Friday, January 29, 2010

He's an optomistic, wishful thinker - aka Liar!

Who is this optomistic, wishful thinker? The snow removal man who told me yesterday "schnee ist fertig!" Snow is finished. I laughed and said "vieleicht heute, aber morgen?" (today perhaps but tomorrow?) He continued to declare the snowfall finished in spite of all reports to the contrary. I was right and he was wrong. I like being right. Except it's getting inconvenient.

With snow on the mind, I have to share my triumph and joy thanks to my kind neighbor's effort:

Our driveway is up against landscaping that is part retaining wall and part hillside. The last driveway of a row of about 20. And there is a small retaining wall - about 6 feet - that juts out and makes it difficult to plow a good portion of ours and the adjoining neighbors spot. Note: all the residents pitch in to have our private drives cleared during winter.

The first couple years here, the plow would circle by, leaving a good portion of our drive uncleared but depositing the snow in an area where no one parks. I (or Bart) would clear the majority of our drive, heaving the snow into the landscaping because there's nowhere else to put it unless I block my own driveway.

Starting last year, they began to push the snow straight across our (& 2 adjoining neighbors) drive and leaving it against the landscaping edge. Thing is - I only have a 1 1/2 to 2 foot clearance on that side to back out of the garage. Difficult enough without snow taking up that space. So we've been trying to move the compacted snow from the snowplow as well as the rest it can't get at. Compacted snow from snowplows is not the easiest to move and when it turns to ice, well, you can imagine why I got frustrated.

So my kind Swiss neighbor offered to call the City for me - knowing that I could tell them what I want in High German but they'll answer & ask questions in Swiss German - she didn't want me to get lost in translation. They told her that yes, they know the place but no, they never put snow in that driveway. UH, HUH! She made a good arguement for me and then said to call again next time it happened.

Well, guess what? Yesterday, they circled around and did not put snow in my drive! Yippee! Better yet - I was shoveling the remainder off and they had come back for a second round. There were two men in the cab and the one jumped out - asked if it was better today (why, yes, yes it was) and then proceeded to take my shovel and complete the drive (and I saved the hard part for last).

Happy, Happy Day! A big thanks to my Swiss neighbor and the SnowMan who helped - even though he claimed the snow was finished.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

OK - another post re: Bathrooms and THEN I'm done

OK - I have been made aware that, although I do not like the placement of the electric outlet in our bathroom, I am sooooooooooo lucky to have it.

I didn't realize that the UK/British are not allowed electric outlets in their bathrooms at all and thus have power strips/cords for items requiring electricity. My sympathies to you!

As an electrician's daughter, I can see the inherent danger in having anything electric around water sources but, electric strips/cords?, in the bathroom? Confounds the mind.

I've been racking my brain trying to remember our hotel rooms in London. I believe I do recall that those were locations (and there've been a few others) where they have a "shaver" outlet available in the bathroom vanity and a built-in wall hair-dryer. But no outlets that would accomodate a heat appliance, aka. curling iron.

I find it so comforting to have my curling iron heating up on a desk surface next to the hotel phone in case I need call for emergency in case of fire. Can't tell you how often that happens in Europe.

Thing is: Overall, in Europe, one's hair is not an overdone accessory the way that it can be (gulp - not trying to offend anyone at home in the States) in the States. Remember - I was just in So Cal for 2 weeks and felt like I had to 'do' my hair everyday (btw - I was blown away by some of the interesting hair trends at home - just sayin').

I take my flattening iron/curler (a 2 in 1 thingy) when we travel because those hotel built-in wall hair-dryers DO NOT WORK. Eventually, they may dry one's hair. And by time your hair is "dry," it's a frizzy mess. The iron takes up less space & weight in the luggage so I choose my evil. You will notice I often have my hair in a ponytail. Also very popular.

I lost track. Where am I? OK - point is. I'm more grateful for my electrical outlet today even though I practically go on tiptoe to reach it. AND - don't be surprised if you travel in Europe and cannot find a bathroom outlet for your blow dryer/curling iron.

FYI - as warned before - many US curling irons don't work in Europe depending on the converter you buy. An outlet adapter is not enough - you also need an electric converter. Even then, it may not work.

On that cheery note, I bid you a snowy farewell.

Another fascinating post about Zurich (Not!) and Bathrooms

We are not alone in feeling the chill of winter. So this will not be a complaint, just an observation.

And - hat's off to you in the Midwest for surviving this Winter because as much as we may go "brrrrrr", our nostril hairs are not freezing unless we're up in the mountains. Love you all but not so sad to be living in another part of the world this winter.

Today is a "clear" day - pic below is today. For the record - it is the dreariest Zurich winter we have ever experienced. We've had sunshine maybe 3-5 days of January - and trust me, the sidewalks and 'wanderwegs' are full of people on those sunny days. It doesn't matter how cold - if the sun is shining, people get out of doors here. So we look at pictures like this to remind us of how nice it can be. And what it will be again. Or we head up to the mountains - Sun is shining beautifully there on most days when it's not snowing.
I obviously don't have much to report as I'm hibernating so thought I would share another 'bathroom' frustration here in Switzerland. I first thought of posting about this 2 years ago when my BF's mom came to visit and asked "Where do I plug in the blow dryer and my curling iron?" In fact, every guest ask's this question if I don't mention it on the initial tour of Gasthaus Olson.

Observe the vanity set-up (this is NOT a BHG or Sthrn Living photo shoot), paying close attention to the top/middle of the photo:

There at the very, tippy top of the vanity - in the cabinet - is an outlet. One outlet - no curling iron warm-up while blow-drying the hair. Fortunately, we have a double vanity so Bart & I each have ONE. I know. You are all green with envy just about now. I can just reach it - Grrrrr! Makes it harder to reach the girls for blow drying as half the cord length is taken up in height.

I love bathrooms that have reasonably placed outlets.

Continuing in the bathroom theme, I bought Bart a present several weeks ago: One set of new towels. Only one. And they were 50% off. Towels are expensive here - I don't know what they are at home anymore. In a 'regular' linen store in Switzerland (like Macy's homewares, Strouds, BB & Beyond), a large bathtowel runs about $60 - $80. At a grocery/house level (WalMart, Target, Payless), they run $30 - $40.

Bart had been saying "Don't you think we should get some new towels?" The water here is hard on them and yes, they've faded, and yes, have a few bleach marks but "Honey, have you seen the price of towels here? I'm buying all new ones when we go back to the States - it's in the budget." We had that discussion over a year ago. I told him this Fall, when they were talking about us staying another year, that if they signed the papers through 2011, I'd buy him new towels.

Papers signed in Dec., towels in January. Not a full set - don't want to commit to colors & cost when we'll be moving next year - but they are new and soft.

The bedsheets ought to hold out until next year. Euro beds are sized different and we brought over our US beds. How often do people replace sheets anyway? I'm not saying how old ours are............. Boy, I need to start working on that budget!

No more bathroom stories. That's it! Done!

I'm off to test out the knee this afternoon. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm so excited!!!!

I'm afraid that in my excitement, I will look pathetic.

I do anyway - look pathetic - after having Strep for 10 days before getting antibiotics. By the way, I woke up without a sore throat, jumped into the shower and have accomplished things this morning! I might even skip my - getting to be a bad habit - nap this afternoon. Thank God above for Zithromax! And the people at Pfizer who make it. And my Dr. ('Arzt' auf Deutsch) who prescribed it. I started thinking maybe I was a bit depressed after the Holidays and coming back to the grey fogginess that is Zurich this winter. May have been a bit but mostly - needed antibiotics. On a good note, it's probably been 2.5 years since I've taken any!!! I should probably post about our health (good!) here in die Schweiz and what I think contributes to it - my guesses only of course.

OK - back to why I am excited:

Aren't YOU excited to see a pic of our toilet? It's actually that little, blue package I'm excited about.

I was sure I mentioned the fact that I had finally run out of our Costco stash of Lysol Disinfectant Wipes on the Blog somewhere (after 3 years!), but can't find where. Anyhow, I've had to revert to the old fashioned method of pulling on rubber gloves and wiping things down with diluted bleach or general purpose cleaner (not sure how germ killing it is - disinfekt is the German word and I don't find it on the labels ? ). This method has worked for Swiss Hausfrau's for Decades but I had become accustomed to the modern convenience of the disinfecting wipe.

With this little bout of illness lately, I was once again frustrated with the lack of a disinfecting spray or wipe. I have looked for an equivalent to Lysol Spray here to no avail. If someone knows what it is here in Switzerland, please let me know. I don't use sprays often but they are helpful - like when you have Strep throat and have a family computer that EVERYONE uses. When someone in the house is sick, I tend to like to wipe/spray things like computer/mouse, telephone, light switches and doorhandles off frequently.

So I've been searching. Migros (large Swiss grocery chain) had 2 little packs of something but pictures indicated it was geared toward cleaning grease quickly off a stove, your bike, tools - not household cleaning. Coop (Euro. chain) in Waedenswil didn't have anything BUT the big one did! Score. There was one for toilets and one for general household use (and only about 3 packs of each) - and I had to look hard for them. Obviously the Hausfrau's have not caught on to the phenomenon of the convenient disinfecting wipe.

Here's the other in my shower:
I don't actually clean with wipes in my shower. Just thought you'd like to see a picture of Mr. Proper. He has big muscles, blue eyes, is clean shaven and has a hoop earring - all the features necessary to help me keep my house clean.

What I really wanted to point out is - my shower head/pole. I will NOT live without an adjustable shower head again. I won't. When we move back to the States, if the shower head is fixed - which it probably will be - it's coming down. The shower head moves up when Bart takes his and down when I take mine. If I don't need to wash my hair (not an every day washer - GASP!!!!), then the head can be lowered yet again. For kids/the girls - Wonderful!!! Our bathtub even has the separate shower head besides the bath faucet - this would have made giving the girls baths when they were young sooooo much easier.

What a riveting post this is.

What else. On the day I slept 'til 3pm, the girls went sledding behind the house. They love playing out there. It was about -5 C (25 F I think) but when you're bundled and playing, you really don't care.
They sled in the pasture above the backyard/pool:

The assault on my ears continues as they LOVE the Chipmunks. They saw the Chipmunk's Squeakquel in the States with Bart while I took care of some shopping in the 'hood (aka Tyler Galleria but forever known to me as the Tyler Mall). And Kendra bought the new Chipmunk's CD with some Christmas money. I'm thinking "completely harmless, Chipmunks" and said yes to her purchase request (as I was enamored of other Target offerings at the moment) without looking at the playlist. HA HA - jokes on mom as she starts the CD which begins with V-n H-len's "G-rl, you really got me " = sung by chipmunks. Not to mention other songs (B--G-e's, Bey-nce, K-ty Perry, etc..). I just wasn't prepared. Nor were my sister & bro-in-law as my girls corrupted little Jayden (18 mo's) who decided she likes to dance to Chipmunk music over all else.

So, I present the Olson girl's as a Chipette (that would be a girl Chipmunk) and Alvin:
Because I didn't realize I was really sick, I admit I did take the girls up skiing last Sat.:

The rest of Switzerland, except for working dads, was also up in the mountains - not that you can tell from the pic. They closed the parking lot about 10 cars behind us - Whew!!! A day to get the girls rental equipment tested out, make sure everything was definitely the right size, etc... and take a few easy runs to warm up for the season and try out the new knee brace. My knee told me I need more warming up. So I'm diligently doing my exercises as vacation and various sick days have taken their toll.
Sad. My mom tore her ACL skiing on NY's Eve. She'll have surgery early March. Bummer. I looked forward to our skiing together in Wengen this year. It makes me think about how I ski and how much longer will the knee hold out as I have an ACL partial tear w/ 70% ligament remaining. I've always known it could go. Just hoping it doesn't happen for a while. All of our stairs would make it a very inconvenient injury.
OK - enough about toilets, Chipmunks and bad knees. I'm off to walk up the hill, take my glucosamine/chondroitin and Zithro - aren't I a load of fun?!

Monday, January 18, 2010

CA - And that's all folks......(of CA for now)

This will be the last from the Holiday trip. Not that I don't want to relive all the fun with family but it is time to move on. Not sure to what. That wicked sore throat I refered to? On the 10th day I went to the Dr. - I did make the appt. on Thurs. (6th day) but did I ever mention that one should not attempt to get sick or make an appt. on Thurs.'s? - and lo, and behold! I have Strep. A "non-agressive" version - no fever, coughing, nasal congestion - according to him. Just sore throat & fatigue. I knew something wasn't right but have never had Strep without a high fever - go figure. So I don't have too much fun to report from Switzerland at the moment.

In the midst of my feeling poorly for myself, I do NOT complain. I am tired but I have so much. We are so blessed and fortunate to have our homes, clean water, good food and family. It is heartbreaking to watch the Haiti coverage. Such devastation.

In our women's Bible study this week, we covered a topic re: Fear. The writer (Beth Moore) says "The most critical breakthrough of faith you and I could ever experience is to let God bring us to a place where we trust Him - period. We don't just trust Him to let us avoid what we fear most. We determine to trust Him no matter what, even if our worst nightmare befalls us." She gives these 'fill in the blanks':

  • "If ___________, then God will take care of me."

  • "If __________, then God has a plan."

  • "If ____________, then God desires to accomplish something monumental in me."

  • "If __________, then God's going to demonstrate His sufficiency to me."

There are many things I fear as a mom, a wife, a daughter - I can't let that fear rule me. It is a conscious decision to give it up to God. It's (fear) not from God and it prevents me from trusting in him - completely. The people of Haiti have realized their worst fears. I don't know nor could I contemplate what God's purpose and plan is for that country and the people suffering there. But I know He is Soveriegn and He has a plan.

OK - my transitions are very bad today. Bear with me.

Because now we're headed to Disneyland.

We met these cute little Hawaiian kids at Disneyland and figured we could hang with them for the day. Our last day together before we flew in opposite directions for another 1.5 yrs or so - I hate thinking it will be that long but at the same time, it goes quickly and we will be closer! More opportunities! OK - we all know the Jungle Cruise doesn't have any real animals but, OHH!!!, the fun these guys had. Their expressions were priceless and we did have an amusing "guide." LAKERS!!!!!

These girls had a great time. The game was a blowout, Lakers 131 vs Dallas 96, but we stayed to the very end. I tried explaining that back when mommy & daddy went to games and the score was this spread, we'd have been leaving at the 5 minute mark to beat traffic out of the Forum parking lot. But these are different days. The girls wanted to stay to the end and the Staples Center is NICE. Leaving was a breeze....
If you ask Rachel about the game, the first thing out of her mouth will be "I got a foam finger." She is 11. Not quite a 'child', not quite a 'teen.' Yes, she even refers to herself as a 'tween.' Someday, she might give up the foam finger. We'll see. Cracks us up!!!
Bart did some legwork and we were able to get seats in the Firm box. Thank You Firm! Kids are spoiled!!! Bart & I used to go to games when we were dating - sitting in the nosebleeds.
We also did a little touristy stuff on an absolutely beautiful LA day. Bart & I don't remember SoCal being this clear when we lived there oh, so many years ago. We could see the Hollywood sign, city of LA clear to San Bernardino mountains & Mount San Jacinto - across the whole LA Basin. Beautiful.
We had lunch at the Farmer's Market. Last time I was there was, gulp, 23/24 years ago. A friend and I split a wine cooler (yes, we were 'living on the edge' college students) and sat there to people watch. I love to people watch. It's one of my favorite activities. I'd rather be the person watching than the one being watched. It's good to be self aware.
The real reason we drove into LA for the day:
To spend some Christmas money. Thank You Gma Vel & Gpa Paul & Gma Elaine/John & Gpa/Gma Olson!!! Love, Rachel & Kendra
We have Gma Vel & Dr. Frank to thank for this feast. A restaurant would have been good but
with this 'gang' we thought a fun lunch at home would be even better! They don't have In 'n Out in Hawaii OR Switzerland - Good Stuff! Uncle Jason scored with the kids by snagging some hats.
Neither the pictures or words can ever do justice to the experience of being with ones family. Not for me. I love my sisters and I miss being close to them. I miss being in the same time zone - which we haven't been for about 7 years (15 with Deb) - or at least within the same 3 - 5 hours. Email's not the same.
I love you ladies!!! And mom, and dad, Gma Vel, Gma/Gpa Olson, and etc..............

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures

Ok - back again. Where did the time go? Ah yes, piles of laundry and a wicked sore throat. I've tried curing the sore throat with a ton of sleep (in bed on Sun. 'til 3pm! - sleeping!) and gallons of tea. Alas, I can hardly stand tea at this point and the naps are messing with my jetlag recovery.

Before we head "up to Fresno" the day after Christmas, I must say:

Happy Birthday Bart!!! He turned a whole year wiser this week. He still looks like he's 35 instead of..... But - he was told he looked 35 when he was 25 (it's the 'stache) so we figure it's his "permanent" age.

Did I mention we had nice weather over the Holiday's? This was Christmas day in the park. T-shirts and picnic lunch after opening presents. Lovely. Maybe the only place in the Northern Hemisphere to enjoy nice weather that week?
My sweet, beautiful little sister, her handsome husband and adorable girl. Jayden is a true tow-head but with Kris's dark green eyes. I took ton's of pic's of her and she knows it - she didn't want to sit for this pic at all but I think it's cute - she's watching my girls jump up and down in the background.We headed up to Fresno the day after Christmas to visit with wonderful friends there, including friends who drove down from Orangevale to join us. What a great afternoon visiting and catching up. We had seen them this past summer but as time marches on and with the oldest child of the group at 15 yrs - we realize that these 'family' times are going to change all too soon and we're trying to make the best use of the time we have.

We did miss out on seeing family in Sacto. and Minnesota but find that we can't be everywhere, everytime. We'll be out again in June!
That night - we loaded the kids in the back of the pickup - with blankets (Fresno is cold in winter, burning hot in summer - like most of CA's Central Valley) and went Christmas Caroling in the neighborhood. Yes, a day late but it was fun and several families were having their big dinners that night so we just added to the festive atmosphere.
Kendra started going to the doors with R to announce our presence and the singing to follow. In this particular residence is a couple in which the wife is originally from Switzerland! So Kendra and she had a little conversation, in German, which had R just proud and pleased to have her along. There was also a Swiss High School student with our group (staying with friends of our friends for a school year) who seemed pleased to have me greet him 'Swiss Style' : "Gruetzi" with the accompanying 3 kisses (Swiss do 3 kisses instead of the normal Euro 2 kisses on the cheeks). We spoke a little German and he had a nice conversation with Bart.
Much fun was had and then we headed back to the house for a pasta dinner (F makes a mean ragu sauce courtesy of his Sicilian mother) and more good conversation. We hated to say goodbye when it was time but there is never enough time, is there?
So we hopped back on the 99 South to the 5 and here we are dropping into the LA Basin:
We moved out of So. California over 15 years ago and sometimes I forget how big the "freeways" are. And how many cars. Cars, Cars, everywhere.... We also noticed how brown everything was. This time of year, Angeles National Park (Mountain range N of LA separating it from the Central Valley) should be green but it was barely showing any green. Everything was brown, you could see where the wild-fires had run through and you think about how this next summer will be another drought year unless the weather changes soon. Water is a big issue - Who get's what's available? And trust me, it's not all being allocated to people and crops. This is not a Water Politics post so I'll move on.....
We settled into the hotel not too far from Kris & Jason's because look who moved in!!!!!! The Hawaiians!!!! My other sweet, beautiful sister, Deb, moved into Kris's with her family. It's been 2 years since we (Olson's) had seen them and it was sooooo nice. The kids gave us all big, sweet hugs. I miss them!
There was much fun to be had with another "Christmas."
We all went up to Lake Arrowhead the next day to give the HI group their first ever snow experience. Of course, my girls are saying "What! They've never seen snow? Ever?"
"No" I tell them. "They live on a tropical island where temperatures rarely go below 70 F. In fact, they wear sweaters when it's 70F and declare they're freezing." That's JT in front. He thought the snow was cool for - 1 minute. Then he was cold and wanted to go back into the car. I couldn't convince him to visit us in Switzerland. He said he was going back to HI where it's warm! Now the middle one, Tavanni , he's so excited about all the new things he saw he wasn't bothered much by the temperature. Hanni girl - I think she was ready to follow big brother back to HI.
Here we all are, courtesy of the nice photographer who grabbed my camera and took a group photo (grandparents are at far right: Gpa Paul, Gma Elaine & J):
Too cold to be outside so we did a little bowling in Crestline and had the place to ourselves:

Certainly hope it doesn't take another 4 years to get a picture like this:
We (Olson's) are officially extended in Switzerland through June 2011 (April '11 for Bart) so we are counting on being all together much sooner than 4 years.
I'll wrap up the Holiday travel next post. Good thing I have the Holiday's to post because no one wants to hear about sore throats and napping! Need to get on to ski season!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

What a great time!

I can't put all into words what a time we had in SoCal with family but I will attempt it: it was great! There were ups and downs, some of which I will share and some not. But overall, it was great to see both my sisters and their families at the same time in the same place.

I will say - our trip out to CA was trying. Trying on our nerves and patience. We knew it would be as we watched the weather on the East Coast and realized we were flying into Dulles the day after 2 feet of snow was dumped on the area. Not good.

Our 8 hours of flying through the air was followed by 2 hours of sitting on the tarmac once we landed. I knew when we bypassed our terminal and were starting the grand tour of the hinter regions of Dulles Int'l Airport, complete with snow removal demonstrations, that we weren't getting off the plane in a timely fashion.

Everyone was informed, as we sat there, that many flights were delayed so we had a good shot at making our connection. We did make our connection - it was 4.5 hrs delayed! Unfortunately, our bags did not make the connection - even with the extra time. Problem was - due to weather, icy roads, limited public transit - employees were finding it hard to get to the airport. So our bags arrived 2 days later to the house. That's all I want to say about that.

Thank you to United: they did send all the passengers on that Zurich flight a choice of a reward for our patience in waiting so long (we waited longer than most because of the plane size and we HAD to go through the Int'l terminal). Our family chose to add 12,500 miles to each of our mileage accounts - we will certainly use those miles!

We were so glad to get to Highland and see Kris, Jason and Jayden! The girls quickly started their 'babysitting' duties and I think they enjoyed it immensely. Kris certainly enjoyed having them there to help occupy her active 18 month old!

Enjoying a game of Battleship: Kris was singing with the adult band as backup for the kids Christmas Eve choir so we all went. Their church (J is on staff as Jr Hi Pastor) is just a little bigger than ours:
Christmas Day - girls are all excited to open presents but patient enough to let us take some pic's.
We had a wonderful morning and good dinner with Jason's family coming over. By now, we were also pretty well over the time change and feeling normal. The girls loved their presents and were loving the time with their funny, little cousin.
More later with Fresno & Friends.....

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I didn't get ANY in!

It's January 6th, we arrived home at 9:45am, completely unpacked by 10:55am, groceries by 12:00pm and nap at 1:20-ish - I have a serious case of "I don't want to wake up from my lovely, lovely post-flight nap!" I got all of 20 - 30 minutes of sleep from CA to Zurich. I can't wait to climb into bed again.

I did not get ANY posts in since we departed for CA and that's OK. I've spent approx. 1.5 hours on the computer in 2 1/2 weeks - what a vacation. Some things slipped a little - hard when you are not in your own environment. I lost track of days without my calendar but reality is hitting pretty quickly now.

We had a great time and I look forward to sharing the family fun and adventures in this next week. As with all International trips there were ups and downs but we all arrived home safely and in good health so God certainly answered our prayers.

See you again when I wake up :)