Thursday, May 15, 2008

Our Sonja is Three

Our Sonja is three:

Martin is off the glacier back to Illulisat, a city in Greenland, and is heading here in the next several days. We are heading for two weeks to the Czech Republic today. Hopefully he will join us there.

And when we get back, we might make a nice grill party at a park with swings and sandpit and water for Sonja, to make a nice birthday celebration.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bathing on porch

and playing together

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sonja self portraits

We are slowly moving to living on our balcony. The days are beautiful and hot. The balcony is quiet, has a nice view. Not necessarily cool, but it does have an awning that makes some shade. And we are documenting it. Or rather, Sonja is documenting it. She loves the timer that makes a picture with a ten second delay. I love it too, without it, she shot three pictures per second instead of one to two per minute. Here are some of her self-portraits:

Here is the picture I took, much to the chagrin of Sonja:

She now considers the camera hers. She was rather upset when I was taking the above photo, and was telling me: "give me back my camera, mama!"

And, we are enjoying strawberries. In our mouths. On our mouths. On our face. On our shirts. Underneath the high chairs. You name it, we probably have strawberry pieces on it:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Twenty years of dirt

My dad bought me a pretty good sleeping bag back in 1987. I have been using it ever since. It has been all over the place: Europe, North America, Hawaii, South America, and I forget whether China and Japan also. I washed it for the first time today. Decided to do it in the bathtub instead of the washing machine. That allowed me to see that it was a bit overdue for a wash. Just a bit. Like fifteen years. But hey, it was just camping dirt. Clean dirt. :)

And, of course by Murphy's law, after a whole week of beautifully sunny skies, I managed to finish the wash one hour before a thunderstorm rolled through. So much for getting a good portion of the sleeping bag dry using solar power. We will see what tomorrow brings. In the worst case, we have a dryer downstairs.

Photo by Sonja

Sonja saw me several times setting the camera somewhere and using the timer-delay to take a picture. Now she is doing the same.

I turn the camera on and set it up for the timer-delay. Then she gets to work. She sets the camera on the chair, tells me where to go sit, and readjusts the camera i I tell her it's pointing in the wrong direction (e.g. away from me :). She then pushes the button, and runs like mad towards me, flops herself on the ground, legs in front of her, her hands on her knees. Her posture never varies, and if I try to hug her, she pushes me away and resumes her "photo" posture. Funny girl. Today, she managed to get all three of us in her photo:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Recipe: spring couscous

I will try to write down some of the recipes I grabbed from local papers, so that I can toss the paper before we return to Alaska. Here is one that I like for couscous with asparagus, and Martin is impartial to (better than hating it, since he does not particularly like couscous). In the recipe, the couscous was accompanying a white fish that was just fried in butter with a little salt, but I also just had it for lunch today without anything else. It is from the weekly Coopzeitung, a info-zine put up by Coop, the equivalent of Safeway or Fred Meyers.

Spring couscous
- Couscous
1/2 Tbs olive oil
3 spring onions, cut into big pieces (their spring onions are much larger and somewhat milder than the regular scallions we're used to in the states, 3 of them is "one bunch")
1 lb green asparagus, bottom third of it peeled to get rid of the stringy cover, cut into inch-or-so pieces
1 1/2 c water
3/4 Tbs salt
1/2 lb couscous
- Dressing
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 Tbs olive oil
- Garnish
2 Tbs fresh peppermint, chopped

Put the olive oil into a pan, when it gets hot, add the onions. When they get soft, add asparagus. Add water (I used boiling water), spice with salt and pepper. Take the pan off heat, add the couscous, cover, and let sit for about 5 minutes. In the meanwhile, mix the ingredients for the dressing, then fluff the couscous with a fork and mix in the dressing. Garnish with mint.

I made it in a modified version, with white asparagus instead of green (the little store here had no green asparagus left today at noon), no mint, but it is a nice and easy couscous recipe that I will make again.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Downgrade from being a B to being an A

I now longer am a B. As of today, I am, on occasion, an A.

As in: Emily moving from A to B, I tended to be the B.

Today, Sonja had the door to the balcony open, and that is where Emily headed. Across the door frame. Onto the balcony. Away from me.

And so I got demoted to being only the starting point of her journey, not the ending one. Independent girl. (By this evening I was back to being sough after though when she wanted me bad in order to fall asleep.)

Emily seems much more independent than Sonja. Even though Sonja is becoming more independent too. Today she went by herself on a slide. OK, so there was a one-and-a-half year old (half her age) who was also going down that long slide all by himself, too, but for each kid the milestones are different, and this was a big one for Sonja. She slid right behind me a couple times. And then she tried it herself. And she liked it. And did it again. And again. Three times, that was it for today, but may be tomorrow she might try again, by herself.

Sonja surprised me a second time today when we headed to a new playground by the lake, where the sandpit includes a couple big "rocks" (made of some concrete mixture), and a spring which can be turned on for five seconds by a button. The water from that spring flows down across the rock in several small pools before coming into the very nice white sand of the sandpit. Sonja helped me push the button for the water, some minutes later started running into the "river" when that water reached the sand. She then followed the course of the water upstream and climbed onto the rock itself, and walked up the water way and down it again. As before, nothing too spectacular, but I am so used to having myself dragged by Sonja to whereever she wants to go, it was great and satisfying to see her doing some exploring by herself.

Independent girls. Each in her own way.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bathing pics for Martin

Martin had left yesterday for Greenland for two weeks, so here are a couple pictures for him since tonight he might have internet access in Illulisat, before heading into the field.

With Roman right in front of our house, the trees all nice and green now that it is finally spring:

At the train station, saying goodbye to Sonja, who will turn three before he returns:


Have fun, Martin, and hope you have good weather!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Moms ski, dads watch the kids, part 2: Auf den Stöcken, 2591 m

Part 2 of the "moms ski while the dads watch the kids", this time with Elsbeth. We spent the night at Elsbeth and Tinu's. Got up at 4am, shoveled some breakfast down our mouths, and tried to leave the house by 4:30, which was really more like 4:45. Drove towards the Gothard pass, then left the car as far as the road was snow-free, together with fourty other cars. Then it was up... overall some 900m till we stood on top of a small bump named Auf den Stöcken, at 2591 m above the sea (almost 8500 feet). Then ski down, relax, take a nap without kids, ice cream without kids... then drive back home and see how the guys Martin and Tinu managed with the four kids. And they did just fine, by the sound of it.

Roman joined us for the first part of the ski, then we split up. Here is Elsbeth showing Roman where the restaurant is on a map:

The two moms on top of a small hump in the alps, Auf den Stöcken, 2591 m or some 900m above where we started.

The sun warmed the snow very fast, so instead of pumping on top, we skied down first and only then pumped. The first couple hundred meters of skiing were absolutely great, then the snow got a bit too slushy and heavy. Then it was definitely time to pump!

Crocuses coming out in between the snow down below

We got to Elsbeth and Tinu's home, to find no one there ... so we enjoyed the quietude a tiny bit longer, then we saw them coming back

Friday, May 2, 2008

In search of a haircut - trampoline - picnic - late night phone call

We didn't do much planning for the last weekend (nor for this one, for that matter), and ended up doing short excursions.

Saturday morning: In search of a haircut
On Saturday, I first tried to get a haircut at a place near Transa (the Swiss equivalent of REI), which advertised haircuts for 27 bucks. Not bad, considering most places I saw charge 80 bucks or more. (I use "bucks" to refer to swiss franks too, since old habits are hard to change, and the exchange rate is pretty much 1:1.) It is near the train station, so we all went there, and Martin was going to take care of the kids while I got my hair cut, then we were going to jump into the train and head to our friends' house for the day. I was rather excited about finally finding a place that was not too expensive. Considering how many hairdressers/coffeuse/coffeur/coffure places there are, one would think that competition would be stiff, and prices reasonable. Not so. And all the places I have seen charge nearly double the price for women as for men. Discrimination, if you ask me.

We got to the hairdresser's, and the place was busy. All the chairs were occupied, plus one person waited. Then I noticed that all of the hairdressers were men. And all of the customers were men too. I double checked the sign, but couldn't see anything that said it's a men-only boutique. Since Martin was right there, he confirmed that on the sign that I saw, there was nothing to indicate it was for men only. Still, I got cold feet. No haircut for me that day. If I get courageous, may be I will go in there yet... or just wait till we go to the czech republic again, in couple week's time. Five bucks there for a haircut ... can't be beat.

Saturday afternoon: trampoline and picnic
Saturday afternoon we visited Martin's friends Murphy and Stephanie with their two kids, similar in age to ours, near Zofingen. Their next-door neighbors have twins tiny bit older than Sonja, and just installed a big trampoline in their yard. That is a big hit with the kids. They would run round and round, and round and round. Or jump and jump. Sonja got a hang of it too, though she wanted to only go on the trampoline when no one else was there, when she could keep her footing without too many problems.

Sonja holding up the train made up of Fabian, Jonathan and Franziska.

In the later afternoon, we went to a park nearby, on the edge of a hill, surrounded by forest. There is a big slide there to slide down on, things to climb up and through, and swing on and play in and grill on and picnic on. Very nicely done. Our first grilling party of the year. (Our second was yesterday, with Martin's sisters, near Luzern.) We will have to find some nice parks here near Zurich and try to do that periodically throughout summer.

At the Wikon picnic area and playground, with Stephanie and Murphy's family, and their neighbors.

Late night phone call
Saturday night after we got home and put the kids to bed and it was ten o'clock, the phone rang. Tinu was asking if Martin wanted to do a ski tour the next day. He could either come to sleep with them in Einsiedeln, about an hour by train away, or take the four o'clock train (as in: middle of the night) and meet Tinu along the way. Martin wasn't sure... then eventually he decided to do it. He packed up, got the alarm clock set, caught some sleep, and caught the four am train. He said that train was packed. Full of people returning from partying all night. Full of girls in miniskirts and people dressed up. Some people throwing up. And there was Martin, in his ski gear.

By the sound of it, Martin met Tinu without problem, they did their tour they planned to do, some 1700m vertically up, some beautiful skiing down, wonderful weather, ice cream on the way home... and he was definitely glad he got up at 3am to catch that 4am train.

In the afternoon, we went to stroll along the Zurich lake, with ten thousand other people, and ended up in a playground that has a great sand pit and running water (and also swings and slides and a small climbing wall, but that was not of interest that day for Sonja).

Hemp beer

For Matt, from Martin: hemp beer.

(Taste? He didn't like it.)