Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Baby board and Gruezi (greetings)

On Monday, we purchased a "baby board" at a local kids second-hand shop. This is a little board with two wheels that attaches to a stroller, so that an older kid can stand on it (and ride without having to walk) while its younger sibling is sitting happily in the stroller itself. For now, Sonja loves to ride the baby board. We will see whether it continues, but it sure has made getting places easier.

Today, I was pushing the stroller with Emily (inside) and Sonja (riding the baby board) up a relatively steep street. A woman walking downhill saw me. I was sure I looked pretty funny, pushing with all my might. When we made eye contact, she said the local greeting, "Gruezi" (pronounce grue- like in gruelling, and zi(or ci) like cistern).

Anyways, it reminded me that in Wallis, where Martin is from, they say "salut" as a greeting instead of "gruezi". Thus, anytime they hear "gruezi", they know it is from people from Zurich or environs. As a result, these people are also called "Gruezi" or I think also "Grueziny".

The other week when we went to (Mt) Rigi, they had a sign there that said "Gruezi auf Rigi". For most visitors, it meant "Welcome to / on Rigi". For Martin, the meaning was different: "Someone from Zurich on top of Rigi".

For now, I will practice saying "Gruezi", at least until the weekend, when I will switch to "Salut" when we visit Wallis for the Carnival. I am sure my accent will give me away (once, in the states, I got asked where I was from the moment I said "hi"), but at least I will be saying the correct form of greeting :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Boating in the hallway

Last week and this week have been beautiful here in Zurich, with the sun shining over the city (in contrast to the forever overcast sky and some rain in November and December). I sure hope the spring will continue like this!

Emily and Sonja went boating in our hallway. When the temperatures warm up, we will have to go take a real boat out on the lake. Emily is now very proficient at sitting, and only falls down typically after more than two minutes or more of sitting. We better enjoy these moments, pretty soon, she will be just be sitting, instead of right now sitting, then tilting a bit, then tilting a bit more... and more...


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Skate skiing by Sihlsee and a visit to Elsbeth and Tinu

Today we went to visit Elsbeth and Tinu. The original plan was for all eight of us (four of them and four of us) to go to the frozen Sihlsee near where they live, and enjoy the sunshine. Some were going to go skate skiing, then we were going to switch off. Instead of sun, the sky ended up being overcast, so with plan B, we all went to Einsiedeln, but Martin and Tinu went skiing while the rest of us hung out at their home for another hour and a half, and then we went to meet them by the ski area. Martin complained about the competence of the swiss cross-country skiers: apparently he was getting passed by everyone and their grandmother. Well, may be not quite. I think he and Tinu had a nice 20km or so ski.

After lunch, I went for a 10km ski in the flats by myself, surprising myself by not falling a single time (last year I only skijored plus I was pregnant, and this year I haven't made it on skis yet), then we all met up again, loaded the extremely tired kids into the bus, and went back to Einsiedeln. In the afternoon, Lena and Sonja played together.

Frozen Sihlsee, next to which are the cross country trails:


The day was tough on the kids (here Elias and Lena). Tinu is one tough guy: he pushed the stroller with the two kids (not very stable in that configuration), had a backpack on his back, and carried a ski bag with three pairs of skis in it.


Elias with his parents:



Everyone played nicely together (Tinu too):

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Fairbanksans and Ex-Fairbanksans

Friday we had a dinner for some Fairbanksans and ex-Fairbanksans, when Matt and Kris with Turner visited us for the night, and Hil and Ryan with Sophie came by for the evening also:

When Emilie woke up, we had to get a picture of the four kids:

Then someone called for Turner to give a kiss to Sophie, so he turned towards her, and she towards him...

... but just as he was about to plant one on her cheek, her attention went elsewhere...


Turner is a pretty darn cute boy, just look at those curls:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Who needs to learn german?

So I will probably go to a german course Thursday evenings at a local meeting/cultural house - I attended one lesson today, and think this way at least I will have two hours per week without kids to listen to and think about some german. (Martin survived those two hours also.)

While the 'teacher' might not be quite qualified, she does speak to us only in german (she is croatian and has been here five years, but her high german is definitely better than mine); the price is peanuts (70 franks for 10 courses); it is in the evening (so Martin can take care of the kids); and this way at least I will be forced to do some vocabulary. I have been better about vocab when we got here initially but then.... well, I haven't opened the dictionary in the last two months probably.

Anyways, the teacher, Nena, asked us five students why we need german. Claire, a french gal that I met at the same "Treffpunkt" (meeting/cultural house) Wednesday mornings during the "Parents with little kids" morning (think playgroup), says she needs it for Treffpunkt. All of her neighbors are french (or may be swiss-french), her husband uses English at work... and at the shop, the worker speaks spanish, so that's what she speaks there. With me, she talks in English.

Olga, a Serbian woman, says she needs it for playgroups and for kindergarten. I say Treffpunkt and relatives. Zdravko, a Monte-Negran man, is struggling to find a reason - he works with other ex-Yugoslavs and an Italian, though apparently one co-worker is German. So at the end that was the reason - to talk to one co-worker. Visnja, a Bosnian woman, is also struggling to find a reason.

I guess it's not that hard to live somewhere and not have the handle of the language. I am a prime example: shopping is no problem in a supermarket once you learn a few things (I did make the mistake of buying reconstituted schnitzels in the freezer section but most other things are fine), at our local store I just buy bread or fruits and veggies, our neighbors are canadians, eih; and I don't really interact with anyone else on a daily basis.

Still, I was shocked that my situation is by far not unique.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Pics of the girls

Proud for putting the boots on all by herself (ok, so it wasn't that hard):


Emily's dinner:


When Chris M. called last night, I was surprised that Emily (abandoned in bed while I went to answer the phone) didn't start crying... she decided to read the newspaper instead. She enjoyed it a lot.

Result of the phone call was that Chris stopped by for coffee this afternoon. One of these days, we will have to go visit him and Barbara in Davos. We were glad to hear that they are doing well. Time flies - it has been six years since their son Tom was born in Fairbanks.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Our trip to (Mt) Rigi: Guggenmusik and sledding

Yesterday, we enjoyed a day on Rigi, a (relatively) high mountain on the north side of the alps not too far from Zurich. There is a train that goes to the top, so it is an easy trip with the kids. The weather was fantastic, and super warm for the season, feeling more like spring than winter. That's what the newspapers said, too.

With the sun and the warm weather, we were joined at the top of Rigi not only by our friends Lex and Xandie with their son Noah (same age as Sonja), but also by thousands of others, including a band playing Guggenmusik, a rhythmic music played during the carnival time that sometimes includes false tones. The musicians are generally dressed up and have their faces painted (see here or search youtube for guggenmusik, getting for example this). Sonja liked listening to the music from the restaurant. Up close and personal it was a bit too loud for her.


After a nice lunch, we hiked the five minutes to the very top of the mountain, where we became characters from the book about Heidi (not that I know the story, but it is a classic children's book here): Heidi (me), the grandfather (Sonja), and sitting on the dog is our friend Noah.


Martin and Lex check out the view from Rigi, including this pretty cool thing where you would point the arrow to some name on the sphere, and in the viewfinder, you could see the named object.



Sledding... At the top, we rented sleds for ten franks each, and then joined a ton of people sledding down on the trail to the next train station.

Starting out at the top of the hill: all of our family.


Our friend Xandie with Noah coming down; Lex is coming in very fast from behind.


Taking a short break (Sonja, Martin+Emily).


At the lower train station, we took a train back up to the top. But Sonja fell asleep on the way, and Noah was tired too, and so we turned in two sleds, and Martin and Xandie took the kids on the train down from the top station, while Lex and I sledded like mad in order to catch that same train at the lower station. We did. Had even a minute or two to spare. But boy, did I get some huge bruises from taking the snowy bumps in the trail way too fast. But it was fun. And luckily Sonja continued to sleep all the way back down the hill, so Martin only had to deal with Emily...
In the train on the way back home:

... and the wonderful day was finished off by the bathing fun, where Emily discovered how to splash water. It was her fifth month birthday, afterall, so she had to learn something new.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bathing

The girls had fun bathing today. Sonja got Martin's hair wet; he reciprocated. Emily figured out that when you wham your hand into the water, it makes a lot of noise, and water splashes everywhere. She was doing it a lot. And loving it. (She has some cradle cap on her head that I didn't bother to wash off with baby oil, so that's the reddish stuff on her head, though right now her hair is also red, so we will see whether she turns into a redhead.)


Friday, January 18, 2008

Naptime (Emilie)

View from our balcony: Zurich

Starbucks price shock

Yesterday, Hilary stopped by with Sophie, and we went for a walk to Ryan's office. He needed a break, so we headed to the Starbucks next door to the building where he works, since apparently they have comfy chairs.

Obviously I have never ventured into a Starbucks here in Switzerland, because when the time came to order, I was shocked at the prices: most drinks were Swiss Franks 6.xx/7.xx/8.xx for the small/medium/large - at today's exchange rate of 1.1 Swiss franks to the dollar, that makes it something like $5.xx/6.xx/7.xx. Ouch. At least the tea was "only" CHF 3.90, or $3.50. Compare that with $1.50 for a tea in most Starbucks in the states (Key West was an exception, there it was $2.00, if I remember correctly). Definitely a bit of a shocker. Not a good time to be getting paid in american dollars and be living in Europe. Or elsewhere.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Give your camera to two boys...

... who live on a farm with twenty cows, their parents, and two sisters, and here is what you get on your camera... a nice picture of the rear of a cow.



and a nice picture of the rear of two cows...


and their little sister, pretty close to the rear of those cows...

Three kings bread

A note to myself for next year:

In some parts of switzerland, they bake a three-king's bread for three-king's day (Jan 6). It looks like small rolls put together into a flower. One of the rolls hides a small figurine or an almond etc. Whoever picks the roll with the treasure is a king for the day.

Martin's family didn't do his, but why not adapt some other traditions that might be fun for kids. Here's a bad picture of an advertisement from Migros (a store) for the three king's bread:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Chruchteli

This last weekend we spend with Martin's siblings and significant others and kids. Overall, 8 adults, 8 kids. Lots of snow (we stayed in a hut up in the mountains), ton of sunshine on Sunday, a lot of skiing, some sledding.

Anyways, somehow when we were talking with Martin's sister Christine on Friday night, she remarked that their grandma used to make "chruchtele" for the carnival time before easter, and that no one in the village has a recipe for that. So this is my attempt to use google to see if I can find it.

So: name something like chruchtele (spelling unclear, but this spelling gives the most google results), and Martin said he is sure that cream ("rahm") was an ingredient in the dough. The dough was fried, but probably not of a thick enough consistency to be rolled out and cut into pieces. It is made for carnival, so it could be described as "fasnachtsgeback", from the canton (state within switzerland) of Wallis.

Probably not the right chruchteli since it does not include cream, and the dough is rolled out: from here. Other swiss recipes on the same website are here.

Also probably not the right one, since the dough is again rolled out: from here.

Hmmm... in the google cache of this one, is "ruhm" really "rahm"...?

This site appears to have many special swiss recipes (in german)
http://home.balcab.ch/r.l.sperandio/index.html. Found it when I looked for rickli (another fasnachtsgeback) rahm.

Well, overall, I have to say that I will probably give up with this search. It looks like many a region in swizerland had its own "fasnachtsgeback". I should still search for Fasnachtsch├╝echli (fasnacht cookies) before giving up though.

Happy birthday, Saphira!

Our crazy dog, currently in care of Sandy back in Fairbanks (many many thanks, Sandy!), is turning two years old today. Happy birthday, Saphira!

Sonja misses you. She really enjoyed watching the pictures and movies that Sandy sent. Yesterday in the train, she kept asking "what does sandy say (to) saphira?", to which the correct reply is "get the ball, saphira!" (from one of the movie clips Sandy sent). Nice and cute, but certainly after the tenth time that Sonja asked, it was getting old :)

Here is a picture Martin snapped of Saphira just before we left Fairbanks:


Happy birthday, Saphira! I am afraid by the time we get back to Fairbanks you will be a bit more grown up than the crazy puppy we left behind.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Emily's first avocado

Last night, we had salad with our dinner, which included some avocado. As always for more than the past motnh, Emily was trying to grab anything within her reach, and trying to stuff it into her mouth. And so I thought, since she is now almost 5 months, why not try to give her some of the avocado. Mashed it up well, and gave her a tiny spoon. She opened her mouth wide, took a little bit in. Made a face. Opened the mouth wide for more. Got some more, made even a nastier face... so who knows whether she likes it. But she sure was glad to be getting something into her mouth. No turning back - she is ready for "solids".

Monday, January 7, 2008

Raclette

The swiss eat a lot of cheese. Probably the best-known way of eating just cheese is the cheese fondue. A different, perhaps better (ok, my own personal opinion) way to eat a different type of cheese is melted over wood fire and the melted layer scraped onto plates. That's raclette. Mmmmmm.

It is traditionally eaten with small boiled potatoes and some pickled things (small pickles and pickled onions), and some people add freshly ground black pepper or a sprinkling of paprika onto the cheese. At some christmas markets around I have seen raclette served over bread too, but that seems like a poor substitute. And, just like cheese fondue, it is probably better not to think what sort of markings this meal would get on the mypyramid.gov website.

I can't wait to get to eat raclette again!


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Snow angel

My brother and his family visited for several days. New Year's day he was showing off how to make a snow angel. Caught in action.

Got milk?



Sonja could be a wonderful poster child for the "Got Milk?" campaign...

Well-wishers for the new year

On Dec 31, I was taking a shower in the morning when I heard something resembling a heard of elephants thumping on the stairs in the house. After I turned off the water, I could hear voices singing. It was pretty loud. Since the radio is almost never on, and never to that volume, I wrapped the towel around me and went on upstairs to check what is happening. In the hallway upstairs, I first saw Martin's mom, who broke into a big smile when she saw me there with hair dripping wet, wrapped only in the towel. Martin must have seen her, because he came from around the corner, and when he saw me, he quickly came to me, shooing me to go downstairs, that there are twenty older men in the kitchen, and that it would be very embarrasing if they saw me that way.

And so I hurried downstairs and put on pants and shirt, but by that time the concert was over.

So this was a group of people who go visit every house in the village, to offer good wishes for the new year. Martin said he was thinking of joining the club one year, because in many places they are offered a drink, so by the end of the day things look pretty nice...) They also mark the door of each house with "CMB 2008", which, according to this german wikipedia entry, stands for Christus mansionem benedicat, or Christ bless this house, probably, if I am translating "Christus segne dieses Haus“ correctly.



It would have been nice to have been told to expect this - I knew that the marking on the door is done each year, but somehow I thought they actually do it on New Years. As it was, I missed a nice little performance by twenty guys crammed into Martin's parent's tiny kitchen. Martin's sister remarked that some people lock their homes so that these guys can't get in - that way they don't have to wash the floor afterwards, apparently. Too bad for those people. I did try to get a photo of them when they left the next house, but only about a quarter of them are on the picture.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Lena has a sibling!

Congratulations to Elsbeth and Tinu and Lena!