Monday, December 8, 2008


Barbara, who is swiss, invited us over to her place this past saturday to make Grittibänz - a yeasted bread in the shape of a person that is made in Switzerland traditionally on St Nicola's day, Dec 6. (I think, I will have to double check with Martin, who is busy right now preparing his poster for AGU.) Anyways, it was great, because we wouldn't have made them otherwise. Here is the fruit of our labors. A traditional Grittibänz is in lower right. Some untraditional ones are turtle, butterfly, pig's face, hedgehog, snail, and some with a lot of raisins that Sonja decorated all by herself. Thanks, Barbara!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Martin's new toy

Email him to get his phone number. Sonja likes it too, now she wants to watch "krtek" on papa's phone. (Search for krtek on youtube, it's a czech thing...small animated feature for kids.)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Three minute chocolate cake

Two days ago, I made this cake: all of its two servings, mixed in a coffee cup, three minutes in the microwave, and it's done. Excellent with vanilla ice cream and some fruit liquor. I won't put in the chocolate chips next time, they burned, but we'll definitely repeat the chocolate cake again.

Zehn Prunze (Teeth peeing)

While most people might be doing "Zehn Putze" (teeth cleaning, or brushing) before going to be, Sonja goes to do Zehn Prunze instead (teeth peeing).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Giving thanks for eating

Thanksgiving was a quiet one in our house. We were just thankful for eating. Voluntarily eating. The only one who's done that in the previous week was Martin. All the rest of us were down with something nasty. Emilie had it worst - five days of high temperatures, only brought down by drugs, then back up at the end of the 6 hours when she had to take the next batch. Even when the fever stopped, she was just sleeping for another day and a half. But, by thanksgiving, all of us were in an ok shape. Still sick, but recovering. And so we were appropriately thankful on thanksgiving. Martin made an excellent non-traditional-thanksgiving meal - stuffed mushrooms (ok, that is traiditional), chickpea and pasta soupy italian thingy, pork tenderloin, and homemade ice cream. Mmmmmm. Hope everyone had a wonderful thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Folding fitted sheets

I saw the reference to this on another blog I frequent, Chez Larrson: how to fold fitted sheets, by Martha. I was skeptical: is foolproof really foolproof? But it is! So simple now that I know how to do it! Gone are the days when the fitted sheets were just a jumble of fabric bunched together. Everything else might be messy around this house, but not the fitted sheets :).

Thursday, November 13, 2008


From two weeks ago, moose in our driveway. It still amazes me anytime I see them how much they tower above our car. Even the young ones.

(Hairy) woodpecker and other animals

Another visitor by our house: a woodpecker. Based on the red head, and the not-too-short beak, it is a hairy woodpecker.

Emilie knows many animals in her animal book. For the woodpecker, she pecks at the page with her finger. For the crab, the fingers run sideways across the page. The squirrel eats seeds like this (and Emilie knows to put her hands by her mouth like a squirrel that eats). And, the favorite of everyone who's an adult and sees Emilie doing it, a gorilla that thumps its chest. I just really wish Skype had a way to record the video. That way, I could have captured my dad doing a gorilla, as well as my mother. Now we will have to try to get the grandparents from the other side of the family to do a gorilla too...

Emilie also very enthusiastically barks anytime she sees a dog, either real or drawn. A sort of 'woof', very cute. And she meows. And sometimes moos and bah bahs.

Back to real animals: both Emilie and Sonja loved the little mouse (ok, not a mouse, a vole) that we caught two days ago in the house. The mouse should not have gone into the chocolate drawer. It really should have known better than to try to touch chocolate, in this house. After I caught it (in a roll of screen material that was also in the same drawer, that I use to dry mushrooms or cranberries in the summertime), we left it in a bucket and watched it. Emilie came to check it out, then went away, then came back... and away, and back. After the kids had gone to bed, I took it outside, and left it in the snow a hundred yards from our house. Together with a little something to help it adjust to its new surroundings - a few nuts, a cracker, and some shortening (fat). Hopefully it is doing well. Hopefully it won't find the way back to our house.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Great Horned Owls

Yesterday evening, we had two great horned owls by our house. Two of them. Hooting away. Every now and then, they looked at us (the kids crying, the dogs playing), but for the most part, they were unfazed by us and were looking out over the treetops and hooting away.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Salmon chowder

Below is the recipe for the salmon chowder we had tonight. First, here's what we're eating this week, for future reference and ideas of what to cook:
- Veal scallopini with prosciutto and sage, served with risotto, from Italian Regional Cooking by Rosemary Wadey
- Pasticcio (baked casserole of ground lamb with pasta) from the Anchorage blogger scribbit
- Salmon chowder, modified from a recipe in the Fiddlehead cookbook (unfortunately Martin just told me the restaurant, in Juneau, is no longer there)
- Hearty lentil soup from Fiddlehead cookbook
- Beef with juniper berries from Every Night Italian
- Chicken cooked under a brick (or dutch oven in our case), from the Mark Bittman's blog on NYTimes

Salmon chowder
based on the Smoked Halibut Chowder in the Fiddlehead Cookbook.

For the salmon, fry
a handful of bacon, chopped
in a pan over medium-high heat. When the bacon fat is released, add
a filet of salmon (1.5 lbs or so in our case)
skinside down first, then flip it and remove the skin. Cook until just done, or turn off slightly before since it can get cooked up a bit in the chowder. Break into pieces of desired size. In the meanwhile, do the chowder base, then add the salmon to it once it is done.

For the chowder base, fry
a handful of bacon, chopped,
4 Tbs butter
in a pan over medium-high heat. Once the bacon is cooked to desired crispness, add
1 carrot, finely chopped (1 cup)
1 small onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
2 small ribs celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
Stir and cook until the vegetables are soft and aromatic, then add
6 Tbs flour
and cook briefly, not browning. Add
6 c fish stock
2 c milk
2 bay leaves
2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp white pepper
pinch of nutmeg
And cook until vegetables are just about done, 15 minutes. Add salmon with its bacon, cook until both the veggies and the salmon are done.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Spare parts for home appliances

Back in July of last year, I did an "unapproved purchase" as we call it (without consulting with Martin), and bought a Black and Decker blender called Crush Master in order to make smoothies. Yesterday, when we wanted to crush some fresh strawberries for ice cream, a small plastic part that was attached to the metal blade disintegrated.

I called the official 1-800 spare-parts number about buying the broken part, since it is one of the parts that is listed as "consumer replaceable" in the manual. Lo-and-behold, I was quoted a price of $27.95 for that part plus shipping. They have to be kidding! That's how much the whole brand-new blender cost, give or take a couple bucks. Considering that all I need is a small piece, that everything else is still fine (the motor works, the glass jar is fine, etc), I find it ridiculous that the replacement part is as expensive as the whole she-bang. Just promotes the whole throw-it-away culture.

So, here is my game plan: write to the company about the costs of spare parts. Look for a second-hand blender of the same model, or just a working second-hand blender. Or, if all else fails, buy a brand-new blender of the same type: for the same price as one spare part (and no warranty), I will have a working blender, a spare part for everything else, and another 1-year warranty.

Addendum: Based on Amazon reviews of the Black and Decker Crush Master, I am far from alone of having that plastic disintegrate. Stay away from this appliance!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


So, we continue to skijor, though I will have to take a break for some time.

Martin going skijoring with Sonja and the dogs this afternoon. Picture taken from our porch, as Martin skis down a steep access trail we built this fall, to get from the small ridge on which our house sits to the trail.

Yesterday, I went skijoring with Emilie in my jacket, the way natives up north carry their kids. This jacket, given to us by Barbara and Christoph, is excelent for that purpose: it has a cord running along the bottom that can be tied tightly (below Emilie's legs), as well as another running across the chest, which can also be tightened (below Emilie's butt). And it is big enough to fit Emilie and still be able to zip it up. Emilie often falls asleep if I wear her like that.

Unfortunately for me, yesterday, as we were skijoring on the road, the dogs pulling pretty well, I hit a piece of gravel on the road. This ski stopped, and I went flying forward, landing on the right shoulder, left knee, and central nose. Well, may be not the nose, but I think I hit it with the pole? Who knows. It is the shoulder which causes me the greatest concern. (The knee is black, the second time this season, but otherwise OK.) I think I heard a soft snap as I landed, and now cannot lift my arm up much. Based on x rays, it is not broken, which is good. Could still be that one (or more) of the four muscles which are used to lift up an arm snapped. Time will tell. In the meanwhile, Martin will be taking the dogs out.

Here is Emilie, sitting on my jacket the way I put her down, after we came back some other time when I carried her in my jacket. Temperature was cool, around 0 F. To make sure she didn't lose her shoes and gloves, I put regular socks over all four limbs. That works pretty well. The camera was a bit fogged up. But it is a good way to carry kids. No sling required. Warmer than a baby carrier (the backpack style), since her feet and arms and body are in my jacket.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Energy rating test for our house

A report mainly for myself...

This morning we had the energy rating done for our house. The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC, at has a Home Energy Rebate Program where they reimburse some costs of improvements done to a house. First, an energy rating has to be done for the as-is conditions. So that's what we had done. Considering that on the radio, they said that AHFC was trying to train more testers because there was a long waiting list, our 2-3 week wait was relatively short. The rating cost $500, of which $325 will be reimbursed by AHFC.

The technician got a feel for the house, asked about our electricity and heating oil usage, measured the sizes of doors and windows and estimated the insulation below our house (since it sits on pilings) and the insulation in the roof. Then he hooked up a door frame made out of tubing and thick fabric, with a hole in the center for a fan, and did the actual blow test. Everything that circulates air was turned off for the test: mainly oil monitors in our case. During the test, the fan sitting in the improvised doorframe blows air out of the house, so that the air in the house is below ambient (outside) air pressure, and an instrument measures how fast air leaks back in from the outside.

With the testing parameters, the air in our house would be exchanged 4.5x per hour just due to the leaks in various places. This apparently corresponds to 0.3x under normal conditions: I assume that means that within 3 hours, all of the air is effectively circulated to the outside, or that the house would cool down considerably within 3 hours. Since we don't have an air handling system, there should be some leakage of air, but not as much as we had - may be around a value of 3.5 instead of the 4.5.

View of our entryway. The main door is wide open. In its place is the temporary fabric door, red in color, with a fan, almost ready for the blow test.

After the blow test and some notes, the technician connected the fan one more time, to underpressurize the house again. And then we went around, using our hands to feel for cold spots, where the cold outside air (0 F or about -15 C) was seeping in. That was rather interesting. In the original log-house, some of the windows do not have as much insulation above or below them as others, and a couple of them we will definitely insulate better. One window, which does not close (since our house is a bit tilted) was ok. Our bedroom door is a major problem - it was even singing from the air flowing into the underpressurized house. And, one area that I did not expect that had a lot of air leakage, were the corners where the addition that was put in later met the original log house. Where the logs were originally outside (but now are inside), they were not chinked, there is no squish-able insulation between the logs, they just sit one on top of the other, and are very drafty.

Chink these logs!

Insulate above the windowframe!

Interestingly enough, an arctic entry was not suggested. What was strongly suggested as cost-effective measures to reduce heating costs were installation of better doors, and caulk and seal the holes in between the logs. Also, as secondary measures, the technician suggested an on-demand water heater that would also run on the #1 heating oil we use for heating (instead of the traditional big water heater); installing a passive wall vent (making a hole for air intake for the wood stove so that the wood stove does not create a draft in the house); installing new bathroom fan or rangehood; and replacing refrigerator as needed.

Overall, we have a 3 star plus rating, 77 points. Three-star-plus is higher than 3-star but below 4-star.

I am glad we got the rating done. It was eye-opening.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Sonja seems to have crocodiles on her mind quite a bit lately. It's not that she is thinking about them every minute. Just at least once a day.

Two weeks ago as we were waking up, and for some reason she was not in our bed yet, I heard her call me from her room. Since I was groggy as always, I called out to her to come over and join us in the big bed. She called back that she can't, that there is a crocodile there. I forget whether I went in to rescue her from that crocodile.

Crocodiles appear not only in the morning, but also in the evening. So I also had to gather all of the (imaginary) crocodiles one night when I was putting her to bed, and throw them out into the hallway. At least she didn't tell me that they crawled back in five minutes later, otherwise I would have had to throw them outside perhaps.

They appear very randomly. Luckily, they did not show up in the swimming pool yet (Sonja's taking swimming lessons). And, apparently not all of the crocodiles are bad. Some are good. So far, they did not bite anyone, or eat anyone. I will have to ask Sonja tomorrow whether, by any chance, all of the crocodiles are actually good crocodiles, since they did no harm to anyone or anything?

We just don't know where the crocodiles came from, but it is fun to have them around.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


We went to a book reading at our library last saturday. After the reading, there was an activity for the kids to do: a blank page with an outline of a person, that they could color out and cut out and put on a stick as a puppet.

Sonja started hers out in her typical fashion, coloring with one color all over the place. After a bit, I asked her, what about the eyes? And so she drew the eyes. And the nose. And the mouth. (The nose is a circle, the mouth is an equally sized circle below the nose. Must be the "Moudry" nose since it is so big.) And she cut the puppet of herself out. And then she continued and made a puppet for papa, one for me, and one for Emilie. Mine has the short hair like I have it. And by the time she wanted to do Emilie's, I wanted to leave, so she told me that she will hurry with that one. I cut the other puppets out for her.

Anyways, I am pretty proud to see eyes on her little people.

(L to R, Sonja, Papa, Mama and Emilie. Sonja cut her puppet out herself.)

Skijor update
Two kids: Yesterday the girls, dogs and I went skijoring. Sonja was in the Chariot. Emilie was on my back in my jacket, the way people wear their babies up north. The two dogs pulled us. It was a bit marginal going that way, but when need be, I will do it again that way.

More snow: Overnight, it started snowing, and it continues to snow. Today we went skijoring again, with Emilie in the Chariot (Sonja is in daycare). Found fewer rocks than last time. It might be time to get the chariot on skis instead of wheels. I am really glad for the snow, it makes the winter in Fairbanks much more enjoyable.

Friday, October 17, 2008


On days when Sonja is in daycare, we started heading down to a nearby road with the dogs and Emilie to go skijoring. We go along the Chena Ester Ditch Rd, which follows the ditch that used to bring water from the Chena River to Ester village to use for mining gold. The ditch is still visible and a trail follows it on either end of the road. For us, it is about 4 miles round trip from our house to a bit past the end of the road. It takes us not quite an hour. A short cry of the top dog teams that do 20 miles in an hour (e.g. during the Open North American Championships). But hey, we have two dogs only, and the skis are not the best, and right now I hardly help the dogs except with some double poling. Hope to change that as we get more snow to cover the rocks.

The first time we went, it took me a while to get ready (harness on one dog, harness on the other dog, harness on me, winter clothes on me, ski boots on me, find skis and poles, winter outfit on Emilie, find and install pulling poles on the Chariot stroller in which Emilie is riding... it took a bit), but now we have it down to about ten minutes, depending on how much the little one squirms when I am trying to dress her.

Movie: roughly 1 minute: skijoring with two dogs and a kid in a stroller

I hope we get more snow to cover the rocks on the road, but otherwise, it is great to be able to get out in October and ski or skijor.

Cooper and Saphira are a great team together. I don't use the short neck line to connect their two collars, so when we see a loose dog, we almost get tangled up... but since there is only two of them, it's no big deal.

The chariot cougar in which Emilie rides has served us well, though it might have been good to get a double one. When we first used it with Sonja, I sewed the cover from a fabric, and use that in wintertime instead of the cover with clear plastic that it comes with (a friend cracked that clear plastic in 20F weather several years ago, and that's the temperature we have right now). I still have the chariot on wheels instead of skis since so far there is not that much snow, and there are enough rocks on the road (or, today, a new pile of moose nuggets). In fact, in one place, the pile of rocks just keeps growing, and growing, each time we pass by. Somebody is buying the house that sits just on the side of the road, so they have to redo the septic, and they got multiple truckloads of dirt to cover and insulate the new septic with. That's all fine, except for dumping the rocks on the road.

Overall, I am very glad that we took the time during September to brush out our trail to make it wide enough for the chariot, cut several trees that were in the way, and built an access trail by the house where we had only stairs before. And gotten Cooper on Sandy's recommendation. Thanks, Sandy, for watching Saphira, and for recommending Cooper. And thanks, mother nature, for a nice snowfall in October. Can you please send some more snow our way?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sledding down our driveway

Here is one for Sonja and Emilie's cousins Aneshka and Jakub: the dogs and the kids and me sledding down our driveway:

Pretty self-explanatory even if I talk in czech (with an accent).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mysteries of the freezer

One funny side-effect of our housesitters heading back home to New Zealand is that they left all sorts of things behind. Wonderful rugs in the living room. Marmite in the pantry. It is the things in the freezer that are the biggest mystery. Here is one bag form the freezer:

My initial guess when I just saw the bag, without really looking inside, was "oh, they saved some bones for the dog(s)". Nope, that wasn't it. Emilie loves the contents.

Another freezer bag contains a fist-sized chunk of a white substance, a bit bigger than a soapbar, cut in half. Cheese? We will see when I get courageous enough to take it inside and cut into it. A chunk of meat is there also. Moose? Caribou? Who knows. It will make for a nice roast, whatever it is.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sonja's post





Playing games: Ten years ago and now

I am still unpacking boxes that we had left here in the house while we were in Europe. Something I came across, from ten years ago: Martin (closest, thinking hard), Ted and Rob playing against a chess grandmaster, Sergey Kudrin.

(And Emilie is in the background, watching what I am doing.)

We'll have to start playing games again, I am pretty guilty about not being very approachable since I think I always need to do something else. Soulemama has a post about playing games, and there are many suggestions for games to play in the comments to that post. May be we can try the Left-Right-Center with Sonja. And when we get some adults visiting, we will have to take out the Brandidog that we were given by the thoughtful Swiss.

Nature's plastic

Well, I threw this piece of plastic that had earlier contained basil leaves onto our compost pile the other day. I was surprised to read that it was made of corn, and that it is compostable (official page is here: Nature's PLAstic). I will have to see how it does on our compost pile, since it is not one of the 4000 facilities mentioned on the website: "In just 45 days, NaturesPLAstic™ will return to nature at more than 4,000 commercial composting facilities nationwide." Glad for compostable plastic.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Today we went skijoring. Or rather, rock joring. I hit a lot of rocks with my skis on some places of the Chena Ester Ditch Road.

I was on skis, but unlike yesterday, when Emilie was in the stroller behind me, I had Emilie in a baby carrier on my back. And Sonja behind me. (Full family but without Martin.) While Emilie is a lightweight, I did start feeling her weight on my shoulders pretty fast. I did not want to put the hip belt from the baby carrier on to distribute her weight because I already had the skijor harness on as well as the hip belt from the stroller. I only hooked up one dog at a time. Saphira can pull when she wants to. Cooper pulls great. Except during times when he is trying to defend himself from Saphira's playful attacks.

The skijoring today was a bit tougher than yesterday, because I really did not want to fall with Emilie, and so I think we probably hit more rocks on the road than yesterday.

But now it's snowing again, so perhaps tomorrow might be better. Martin said that yesterday, during his JERCs class, he saw people skiing on Birch Hill too. Might be a good winter. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Monday, October 6, 2008

For Lena

This is a blog entry for Lena, so Elsbeth or Tinu, please show it to her.

Sonja is telling Lena that she is going to a playgroup, that she likes to cook there (and our washing machine is spinning in the background), and that she plays there. Then she continues that it is snowing, and that it is cold outside (and a dog is yelping in the background). Sonja tells Lena that we have dogs, but then becomes interested in the bandaid on my finger. I try to get her to tell Lena what colors they are, and eventually, she does.

So, Lena, this is for you! Greetings from Sonja!

Meet Cooper

Meet our new dog, Cooper. Saphira's boyfriend from this past year while we were gone to Europe, according to Sandy, who took care of Saphira. Super with kids. And super skijor dog, too. Both of those things we verified in the last two days since we got him. He comes from a family with three small kids, and our kids took to him and he to them without any problems at all. And today we went skijoring, Emilie and I with the dogs. One dog at a time, since the road is still a bit rocky. I was on my rock skis (an old pair of skis that I don't mind going over rocks with, and today, I did hit a lot of rocks), and Emilie was in the chariot behind me, though I didn't put the skis on it but left it on the wheels. Fun, fun, fun. Can't wait for more snow! And Cooper is a good boy. The only thing that could be better is if he and Saphira listened. As it is, we cannot let them outside both at the same time. It happened by chance in the first hour we got Cooper (around noon), and then we didn't see them again until fifteen hours later. Now we know. But he is a good boy, and really sweet with the kids. Thanks, Sandy, for the tip-off about Cooper.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chocolate Monster

I love chocolate, and in Switzerland, did eat quite a bit of it. On average during some weeks may be a bar of chocolate a day, on some other weeks somewhat less. Not the two bars of chocolate that Martin claims.

I guess some of that chocolate taste went through the breast milk to Emilie. Emilie loves chocolate too. She knows in which drawer it is here in our house. If she sees me open that drawer, or hears it getting open, she goes to me and makes sure that I know she wants some too. (Unlike Sonja, who says she does not like chocolate.) She even stopped crying today (after I forget what happened) when I told her to come and get some chocolate.

After coming back from Switzerland, I decided to do a taste test of some of the darker chocolates. I tried the Hersheys Cacao Reserve, Ghirardelli Intense Dark, and several Lindt Excellence chocolates. I learned that I am dark-chocolate, but not intense-dark-chocolate type person. So I liked generally the 60-something percent chocolates. The higher percentages were just too dark for my taste buds right now. The Hersheys bar was too sweet. By far, my all time favorite of the ones I tried was the Lindt Madagascar. The Lindt Madagascar was mmmm mmmm gooood. Too bad that Fred Meyer's ran out of it when I checked last time. I may also have to try the Lindt Peru, which I noticed on their web site. The Lindt Ecuador was too dark for me.

Overall, the chocolate situation is definitely not as good as in Switzerland, but it is not bad.

Ouch! I just saw on the Lindt website that the Lindt Madagascar is $3.99/bar. I will have to wait for another 2/$5 sale at Fred's!

Playing in first snow (movie)

Yesterday morning Martin, Sonja and Saphira went to play in the snow that had fallen overnight (and stuck around, unlike Martin's predictions). The movie is about a minute long. Good thing the last Farmer's Market of the season was the day before, at least it still felt like fall and not winter.

At lunchtime, Martin picked up Tolly from the airport. And in the evening we had a gathering, for Tolly. A lot of people managed to get here despite the slick conditions. Dorte was laughing that the parking pullouts further up the road (for those that did not dare to go down the steep part of our road followed by the steep uphill of our driveway) were chock full of subarus. It is a favorite car around here. The food was excellent, even if some of it disappeared off the grill before it made it indoors (Martin and Chris, those shrimp were good, weren't they?? :) Just kidding, by that time, most people were already stuffed.). The company was excellent too, and we got to see several more people that we didn't meet yet in the month we've been back. And, as far as I know, no car in the ditch? Or at least if there were any cars, they managed to get out by themselves without coming back to the house for help.

Hot women and hot chocolate

From the collection of hot chocolates in our house (some form us, some from our housesitters), look at these cuties:

I will try to pay attention in the grocery stores in the future, if I see a box of hot chocolate that depicts a man somewhere, be it grandpa, or a hot dude...

Saturday, September 27, 2008


This morning we saw a few flakes on the ground here and there, nothing much. I did some final raking of leaves to throw over bulbs I planted (hoping that they will flower in the spring, we have to see about that) in order to insulate them better. Just in time. Somewhere between 9:30pm and 11pm tonight, the ground went from being mainly dark to being mainly white:

Who knows whether the snow will stick, but today might have been the last day to do fall type things around the house. Time to do winter type things...?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Raspberry monster

We had still gone on Sunday to get some raspberries at the Pearl Creek Farm off Ballaine Road. Martin made a dessert for us that evening of raspberries with sugar and ice cream, really excellent. But since then, the leftovers have sat in the fridge, since I never remembered them when we wanted fruit (plenty of fruits on our counters), or even after the kids had gone to bed. Until today. I thought I would take some for me, and the rest make into a small batch of raspberry-cranberry jam, as we also had some cranberries sitting on the counter. No sooner is the small portion of raspberries for eating in the bowl than I hear over the baby phone "wahh wahhh waaaaahhhh". The little one woke up. Just in time for raspberries. I had to share that small bowl of raspberries with her. There was no way around it. Raspberry monster. I am just glad Sonja did not wake up too :)

After five minutes of boiling, I turned the rasp-cran jam off. We will finish the jam tomorrow. Preliminary taste test shows it is a good choice, as people said it is.

And may be tomorrow we might still find a couple raspberries that did not get knocked down by the several freezing nights we've had. To satisfy all the raspberry monsters around.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Equinox is here - equal day and night. Now it's just downhill from here on. I hope that we will get enough snow to enjoy the winter. It sounds like the last winter (and summer) were both pretty bad.

Happy Equinox, everyone, owls and woodpeckers and dogs in the neighborhood too!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Our time back in Fairbanks is delineated by Fridays.

Three weeks ago Friday we arrived, one day later than scheduled.

Two weeks ago Friday, Sonja was crying in daycare during naptime, and I went to pick her up after the teacher said she just couldn't comfort her. (Sonja was actually asleep by the time I arrived.)

One week ago I got a phone call again from the daycare, saying that Sonja was crying that her mouth was hurting, and that they discovered a new tooth was making its way out. I went to get some pain medicine and stopped by the daycare and gave some to Sonja, and she was fine for the rest of the day.

And this past Friday, I got a phone call again. This time it was that she was scratching her head, and they discovered she has some nits. As in, head lice / nits. So Home she came with me, after the teacher showed me how they looked. I did have lice in first grade, but obviously didn't get to see them on my own head back then. We will see how long it takes us to get rid of this problem. We did the shampoo thing, followed by careful combing with the lice (very fine toothed) brush, and changed all the sheets and bedding... now are in the process of washing everything.

I wonder what next Friday will bring. Actually, I know - it will bring Martin, who's heading out towards the mid-country early Monday Morning.

In the meanwhile, hope that everyone has a happy Sunday! We will head to Lulu's again, for our weekly weekend breakfast there.

As a PS, we did watch some of the finishers of the Equinox Marathon today, congratulations to all participants. Sonja did her own version of the marathon today, when she walked with Martin and Saphira from our house to the finish line all by herself except for perhaps two minutes when Martin apparently carried her. It took them two hours to do. Way to go, Sonja! That was the longest you have walked! Yay! About 3 miles / 5 km. Cool!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Various recipes

Some recipes we followed in the last week or so...

Raspberry Liquor
Excellent to pour over ice cream in the middle of winter, this is something that we make every year, and hope that we make enough to last until the next year's batch is finished. Right now the raspberries are luckily still going pretty strong at the Ballaine hill farm (or rather, Pearl Creek farm), so may be I will make more batches than just the first one of the season that I am making right now. From the great book The Harvest Pantry by Barbara Beckett, which also has a recipe for Gravlaks (salt-cured salmon) that we enjoy, as well as many other recipes.
1 lb raspberries
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
4 c flavorless vodka
Boil the sugar and water together for five minutes, let cool. (I am waiting for it to cool...) Crush the raspberries and put into a large jar, then pour the sugar solution over them, as well as the vodka. Wait for two looooooong months (at least two, but obviously this liquor keeps), then strain. (I never strain it, I like the meat of the raspberries too over the ice cream, which is pretty much the only way we eat/drink this raspberry liquor.) Apparently strawberry liquor can be made exactly the same way.

Slow-cooked beef with juniper berries
This is a really great recipe for taking a low-cost cut of meat and making it into an excellent dish. We collect juniper berries for this sole purpose. The book it comes from is Every Night Italian, by Giuliano Hazan. We like this book too, though one major gripe is that it has nowhere a list of the dishes that are actually in the book - in the back, there is an alphabetical index, but to check the veggie recipes in this book, you pretty much have to flip page by page to see what's there. But, there are multiple recipes we use from this book, so the above point is my main gripe. This recipe takes some time (2 hrs), but requires almost nothing to be actually done during that time.
2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 c yellow onions (I use at least double the amount)
2 lbs beef chuck
1 tsp juniper berries
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
Put the olive oil into a pot, together with the onions, put the meat on top, then add lightly crushed juniper berries and the vinegar and salt and pepper. Wrap the lid with a wet cloth towel. Bring to a boil, then once you hear the contents bubbling, adjust to a very low simmer. Simmer until the meat is extremely tender, about two hours. If all liquid evaporates, add more liquid. We serve this with rice, and it is really excellent.

Simple / Classic Potato Salad
The czech way of making potato salad involves a treasure trove of other ingredients - ideally some ham, cooked eggs, chopped pickles, cooked peas and carrots, onions, mustard, all sorts of things. The other day I was looking for a simpler salad as we did not have all of these ingredients on hand, and came across this NYTimes recipe. It was nice and simple and tasty. And with fewer ingredients, it takes less time to chop things up, which is a definite plus these days. I will definitely be making this classic potato salad again. Here is the link to the article that has the recipe, called Potato Salad Always Welcome, Indoors and Out.
3 pounds potatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions
2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.
Boil potatoes, add gently solid ingredients, then fold in the mayo and mustard, and season to taste.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Home made bread

Friday a week ago, when we first got to town, we hit Lulu's bread and bagels for a lunch. It was their last day in the old location, and over the long weekend they had moved to a new location across the road. We plan on going there to eat breakfast each weekend we're in town, like before, as well as bread. But due to their closure over the long weekend, we ran out of bread. I used the opportunity to try the bread recipe for the no-knead beautiful-crust bread published by NYTimes' The Minimalist. It came out great. Good bread, though I will have figure out better recipe than half-white half-whole wheat that I used. May be include sunflower seeds like the Hearthside bakery used to do. Overall, the bread came out excellent. Minimum work required, best crust I have ever managed at home. The original recipe is described in this article, the recipe itself is here, and a video showing how it's done is here.

In short: make a regular bread dough with 3 cups of flour, using perhaps half the yeast you would normally, and increasing the water to make for a dough that is more liquidy than normal. Let it rise for half a day or a day, then fold it on itself and let it rise a couple more hours. Preheat oven, with a lidded dutch oven inside it, to 500 degrees. When the dutch oven is hot, slide the bread dough into it, close the lid, bake for half an hour, then uncover the lid and bake 15 minutes more.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

The move

Well, The Move is accomplished, but it sure was not a too joyful process. We gave away some stuff. We tossed some stuff. All of the equipment from the apartment remained there. And yet we still had problems fitting everything into our bags. Ryan had already a month earlier brought over 40 kg of our stuff to Fairbanks. (Thanks, Ryan!) We packed one banana box full of books and shipped that via post office, 23 kg for SFr 130 (about $130). What remained were 6 suitcases/dufflebags, most filled to the limit of 23 kg, one ski bag with all of our skis, two car seats, one stroller (gatechecked), one baby carrier (the type that's more like a backpack, also gatechecked) - altogether we maxed out with the pieces of luggage with the 7 pieces (Emilie, being a 'lap child', could only bring one piece of luggage), yet altogether we had eleven things checked. And then another four pieces as carryons: Martin's black backpack with our computers, his red backpack with all leftover things, my ARM bag with documents, diapers, and change of clothes (the important stuff), and Sonja's backpack with toys. And two kids to keep track of. Not a pretty sight, all of that stuff on one heap.

Yet somehow it all fit into Martin's colleague's car. Funk picked us up at 3:15 am to drive us the one hour to Basel, so that we would be there in time for the 6 am flight. Luckily the counter only opened at 4:30am, so we did not try to be there two hours ahead. As we were checking in, the lady said that our second flight, out of Frankfurt direct to Fairbanks, with a stopover in Whitehorse, showed a delayed departure. She was not sure what the '7' meant though: the flight was supposed to leave at 11 am. Did the 7 indicate a 7pm departure? A 7 hour delay? She checked us in and told us, and several other people that were also connecting to that flight, to check with the airline itself once we got to Frankfurt.

In Frankfurt, we learned that the 7 meant a 7am departure the following day. The company put us up in a hotel, gave free food for lunch, snack, dinner, and breakfast the following day. Overall, condor had made it so that we could not really complain about the situation. Apparently 2 of their 9 airplanes had major mechanical problems that they were fixing, and as a result, their entire schedule suffered. They only fly to most of their destinations once or twice a week, and so could not leave a flight out. Overall, they had excellent customer service from our perspective. But it did mean that the next day, we were getting up at 3:45 am, in order to catch the shuttle bus to the airport at 4:30am.

With some delays, the next morning, we boarded the plane, and took off at 8am instead of 7 am, after the crew had to find bags of two people who had bags checked in but did not show up. The flight to Whitehorse went fine, the kids slept for 4 out of the 9 hours, probably thanks to the two early mornings in a row. In Whitehorse, we had to deplane, since each plane is checked in the last port before entering the US. The deplaning woke up Emilie, who only fell asleep as we were landing. The 1.5 hours from Whitehorse to Fairbanks was quite a bit rougher than the previous 9 hours. Every was tired.

But, at the end we made it, and so did all of our bags. Amazing. We all fitted into Keith's car and Will and Ann's car and van, and made it to our house. It was quiet. No dogs there yet. But most other things were very familiar. Home.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Back home

We made it back home, one day late. Nice sunny day, both yesterday and today. Crisp air. Reds, yellows and greens all over the place. We left Zurich in summer, came to Fairbanks a day later to find fall. But we knew that. It is good to be home.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


We stopped by our little shop to pick up two peaches. It has been a while, between our comings and goings, and their month-long vacation. But, as always, Sonja was offered a biscuit as I was paying. I said she probably doesn't want one, as she cannot say "merci" ("thank you" as used in switzerland). Sonja took a biscuit nevertheless, and said, loud and clear, "Merci". It was good to hear her say it on our final day here, for the entire year she either didn't say it or mumbled it into her breath. Good ending.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Our girl is one!

Our girl turned one while we were in Ireland.

She walks like a champ, can go over doorsteps without too many problems. She has five teeth, three on top, two on the bottom. She likes me a lot, but if I am out of the room, she is happy with Martin too. And even if I am in the room, and we tell Emilie to go give papa a kiss, she will, generally, go to him, and give him a kiss. She does not say very many things yet: aaahhh when I say it at the table to get her to open her mouth, so that I can put a spoon into it. something that sounds like mama, though not necessarily referring to me. something that sounds like baba, though not referring necessarily to Martin.

She loves water. Then again, what kid doesn't? She laughs easily, a very cute laugh. She gets upset easily, in particular, if she found a big piece of clothing that she has grabbed and is dragging around the house, and steps onto it, and now it won't move... well, hopefully she will figure it out one of these days, and stop screaming her head off when that happens.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The joy of flushing

We got back home to Zurich this afternoon. In a week, we'll be home in Fairbanks.

Even our home in Zurich feels like a home. A place to relax. A place not to worry about things. Like flushing - you just flush, and leave. No worries whether it flushed or not. It just did. No worries. It seemed like no toilet in Ireland would flush on the first try. Some were better than others, but still, none had the flush we are used to from the US or from here. Funny how little things make an impression.

(Another impression: two faucets at each sink, one for cold water, and a separate one for hot water. Standard there. Not standard anywhere else I have lived.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

time to stop... (an experience at an irish pub)

Last night we spent in Westford, together with Jason and Tolly, who had already joined us the previous night when we camped at Ballina. Westport is a happening city. We went to listen to 'traditional' music (that would be irish traditional), in a pub one block from the hostel where the kids slept while Eslbeth watched them. After an hour of music, and a pint of (alcoholic) cider, it was time for me to head back, since Elsbeth sent an SMS with the text message 'e' - we interpretted that as Emilie is screaming, but could have been also Elsbeth with Elias and Emily are up. So I switched with Elsbeth, and stayed with the kids afterwards, while the rest of the gang enjoyed the trad music some more.

Apparently things got more exciting, as members of the audience joined in the fiddling and singning, and some started dancing. I asked Martin if some people had left, since the place had been jam-packed when I had to leave, but no, apparently they just danced in a really small space. A lot of fun was had by all.

Around 2am, according to Martin, a policeman came into the bar, saying that it was time to stop, since everyone had to go to church at 8am, afterall. (Martin and Jason can correct me on this). The musicians replied whether he wanted to join them instead? :No, I would like to write you up:, was the reply. But he did relent a bit. And so there was one more song and that was it.

Sounds like they had fun there at the pub.

Tonight, we are spending a night at the Monastery hostel in Letterfrack. Unique place for sure. Weather stopped cooperating around lunchtime today.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A day at the beach

Yesterday was apparently the first nice day of weather in ten days. We made our way towards Dunfanaghy, then put up our tents at the Corcreggan Mill Hostel. Beautiful site. Then we headed to town for a late lunch, and the beach. The men (Martin and Martin) and Sonja and Lena had a ton of fun at the beaach, building castles, playing in the sand. The rest of us too, but definitely those four had a blast. On to today,s program....

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ireland and a night in Omagh hostel

We spend yesteday
- walking to the tram station
- riding the tram to the train station
- riding the train to the airport
- flying the plane to ireland
- taking the bus from airport to car rental
- driving in the car from Dublin to Omagh

And now we have just spend a night in the Omagh Hostel. It was a welcome relief to have finally arrived here yesterday, everything was just taking a bit longer than it needed to. The train to the airport defied the swiss punctuality and finally rolled out of Zurich main station six minutes after its scheduled departure. The plane was half an hour late leaving the Zurich airport. Our bags didn't get lost, but we had to wait because of mechanical failure and only got them an hour after we landed. And our car was not quite ready for us when we checked in (even though we were late, with the plane and the bags being late), though that took only five to ten minutes.

Ireland did not disappoint us. Frequent showers :) (of the rainy kind), observed from within the dry car. Stone walls surrounding green pastures. Sheep, cows. People speaking english in a peculiar way (the clerk at the booze store I had a real problem understanding). Friendly people. Green all around. Old towns.

The Omagh Hostel was a good choice for us. We are travelling with Elsbeth, Tinu, and their two kids same age as ours. The eight of us got one of the six-bed dormitories here in the hostel. We pushed three beds side-by-side, same with the other three beds, and each family took one of these. The kitchen allowed us to make a nice quick pasta dinner last night when the kids were tired, instead of having to find some restaurant. The hostel is a bit out of town, but they do pick up and drop people off at the bus station if needed. They are the first in northern ireland to receive the European Ecolabel, known as the EU flower (due to the symbol shape). They have a garden behind the house that we will go explore with the kids, now that it's not raining, and check out the geese and ducks there, as well as the cows and bunnies on the neighbor's pasture.

And then it's off to the northwest from here.

(Picture of the hostel from the hostel's website, since we don't really have a camera here, except for the video camera that takes shoddy stills, and that we have no way of uploading anyways.)
The hostel, from the hostel's website:

Monday, August 11, 2008

In print

Martin took a journalist on a glacier above his parents' village a week ago, now the article is out. In the french-language Le Temps, it is an article whose summary is below. That journal apparently wanted to check out what is happening to some glaciers less well known than the typical (swiss) Gornergletscher and Aletschgletscher.

Marcher sur un glacier grondant
LT - 11.08.2008
Histoire(s) de glaciers méconnus (1/6). Le glacier de Ried peut être traversé sans équipement particulier. Sentir, ouïr et voir vivre cette mer de glace qui s'amenuise est rare et fascinant. Découverte avec un glaciologue local.

Cool thing: the (english) book quoted in the article is all online, in google books. Pretty cool.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Street Parade

After the kids went to bed, with Martin watching them, I went to check out this years Street Parade.

According to this wikipedia entry,
The Street Parade is [one of] the most attended technoparade[s] in Europe.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Prč? (Why?)

We are in the "Why?" stage.

Except that instead of saying Proč (the č is the 'ch' sound written the czech way), Sonja says 'Prč?'. An answer by me is followed by another 'Prč?' from her. And on it continues.

Example of yesterday, when we had the swiss-style mac-n-cheese (eaten topped with fried onions and a side of apple sauce):

me - (in czech) here is the apple sauce
Sonja - Prč? (why?)
me - because that's the traditional way the alpenmacaroni is eaten here
Sonja - Prč?
me - I don't know, you can ask your dad when he gets back.
Sonja - Prč?
me - Because he is Swiss.
Sonja - Prč?
me - Proč se ptáš? (Why are you asking?)
Sonja - because I don't know what "swiss" means.
me (realizing she did pay attention and did not just ask "why" just because) - ... tried to explain what a swiss is...

I guess she had (and continues to have) a reason to continue to ask "why" - the world is a big place. We will see how much patience I have with this stage. Why, why, why? Why? But...!

(We are also at the But! stage, though not to the extent of the why?. The But! only appears when we ask her to do something. The Why? appears anytime, everytime.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

18, 31, 141

The weights of the women in this house:
in pounds
18, 31, 141

in kg
8, 14, 64

in stones and pounds (gotta love the weight systems!):
1 stone 4 pounds; 2 stones 3 pounds; 10 stones 1 pound

Measurements thanks to the scale Hilary and Ryan and Sophie lent to us so that we could weight our bags and not be over the limit when we fly back, all of our possessions crammed into seven bags.

(Emilie only gets one bag since she is an infant without her own seat. A huge thanks to Ryan for already taking two bags - 40 kg - over to Fairbanks.)

I don't know whether the man in this house would want to have his weight officially posted :), and besides he is not here right now to jump on the scale three times. The girls cooperated happily.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Emilie in (not hot) water

After finding a lot of wild strawberries along some of our hike yesterday, I really wanted to go with the girls today to pick some. Both of them love the tiny red jewels full of flavor. Alas, even though we did pretty much nothing today, the time somehow flew by, and before I knew it, it was five o'clock. I left Martin with Sonja, and went with Emilie to get a few berries for all of us.

We hiked up to Driery,(or is it Drieri?), a water way that can carry three waters, hence its name. Water ways are these channels that the swiss living three or four or five hundred years ago dug into the mountainsides to carry the water from the creek that comes out of the glacier towards the meadows where they grow grass for hay. They go for miles, relatively horizontally but with enough slope that the water, when they carry it, flows with a good speed. There are paths along many of them. Here is a picture of one form April. No water in it that time since it was not growing season yet.

So today I was walking with Emilie in a baby carrier along one of these water ways. There was no water in it at the moment, but it had been earlier in the day, so there was standing water in many places. We were looking for strawberries, and there were a lot. But right on the pathway next to the waterway there were only a few - most were off into the uphill or downhill side. So most of the time, I set Emilie in the baby carrier on the path. Since she is walking, I did not want her walking/falling into either the water way or down the hill. And after setting her down I went to pick the berries, giving her some of them, and putting some of them into the box to bring back. Emilie was getting a bit grumpy but she does love strawberries, so I always managed to bribe her with a few that I had picked. And so we continued.

A few yards father, same thing - set Emilie down, go off collecting. Then again. Until the moment I heard a "thud" from the place where I left Emilie one yard above me. I scrambled up the steep side and saw the whole baby carrier together with Emilie in the standing two-inches deep water. Got Emilie out. She was fine, luckily, just covered with (wet) dried larch needles that were on the ground everywhere and that stuck to her now that she was rather wet. Looked pretty funny, actually. Poor girl. What a crazy mother she has. At least I was right there.

Turtmanntal and Gasenried

We are once again at Martin's parents', after once again visiting Turtmanntal over the weekend. This time it was with all of Martin's sisters and their kids and husbands, except for the one who has to take care of twenty odd cows. From that family, just the four kids made it together with their mom. Altogether eight kids. Unlike the last time, the cows did not come home when we had all eight kids in bed. (Score!) But they came running to us on Sunday when we did a dayhike to the upper hut. Once again a ding-dong-ding-dong everywhere from the huge bells around their necks, as they came on all sides of the hut. The kids that have the twenty odd cows at home said that these were small cows, though. Looked big enough for me.

Afterwards we came again to Martin's parents because Martin was taking some journalist up to the local glacier yesterday, Tuesday. The journalist wanted to see a glacier not as well known. Martin and the guy went up to Bordier Hutte. Apparently, the guy then did to Martin what Martin did to me on one of our first dinners out.

At that time, I was heading out for the AGU conference in San Francisco, Martin was staying behind. Since I had the late flight, we went out to dinner at the Lemongrass (Thai) restaurant that we like a lot. We ate, he wanted to pay, so he took out the credit card... and they said sorry cash only. So I had to pay.

Yesterday, the journalist apparently invited Martin for lunch at the Bordier Hutte, but like Martin so many years earlier, did not have enough cash. Nearest ATM was four hours down the mountain, then five hours back up (or with a car, three hours down, a short car ride, then four hours back up) and so Martin payed. Sounds like they had a wonderful lunch, especially since Martin knows the hut warden, who kept filling up his glass with wine.

I hiked up to the glacier with the Funks and their three daughters in the afternoon. The kids frolicked there in the water, both in a small lake and a small water fountain made out of a tree trunk. When Martin managed to get out of reach of the wine-enabled warden, he and the journalist made it back down the glacier and hiking trail and joined us at the bottom of the glacier. Then a bit later, when we were coming down the hill to the village, Martin had the joy of helping Sonja jump from big boulders down. A fun activity, except when you see rain that's going to catch up with you soon. Fun time was had by all. And now, I am going to watch a night thunderstorm roll through. It had already shaken the window panes a couple times this evening.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Blueberries, currants, pears, and a lot of relatives

A week ago the kid and I returned from the Czech Republic again. Our last trip this year. I mainly wanted to see my grandfather and aunts and uncles again, and let Sonja practice her Czech. And enjoy the bounty of summer. From all of those points, the trip was a relative success.

We did both 8-hour journeys (there and a week later back) in one day, unlike the previous times. Started right after lunch, then drove some three hours, during which time the kids mainly slept. Stopped for a one hour break. Then tried to go on but had to stop after about an hour again. Then we grabbed a bite to eat for dinner, played some, and after an hour or so again continued. Reached the destination around midnight.

My cousin was helping on the way to my relatives, which was extremely nice. On the way back, I was alone, but managed ok. I had Emilie's car seat in the center position and Sonja was on the side, and Sonja did help to entertain Emilie somewhat. For Sonja's entertainment, we had a large selection of children's songs on CDs (czech, swiss, english), and I had some snacks and drinks that I could easily hand back to either of the kids without needing to poke anywhere. And small toys to hand back, as they slowly slipped out of Emilie's reach.

My aunt and cousin leaving to go blueberry picking one morning in a nearby forest. Two hours later, they were back. Emilie enjoyed what they brought back with them.

With my grandfather in the garden. Sonja and Emilie are eating some currants and pears, and the basket in front of them holds more small pears that we picked form the ground. Both girls loved them. My grandfather and his wife planted the trees after they came there to live around 1950, I think before they bought it. (It was originally a one-room schoolhouse with living quarters attached.)

My three uncles:
Pepa. Lada holding Emilie. Radim with Sonja (eating currants) and my grandpa:

Emilie "discovered" her tongue. Now it sticks out very often. First on one side, then the other, then it goes back inside, comes back out again... It is a source of entertainment for her, as well as for us. And sometimes a source of concentration for her. Like when she is trying her walking skills on not so smooth grass.

Our Lustige Faeger is eleven months

Our Zwerg was eleven months old a week or so ago. She can walk a couple yards or meters by herself when she is not tired. If she is tired, our Kwaki will fall down before then. She does somewhat respond to her name, but generally there are other things more interesting than to look somewhere. She has also started babbling more. Apparently earlier she just had to concentrate on walking and standing. She likes to pull stuff over her head. She likes beets and various random foodstuffs. And she still has problems falling asleep by herself, though we are working on that. (Zwerg, Kwaki and Lustige Feager is what Martin calls her. And thus Sonja calls her that too.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sonja's family portrait

Our camera is still broken, but on occasion it will take a photo. Today, Sonja used the delay timer to take some family pictures of us. Here is one. The lens is dirty, so there are spots on the picture. Ignore those. Sorta focused. Sonja does love love love that delay timer.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Movie of Emilie walking

For Martin, since he is not here.

Though who knows, he might not have a good enough connection to see this until he gets back. Emilie is ten months and some three weeks old, coming up on eleven months in one week.

(The video was 29 MB, don't know if it was reduced in size automatically by blogger.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

End of poop calendar

This is a bit late coming, but last month we got away with noting when Sonja poops in a calendar. She now goes regularly every day, by herself. Not once a week. We are so glad. (This is a post more for us than for anyone else - skip unless you want to know about children and constipation.)

It started when in her first year, when she would regularly poop only every fifth day. No problem there, breastfed children often do that. However, after she stopped nursing, she would still not go every day. It was every two or three days. And the priod slowly increased. By the time we reached the holidays 2007, she was only going once a week. She was grumpy most of the time, and needless to say, since it took such a force on her part to get that amount out, she really did not want to do it.

We had tried to use suppositories to help her, but after the first time they somehow did not work.

Part of the reason for the near constant constipation was that she is a bit picky, she did not want to push, she ignored the signals when her body wanted to empty itself, and who knows what else.

In January or so, we went with her to the doctor. The doctor emptied Sonja, and prescribed Transipeg to help keep the stool soft. So that Sonja would learn that it does not hurt to go do #2. Even with that, we ended up having to force her to sit on the toilet every second or third day to get the stool out, because she still did not go by herself. Involved a lot of tears, a lot of crying. But what else were we supposed to do? Without that, she would not have gone.

We did change our food habits to a degree. We sometimes give her "stars", a cereal high in fiber (thanks Hil for the info). She initially didn't want that cereal but somehow started liking it. I sneak in some bran on top of bread before I spread butter and soft cheese on it. I started making pizza dough out of a variety of flours, including the "whole" ones, and include flax seeds in it. When we make spaghetti, I mix it half-white and half-whole wheat spaghetti. When we go on travels, I buy some cans of mandarins and corn (bot of which she likes) and bring them along to give to her. We try to do some veggies before each main meal, though there is not that much variety in that yet - zucchinis (fried in butter), or peas, corn, beets (almost surprisingly). If veggies are chopped fine enough, like in a risotto or a soup, she will likely eat them. At home, we periodically do "try something new" - she has to eat one bite of something she has not tried before (e.g. pears this past week, which she claimed she did not like without even trying them) before she gets the stuff she likes (e.g. strawberries, or now peaches). This way, we are slowly introducing new foods. Peer pressure also helps, to a point. She has been in a group of children, all of them chewing on raw carrots, and wanted a carrot herself.

In addition, we did a bit of bribing: if you poop, we told Sonja, you will get some ice cream.

Even after doing all of those things, it was still a physical and mental struggle to get Sonja to poop. And then, one day, as she was sitting on the toilet, and I was sitting there in front of her to keep her from getting off, she asked, what are you doing? And I told her, I am waiting for you to poop or to pop, like the balloon. And she replied, ok, I will poop. And she pooped. And after that, it has been no problem. Within a couple days, she started trying to go do #2 several times (five was the max) a day in order to get the ice cream. (We now changed the policy to ice cream once, or max twice a day.)

We took her off the transipeg. No problems.

It is so good to be past this issue. Like some other people have told us, it just went away. Just like that. It just took Sonja deciding to push. Sure was a chore to get her to that point, but now it does seem to be in the past. Way to go Sonja!

Somewhat related to that, Sonja is daytime potty trained, though we still give her diapers at night. I stupidly thought that I wouldn't push the diaper issue until the pooping problem is solved (thinking that she might be more willing to poop into diapers than into a toilet or potty). But the pooping problem took such a long time, we ended up potty training before it was solved, and I almost wish we had done it earlier. She does still pee into her pants sometimes: if she is hard at play with something or someone, and simply forgets about it; or to spite us (I think). But overall, she has been without diapers for two months or so, and pooping regularly for six weeks or so, and we are very happy about both of those things.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Emilie's first steps

Monday a week ago, while I went up to the Bordier Huette, Martin reported that Emilie took the first step by herself. She has been practicing standing a lot. And walking with holding onto things. Though she does mainly love walking while holding onto my finger. But, last Monday, she did take a step by herself. A few days later it was a couple steps. Now she regularly takes a couple steps before falling into our arms. More practice needed....

A hike to Bordier Huette

We're back at the grandparents', this time with my cousin Marketa, but without Martin, who's leaving for two weeks in Greenland tomorrow.

Last week while we were here, Martin took care of the kids Monday afternoon while I hiked to a hut next to the glacier visible from the village. The hut is called Bordier Huette. It felt great to go hiking, regular speed, not kid speed. Three hours up to the hut, so I was up at five, fifteen minutes at the hut, then a longer way down via Europaweg, so that took also three hours.

The glacier visible from the village. The village is at 1600 meters, the hut is at nearly 2900 meters. This picture is from last fall, since our camera is now kaputt, and the video camera has crappy resolution. The hut is up a ways on the left side of the glacier (not visible on this image).

Going up next to the glacier...beautiful blue encian. Crappy picture.

Bordier huette. Crappy picture. Great hike. Reasonable weather (though I did not end up seeing the 4,000 meter peaks above the glacier).

It was a shock that I was not even sore the next day. Must be thanks to the five flights of stairs it takes to get to our Zurich apartment, that I do several times a day when we are in Zurich :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


We spend the previous week with Martin's parents. Martin wanted to get some quality time in doing hay. A three day process, approximately.

First day: If the weather forecast is good, you cut the meadows starting 6ish in the morning, when the grass and plants are not yet limp from the heat of the sun. Use a machine on the less steep slopes, or a scythe on the steeper ones. Someone else spreads the cut material into a uniform layer over the cut field.

(Steep place...)

Second day the cut grass is turned over so it can dry on the other side.

Third day it is raked together, and either carried into the stables or blown into them using a blowing machine with a wide (3 foot diameter?) tubing attached to it through which the hay travels. No pictures of that, but here is some pictures of "child labor": Martin's nephew carrying the hay, right behind Martin's sister. That parking lot across which they carry the hay is the biggest flat area in the village. Glacier in the background behind the chapel.

(Getting the load off)

PS: Our good camera is completely out of action now. Only have a video camera that takes small resolution pictures. May be I will start posting videos instead.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

If I fall in, please don't flush

Sonja to Martin, as he was helping her use the toilet yesterday:

Papa, if I fall into the toilet, please don't flush it. Help me out first.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A hut trip: Turtmanntal

This past weekend we dragged Hilary, and Ryan with Sophie; and Tinu and Elsbeth with Lena and Elias to a hut in Turtmanntal. Six adults, five kids. It took us three hours to hike in from the end of the bus line, which included pauses for breastfeeding, and kids doing some walking... The weather was excellent. Camera is still not cooperating, at least not on the "dumb" mode for idiots where all one needs to do is press a button. And sometimes not even with the manual focus mode. As a result, a lot of pictures were out of focus, and overexposed, unfortunately.

Lena standing in the doorway of the hut.

Emilie practicing "I see you" in the doorway. She figured out she can see people between her legs last week. She has a lot of fun with it.

Hilary making dinner on the wood burning stove. Sophie is right next to her. Sonja is playing with a balloon in front of them.

Dinner outside.

It took the first of the two nights to figure out that if five kids, ages three and under, are to sleep in one room, the best way of putting them to sleep is one at a time. (All at the same time did not work, at all.)
It was all fine and dandy, and the kids finally seemed to be asleep, when the cows started coming home. Some ten cows, each with a wonderful big bell tied around its neck. They could have chosen to be anywhere on this huge pasture, and where do they chose to come? Towards the hut. Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong... I saw Martin and Tinu try to intervene, and gave them a hand too.
First I tried what I would consider regular herding. (OK, so I don't really know how they herd cows.) Did not work. Cows 1, Dana 0. I then tried the bear approach: hands over my hands to make me look big, low voice. Cows 2, Dana 0. Then the dog approach: good girl, come this way. Cows 3, Dana 0. And the brute force did not work either, unfortunately.

So the cows came and surrounded the hut, and the ding-dong came across the baby phone that we left in the sleeping room, but it did not wake up the kids. May be it lulled them into a deeper sleep...? The next morning, the cows moved elsewhere. Until the evening, when once again they came towards the hut just as we were putting the kids to sleep. Did not even bother to try to chase them off that night. Just said hi to them when they came.

Those bells are big, and make a lot of noise.

Lena turned three on our trip, and we celebrated with an excellent carrot cake that Elsbeth carried in, and the two three year old girls played with bubbles. And we went to the upper hut for a view further into the valley.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Breakfast in bed

Not a typical breakfast here (i.e. not part of the 'our life here' series), but thanks Martin!

Fresh orange juice in a wineglass, fresh gipfeli (croissants) from the bakery, apricot jam, butter, four kinds of cheeses, some meat, a pot of tea with sugar and milk on te side - very professional, and very very good. Thanks, honey!

And thanks for that wonderful swatch watch!

And yes, I am rather disheveled, but hey, I was still in bed :)

Monday, June 16, 2008


Unlike the previous eight months, for the last week we had the TV on in the evenings to watch the soccer matches of the european championships. Sonja clearly does not like it. Two days ago, as Martin turned the TV on, she said "Abstelle!" - "turn it off". And it wasn't the first time, either. We had to laugh about that - in most cases, it would not be the parents who would want the TV on against the wishes of the 3 year old.

Both Switzerland and Czech Republic are out of the championships, but Martin seems determined to watch some good soccer games, so likely the TV is going to be on in this house a bit longer.

I should do a bit of disclosure and say that for most of the day, even when the TV is not on, the computer is on. But may be that is a slightly lesser evil, since we play children's songs in all three languages on it. And watch videos of Saphira that Sandy, who takes care of her, sends us. And the screen goes blank after five minutes of no one watching the computer. That sure does not happen to the TV.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Our life here: neighbors

Our life here: our neighbors in the house.
The first two months in this house we were the only family with kids. One of the departments of the technical school is on the ground floor. Graduate students or researchers have rooms in the apartments on the first and second floor. Three different older couples had the apartments on the third and fourth floors over the time we had been here.

In December, we got lucky, and had a family (Nancy and Peter) with kids move in on the fourth floor, just below us, with kids who are a bit older than Sonja. It has been great having other kids in the house. We periodically bump into Nancy, Maya and Sabine; or Peter in the stairway, and interact with them a lot more than with the other neighbors. Here is a picture on the day of Sonja's and Peter's birthday, of our two families and Hilary and Sophie, who headed with us to the playground. Sonja was 3 that day, Peter... just a tad more :). Thanks, Nancy, for the picture, and for being a wonderful neighbor!

Our life here: the neighbors not in the house:

This guy is home every half hour or so. Very shy in front of the camera.

Beyond the building where the first neighbor lives, they are repairing a university (actually technical school) building. When they took down the scaffolding, we saw a lot of people, though each day we see at least a couple of those "neighbors":

On sunny days, the roofs become occupied in large numbers. Though it may not be visible in the image, at least on four different roofs there were people the day I took that picture. For the last week, probably no one would have been visible - too cool and rainy for that.

We are near the university hospital, and are overflown by helicopters several times a day

The crane is a big hit with Sonja. But we have seen the guy who operates it only a couple times.