Saturday, August 26, 2006

Our PC is Back - Pic's & Parmesan

We have our PC back from the computer rescue people and I just downloaded 411 pic's from my dig. camera card - doesn't include my Canon film this summer. Just a FEW pictures! So here is a small sample: girls with Rebecca & Jacob in Fresno, favorite Lake Zurich activity - feeding Swans, with cousins Julia & Natalie in Germany and on the Capital Mall for 4th of July - Go USA!!! So I may go crazy here and there with the pic's but have to get them all sorted out.

So I am making dinner tonight, pasta, and I am grating parmesan cheese and realizing that 2 months ago I would have been shaking it out of a green can. One of my favorite food memories as a child was watching my grandpa grate parmesan while getting family dinners ready. He wouldn't let us grate it as he didn't want us to grate our knuckles (it does hurt, trust me). There would be this beautiful, light and fluffy pile of parmesan in a brown plastic bowl that we would sprinkle generously over Grandma's Rigatoni. So I thought I would like to share the story of the Parmesan cheese and my Grandpa Bianco (dad's side).

As I go into this story, I will explain that Gpa Bianco came over from Sicily to the Chicago area when he was about 8 yrs old (moved to CA during WWII). He was always a very precise person, very interested in history, grew much of their own veggies, etc... and Kraft Mac n'Cheese never darkened their doorstep. Had even built a solar oven in the backyard that the lady next door kept insisting he used to communicate with aliens (there was a lot of tin foil on it). The following is my favorite memory of him before he passed away - he was in his 80's.

Bart and I had just purchased our first house (San Ramon) and were having an Open House. I chose to make pasta - it's easy and I like it. I cooked the sauce in the crock pot all day. Then we went to serve the meal and I realized my Uncle Dave had just arrived with Gpa Bianco. I made a very conscious decision right then and there to NOT serve any parmesan with the pasta, salad and bread that was being dished out. Well, Gpa finally got around to the pasta and after declaring it tasted pretty good (high praise) wondered if he could get some parmesan for it! I start to stumble and Uncle Dave is there smirking with amusment as I explain to Gpa that I only have parmesan out of the green can (at least it was Kraft, not generic) and I didn't have any real parmesan. By now Dave is laughing and Gpa has very graciously taken the can. He explains to me all the while that I need to go to the Italian deli and get a block of parmesan and a nice grater........

I must admit that I cannot find a green can of cheese here. But it was very easy to find a brick of parmesan at the store. Every time I need it, I grate it. I don't have a brown plastic bowl but we make do with a little glass one. The girls seem to like spooning it over their pasta. I hope they too will have similar fond memories of the little things as they grow. And while I have high hopes of tomatoes, zuchetti(aka zuchini) and yellow squash in my garden next year, I don't think we'll be building any solar ovens!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Max & Other Olson News

The Olson's and Johnson's (that is Shelly & Jay, Max's adopted parents) have had a roller coaster couple of weeks as Max got pretty ill and it was uncertain what was wrong. He went to sleep peacefully on Mon., 8/21, with Jay & Shelly there to give him love. Last Fri./Thurs. (depends on the time zone) we learned he had a very aggressive, vascular cancer (internal) and we all wanted to let him go without suffering. So we prayed for and got a good weekend for Max with Jay & Shelly. They took him riding in the Wrangler with the top down and his own little bed to ride in. He got to go to Saylorville Lake and go swimming which he loved on Sunday. It hit all of us pretty hard as he had been with us for almost 10 yrs. and the Johnson's got attached quickly as well - He had such a fun personality. He was our first "baby" and we have many wonderful memories to remember him by. Most of you have heard a Max story or two. So enjoy the pic's of his fun weekend and remember him fondly.

On a happier note, the girls started school last week and are really enjoying it. They are hoping to join a Creative Dance class as an afternoon activity. We now have homework for Rachel so she and Mommy are working on the best way to get that done. She has such definite opinions. But she does do it and I hope she just gets a little quicker at it - tends to dawdle if you know what I mean. Do they grow out of this? Does it continue until they are out of the house? Do I put an end to these questions as I'm afraid of the answers? Kendra took right to Kindergarten and has several friends she is dying to have over for a playdate. Rachel is angling for a B-day party. Ah, the social life begins. Fortunately it has been so cool during Aug. with lots of on/off showers that the bug population seems to have diminished rapidly. Indoors - a few sweeps of the vacuum hose seems to keep the spidey population manageable.

And for those who know my habits - I have started in on the landscaping. We've done some trimming and I just bought some plants so am ready to get my hands dirty. I couldn't buy anything til we had a vehicle for me to haul it in. But, I still walk into town sometimes - nice to have the options now. We keep waiting to mow the jungle in our yard - first it was blazing hot and nothing grew but then it got cool & wet so it has grown alot but we haven't been able to cut it! Bart has his work ahead of him - I've offered to mow only when I felt it is manageable for me - a jungle is NOT manageable.

We went to church on Sun. They had a visiting speaker/musician from Capetown, Sth Africa, who was good. The church is searching for a pastor right now so it will be interesting but the girls loved Sun. School and it was so nice to speak to others in English. We miss Valley and our neighborhood and friends. But we are slowly making progress here and have really grown as a family as well. It is a little different but so nice to have Bart home every night - we will really miss him when he goes on his first out of town trip in Sept. Not that we didn't miss him before but we were used to him being gone.

So Hello to Everyone: email us or comment if you like, stay in touch and I'll have more to add soon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

London - An Adventure

Well, We flew to London last Wed. afternoon for a little "holiday" before the girls started school this week. Of course, woke up Thurs. morning to a changed air travel "climate." Overall our trip was very good but I think Bart and I did have a little cloud hanging over us - would we get our flight back home, should we take the train to Paris and then fly or train back to Zurich, how would the girls respond to the differences required for traveling, etc...
But before we get into all that: We went to Westminster Abbey - very cool and interesting. Although we know the body means nothing once the soul has departed, it was fascinating to walk through that building in which the remains of Queen Elizabeth & Mary Tudor, Kings William, Edward, George, etc..., Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens and many, many more have been laid to rest. Most often thru the galleries you were walking on someones tomb! It is the history and length and breadth of it - Fascinating. Big Ben and Parliament are quite impressive - they were built to be. And of course many palaces & parks were to be viewed - did all the touristy places and tried to get a feel for what we might focus on should there be subsequent trips. The girls played "horsey", chased pigeons and/or climbed trees thru much of St. James, Hyde, Regents and Kensington Parks. Let us not forget the Tower of London - Awesome and of all the things to pay for, in my humble opionion, this tops the list of value for the pound.
As we have become quite the denizens of the public transportation world, we took the Tube everywhere. There is a reason it's called the Tube and never have I felt more like a rat in a maze. And I have a "little" bit of claustophobia - I usu. just put things out of my mind - did that alot down there. Was glad to get back to the Zurich Bahnhoff - our stations have more room, are cleaner and I can breathe!
Well, Sun. morning came and as we were getting ready to go to the airport, we found out thru calling that our flight had been cancelled. British Airways had basically shut down Terminal 4 which services most of their European short-haul flights, Canada and Australia. Great - we got an extra day of sight-seeing. Just wish BA had offered to pay for the addt'l expenses! But we plugged thru the day on their promise we were on the same flight for Mon. I did not pray for miracles to happen but did pray for graciousness, patience and endurance for our family. God answered that prayer abundantly as unbeknownst to me, we needed all 3.

Sunday went fine and we were prepared - bathed the girls, packed Barts and my normal carryons (a backpack & black shoulder bag) with dirty clothes as these bags would have to be checked in and made room for the rest of our clothes, Rachels carryon, Kendra's rolling backpack, my purse, digital AND 335mm Canon, jewelry and a couple of books (english language reading material is my weakness right now) in the medium and small suitcase we had brought. Needless to say, not much shopping was done or souvenirs purchased this trip. We had our coats, wallets, passports and Kendra's blankey ready for the trip. THEN, at approx. 2:40am we found ourselves (in pajamas) with the other hotel guests on the sidewalk in front of the hotel due to the fire alarms going off and of course protocol dictates the fire dept. must come and clear the building before we could return to our rooms (we did grab our passports and wallets on our way out but forgot our room key :) ). Were let in some time later and all of us were able to fall back to sleep rather quickly under the circumstances. So got to the airport early next morning, about 8:30 for a Noon departure, and found that they were not letting anyone into the airport until flights were called. So we spent 2 1/2 hours out in the parking lot with hundreds of others (complimentary milk & coffee with raisin cookies that my girls won't eat) - see all the people waiting in white tents, etc... on TV - that was us! Once our flight # was up, the check-in and security procedures were smoothest I' ve ever encountered. It sure speeds up the process when you have virtually nothing to check in but a little plastic baggie. Once into the terminal, we were able to buy something to eat, crayons & paper for the girls and head to our flight. As long as you weren't headed to the US, you were allowed to take your purchases on the plane - for US, only the baggie was allowed still. I must admit - the freedom from stuff in traveling was not too bad (I put out of my mind that my camera's were at risk of breaking - same technique I use when claustrophobic - and they didn't). I would not sacrifice the security of traveling by air for the right to more carryon baggage - stuff like lipstick, etc... can be replaced if your check-in doesn't arrive on time - Life can't be. But I would appreciate a move to allow one's film and books to be carried onboard - is that asking too much?
Well - the tale doesn't end there. We go to board our plane (not that we see one) and about thirty of us are sent down the jetway only to find all entrances blocked. After the grownups are expressing their confusion, etc.. Kendra begins to cry (poor girl has had several things occur which have turned her into an anxious traveler). Finally an attendant unlocks a door and we find ourselves descending the jetway into a bus which, once loaded, proceeds to a series of planes sitting on the tarmac and we board in the rain. As we sit down, Bart says "You noticed what row we are sitting in, didn't you?" - 13 . Very Funny. So we must admit that our return to Zurich filled us with much happiness and I was even happy to hear the German instructions (which we don't yet understand) once again pouring forth from loudspeakers.
I know that is a long tale but will answer most of the questions should anyone ask us what our London trip was like. I'm hoping our future travels are a little less dramatic.

And if you wonder how the girls did? They were great after the initial shock of not being allowed the comfort of their "stuff" on the plane (of course the comfort of Blankey was allowed). They do not know why the rules changed (they've dealt with enough this summer) only that they did and we have to follow the rules. They played Old Maid and War with game cards while waiting outside and never complained about being hungry in spite of the lack of food, etc... until noon. God truly answered our prayers.
So we are now starting a new week. School orientation was today and the girls are happy about starting school AND I drove for the first time in 5 weeks! We had to get a rental car so I can get the girls to/from school. We are still waiting for our permits so we can get our "regular" car. Hopefully will get a regular computer setup soon and get pic's going - I can't take many more on my digital until I can download & backup the card!
Take care you all!

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Gruezi is the extent of many of my conversations here. It is the same as saying Hello to persons you pass by. We are looking into language school as I am saying Sprechen zie Engliche, Bitte? far too often. And laugh at me if you will but I do introduce myself as Frau Olson fairly often - or am called such. When in Rome..... Names are important here and typically one is not on a first name basis until invited to be so. A little more formal. It has been a strange week - the Swiss Nat'l Holiday was Aug. 1st (like our Indep. Day) so Mon. was at the grocery to make sure we had essentials 'til Wed. - think Safeway or HyVee during Thanksgiving week. Bart was off that day (no US holidays off here except Christmas - rest are Swiss) and and upon a walk up behind our place, we found the source of the occasional odors - a riding stable up the hill. And here I was blaming the goats and cows.
We got our Satellite up and running yesterday - Skye out of the UK. We put it on the Disney Channel and Rachel was so excited she says "It's so cool, it's in English!" She's not the only one feeling language deprivation. I must admit though, after 3 weeks of hardly any TV, I'm already ready to pull the plug on their viewing!
It's rainy and cool. A nice change. Keeps the bugs away for a while. BIG Misconception here - in Europe (generalizing) they claim (as they did to us when we commented on the lack of window screens) to not have bug problems like in the United States. The only problem they don't have is mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus or Malaria! They STILL HAVE all the same bugs and just live with them (admittedly a few less mosquitoes). I think must be the reason too for many of the sheer/lace drape linings - to keep a number of bugs out. We have all had bites - Bart and I are certain they are spider bites - but our moving in and cleaning up seems to have diminished the number of insects residing in quarters with us. My bro-in-law, Claus the Dr., says in his wonderful (and yes it is wonderful) German accent "This is a good thing to have the Daddy long-legs in your house, it means the environment where you live is very healthy and clean that they would want to live there." OK - so I will resist the urge to run around with the spray bottle of chemical pollutants inside (but I did on the outside perimeter of the house). Prob. doesn't help that a portion of our place is underground and surrounded by overgrown vegetation! That is the reason also the girls got their own little straw broom - so they could "wap" at the bugs on their own - besides keeping their floors swept up.
Have to get breakfast - Most of you reading this were still cosy in bed!