Wednesday, March 26, 2008

CH, France and Cool story at END of post

We had a great time with Judy & Sam. Judy is the mother of my close friend, S, who I've known since 8th grade. Sam is S's daughter - it was a grammy/grand daughter trip for Sam's Bday. "Aunt" Susan was very honored that S would choose to spend her special trip with Grammy in Switzerland with us. Not to mention, J is like a 2nd mom and friend to me as well. Again, it was great to have them.

We did some touring around Zurich by Tram. The girls liked the 'new' trams as they had these nice back seating areas. Not that they were looking out the window at the view - they were playing clapping/slapping hand games! Easter window display at a Chocolatier/Confiserie. Always elaborate and fun for every season.
S watching the swans from the Kapell bridge in Luzern. She loved feeding them as much as we do.
We went to France on Thurs. and our first stop was Haut Koenigsbourg near Colmar. It is a medieval castle high on a small mountain/large hill in the Alsace region of France. It was renovated by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany in the 19th Century but treaty of Versailles gave that area to the French - the Rhein river became the new border for the area (about 20 minutes away). First mention of the Castle is 12th Century so it's origins are old - even though much of what you see today there is reproduction. The surrounding hills are littered with little towers and schlosses that make it very appealing to the imagination.

The girls had a wonderful time exploring the Castle. As it was the day before Good Friday (all of Europe shut down - that was a surprise to us :) ) and not exactly the height of tourist season, there was hardly anyone on the grounds. The girls were able to explore, imagine and play throughout at their leisure and we had a great time.

Height of Kingly fashion at the time but I don't think I'd be using this light fixture in my own castle - just saying. Has a 70's meets hunting lodge feel. But I didn't see any avocado green wall to wall carpeting.
After the Castle, we headed down to Monkey Mountain which I've posted before. Always a treat for the kids and grown ups. We then headed to Colmar for shopping and dinner which became a life lesson adventure.

Not all lessons are easy but sometimes the lesson learned ends up well and God uses it for much good.

We left Colmar after dinner and arrived to our hotel in Freiburg, Germany (about 40 min. in rain). Sam realized she didn't have her purse and must have lost it somewhere between the restaurant and the parking garage in Colmar. Her spending money, gift cards, etc... were lost. Fortunately, J had her passport so we spent our time reassuring her that the money lost was not the important thing. We did return the next morning to the restaurant (no luck) and retraced our steps but the purse was not to be found. We tried.

Amazing thing - Saturday while in Luzern again, we get a call from her mom in CA. Sis was awakened by a call from France! A gentleman and his daughters found the purse - all intact - and wished to know how to return it. God answered Sam's prayers and restored faith that there are honest people everywhere who wish to do the right thing. Judy and I had written that purse off. We just didn't think someone would make that effort. Mr. E.H. did and via email we know the purse is on it's way to Switzerland and we will forward on.

Thank You Mr. E.H.

Which just made Easter Sunday that much sweeter. In the snow! That's our cool story for the week. Lessons learned and hope restored. It was great.

Davos Correction

Here's the pic I was looking for - happy to have the snow tires (1pm afternoon): Disclaimer: As you can see - brakes lights on all cars in front of me. The vehicle was NOT in motion during the taking of this pic. Just in case you were wondering. :-)

A Few Snapshots as I get my Brain organized

Well, J & S have gone. I took them to the airport early Monday morning and then went home and took a nap. We had a very full week and a Happy Easter. It's been snowing off and on since afternoon on Sunday (Easter) and although most of the time it didn't accumulate, the temps turned cooler over Mon. night and I shoveled about 8 inches yesterday. So - Welcome Spring. More snow now than we had all winter. The girls have been on break since last Wed. so it's nice to hibernate a bit.

Although in leaving for the airport at 6am Mon. we found the temp outside cold enough (-5 C) that the doors for the lift were frozen (our lift is an outdoor 'funicular/tram'). So we had to carry the luggage down 6 flights in snow - Joy.

While I try to organize my thoughts re: the past week, I will leave you with these items that I didn't have time to post last week.

Saturday morning lift line at Jacobshorn (Davos). Rachel and I stood in line for 1/2 hr before we got on the chair (a 2 seater that services the bunny hill and goes further to the main part of the mountain). Once you get to the top, you then split off to about 5 different 4 - 6 person lifts which makes standing in line no problem!

Take a good look at this line however - lift lines in Switzerland have NO organization - it's not really a line at all. You just all squeeze together and shove your way forward until you are next to get on the chair. Beware polite and timid Americans - you will be squeezed to the back of the pack if you are not careful. I want to get on that hill bad enough that I've had no problems getting to the chair :). There are some beautiful bridges here. This one leads out of Klosters into the tunnel for Davos.
Ah - one of the girls favorite words in the German language - Ausfahrt. It makes them giggle. They also know when we've left France, etc... for Germany or Switz. by the exit signs.
Where else but in Switzerland can you find a man riding the chair lift and skiing with his dog? Is there another place? Please tell me. Just thought you might get a kick out of this. There's a common saying in the expat world that "the Swiss treat their dogs better than their children." I wouldn't exactly agree with that statement but for reasons that would take an entire post to explain - maybe at a later date.
And here we are - sitting on the road through Wolfgang Pass. I was just sooooo glad we have the snow tires. Our tires get changed out each spring and fall. "Paul" comes and takes the car while leaving his (it's sad - a Mercedes station wagon) and gets the car serviced, changes the tires and brings it back to me. Can we all say "SPOILED." I will admit it! I've never enjoyed taking the car in to the shop - Bart will agree with that based on the many times he'd ask "when are you taking the truck in to get serviced." "uuuuhhhhh - I didn't have time?" I just don't like it. Confession over. Have a great day and I'll post about our great visit with J & S before we leave for Spring Break trip on Sat!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mac n' Cheese and Madeira wine

Yesterday I picked up J & S from the airport. They arrived from CA and were still standing on their own two feet even without much sleep. It's a loooonnnngggg day. So they rested yesterday but before that, they unloaded a whole suitcase of stuff for us - Mac n' Cheese, Log Cabin syrup, Cumin powder (can only get seeds here, not the ground stuff - and I'm not adding a pestle & mortar to my kitchen gadgets - that's more work!), Eastery things, Enchilada seasoning, etc...

But that bag was really heavy and I joked they must have lugged some CA wine to Europe with them. J looked funny but then brought out - in bubble wrap - a beautiful bottle of Madeira wine from Napa! Two large bottles of syrup and the Madeira make for a heavy bag. Now I just need help with the Madeira :).

Probably could have used it after Sundays drive home from Davos! It had shades of "chain controls on I-80 over the Donner Summit" written all over it. Except the pass isn't as steep, there were no actual signs letting you know that chain controls were on and fortunately - we had the proper snow tires so they let us through. I have some pic's - will download later and add to that trip.

Bart only worked 27 hrs this weekend and finally caught a cab to arrive home at midnight yesterday. You'd think he was working in TAX - but he's not. Pray this ends on Thurs.!

I'm off now to play mom & tour guide - I love having company - and I especially love this company. FUN! (and not just because they brought Mac n' Cheese and stuff :) )

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ahh - Can't think of a title today - Lame

Lest I lead you all astray (my posts have had a blue twist to them) - we do like it here. Everyone I know, who has had to adjust to a new/foreign place, does go through little 'bluesy' phases. Within the USA or out. I think its the long winter, knowing we won't be visiting (the States) for another 4 months, Kris pregnant/showers, etc.... gets to us - because we can't be there, live and in person, for those fun personal moments.

I thought of our IA time and my transition there from CA at the bakery the other night. The gal on Tues. nights, when we go after dropping Rachel off for riding, doesn't speak any English. But she does speak Italian, French, Spanish, High German and Swiss German - just no English - Geesh! She complemented me on my pronunciation of Oester Chuechli (a tasty little treat only available at Easter/Oester), the gentleman behind chuckled and we spoke a bit - he spoke excellent Engl. so she she wanted to know what the word in Engl. was for 'sachli' - he said 'bag.' She asked then if I wanted a bag. Before, she always asks if I want a 'sachli' which sounds like 'sackly'. I said the Swiss German 'sachli' was very close to our word 'sack' which means the same. The gentleman looked bemused and I told him that in CA it was called a bag - and that he was correct. But we moved to IA and was usually asked if I wanted a 'sack.'

To be honest - it always bugged me to be asked if I wanted a "sack." Or "in the sack." But I can handle 'sachli'. Enough ranting......

I am SO EXCITED to have visitors this Spring I can't stand it. A very close friend (BF since 8th grade) is going to trust me with her mom (J) and daughter (S - 13 yrs) next week. And then my mom and her BF are coming in April. I will ask, if you are willing, to pray for our visit with J & S next week - S has been sick and is on antibiotics. And S has JRA (juvenile rheumatic arthritis) which has really reared it's ugly head this winter. Being sick with infection has hindered her ability to take the JRA med's this last 2 weeks. Please pray that she will feel well for the flight and the arthritis will not hinder her fun of visiting die Schweiz. I did promise no mountain climbing :). We can visit many places without having to walk extensively - we can see much of Zurich via tram! or the boat! or the train! And gondola's to take us up the mountains!

I realized that I made a mistake in a previous post about my dear husband. He is working way too much - only good news is that the client has to work as much or more right now. It doesn't sound fair of me but they are the cause of the upheaval this busy season. It's in the newspapers here so I'm not giving away any 'confidential' information. He hasn't been working 12hr days. It's really been more like 14 - with a little reading brought home, and the weekends. Everyone on his team has their little Vit. C brausetabletten canisters at their desks. These are big Vit. C tabs that you put into a glass of water, they fizz like alka seltzer and are pretty tasty. Beats swallowing a giant horse pill. He is afraid if he does get any time to relax - he will drop down sick. He's probably right. After Easter, honey, after Easter.

I am now faced with going to Davos alone with the girls again. It is the KPMG family ski weekend but Bart and his crew will not be there - they will be working. At this point the Co. has to pay for the rooms re: of whether we show up or not. Therefore, several spouses/families are still going.

I asked the girls "Do you want to go with Daddy or not, because Daddy has to work this weekend?"

Rachel immediately "Not go - I don't want to go without Daddy."

Me rephrasing question "This will probably be our last ski trip for the year as Spring is arriving and the snow is starting to melt - are you sure?"

Rachel "Yeah, let's go. Daddy will be at work anyway."

? for the family - Where did Rachel's genes come from, and let's skip a generation, shall we? We need this picture with Rachel inserted:

I was feeling a bit guilty for deciding to go but as B and I talked about it, I realized us being gone would relieve some of his guilt for having to be gone again. We will go. And it should be fun - I'm just so thankful the girls enjoy it!

I hope you all have a good day. My posts should get a little more cheerful as Spring arrives - but, can't promise there won't still be some 'deep' posts here and there.

Because, when you find yourself, a 40-ish person, who never dreamed she would get to live in a foreign country, running for trains, speaking a foreign language and being understood, leading worship at church (1/mo) and living in a place with a VIEW - you find yourself thinking deep thoughts once in a while. And thanking God an awful lot. For everything. Every single day.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Beauty comes at a Price

The girls are running in a field that had sheep in it last week. They've removed the electric tape fences and thus "the hills are alive" syndrome is in effect. Hmmm... letting children run through fields that just recently had livestock grazing in them. Could be a tad messy? Aha, but know this, part of the renewable and employable resources in this country include a young or old person with a cart who goes around the fields and, yes, scoops stuff up. Makes de-tassleing corn sound pretty good now, doesn't it? (little joke for the IA folks)

The point of this observation is - Switzerland can be really pretty and, OH, the green, green fields. Some of which were sprayed with liquid fertilizer last week. Based on the above comments - guess where that liquid fertilizer comes from? IT IS GROSS!! My sensitive nose was assaulted! But sure makes the fields pretty. Beauty does come at a price - phew! Bad news is that was just the beginning - it will continue through the month of March weather permitting. Just have to put up with it. R and K in their favorite tree. Sunday afternoon walk.
So - What do you do when you are kids and have a giant pit in your backyard? Throw big chunks of snow into it for fun!
And when you've exhausted your supply of giant snowballs, get into the big pit and bowl them. They sure had a lot of fun. They keep asking me to run some water in the bottom so it will freeze and they can ice skate in the backyard. Hmmm - No! Dropping Rachel at the school early for the Ski Trip.

Rachel with her classmates - they were so excited.
Kendra showing Dad her puppet and art book that related to the fairytale she wrote and illustrated. She did a wonderful job with her presentation and wrote a really detailed story. We were very proud.
Hopefully Blogger will be nicer to me - have had a few issues. Maybe because I giggle everytime it asks me for my 'Nutzername.' That's the user name/email address in German - still makes me giggle.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My Day

Lately, life has been a mix of crazy busy with moments of peace which I get by saying "No" to things that might otherwise fill up remaining free time. Bart is working a ton - 12 days and on weekends. So I try to get things done so that the time we do have is 'good' time. Rachel just let for her class Ski Trip - 3 days and 2 nights. Last year was the first time she had gone overnight with school and we were all a bit nervous. For her, it is great and she does wonderful. But we miss her - even all the chatter. But I will have 2 afternoons without "R - tone it down" "R - one thing at a time" "R - we are all waiting" "R - chill out." I will get my ears prepared for Friday when she returns.

A blogger gal I read regularly discussed what one will and won't see/read on her blog. I reflected upon this yesterday afternoon as I took a little break from my to-do's to have a snack.
Here is what you see: Some of my favorite things - B & J's Choc. Fudge Brownie, flowers and big snowflakes. What you won't see: the interior of the ice-cream pint, whether I eat it out of a bowl or straight from the carton, the pint of Choc. Chip Cookie Dough ice-cream (the girls really like it so I try to keep my mitts off), my political views vs B & J's (because I don't eat a lot of ice cream and when I do, this is what I like as long as there are no candidate pictures present - I don't care whom, it would just ruin my appetite) and no post about the exchange rate on buying 9.90 chf pints of imported B & J's - because there isn't really much difference now between the Franc and the $$$ and no point complaining about it.

I was thinking yesterday we lived in a little slice of Camelot - the big, beautiful flakes fall but there is nothing to shovel - it all melts, it's March...... until this morning. And after the little mini-blizzard blew thru in the last hour - after this picture - I will have to shovel. But first - I will go to German class aka Deutschstunde and spreche auf Deutsch.
And then I will shovel - because now the sun is shining and the little blizzard which dropped 2 - 3 more inches is gone - Hooray!!!!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Mighty Ducks!

Bart and I endured a complete victory dance and whooping and hollering last night as the Mighty Ducks beat the Hawks in the playoff game - 20 or so years later. Thank You Disney - still going strong!

Of course we had to convince R & K that they might enjoy the movie - it did not involve any princesses, mermaids or animated characters! And we also have to factor the R & K differences - one likes a little scary, one doesn't; one likes Barbie movies, one not so much; one likes horse movies, one - not if they're scary (apparently Black Stallion qualifies as scary). So our "Family Movie Nights" are teaching us all the skills of negotiation. Maybe we'll raise a lawyer.

Spring is coming to Switzerland - skiied on ice and then slush last week, it's been raining and I have planted the little Spring perennials in pots and the garden to brighten things up. We have visitors coming so I hope we have beautiful blue skies for them and good health for all. Otherwise, life is just moving at it's normal fast pace and we are ready for another week.

Here are our 'mighty ducks' in Davos. This is the big rink there - the indoor ice stadium is there behind and the outdoor hockey rink is behind the nets to the left. A lot of ice! The girls love to skate - not sure why but they love it. And they manage to stay on their feet most of the time - so do I! I had not ice-skated for, OH, 20 yrs or so until this year. So have to say it's not been a favorite sport but I've always stayed on my feet - figure roller skating & roller blading served me well. But see what we have here:
It seems that nearly every time I take the girls skating, a little girl or group of girls hang onto us. Figuratively. That don't speak any English. So I am trying to translate with English and High German from the Swiss German they speak. I've learned to say - you guys go skate together - and try to remove myself. This let's them all work it out together. I think my girls were most impressed by the ice-skating outfit of the little girl above. And her spins. They wanted to spin too - and tried. Notice mine are wearing their ski helmets while ice-skating. There's a good reason for that!

Mighty Ducks they aren't but they sure have a lot of fun.