Thursday, August 30, 2007

Chilbi - Is it a Food? a Disease? a European Auto?

None of the above! Chilbi is the local carnival that graces many of the small villages around the Lake and throughout the countryside during the year. Take carnival rides, raclette booths (smelly melting cheese scraped onto pieces of fresh bread), some cheap product hawkers and a few 'bier gartens' and you have the Waedenswil Chilbi. This fair takes place from Sat. to Mon. starting from 2pm in the afternoon and we're not sure when it stops - heard it going full steam ahead Sat. morning at 12:30am (Kendra was having a nightmare - maybe it was the loud music blaring from the Bahnhof!). I am afraid our pics here are from last year when we didn't know any better. BUT, we obviously thought it had redeeming entertainment value for the family as we decided to go Monday night for dinner and some rides - but forgot the camera.

Last year the girls were content with kiddie rides and a whirl on the Ferris Wheel. But Bart had to go and corrupt Kendra with the Pepsi Ripsaw in Snoopyland at the Mall of America (she remembers every last bit of that label exhausting title) last Dec. and the rest will go down in history - and Susan will probably go down with it! Bart & Rachel are unable to do anything fast and spinny for fear that, well, you know, they may never want to eat another Bratwurst again. So Kendra has found that Mom can handle these crazy rides - likes spinning fast and has a strong stomach. But I found I had a stronger stomach before children. These are not your run-of-the-mill carnival rides. Yes, they are mobile, carnival sorts but they rival the speed and chill factor of a Six Flags - with exception of roller coasters.

Kendra had her heart set on riding the Snow Dream which is a bunch of linked sleighs that chase each other around an undulating track at high speed. As I am clinging to her at warp speed (trying to keep her from flying out), she is yelling how Awesome it was. She then convinces me to go on this crazy swing ride seen in the pic below. I was doing OK until they sped things up and started tilting it - which I did NOT remember from last year. I did not enjoy the ride!!!! All I could thing was - "How could I be whipping around up here 30ft off the ground in this little chain link chair and how could I have thought it was OK to let Kendra go on it too!" She thought it was fun but admitted it made her a little nervous. A big Hannah Montana "YA Think!" can be inserted here. You realize my mother is reading this now and thinking she needs to save her grandchildren from irresponsible parents - but no one's going to listen because I'm sure Kendra got the daredevil guts from her in the first place. So then, we let them ride the little roller coaster by themselves - all the while yelling at them to HOLD ON - because Mommy is about to cry, certain something terrible is going to happen to her beloved babies on these crazy carnival rides. I was not relaxed. So what did I do? Gave in and went on the Snow Dream again w/K - this time we screamed louder and seemed to go faster (maybe that was because it was now dark and they put on the strobe lights). We have stomachs of iron - had some cotton candy right after that. Bart and Rachel seemed to enjoy watching us - especially the "nervous" moments. So there goes another Chilbi. And I think we might find ourselves out of town or something the last full weekend of August next year.

We could see our house from the Ferris Wheel. Tall tree at the top of the horizon, left of middle - then straight down to the white building just below. That's us on top - you can see our backyard fir trees.

I still can't even contemplate a blog about the start of school yet. Maybe after Rachel's Birthday/Slumber party tomorrow night I might be cured. Or ruined forever. We'll see.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

kein Zeit

In english that would be - no time. Yes, school has begun, and homework, and violin lessons, and piano lessons and.... need I say more? I have a lot to say but am catching a cold, it's 10pm and it will all have to wait til later. But we still exist, we will survive and sister and Bro-in-law (K & J) come next Thurs. from So. Cal. for 3 weeks!!!!! so must clean up the guest room (aka storage room for Susan's stuff). Tschau!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vienna - 2nd Half

Took a very nice tour of the Opera House - would like to get tickets someday.
We took the girls to a small Mozart/Strauss concert in a nearby Palais. Here they are enjoying their OJ during the brief intermission. They really seemed to enjoy themselves and especially enjoyed the few pieces that were accompanied by dancing (they were fun, humorous numbers). The conductor was also the 1st/solo violin and so that was of added interest to Rachel as she starts her violin lessons this week.
Schloss Shoenbrunn - nice little summer getaway for the Austrian Royal Family isn't it. Started in the 17th Century as the summer home of Empress Maria Therese and as time went by, was used as a more permanent residence. Considered 2nd in Europe to Versailles. I am a bit partial to this particular location - a bit more understated than Versailles, don't you think? Anyway - the girls loved the Carraige museum and had all sorts of grand plans - "Can't we get a little carraige just to play with?" "We could get a pony to pull it and drive it all around" "And we could have our friends over and drive them around" We were quick to point out that there will never be any carraiges and horses in our backyard - no can do!
The Shoenbrunn hosts the oldest zoo in Europe and everyone was very entertained by this polar bear and his 5 gal. box. It was finally determined the zookeepers had put fish in this container and he was determined to get it. He would throw it, drag it under water, hug it - it was a riot.
Looking from the Schloss toward the gardens which lead to the Glorietta (an impressive looking piece of architecture designed to make ones summer house look very grand and important - as if it needed that extra little touch!). Hey - we have kids who can take our picture now - what fun! There have been a few heads chopped off but for the most part, they do a decent job.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Funny - We are so pathetic!

I'll make you wait for the Pathetic part and entertain you with other small events in our lives (and I still haven't finished Vienna but girls start school tomorrow!!!):

1st - History was made this last week as Susan's dad was set up with a laptop and has now entered the information age. He even sent us an email this last week - Yeah! Having 3 kids and 5 grandchildren around the world/different time zones has finally broken him down. Now if Bart's parents ever get online - "The sky is falling, the sky is falling!"

The 2nd piece of headline news is that Susan mowed the lawn this week. I must admit to never having mowed an entire lawn myself - EVER! I did once mow the front lawn of our house in Carmichael (I must have been 19) but never made it round the back. That was just a chore my dad in his fatherly wisdom (3 kids with asthma or serious grass allergies) chose to not burden my sisters & I with (probably saved a bit in medical as well). Halfway thru the job, I went in to take a Claritine as I was, uh, starting to suck air instead of breath it. And walking behind gas fumes in the sun combined with the smell of fresh cut grass -Ewww- I jumped into the pool quick! I, however, looked much more fashionable than my husband and should have had Rach take a shot of me mowing in my tank and skirt - cooler than shorts! The sad part was - I was looking for praise from Bart who said "why did you mow the lawn - it wasn't long yet." It was long enough and I needed to know how much more of that yard container I could use for other things! He did thank me after that.

Thirdly, before we reach pathetic, on the way home from church today Bart cranked up a little Tobymac and said "let's rock." He and I are whoopin' it up in the front seat and we get asked to turn it down from the little ones in the back. They think we listen to music too loud! So how much longer is that going to last before the reverse is true?

OK - now for a little pathetic in our lives: Bart made pancakes for breakfast this morning - Yummy. And I am on my last pancake but need a little more syrup to stir it around in (I like syrup :). I ask Bart to pass the syrup and he hesitates, then says "why don't you just use the rest of mine? I got a little too much." We both looked at that bottle of Log Cabin sitting there and started laughing. Now, why would anyone use the syrup off anyone else's plate you ask? He picks up the bottle and declares "it's 2/3rds gone and that's good stuff." Not to mention expensive. We figured the Bisquick cost us about $25 and the Log Cabin $20 when factoring the shipping/weight/box space when we shipped it over from CA in coming back this summer. The KC Masterpiece went in luggage so we figure it was almost free although no less precious. Now, we don't nickel & dime everything but, we cannot replace these items here. OK, so they have maple syrup but it's the real stuff (from Canada even) and does not have that thick, tasty artificial maple syrup flavor.
Soooo - I did it - I just used up the syrup off his plate. How pathetic is that! But now I've admitted it to everyone. Since I can't talk to everyone like I used to - and admit our failings in person, just want to give you a taste of our daily goings on!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Vienna - 1st half

1st day in Vienna - a little rainy but crowded and hopping
At the Hofburg - the Neue Berg (New Palace) - which is one of my favorite buildings anywhere
Inside the Neue Berg - It houses the Austrian Museums of Armour & Weapons, Musical Instruments and Roman artifacts (ruins) from Ephesus. It is not the big draw that the Imperial Apartments, Treasury and Silver/China Collections are, so you find yourselved many times alone in large marble rooms/stairways with these beautiful and fanciful things from the past. Bart and I really enjoyed it when we were in Vienna 12 years ago and were glad to share it with the girls.
One of the great armour displays in the Neue Berg
Here we are - ready for a Carraige Ride around Central Vienna. You can imagine, with our 2 girly girls, carraige rides are the ultimate in touristy transportation - just like princesses they are. And, of course, they pick out which horse is their favorite, what they would do if they had a coach in real life, etc... - imaginations run wild.

This is a treat for them. We see the carraiges in most cities we visit and are always inundated with "when do we get to go on a carraige?" We had planned to do this after a concert but the parents got worn down a bit by the "when?" even though we made it clear "When!" and then it was Sun. and we didn't know how late the horsies would be up :). They smiled for the whole ride.

I'll post a few more pic's - there are some cities that just demand to have a lot of pic's taken and for me, Vienna is one of them. It is a vibrant and romantic city and as Bart puts it "the Eastern most city of the Western world." Vienna was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire (not to be confused with the Vatican in Rome) of the Hapsburg family whose rule of the Austrian empire (included parts of areas we know as Czech/Hung/Aust/Germ/Switz) lasted for 600 years. They moved the Empire seat from Prague to Vienna at some 16th/17th Cent. to secure themselves against the Ottoman Empire. We are getting a bit more clear on our understanding of the formation of Europe while living here - and where the religious differences come into play as well. I never took European history and wish I had a bit. Many of the countries we know of in Europe today are very young in terms of the actual land division and set up of current government structures. The Renaissance and Reformation did much to start moving countries away from the rule of Monarchies and the Church (under the Vatican) and then the various Revolutions did the rest up through the end of the 19th Cent.

Enough of history. We ate some great food, had some great fun and it was a really nice weekend. Admittedly, glad to be done with packing/unpacking suitcases for a while with school starting next week. We have been away from our house more than we've been at our house this summer which is fun but we are ready for some routine now. More of Vienna later....

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Copenhagen Weekend

Ah - Is Kendra contemplating the 50% Sale signs at Armani? She already has bags on hand - doing a little damage? Run Away Kendra Run Away!!!!!!!
Brightly colored buildings along the Nyhavn canal. Yes, we are on the canal tour boat - one of the touristy things we like to do as it shows you alot of a city from a different perspective and we can rest our feet for an hour.
The Hans Christian Andersen "Little Mermaid" statue in the harbour.
Bicycles are THE mode of transportation here during the summer. And it doesn't matter the attire while riding - everything from shorts & tennis shoes to skirts & high heels. And ladies - a lot of leggings worn with skirts here. It is not a trendy thing as it is in many other countries - it helps with keeping the legs warm then the breezes blow off the North Sea. I wish I had brought a pair on this trip.
The beautiful Opera House in the harbour. Copenhagen is full of very interesting architecture - old and new. And while one might not always be a fan of the modern look, it really suits the landscape here. We really enjoyed the interesting new modern buildings (a lot of glass - beautiful) and the classic, colorful older ones.

On an interesting people note - this was our first venture into a Scandinavian country. We saw so many people there who reminded us of friends we had in Iowa (heavy Scand. decent area). And as you do tour through the countries and/or airports - you do see someone familiar looking, think of who they remind you of, consider the last name and realize that the gene pool is still at work.

School starts the 20th so we are taking our last summer trip to Vienna which we loved when we visited without children 11 yrs ago. We look forward to going back and hope we still love it! So until then......

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Reliving My Childhood

Don't you wish you could set off fireworks from your roof too?
Fireworks on both sides of the Lake and all around
Fireworks set off from our neighbors terrace

The kid in all of us enjoys a great, loud fireworks display. Yesterday, August 1st, was the Swiss National Holiday - similar to our 4th of July in theory. I cannot give you the year right now without leaving my chair which I am reluctant to do, but, long ago, the various Cantons of Switzerland came to an agreement to join together in independence from the countries which they had previously been affiliated with (Germany, Austria, Italy and France) and formed their own independent and 'neutral' country. Each village still sets off a large bonfire every Aug. 1st signifying the relay of the independence message back in the day prior to telegraphs, radio, phone, TV and even their ever so efficient train system.

Last years Aug. 1st was a dude. Due to a dry July, all fireworks had been canceled - plus it rained. But this year - we saw the bonfires of at least 12 villages, there were fireworks going off all over Lake Zuerich (firecrackers had been popping all day) for over 2 hours and we had a great evening with friends we invited over for the show. And it wasn't the big city fireworks that were so spectacular as the private ones. Even our neighbors set off a series of 10 or so large, launched fireworks from their terrasse. So we were most impressed with the fact you can personally buy, real live BIG fireworks. Hmmmm, maybe next year - but it would be more fun if we could sing the Star Spangled Banner and wave OUR flag - which we didn't last night. And we will probably keep in our hearts so as not to attract any abuse from anti-American sentiments. Not that we've experienced any but there are some Swiss here who would like to keep things Swiss .....

And while we are having childlike enjoyment of the fireworks, I am reminded of my childhood. Especially in light of our recent trip back home to the States. Back when I was little and growing up in West Sacramento: we didn't have air conditioning (well, a little wall unit in the living room), a frost-free refrigerator, a garbage disposal, a dishwasher (Dad claimed he had 3 so why would he go out and buy one), ice maker, filtered water from the refrigerator but we did have screens on the windows. And no, we did not live in a trailer park but a cute little house on Poplar Ave. where I had my own room. And we had huge oak trees in front that my Dad gave me the priviledge of helping him with come time to rake up the leaves in the fall. Unfortunately, due to major allergy/asthma issues, the sisters and I did not get to jump in the giant piles of leaves which were sooooo tempting. But I digress.....

After visiting the States for a month and returning to our lovely, awesome view of the Lake, terrasse flat I realized: I have returned to my childhood!

  • We do not have air conditioning (although we do have a portable unit that can be wheeled from room to room - that must vent to outside via a window? let warm air in so we can cool it off?)
  • I clean out slimey things from the little sink drain and would LOVE to have a garbage disposal again (and the scrapping of food in trash lets off such pleasant aromas)
  • I must defrost the freezer which now has about 2 inches of frosty fuzz in the upmost regions (I have never done this - any tips Mom?)
  • I do have a small but functional dishwasher that lets the soap out most of the time
  • We make ice in little tiny trays and fortunately don't need much of it as we've become accustomed to drinking things without ice (how European of us!)
  • We use a Brita pitcher again even though they all insist the tapwater is fine - we just like cold water
  • AND there are no screens on any windows. Nor does anyone else we know, except for one, have screens on their windows. The girls are getting good at using the fly-swatter! A skill every 6 year old should master.

Funny how after time you get used to things being a certain way and only notice the change after you've returned back to what you had. Ruth Stieff asked me this week what I liked most about our living here and what I missed most about living in the States. What I like most about living here is the personal responsibility people take for their actions/accidents (there are no trial lawyers here) and what I miss most are the conveniences we had in the States (it goes without saying that our friends and family top the "miss" list).

And speaking of Ruth Stieff, we enjoyed our visit with the whole family and they seem to be enjoying Quintin's sabbatical here in Europe. They met us at church, spent Sun. night and then headed back to Belgium Mon. A little bit of Des Moines for a day and we enjoyed getting to know all of the family better.

Have a great Day!