Monday, April 28, 2008

8 months

that is how long Emilie has been with us. What a change. She can sit up by herself. She scoots around on her butt. Not as efficient as crawling, but certainly gets her from point A to point B. Point B generally being mama. Or something that she should not be touching. Such as a set of drawers, into which she has already managed to pinch the fingers of both her hands at the same time.

(scooting that butt forward...)

She is also busy practicing standing, but now does know how to lower herself down into sitting position...only to stand up immediately again.

(unhappy with standing, or rather having her picture taken...)

She is still breastfeeding, though it's getting more difficult. Not because of the three teeth. But let me see, what is over here? And over there? And what did I just hear over to this side? And what is that thing? Something much more interesting than the breast, which has, afterall, been around forever, as far as she is concerned. The other things are new, exciting, worth trying to touch and pinch and stroke and move. Who has time to drink when there are all these things to explore!

(soon thereafter a hand shot upward trying to grab the camera)

Emily's also been discovering her voice and the different sounds one can make with a mouth. Brrrrrr, a sound similar to what a car would make was very popular for the last two weeks. Wheezing has replaced that this week. Good thing to know she is just discovering her voice. That wheezing could make me take her to the doctor otherwise.

(proud at her temporary destination, Emily checks out the glass)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wallis, again

We went to visit Martin's parents this past weekend again. Martin dragged his colleague Roman with him. The weather was sunny the first day, high clouds the second, and cloudy the third. Martin claims that it is always sunny in Wallis. It is not, but it is often still beautiful nevertheless.

Stables in Gasenried, where Martin's parents live:

A walk in the environs of the village nearly always brings one to a waterway, which allows people to irrigate the pastures with glacier meltwater during the summer. This one is "driery" (sp??), meaning three-some, since it can carry "three" waters. It is the biggest waterway around, and carries water several km away.
Martin took the picture, proving that he does really sometimes use the camera and take pictures of the rest of us (I sometimes tease him that we don't have almost any pictures of me). Here, Sonja (with 'baby' in her hand) is followed by grandma, Roman, and I carry Emily in the back, breastfeeding.

Some of the rock used traditionally for roofing of houses. Those are big plates, often just an inch or two thick.

The next day we went for a walk on the opposite side of the valley. That required hiking 500 vertical meters down to the valley floor, then taking a gondola 700 vertical meters up to a village named Jungu. We had a good view of Martin's parents' village and its surrounding pastures. The "driery" waterway, where we walked the previous day, runs along the top edge of the pastures.

From Jungu we followed a hiking trail which leads to a pasture used for cows. Martin commented how for calves or sheep, people wouldn't improve the trail much, but for cows, they took some pains. We followed the stone wall for quite a while. Sonja and grandma both had walking sticks for a bit of the hike:

Jungu (Gasenried, across the valley, is in the background):

Returning to Jungu, we enjoyed a view of the stone-roofed village while waiting for the gondola to run. It runs only at 10:00, 13:00 and 16:15 most days. A person pays almost 10 franks one way unless one is local, calve 12 franks, sheep and goats 6 franks, lambs and kids (goat kids) 3 franks. No material or animal transport on sundays. Cows probably come on the hiking trail that people who are not lazy like us take.

The next day, clouds loomed low, and the white chapel in Jungu was barely visible just on the edge of clouds (tiny white rectangle near center of image):

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April weather continues

We visited Martin's parents for the weekend. Got back to Zurich to find it the way we left it...just a tiny bit worse, in that I think today the rain or drizzle has not stopped even for five minutes. Not that I've been out much to check on the correctness of my statement.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Emily sits by herself

A couple of firsts for Emily: she has been pulling herself up on a lot of things by herself for several weeks. Today I noticed her sitting herself up (from a lying position) for the first time.

In addition, she has a tooth coming in at the top. She already has two at the bottom. The "first" tooth is sticking not quite 2mm above her gums, the "second" tooth is perhaps 0.5mm out, and now there is a hole in the upper gum, where the tooth has been visible behind the skin all along, but will probably now be finally really coming out. Three teeth, eight months just about.

Since Martin is out of town, a couple pictures for him:

After pulling herself up on the couch, Emily was watching me as I lay behind it trying to take a picture of that upper tooth trying to peek out:

Our other girl two days ago:

Monday, April 14, 2008


Well, we made it to the parade, but not to the burning of the Böögg itself.

Elsbeth and the kids came in the morning. Sonja and Lena played very nicely together, for the most part. At one point, they stopped going from Sonja's room to the living room and back again, and after a few minutes, I thought I should check what they were up to. Carefully sneaking to Sonja's room, I soon discovered what it was that engaged them: painting with watercolors, in particular, with the black color.

In the afternoon, we were going to go to the parade, and in the evening, to the burning of the snowman, known as böögg. This Zurich tradition goes back hundreds of years, and is organized by the guilds and trades. The members of the guilds and trades are the ones who walk, march, play musik, ride on horseback, or ride in a horse-drawn wagon in the parade. The parade ends at a square, where the böögg stands atop a huge pile of wood.

The Böögg is a snowman who has explosives in him. Apparently depending on how fast or slow the head of the Böögg explodes, that is how fast or slow summer will come. The important part here is "the head" - they put explosives elsewhere too, but it is the ones in the head (or neck) that count. The Böögg is put on top of a 12 meter or so stack of wood, and at 6pm, the stack is ignited. Fastest time to the head exploding was some 6 minutes, slowest in the last fifty years was some 40 minutes. A couple years ago the Böögg got kidnapped I think a couple days beforehand, I didn't ask Martin how it ended.

In the afternoon, we headed for the parade, which started at 3pm. We were on a bridge, where the first groups of the parade passed some half an hour after the start. No cars in this parade, just people marching, or horse drawn carriages or wagons or whatever. An hour later, after a cold rain, we headed back to our apartment, hoping to dry off and warm up before going to see the burning of the snowman. But the kids transpired a bit against us (Emily did not want to drink before we left, and then Elias decided he was hungry just as we started putting the clothes on kids), and with the trams out of service at Bellevue, Elsbeth wasn't sure we were going to make it on time, so we turned on the TV instead and watched the spectacle there.

As we watched on TV, at 6pm, as they were igniting the fire, the last of the parade were just finishing up. Good thing we left an hour and a half earlier (after watching for an hour), that was one long parade! The pyre, as seen on TV, was slow to get burning, probably because of the frequent heavy rain showers today. Riders on horses rode around the fire, as is the tradition. The people in charge were using a flame thrower to help it along and get it ignited from all sides.

Somewhere around 20 minutes, things started exploding, and the snowman burned. But, when the smoke cleared, there still appeared the wire frame on which the snowman was - it had not exploded. It was obvious to Elsbeth but not to me that the thing that counts has not exploded yet. Apparently, the TV commentators started saying they might have to use the video footage to decide which was the "main" explosion (i.e. biggest explosion that happened), but then, some four minutes later, another "kaboom" shook the microphone, and the commentator sighed happily "Gott sei dank!" (Thank God!) - the head (or what was left of it) had finally exploded. 26 minutes and 1 second had passed since the lighting of the fire (or may be more), as determined by the instant replay future so important to this spectacle as it is to football games. Apparently summer will be slow to come this year.

Pictures from the parade:

Unlike a car, a horse can show its displeasure. On the wagon are sacks of flour (presumably), since this is the baker's guild or similar.

A lot of flowers at this parade: if you burn a snowman to indicate the going of winter, might as well have something to symbolize spring, for which of course flowers are the ultimate symbol. People watching the parade brought a lot of flowers (as in a basketfull in many cases), and would give flowers to friends and family participating in the parade, as well as politicians and other public figures... This guy found his instrument pretty useful for the flowers:

A member of the bakers guild, on horseback, with a lot of flowers:

One member of the hairdresser's guild:

Not sure which guild these guys belong to:

One of the probably more than a hundred members of the smiths' guild. I really wonder whether these days it is just a form of an aristocracy to belong to the guilds, since, realistically, how many actual smiths are there going to be in the city of Zurich these days?

A small fraction of the rest of the smiths' guild:

Just like me, the Japanese are documenting the event, with one of the multiple marching bands (I could hear one five minutes ago too in the distance from our balcony - it is 11:30pm):

Saturday, April 12, 2008

One tired kid

Today was a busy day, or mainly a busy afternoon. After lunch, we went to get a second book in a kids series in a downtown bookshop. Heard some music in the street, so went to investigate, and there was a guggenmusik band there by a department store. Same as play all around for Fasnacht, the carnival time. I was a bit surprised, did they confuse the month? They were two months late for Fasnacht. But it must be a prelude for Böögg, which is coming up this Monday - the burning of a snowman whose head is stuffed full of explosives. Type of a burning man, I guess. Presumably how long it takes to explode determines how fast or slow spring comes. I heard them from our balcony again after I put our kids to bed for a couple minutes. We will see whether there is more of them tomorrow, and especially Monday, when Zurich has an official holiday.

We didn't find the book in the first shop, so we went to the kids store Franz Karl Weber, which includes book, got it there, and then waited to get a helium-filled balloon for Sonja. Oh what a joy for her, after all those balloons that we blow up at home (and thus don't float), to suddenly have a balloon that is floating at the end of a string!

We then made our way to a river boat, which lies low in water to pass underneath all the bridges in the city, took that to its farthest point several stops and perhaps half an hour away (Zurichhorn). Played a bit on the swings, played a bit with the ball, and just when we were going to walk some half an hour back to where our tram stops, one of the ships that cruise the lake was stopping nearby, so we hopped onto that and rode it the mile or two back to where the trams were. Sonja liked the upstairs, compared with the flat river boat.

And all of that excitement and boat outings and no afternoon nap made for a very tired Sonja, who fell asleep outside the bedroom door when I was trying to get Emily to sleep.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

April der macht was er will (April does what it wants)

About April, they say that "April macht was er will", it does what it wants to do.

Apparently in April, it can snow, or rain, or be sunny, or be warm, or be cold. Can't count on neither winter weather. Nor spring or summer weather. And we certainly got weather like that. After March, when things started warming up, April hit with snow, rain, and cool temperatures. On some days, it rains and snows and is sunny all on the same day.

It will be interesting to see when the weather finally improves, though the trees are starting to green up even now. I don't know what I prefer, breakup in Fairbanks or April in Zurich.

Almost-April: March 25 in Zurich:

After a rainy weekend in Zurich (the forecast of which made us escape to Tessin), Monday was sunny but cold. View from our balcony:

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tesin - the italian part of Switzerland

This weekend the weather forecast was for "horrible weather" (as heard on the radio) for Zurich area, so we headed down south to the Tesin, or Ticino, the italian part of Switzerland, with Elsbeth, Tinu, Lena and Elias. Apparently April is known for pretty bad weather here - days when one can get snow, rain and shine all together. We did make a snowman here in Zurich two weeks ago, and the weather has been rather bad - cool and showers. Raining right now as I write. We did manage to escape the weather - Saturday was sunny in Tesin, and today was cloudy, but not raining.

During the three hour train ride to Lugano:

We first visited Swiss Miniatur, a park with 120 models of famous swiss houses, castles, churches, and other architectural items, in Melide. Here is Sonja and Lena playing behind the Brig castle. Martin went to high school in Brig.

The place was overrun by lizards. This one is going to attack the poor people any moment.

Elsbeth and Lena:

The Zofingen model made us laugh. It includes the statue next to the building, which we took a picture of two months ago... I think the model was not so cheeky.

The real thing:

Then we caught a ride on a boat to Morcote. These boats are fast!

Brusino, on the east side of the lake. It is so strange to see the not-yet green forest with flowering (!!!) trees after spending a decade in Alaska, where neither birches nor cottonwoods flower that way.

Our (boat) destination, Morcote:

Nice stairs in between buildings:

We took a bus to Figino, where we slept in a youth hostel. Very kid-friendly place. Martin said he wasn't sure why it was called a youth hostel though, since at the breakfast table it looked like the average age was somewhere in the 40's or 50's.

Today, Sunday, we headed by foot from Figino to the mountain above Lugano, St. Salvatore, then took a furnicular down to town.
Tinu and Lena practice some rock climbing:

A church in the woods near Carona:

Ciona is a beautiful village perched on the ridge of the mountains:

Then another hour of walking, with each adult carrying one backpack and one sleeping child in a sling or carrier, and we made it to the top

A look back at our trip: Swiss Miniatur at the land jutting into the lake at left. From there on boat to the city on the lake at the far side of this ridge. By bus to Figino, which is in the flatlands at upper right of the picture. Then by foot up the ridge, and to this place where I stood to take the picture. Thanks, Tinu, for organizing a nice trip! Wonderful scenery, carved by glaciers, of course! It did also make me realize that I started understanding swiss german a bit, since here in the italian part of switzerland I felt completely out of place. It took me a bit to understand that people were saying "bon giorno" when greeting us on the trail, so at least I learned two words in italian :).

Friday, April 4, 2008

I promise to myself to read junkmail from now on

In our mailbox arrived this thing some week and a half ago:

Now, that's a lot of german! I thought it was just some junkmail that on occasion makes it into our mailbox. And so this unstamped piece of paper hung around our table for a week. And then I finally glanced at it two days ago, April 2, when I was going to toss it into the paper bin.

Darn! I wish wish wish I had read it when it arrived. My rough translation, with a lot of use of dictionary, and help from Martin:

"Dear neighbor

I will be 50 and want to have a huge party
You are cordially invited. Just bring this card with you.

I would like to receive you on Wednesday March 26 at 4pm ...(description where - pretty much within 50 yards of our house)

(the name), Graphical Designer and Opera singer
I have already gray hair, but full of life and stayed young. Long life expectancy, and for 2008 a good, favorable and pleasant horoscope!!

Lively music, oldies, but also a series of songs that I want to perform. I will be accompanied on piano by my best friend (female).

I hope that it will be really cool!!
Wine, beer and liquors, sandwiches and toast: I'll provide everything. Just bring good humor. You will be astonished, what comes up. So that I can withhold a portion of the "joint acquisitions" of 300,000 Franks ($296,000) from my ex-husband, I am now spending in this form. So be generous to yourself. "

The moral of the story: I promise to myself that I will read my junkmail from now on, when it arrives :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I eat butter ... I don't

"I eat butter".... "I don't"

Funny butter advertisements (personally, I do like butter).