is still cuddly and loves to give hugs, likes to lounge in bed in the mornings, drink pink milk and still needs her 'blankey' with her for comfort - then will astound you with some grown up logic and vocabulary. It's nice that they do take their time growing up even though it seems fast.
Happy Birthday Putsey Pie!!!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Watch your Speed!

Well - Here you see us traveling very comfortably by train. The girls are essentially free with paying parents so for nearly the cost of gas in 1st class train tickets, we arrive rested and on time to our destinations (at least in Switzerland - not sure how many Italian trains we'll be taking). A funny- only Susan & Kendra can ride backwards longterm without stomach issues - the family does a seating swap at the Bahnhofs (stations) depending on how the trains arrive/depart.
And last week when we got all our mail from being out of town - OUCH! - a post from the Zurich Polizei. My heart sunk. This notice was for real. You see, every few weeks when we first moved here, we would get mail from Zurich - Police with these large amounts due. Each time, I kept thinking somehow I got caught speeding or something - and then I would read enough of the German to realize it related to a "policy" of some sort (auto, home, etc...). Police, Policy - not the same! But Polizei - THAT would be 'police' in English! My first speeding ticket - but it was via camera so was sent to BART!! HA HA!!! The good news is that Bart understands - almost everyone gets a ticket from this camera box at least once - it is on a downhill slope and you have to ride the brakes to maintain the speed limit. I was 10 kmh over on a 60kmh - equiv. of about 6 mph over - they are REALLY getting a lot of CHF ($) out of their auto penalty system. No wonder the country has a National surplus. And I just added 40chf to it!
We also celebrated Kendra's Birthday on Wed. She was a happy girl - 6 years old. I will post the pic's as soon as I can download - need to clean the Murren photo's off first!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Murren - Part 2

Bart and the girls. Always ahead. I always trail behind - taking pic's and enjoying the scenery. We were able to get in some good hiking, played on the kiddy playgrounds, ate a lot of good food and read some books!
This is the village of Murren. It is basically built on the side of the mountain and this pic. is taken from the gondola as we left. It is a one mile, 2 gondola car ride up from the Lauterbrunnen Valley floor up to Murren (approx. 5,400ft high). This was after 2 trains and a bus. Murren has the distinction of being the closest village to the Shilthorn/Piz Gloria peak - most commonly recognized from the James Bond film "In her Majesty's Secret Service" as the revolving mountain top pad that gets blown up. Well - it is a revolving restaurant and has views that cover the Alps as well as the across Switzerland into Germany. Awesome! And as far as the gondola rides and tunnels - glad the Swiss are good engineers!
Murren's other distinction is that is has an incredibly unobstructed view of 3 of the Alps highest peaks - the Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau (they are behind us in that order) - right across the Valley. The portion of the Alps connected with these are almost as high and go on as far as the eye can see so it is amazingly beautiful and awe-inspiring. Rachel and Kendra liked the Eiger the best - it was the pointiest! We could have done more down in the Valley (waterfalls, shopping, etc...) but Bart and I were enjoying being up so high and loving the view that we decided we'll have to go back to do the rest later.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rachel & Kendra - Murren, Part 1

Rachel "Here we go - another trail. I get to be in front. Yeah, Mom, I know - Be careful. I don't need my walking stick anymore. Can I have my walking stick?"
Kendra "Not more walking?! Are we going back to the hotel. When will we be at the hotel? I'm tired. It's so beautiful - are we going to go swimming now?"

We are back from Murren safe and sound. More pic's and tales later. In spite of the above (real quotes!), the girls did great and we did 2 long hikes for kiddos. Even Mom & Dad had tired feet. Summary - Beautiful, we will return!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

God is Good, God is in Control

"We know God is good and God is in control" - these are the words spoken by a "shunned" Amish man interviewed this week on FoxNews as he was asked how the Amish community was dealing with this tragedy. I'm sure many of you have heard the same. I know that many people question how God could allow such a thing to happen. He never says we will know all the answers - He asks that we trust and believe. As much as we are control-freaks, I always feel soooo much better when I realize that I am NOT in control, He is.
My mom and her husband John lost a dear friend in Iraq yesterday. Please pray for them and his wife who is in Carson City. It sometimes seems these events take place far away until they touch someone close to us.
This is not a cheery blog day - it doesn't have to be. Life is not all a vacation, not even in Switzerland. Our love to all of our family and friends reading this.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Variety of Life

Well - About a week and a half ago, Rachel was in tears as she declared that "you and Dad always have plans for Saturday and we never get to have a choice and just play if we want." This was prompted by my announcement that we planned to go to Luzern on Sat. She declared that "we never went places when we lived in IA and we got to stay home and play all the time." Hmmmm. We really liked living in IA but did have to point out there were fewer things we did because certain things were farther away (ie... the Rocky Mtns were not a short drive away). And the adjustment to a different way of life/lifestyle here. The bigger grocery stores and shopping stores are open 'til 4pm (some 5pm) on Sat. and then closed until Mon. morning. Therefore, if we want to go anywhere involving window shopping/touristy type shopping, etc... it must be on Sat. AND, if we need to mow the yard it has to be on Sat. as the mower cannot be used on Sun. (I need to eventually pick up yet another duty from Bart and do it during the week). Sooo, Saturdays are very active here - everywhere - and then everything is dead on Sunday. If you've never been to Europe and do plan a trip - Sundays are good travel days - always check to see what might be open.
So, we still haven't been to Luzern. The girls enjoyed a whole day of staying in PJ's, playing with their toys, we got a lot done around the house and took the girls to the KinderZoo which IS open on Sundays. It was a ZOO - I'm getting too old to enjoy being surrounded by hundreds of little screaming kids who are petting goats, feeding ponies and camels and then licking the salt off their fingers from the popcorn (used to feed the animals). Gross! And I'm running around with the wet wipes telling the girls to wash their fingers off before they have ice cream - I'm sorry but camel slobber is just gross! As you can see from the pic's, they got to ride the ponies and just had a ball with that. Rachel really wants to take riding lessons. We told her when her German is a little better, we'd look into it (figure its a good way for her to get more comfy with the German as well).
Life this week: 1. My 1st haircut here - asked that they remove 3 cm's off the ends which she kept calling my "points" - I still look like me 2. Bart went to NY for a couple of days so we stocked up on children's Benadryl & Aleve - then he calls from the airport wondering if there were any books I wanted, I was so unprepared! But he did bring back a couple of People magazines which we will circulate around. There is a lot of book/magazine sharing going on. 3. Pray for my dad who is OK but suffered a job accident this week when a control panel was dropped and his legs happened to be under it - nothing is broken but is quite swollen & bruised. 4. Hosted a good ol' American feeling "poker night" for the Credit Suisse team (KPMG) and their spouses on Sat. Lots of food and the girls got a lot of attention but were very well behaved. Matt came in his "Gold" in honor of the IA vs Ohio game which sadly did not go the way of IA. 5. Hauling bags of dirt up to the terrace so I can get everything prepared for next spring and am planting/dividing perennials as able. I am definitely staying busy!

So - we start another week and hope whomever is reading this is doing well. God Bless.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sound off

Don't most people have days when the sun is shining and you just want to let loose with the car stereo, put the windows down and go a "little" faster. Yesterday was that day - I needed some tension relief - everything is soooo controlled and proper and on time here (I like it, most of the time) - it felt good (I held off on the speed - do NOT want a ticket). I am sure I was the ONLY person on the road singing with the radio and rapping on my steering wheel - I never see anyone do this here. We are trying to figure out what people do to let off steam in Switzerland - they are usually contained, fairly quiet (exc. kids are really loud outside), mannerly (exc. they will cut you off in line if you are not quick - I'm learning to stand my ground) and will tell noisy teenagers on the train to "be quiet." Is this the source of their longer life span? We are the loud Americans - sometimes it's fun to be loud (just not at your own house because then a neighbor might call the Polizei to come tell you to be quiet - they will not confront you themselves).

If anyone is interested in listening to a good message on Examples to Follow from Thessalonians, they can go to my sister & bro. in laws website and listen to Jason's message to the Calvary Chapel in Albany, Australia. It is good and for me, great to hear his voice. I need to get them to put a song of Kris's on (if you are reading this Kris & J - hint, hint). If you don't have the link, email or comment on my blog.

And - an apology of sorts. IF you don't like my long blog stories - well, I can't help it. Its just me and I find I am a person who enjoys words - or well have Bart start updating but then it just wouldn't happen :). I love to read and am finding reading comes easier to me in German than hearing - my verbal comprehension is slow! But we are working on it. So that's that. So must go to get ready for the day - lunches to pack, get dressed, Bible Study, more weeding if the weather allows. I'm excited about our study "Jesus, the One and Only." Throughout the Bible, there is a consistent message which John puts so simply in his gospel "Jesus said to him 'I am the way the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me." John 14:6(NAS) What a great way to start the day. Love to all.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"Melser Alpabfahrt" - Cows come out of the Alps!

OKAY!!!!! We got to see the town celebration of the cows coming out of the mountains. Little history: Many of the big bells worn are very old, owned by the farming families(names engraved/painted), placed on the barn/house walls when the cows are returned to the lowlands for winter but if the bells are gone - you know they've gone back into the Alps for summer grazing. They drive them up every Spring and back down again in Fall - in many little towns throughout Switz. The farmers are "highly" subsidized in Switz. as the tradition of moving the cows higher in order to use lowlands for other crops is not very cost effective anymore but is viewed as necessary in preserving the landscape as they know it.

I'm sorry for these mini-lectures but part of what we enjoy about traveling is understanding the "what/why" behind what we are seeing - Maybe a few of you reading will enjoy it too.

ANYWAY - It was Awesome! Our friends (& Bart's coworker), Matt & Jill, met us and we took the train out to Mels in "Heidiland." There weren't many people getting off the train in Mels so we were kind of wondering what to expect - everything was very low key. We followed the few people we saw into the town square and ran into Rachel's classmate from school, Valeria and her family as I had told her mother about this - it's a small world and well, Mels is a very small town! The town square was set up with some cheese, ice cream & pastry booths and there were the standard brats grilling (if you are ever in Germ./Switz. you must ask for the kalbbratwurst - Yummy - another blog maybe). There was a brief stir in the crowd as you could see a line of cows trailing down a road high on the hill but then they moved out of sight. So, we sit and eat some brats on the sidewalk before "things" were supposed to start - this event is to run from 12:30 to 4:00. Things were very casual on the street until we saw people begin to line the streets and could hear what at first sounded like a bad brass polka band. Then, the little sheperds/esses came thru and the farmers with the cows - there is no need for the crowd to make noise because the clanking of the brass bells was deafening! These are not the "little" bells like the cows wear by our house but these giant brass bells as big as the cows heads - as seen by the pic's. Those poor cows! We find out later that is why the crowd also stays subdued - the cows get nervous from the noise and all the people. I'm sure the whole giant bell thing was started by rivaling farmers long ago but this is a "clean" page and we won't go there.

There were big & little bells, big & little cows, goats, cattle dogs, lots of farmers (cow prodders) - watch your step in the road! And many of the older cows wore hats/baskets of flowers on their heads - all the arrangements were different and it was just a cool thing to see. They wound thru the streets of town and then another group would come and the beauty was that it was a small place, the crowds were not large and we had a great view of everything. You could pet the cows as they went by and if you turned your back were hoping you didn't get gored - there were a few fast moving cows. But this wasn't the Running of the Bulls - I'm sure Swiss cows never get that wild as it must be against the rules (you'll find us making many rule jokes - a required part of expat life here). At one point, many of the cows were hustled around the town square fountain so they could get water. They had black rubber mats draped around the fountain edges and the cows were free to take a drink - people are usu. drinking out of it but not on Sat.
So we had a thoroughly good time, it was a beautiful day and we have a LOT of pictures of cows.

Otherwise, the week was good. Girls had their first playdates and I started a Bible study on Thurs. Now that makes things seem as normal as anything. For 4 years I've done BS on Thurs. mornings and when I found out about the study here, same day - same time, it seemed so normal for me - Yeah. We are doing a Beth Moore study on Jesus - the One and Only. The ladies all seem really nice - we are a mix of US, UK and S. Afrika - and there are some fun personalities. I have really enjoyed and learned from the other studies I've participated in so am looking forward to this as well. Bart has a busy week ahead and the next week will get to go to NY for a training so I need to begin a "wish list" for him should he have time to do a little shopping and have enough luggage space.

Well, it's Sun. am and I must get off to get my little ones fed and off to church. God Bless!!!!

Monday, September 11, 2006


Woke up this morning to a giant crane in the parking lot. I guess this has to do with the letter re: unit 57, something about no parking on Sept. 11th, lot of german words I didn't understand - now we know what it was about! Looks like a neighbor is removing a lot of big rocks from their "roof." Our roof is also landscaped - rocks, trees and skylight covers.

And it is Sept. 11th - an anniversary for our Nation. May God bless and keep our troops, President and all those involved in keeping our Nation safe and protecting its borders from terrorism. And let us not forget our responsibility in voting for our leaders in government, local and national - regardless of belief, the wrong vote is the vote not cast.

And, it is still Sept. 10th in Hawaii as I write this. I am thinking of my(Susan's) family which has just enjoyed a day at the Water slide park in Kapolei in celebration of nephew Tavanni's 1st Birthday. I hope they all had a great time, I hope Tavanni felt well, that my sister Deb has survived and all the travelling family gets back to the mainland safely. Kris and I both wish we could be there - one of those sacrifices you make when moving to other parts of the world is not being able to attend certain family events. Little jealous - would love to be at the lagoons with them. But we do have our "artistic version" of the lagoons hanging in our living room so we can always enjoy via imagination. Love to you All!

Well - Kendra has a temp, I am missing a Room Parent meeting and we are both hungry so - Adios!

Friday, September 08, 2006

A couple beautiful days

As Kendra put it "We're not in Iowa anymore." We had some wet days which resulted in snow in the Alps and made for beautiful views from the terrace when things cleared up. Do I admit I have breakfast outside after I drop the girls off at school? And that I love my expresso machine?

As any reader has gathered by now, there are challenges to living outside your own country as well as things you learn to love. One challenge is figuring out which cheeses available are your new substitutes for Skim/Dry Mozzerella, Monterey Jack, Cheddar (does anyone in the US realize that cheddar is naturally white and not orange - I didn't til I left!), etc... But the part that is fun is trying all the yummy (and not so yummy) cheeses. And all the cheeses here still have their rinds on when you buy them - where do all the cheese rinds go back in the US?

We did have a dinner adventure tonight. We like a potato dish here called 'rosti' (roo schti) that is like a potato pancake/hash brown type of side that is considered "typical Swiss." I usually buy the plain kind but saw some yesterday with appenzeller cheese in it and decided to try it. Well, after stinking up the house cooking it, not finishing it on my plate, Bart getting thru 2 bites and Rachel declaring it smelled like someone just ------ (passed gas) while holding her nose, I promised NEVER to buy it again and we dumped it all in the garbage, lit candles and I wiped down all the kitchen surfaces. Kendra politely declared she couldn't eat it but would take some more bread. Fortunately, there was plenty of bread to go around in place of potatoes.

While the Middle East is still in an uproar, the Olson household came to their own Peace Treaty last week. Rachel does all her homework with Mom except for Math - that subject is reserved for Dad. So, this first week has been peaceful and hopefully will continue to be a successful resolution to all out war. Not that Dad is better at math than Mom (I can solve a mean Sudoku puzzle :) ) but she actually listens to him in that subject! Parents do not always make the best teachers. Both girls began a dance class after school and love it. It is nice when they get home from school and say "I had the best time at school today." There have been some minor scrapes, punches (yes, punches - our kid on the receiving end) and stuff but all has been handled well and they are always happy to go to school.

We went to a local bakery today after school. Rachel asked the lady "Haben zie ice, bitte" (Do you have ice cream, please) and the lady showed her right where it was - I was so proud! I messed up my pronunciation of the bread but got what I wanted and was so bold as to ask how to properly pronounce it. Most people are quite helpful (the Swiss feel they are much friendlier than their dour neighbors, the Germans - and vice versa - we maintain a "neutral" position). I think one of my current favorites is being asked to "fix an appointment." That is how the german translates for "make an appointment." So if we come back wanting to "fix an appointment," please be kind.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Tram & Alps

OK - Here is our mode of transport uphill if we don't feel like climbing 100 stairs. Our little tram/lift - we still have a few stairs after that. Am hoping for little/no ice this winter!
Other pic is from our first "road trip" thru the mtns nearby - We live in Switzerland!!!!!!!!!! It was amazing - and yes, cows in the road (many are wearing bells). They get freedom and the right of way in the high country. They will be moved soon to the lowlands for winter. We are hoping to check out that event in one of the villages if we can.