Wednesday, May 25, 2011

If I stay really busy,


It's sitting there. Sad and lonely. Waiting for my pen to begin making lists. The Transportation files. Lists of what is in every room and what the replacement value is. In these moves, it's better to be over-insured than under-insured - you actually penalize yourself if you're too conservative in the event that things 'happen.'

Oh, and I'm supposed to indicate what items were bought overseas but over 1 year used and what is under 1 year. Because US Customs would like some tax please on anything over the allowed customs limit - same as if you took a trip to Europe and came home with some souvenirs. As if living in Zurich we didn't already surpass that dollar amount by purchasing new socks and underwear for growing kids. 8% VAT already included in all purchases. Half of which we couldn't substantiate anyway because there are NO receipts given for most of our stuff - hello! bargaining with Egyptian's in the marketplace/ceramics on the road in Portugal. Really - they have no replacement value in $$ because it's value is in our memory of where we were when we bought it. We don't spend much on souvenirs - I take lots of pictures.

Oh, I'll get to the paperwork. Hey Bart - I even made a 'dump' run so I didn't have to look at it. Maybe all those years as an accountant filling out forms traumatized me.

My other trauma was the last transfer(we hope) of $$ into the Swiss account. Lowest transfer rate ever and I had to look twice. I haven't talked about this for a while so I'll explain: Bart was paid by the US side, not Swiss, so we've been transfering $$ for 5 years into our "swiss bank account" to pay the bills. Which sounds cool and all until the USA had a spat with UBS and now nobody really wants to give accounts to Americans unless they have to (ie - we're residing in their country). Note - they will ask us "where do you want your money wired to so we can close your account?" as soon as our deregistration and address change is processed.

When we first moved here, and I'm using round numbers to assist in the mental imagery, the rate was about 1.24 = for every $10,000 transfered, 12,400chf was deposited into the account. That rate went as high as 1.29 at its short lived peak. But things have changed. Last transfer was at .86 = $10,000 is deposited as 860chf. That is a swing of over 500 chf purchasing power. Times are not good for the American tourists in Switzerland. I can't complain too loudly as we do get a COLA (cost of living adjustment) but when prices are 2-3x higher and you see the change reflected so dramatically - it makes you think really hard.

I'm still thinking hard about that hot pink floral purse.

I did get one piece of paperwork completed today (2 actually as I have 2 kids). The Health form required by the State of CA for children enrolling in school. I didn't know about this and was glad I checked the school district website - not so happy about the 19 pages per child forms that have to be filled out. What is it with the paperwork? I'd rather pull weeds. I have been and the garden looks nice by the way.

OK - rambling. I called the District and they said our Dr. here could sign off on the forms so off we went this morning. Kendra was not happy to get an MMR shot. For whatever reason, she was only administered one and so she's in the catch-up category for Switzerland and the US. At one point the Dr. says "so she's healthy?" and I said "yes, as far as I know" to which he laughed and signed off. I'm thinking my kid's aren't the target market for these health forms. He did check all the other items but found it very 'interesting' as they don't do this same procedure in Switzerland. People are expected to have the common sense to take themselves and their children to the Dr. as needed and required. Oh, and everyone's required to have insurance.........

Rambling again.....

Another distraction: this lovely young lady playing in her Spring Arts Festival. This intense concentration was during a Brandenburg Concerto (JS Bach). She was on fire. Very proud.

And when all is said and done and I still don't want to look at the paperwork, I can pop one of these into my mouth:

There are only 3 left. Meringues with a little almond in them. From my favorite bakery in Colmar, France. Seen here:

Colmar is in the Alsace region bordering Germany and Switzerland. I probably love the surrounding small villages even more but Colmar has big parking lots and lots of shops due to the tourist interest. The Disney "Beauty and the Beast" village must have been modeled after the Alsace region - I'll have to post some more pic's later.

The Alsace is known for its wines - light, fruity - White, Rose and a Pinot Noir that looks like a
Rose to me and someone once described it as "punch." I wouldn't call it "punch" but it is light and easy with food. Their "pink sparkling wine" is also popular - they can't call it Champagne because it's not grown in the Champagne region. And it's hard to find these wines in neighboring Switzerland. A political and economical matter.

I find it funny that I have a favorite bakery in France. What I fell in love with there was the Macaroons. Crispy coconut on the outside and soft in the middle. There are no pictures as I ate them quickly. Maybe this is why I like to take people to Colmar? So I can visit the bakery.

And this restaurant:

Also a favorite. But we (mom & I) had eaten a large lunch (salad w/ Quiche Lorraine) in Riquewhir and just weren't hungry. They make a delicious Tarte Flambe.

That's it. It's bedtime and I've successfully avoided the paperwork for another night running. And emails, I need to get to the emails. I need a secretary.


Sunday, May 22, 2011


The theme of the week has been strength. Life takes strength. Where does your strength come from?

This week, this verse has been the "verse of choice": "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

Quite honestly, if Jesus wasn't gettin' it done this week, it wasn't gettin' done. I just get too tired. I can't do it all and yet, when I look at others around me, I feel so blessed to have the "problems" that I do.

News Flash: Parenting is hard work!

Oh, that's old news? Well, this mom had her hands full for a few days and bless my husband for listening when he can't be here in person. But the last few days culminated in some beautiful conversation between my girlies and I this evening before bed. So for lessons learned and the sweethearts that I tucked in - it was all worth it.

On the lighter side, there are some funny pic's of me that my mom took while she was here. I don't generally like to put myself on here but we had a lot of fun and this reveals that I'm capable of enjoying life when I'm not:

- parenting, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, recycling, chauffeuring, cleaning out cupboards, making lists, calling utility companies, trying to sell stuff, getting the car tire repaired after finding the large screw in it, sitting at games, pick up/drop offs at airports(4x) or Train stations(2x) and so on and so forth.

Hmmmmmm, what have we here? Loving the floral, not so sure about the animal print: Wait a minute! I might, just might like that print after all:

And what about a new bag? I've had my eye on the hot pink floral but that navy is catching my eye and is definitely more practical:

A girl needs a little caffeine after all the walking, pictures and wee bit of shopping:

Most definitely something to eat! A caprese salad (tomato, buffalo mozarella & basil) with rucola and balsamic syrup - tasty!

After all that, it's back to the castle tower:

Put back into my chains:

And delight myself in my family:

OK - not the most flattering pic but isn't that real life?

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength!

Disclaimer: I didn't buy anything I was looking in the windows at.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Missin' the Kissin'

Not sure this is the great post you were hoping for but - it's my Blog and I get to choose!

Feeling a little fiesty with all the to-do's and stuff I'm tasked with accomplishing in the next 6 weeks - most of which needs to be done in 4. Today's Mom's in Touch characteristic for God was strength - it's a good thing I have His strength to rely on and not my own!

These pictures are from the Sechselauten (Zurich Guilde's) Parade a number of years ago but they demonstate a normal course of everyday life between friends and family - Kissing in Switzerland.

In these pictures, the women are giving the men a traditional kiss (and flowers) - known in our house as the "Swiss kiss."

The Swiss kiss differs from the typical "European kiss" as it requires 3 pecks instead of two. There may be a hand shake preceding - as the hand shake begins, you draw near for the 3 pecks, air kisses or cheek to cheek's.

Not a complicated process unless you start to "Swiss kiss" and it turns out that they are German or Italian and therefore done with 2 - and you're cracking their nose going for that 3rd round.

How does one know whom to kiss (and this goes for male & female unless otherwise noted)? Family - yes. Close friends - yes. A friend you haven't seen for a while - yes - men typically shake. Colleague - hand shake but between mixed genders at a social function the kiss is fine. Hosting at your home - yes, on arrival and departure. If it is a first time introduction, shake their hand upon greeting and then departure would be a shake or kiss depending on how the evening/relationship develops.

This is how I've observed it over the years. I may be wrong in my analysis but I don't think I'm too far off. One may not always greet one another with such a kiss but it is a warm gesture that says "I care about you as friend/family/new friend and wish you well."

I always imagine my Valley Church friends greeting each other with kisses - you know who you are. That's what it'd be like in Switzerland for you if you unexpectedly ran into each other in the mall or in church after an absence. Hello and kisses instead of hello and hugs.

It's an important form of communication.

THAT SAID - We do not kiss when we are feeling run down, etc....etc..... There is a responsibility here to other peoples health. And that said, there are probably more germs exchanged via hand shakes than our "Swiss kiss."

So - if I come at you with a kiss, give me some time. The instinct will fade I'm sure but I like it so it will be slow to go.

A good ole' American hug will do too.

Where do I start?

As you know, I'm not good at writing posts when I have company in town. The girls and I dropped my mom off at the airport yesterday morning and didn't do much for the rest of the day - yes I took a lovely nap. And got distracted by Gone with the Wind on TCM when I should have been going to bed. "As God is my witness, I shall never go hungry again...." A riveting movie after all these years.

This morning I sit wondering what to write about. We packed a lot into last week and there is always something going on re: the move. So I'm going to dwell on it a bit, clean my house, go to Moms in Touch, clean some more, go through pictures (I hope) and have something very fun and exciting for you with the next post. Maybe. If I'm lucky.

For now I'll offer a couple updates:

Went back to the airport this morning to drop Rachel off for her class trip to Spain. They will be in Cordoba and Granada and I'm just praying all week for the buses/coaches that will be driving them around. If you've ever driven in Spain..... you get it. Kendra and I are looking forward to our time together and will work at getting to bed on time and getting up on time as we both tend to want to stay up late and sleep in late. Danger, Danger..... Rachel's not around to keep us on schedule.

My Bro-in-law came through both his surgeries with good results according to medical staff but portion's of this process have been surprising/more difficult/painful than they anticipated. He is recovering and is in good health but as he is primary caretaker of the kids during the week (he works 3 day shifts Fri. - Sun.) and they had been led to expect a quicker recovery. So we're still praying for him and my sister as they go through each day. He's already joking about the headaches/pain with "yeah, feels like someone drilled a hole in my head"...... But prognosis on how this will affect his future treatment is good. Yeah.

Bart is now up to his neck in work where he didn't have much 2 weeks ago. He's traveling every week to Seattle for the forseeable future on a client and in between, making a trip to see his parents in MN and then a trip to visit us and then back again for the move. In between, he has to sign papers for the closing on the house, check out of the corporate apartment, drop all his stuff temporarily at a friends and look for/buy a car. He's not wasting away in SF without us.

The sparrows that built their lovenest above our blinds make a racket every day feeding their babies. The babies make a racket waiting to be fed. Things that eat must relieve themselves so there is an absolute mess on the blinds and the windows. Praying the babies grow quickly and leave the nest soon so I can clean it all up. Hope to see the babies at least. Not fair to have the mess and no reward.

Til next post.......

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is the grass greener?

Sigh. A view of the yard that is soon to be ours. All that green grass. Ignore the grass on the hillside - it's soon to turn brown for summer! That said - I'm thrilled to have an empty hillside to look out from my kitchen window. I hope to see plenty of wild turkeys and deer roaming on that hill.

This lawn will be so easy to mow. Especially after living with.... ...this natural field which I both love and which drives me crazy. Which my husband is not present to mow. No pressure honey - just calling the game as it's playing out.

I'm actually a bit proud of my capabilities. The mower is not easy to start - old gas mower with manual ignition (pull that rotary string as hard as you can). I find it easiest to brace against the big rock in the back for the first time or two. Once it's been running, it's not so bad.

The daisies and dandelions are pretty but attract a lot of bees - need to wear shoes for sure on this lawn.

Done just in time for the thunderstorm.

Unfortunately, the thunderstorm didn't bring much rain with it.

We have had summer weather for April and May but very little rain (normal for summer). They're saying it's the worst drought in Switzerland in 150 years. Temps have been in the mid-70's and the plants are all blooming early. The fields are looking a little less green and I've had to water the lawn 3-4 times already. I typically water the lawn 3 - 4 times the whole summer - in July, not in April/May.

I'll miss my garden. I don't think I'll miss mowing the lawn though. Nah, just don't see it. It's an obstacle course.

Hope you all had a wonderful Mother's Day! My mom is here and we had a lovely, lovely weekend in Germany/Austria. We did a little castle-hopping with the girls and really enjoyed ourselves.

Happy Mother's Day to my Mom and the girlies who are the reason I'm a Mom:

Thursday, May 05, 2011

People on my Mind - Prayers

I have a couple people especially on my mind today and would like to ask you to pray along with me if you feel led.

One is my dear Bro-in-Law - location Hawaii. He will be having the first of two surgeries tomorrow for the DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation? something like that which I forgot to look up the proper translation) procedure. He's my age and was diagnosed with Parkinson's 9 years ago - almost to the month. This procedure calls for the implantation of a device - in the brain - that is connected to a electrical stimulator/battery (located under the collarbone) which will hopefully allow him more control over the tremor portion of this disease. And eliminate a good portion of the drug cocktail he takes multiple times a day.

Please pray for him, the Dr's and my sister - surgery is tomorrow, Friday, morning in HI.

I have a sweet, young friend who I love that suffers from a chronic disease. Details are not mine to give on a blog but suffice it to say that she is in pain most of the time right now and things are complicated. I'm praying a miracle for her. So is this young lady: God doesn't always answer our prayers according to our wishes and timing. That I know. I pray His mercy and grace will be seen in all circumstances.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Bread & Cheese

My plans at blogging the differences between/things we'll have to adjust to re: Switzerland vs USA have been slow to come to fruition. What with not being home and searching for houses and all the other "stuff" that comes with the process.

Now that I'm back and somewhat settling into a routine - hah, until Mom arrives Friday morning - I will offer some observations, things we are grateful for, things we'll miss and things we're looking forward to. I even had a list. Not sure where it went before we flew off a couple weeks ago. Maybe in the "junk" drawer that needs another cleaning out. Everyone has a "junk" drawer, yes? We have one. Only one.

Bread and cheese. I give you a loaf of Abigbrot - hell and Frischkaese: The Abigbrot is our favorite. It comes from a bakery nearby, the Feldbeck, and it is our bread of choice for dinner - preferably the hell which means "light" but the dunkel (dark) is equally good just a bit heavier (higher % of whole wheat).

Abig (the g pronounced hard with a k twist - gk ) is the Swiss German word for evening - Abend would be the standard German word. This bread is baked only for evening sales, 5pm to 7pm. If you arrive at 4:50, you're too early - it's still in the oven. If you arrive at 6:30, there may be none left. I typically time my visits with picking up kids or Bart at school activities or from the train station.

Although I will be able to buy some good bread near our new location, it won't be Abigbrot. I asked the bakery for the recipe and the owner was kind enough to give it to me and sit down and explain it to me. He said my first challenge will be getting the flour. I knew this already - Rueschmehl is what I need and based on some research, I'm hoping bread flour will be OK. Otherwise his measurements are all in litres and grams - enough for 4 loaves! at a time I think - and I will have to experiment. I'll probably blog that process once I try it out. Until then, I'm quite content to buy my Abigbrot!

Cheese: the name of this Frischkaese (fresh cheese) from Coop is literally translated as round of garlic cheese. In the Olson household it's referred to as "yummy cheese." That is how Kendra described it when we first tried it years ago and over time the name stuck. If I want them to eat it up I just have to say "I've got yummy cheese and crackers out."

It has to be eaten within a matter of days ( 2-5) depending on when you purchase it. Hence the "fresh" part of the name. It is really, really good. Especially on a Silzer roll - pretzel bread. With a pickel. Yes, I just declared that soft cheese with slice of dill pickle on pretzel bread is really, really good. It is. You should try it. In lieu of pickles, a cucumber slice is excellent.

Rondele is similar. However, I've checked and it has more salt and 'stuff' in it. And I've become used to less salt and 'stuff' in our food. This is in part from the way I cook and in part from the ingredients available. For instance, we've used non-salted butter for 5 years now. The salted version here comes one quarter stick at a time and is almost twice the cost. I could really taste the salt in the butter when we were at my dad's this last trip. The taste buds do notice. I digress......

I don't know that I'll find a real substitute for this cheese in the US but I know there will be good cheeses to be found. I have already scouted out an International Market in our area (10 minutes!) that has a good reputation for cheese, wine and various food products from around the world. I look forward to scouting out some goodies!

Tonight I'm making chili - perfectly accompanied by shredded Asiago and Abigbrot!

Monday, May 02, 2011

Randomness from Spring Break

Today - I'm still suffering from jetlag. So is Kendra - she woke up at 5:20 am - she is not a morning person. So is Rachel - she went to sleep at 11:30 pm - she is not a night person. I was up until 12:30pm and woke up at 5:30am. I just need some sleep.

Today I have little picture stories.

We got to see Bart's new office in San Francisco. An empty bookcase, bare desk, no artwork - he's waiting for our stuff to be shipped, bare whiteboard - which didn't stay white for long. He had a few comments re: the artwork they left. Very sweet and it sure brightened things up! We did a little retail therapy by Union Square - though not at Saks, Macy's and the Sale was their destination of choice. What did I bring home? A new pair of tennis shoes. Aaaaannnnnd - 2 magazines and 2 books. Yep. That's what I got. Oh - and a house. I bought a house.

My little monkeys sittin' with the monkeys:

Aaahhhh - now I feel like I'm back home in CA. I rode in a friend's lowrider truck from Santa Barbara back to Riverside - there needed to be more cushion between me and the freeway asphalt running inches below my feet.

Hey - here's the house. Part of it. And the nice green hill that is our view - complete with wild turkeys. This lovely hill will be "golden" when we return. Yeah, thar's gold in them thar hills - the dead, dry grasses of a California summer. Those I do not miss.

Here are the girls having "fun" while we buy the house. Don't they look thrilled?

The fog rolled away and this was the view from Bart's apartment:

One of the very nice Wells Fargo Bank lobbies in the City. One of the old Crocker (railroads & banking) buildings. The heart is the City's arts theme - "I left my heart in San Francisco." Why go into the bank? Well, when one doesn't use their ATM card for, say 4 years, one's PIN seems to not work. Even though it is still written in the safe place that shall stay undisclosed and separate from my card. So I have a new PIN. So we could buy lunch. And go to the movies - Soul Surfer. I cried just a little bit........

By Fort Mason in front of Ghiradelli Square. They can't stay away from the water:

"What kind of crab is that, Mom?"

"The kind that tastes good!"

On our walk back from Pier 39 to the Financial district where the apartment is. It was a beautiful day and we all got a little unexpected sun. Nice shot of the TransAmerica Bldg:

In case you've never seen it, this is the San Francisco Int'l Airport - aerial view. Not sure how much I liked flying out of the Oakland Airport to circle the Bay and go over SFO. Mom???? Haha - I'm sure they know what they're doing............

I've got to run now. I promised my friend and Dental Hygienist that I would go to my appointment today. I'd rather ski or hike with her. She's going to clean my teeth instead. Maybe I'll fall asleep in the chair. I could use some sleep.