Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sledding in Switzerland

Today Coretta, Geno, and I decided to try out Coretta's new sled after hearing how much fun Coretta had on it yesterday with her friends.

Geno enjoyed being outside and in the snow, but his balance was off trying to climb up the hill with his bulky snow pants on. When Coretta would throw a snowball at him he would laugh until of course, some fell down his shirt.

I am convinced now that Geno will need his own sled because he thoroughly enjoys going sledding.

Coretta being the daredevil that she is would go real fast, over bumps, and still manage to steer.

Although most of the snow has melted, the sled still slides down the hill. It was a great day with my kids.

Here's a video Coretta made highlighting our day sledding!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Market in Zurich

Today I jumped on the 9:35 am train to Horgen to meet Jennifer and Dorothy for our day in Zurich for the famous Christmas markets in Zurich.

We have been told that they have 150 wooden chalets selling anything from bath salts, cheese, sausages, puppets, scarves, sweaters, candy, mittens, hats, jewelry, and Christmas decorations.

They also decorate a Christmas tree with 5,000 swarovski crystals and it was on display in the middle of the market. It was a pretty amazing sight and think it would be even prettier at night. We also shopped in the city itself.

It was a great day and I especially thank Nick for taking the day off to watch Geno so that I could have some "girl" time.

He and Geno had some bonding time napping, playing blocks, reading, and watching the Colbert Report which Geno finds particularly funny.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving with the Bieter's

Today is Thanksgiving and since people in Switzerland do not celebrate this holiday, Nick must work a half day and Coretta must go to school. Even stranger is that turkey's are considered a delicacy here, hard to find, and quite expensive. We take for granted living in Minnesota where everywhere you turn you see a turkey farm. Or at least that was my experience living in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. In fact, I was even what they refer to as a turkey chaser. When I was in ninth grade working 11:00pm until 7:00 am chasing turkeys into semi-trucks. Not a job for the weak of stomach let me tell you.

Because turkey is so expensive, I must swallow my pride and realize that a new tradition must be started. Nick invited two different families, the Halls and the Willey's, to celebrate with us, and ran the proposition of chili instead of turkey to them before asking me. Since they agreed, I swallowed hard, decorated the table as I always do, and have reluctantly accepted this new tradition.

The real importance of this day is not what you eat, but to be thankful for the things you have and the people in your life right? Plus I won't be so tired after eating chili. Happy Thanksgiving to all near and far and know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Crystal's Candy Wreath

This year I have started decorating a little earlier than usual. I guess being away for the holidays made me feel a little homesick and thought that the decorations might give me the holiday cheer I am looking for.

I have put up the tree and regular decorations, but decided that I would try my hand at creating my own candy wreath. My Mom really loves candy bouquets so this is in honor of my beloved mother.

Thanksgiving is only a couple of days away, and since turkey is so expensive, we are going to start a new tradition and have chili, pie, bread, and other desserts. So while the rest of you turkeys are eating your holiday turkey, think of us.

Geno is almost 2 years old

Geno will be turning 2 on December 22nd and he is sure growing up fast. He loves to play with his blocks, color, and read.

He loves to play train with his sister and more importantly can do the chicken dance. What this consists of is someone saying, "Geno, do the chicken dance," and Geno jumping up and down in a dancing fashion. It is really cute.

He also has a new found love for opening the fridge and taking everything out of it and has been known to take a big bite out of a block of cheese and then put it back in the fridge. Every now and then I will find little bowls or spoons that he has placed in there as well. He also likes to run away from me in busy parking lots and try to open other people's car doors. I sure hope that this is not a hint of what is to come.

He enjoys anything technology--be it a remote control, Dad's blackberry, Coretta's IPod Touch, the computer, and our phone. If any of these are in reach, you can be assured that he is pushing buttons and even calling up strangers.

He has also learned how to growl at us which is a step up from the high pitched squeal which he still does. For instance, if you do something he doesn't approve of, or take something away from him, he will growl at you. He also knows how to say the words Choo Choo, Mow, and No.

He loves Winnie the Pooh and The Muppets and believes they are some of his closest companions. He likes to watch Sesame Street and break Mom's Christmas decorations.

This is Geno in a nutshell. Always curious, always moving, always loving.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Coretta's New Sled

After all the snow we received this weekend, I went up to the store and bought Coretta a new sled. I plan to wait on buying Geno one until I know he will like it. The sleds here are much different than the ones in the states. Here they have actual blades on the bottom and a steering wheel. And the black thing you see in the middle...that is a brake. They come in an assortment of different colors with decals you can put on. There are so many sledding hills around here it is amazing. In fact, Coretta can even walk to one from our house. Too bad it looks like all the snow has melted. At least now she will be prepared to conquer the hills of Switzerland.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fairy Cakes

Today Coretta decided to make Fairy Cakes for the family. She has been taking some cooking classes at school and this is one of the recipe's.

Preheat oven to 190° C or 375°F.

Have ready between 12 -18 paper cases depending on size. Small pie or cake tins will take standard paper cases. These cakes SHOULD be small and dainty and NOT standard "muffin" size. (However, you can make them bigger and adjust the cooking time by 5 minutes.).
  1. Cream butter or margarine with sugar until light, fluffy and pale in color. By hand is best but a hand whisk is fine too!
  2. Beat the eggs and add them bit by bit with spoons of sifted flour. Bit by bit ensures the mixture does not curdle.
  3. Gently fold in an any flour left over when the egg is used up.
  4. Add the vanilla or any other flavourings desired - lemon and orange is good too! If the mixture is a little too stiff add a little milk or juice of orange/lemon.
  5. Half fill the paper cases with the mixture and bake for about 15 minutes until risen and firm but NOT too dark.
  6. Cool cakes and then cut a slice from the top of each cake and cut this in half.
  7. Place a little butter icing of your choice on the top of each cake and arrange the "wings" around the icing - round edge facing the outside and the cut edge to the inside and angled towards the bottom - like BUTTERFLY or FAIRY wings! Dust with extra icing sugar and watch them fly away!
  8. If you want to add coloring to the vanilla cakes, pink is really good with pink icing too! I once sprinkled on crystallized rose petals for a Christening Party & I also used rose essence in the butter icing, very sophisticated!
  9. You can multiply this recipe very easily, e.g: 6 ozs of butter, flour & sugar to 3 eggs; 8 ozs of butter, flour and sugar to 4 eggs & so on! It also makes VERY good big Victoria Sponge cakes - just slice and fill with a filling of your choice -- lemon curd, butter icing, fresh whipped cream & jam -- the list is endless!
Try her recipe out!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Winter in Switzerland

When we woke up this morning, we noticed these huge snowflakes coming down and could not believe our eyes. It was absolutely beautiful.
Coretta decided that she was going to ride her bike to Coop to pick up the ingredients she needed to make fairy cakes. When she returned, she said it was hard to pedal her bike and see with the snow coming down so hard on her face.

You see, snow is different here in Switzerland. It is fluffy and sticky and tends to melt very fast. Geno was fascinated watching the snowflakes come down from the sky. You could see his little brain working pondering what and how does this white stuff work?

Charlie and I decided that it would be a wonderful time to go out for a walk. Unlike most dogs, my Charlie loves the cold. He jumps through the snow banks, eats it, and is completely happy with this new found white stuff falling from the sky. We even made friends with a black poodle, and three white terriers also the way.

Nick and I went out for dinner at this very romantic and cute Italian restaurant in the old part of Zug tonight. We walked into Cham, took a train into Zug, and found the restaurant right down by the lake. It was candle lit and had the best Italian food and wine. The atmosphere, conversation, and food were absolutely perfect. My Nick is very good to me and I am very lucky to have him!!

Here are a few pictures I took this morning.

Erik's Visit to Switzerland

Things are going well here in Switzerland. We had our first visitor from the United States. Erik Shelton came to visit for ten days. While he was here, Nick took him up to Zugerberg to look at the view of the town of Zug which is pretty amazing.

Once done there, Nick gave him a tour around the old part of Zug known as the Aldstadt. Here is where you see the real history of the town from the landscape, architecture, ad the famous cobblestoned streets.

Next, Nick took Shelton to Mount Pilatus which is the highest peak in all of Europe. The tram on the way up is very steep. They then had to get into a funicular which is similar to cable car that takes you up the mountain.When they got there, it was sadly overcast and cloudy, so they decided to walk around a bit and grab some lunch. As they were eating, the sun slowly began to appear and it was clear with the clouds surrounding them.

Geno and Erik spent many days cuddled up on the red chair talking, reading books, and looking at pictures on the computer. Wherever Erik went, Geno went. It was hard for Geno to see him go.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our trip to Strasbourg, France

Saturday morning, we packed the car and were on the road around twelve o'clock, on our way to Strasbourg, France. Thanks to our wonderful navigation system, we made it there without any problems. Along the way, we saw many castles, towers, farmland, and trees. With Coretta, Geno, and I in the back seat we did pretty well. Even Geno only screeched a couple of times to let us know that he was still there and needed some "Mow" his only and most favored word.

Once to our apartment hotel, we found a parking garage and parked. It is amazing that any cars can fit with the way they have designed their parking ramps. Very small spaces and even smaller elevators. Most elevators could fit two people tops at a time. Once checked in, we decided to explore Strasbourg on foot. Since we chose a hotel in the heart of the city, it was very easy to find your way around.

All of the streets were cobblestone, with many buildings in both the Swiss cottage style as well as Gothic and Victorian buildings in the french style dating back to the 1800's. Everywhere you turned, there was what I like to call an architect's dream.

One in particular was the Cathedral of Our Lady of Notre Dame. When you first come upon it, it is so massive and beautiful, you can't believe that it is real. To get the whole thing into a single picture would be impossible. Outside there are angel statues carved into the structure and inside is just as spectacular. Inside, the stained glass windows were beautiful. As you walked through we saw the pulpit, baptismal font that were uniquely carved out of stone as well.

We also saw a beautiful statue of Saint Anthony who happens to be Coretta's favorite patron saint, so she knelt down and said a prayer. We also lit a candle and prayed for those less fortunate as well as our family. The altar area also had hand painted murals and beautiful architectural design. The most unique thing there was the astronomical clock. I think you could stare at that for hours and never completely take in all of the symbolism. From the warrior, the skeleton, Jesus statue, particular animals like the lion, and the earth this clock was amazing. At the stroke of twelve o'clock every day, the clock actually re-enacts the Last Judgment. We also saw some of the oldest confessionals I have ever seen and Coretta reminded me that she has not received that sacrament yet.

I bought a book on the architecture and the meaning of all the statues and Coretta got a special gold coin with the Cathedral on the back. In a way it has become her good luck charm. She put it in her pocket and said whenever she needs to pray, she will take it out. It really is a must see if you come to Europe.

Coretta and I took off and did some Christmas shopping. The shops and boutiques were amazing and considerably cheaper than Switzerland. Coretta bought a scarf, black jacket, and hat. As we strolled the streets, there were several markets with many selling art. I picked up five pieces, two by Hansi, one by Paul Klee (famous Swiss artist), Gustav Klimt, and Claude Monet. This wonderful city blends both the culture of Germany and France with ease. The food was spectacular and the people were friendly and courteous. This by far has been my favorite place we have traveled so far.

Here's a slideshow with even more photos.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Operation Christmas Child

At the International School of Zug, they ask families to spend some time preparing a shoebox filled with toys for kids in other countries that are not as fortunate as us. Many of these Christmas boxes go primarily to orphans and the street children. Coretta had a great time picking out special things to put into this box.

Here is the letter that came home for the parents:

Make a child happy at Christmas! We are four eighth grade students participating in the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.

For the service section of the award, we are leading Operation Christmas Child.

Operation Christmas Child has spread around Switzerland in recent years with thousands of volunteers donating their time, energy and lots of love into the project.

Some children aren’t as fortunate as we are. This project gives hundreds of children in poorer countries what might be their first present; a shoebox filled with gifts.

This project has been accomplished very successfully in the school for the last 3 years and with your help, we could make it even better.

I believe they collect 370 boxes last year and hope to collect 400 this year! They met and surpassed their goal at 450 boxes.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Strasbourg, France

We have also just booked two nights and three days in Strasbourg, France this coming weekend for when Erik Shelton comes to visit us from Colorado. He will be staying with us November 11th-20th. While in France, we hope to do a little shopping and sight-seeing. Here are some links to the place and town where we will be staying in France.

Many more pictures and things to report on from this trip in the next couple of weeks. Nick is excited to speak the french language while there since he has had five years of schooling in it. We'll see how fluent he is while we are there!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Coretta and Geno

Geno and Coretta really love spending time together. When Coretta comes home from school, she grabs an after school snack for she and Geno to share and plays with him. Sometimes they read books, dance, create plays, and even build towers together and watch them fall down.

Coretta just received an Ipod Touch from her Mom and Dad, and Geno loves to watch music videos, look at pictures, and watch shows with her cuddled up on the couch.

The other favorite activity is taking turns riding the Winnie the Pooh train. Coretta will push Geno up and down the hall, and then Geno will push Coretta up and down the hall. Geno always has a proud look on his face and Coretta always says, "Next stop, Cham Bahnhof."

Here are some pictures of the two of them together.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Wein Fair in Zurich

Nick and I went to the Expovina Wine Fair in Zurich. There were eight ships on the harbor where you could sample wines from many different regions and countries. Overall my favorite wines were from Spain.

Great in theory, but not in actual application. The boats were very crowded and very hot and it was extremely hard to maneuver through the sea of people.

We decided early on to have a few drinks at the Lion's Club in Zurich which was very ornately decorated and perfect size for beer and conversation. Our party of eight had a great time out together in the beautiful city of Zurich.

I am still amazed with how efficient and enjoyable they have made their public transportation here. Within twenty minutes we were in Zurich and the trains are always on time.

Nick found the drunk teenagers singing Don't Worry Be Happy in broken English to be the most funny. Overall, it was a great night out with my wonderful husband.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Book Club in Zug

Tonight I went out to meet my book group around 6:30 pm. I first decided to take the bus into Cham and then the train into Zug. Once to Cham, I realized the next train was scheduled for 8 pm, which would make me a half hour late, so I decided to hop back on the bus to Hunenberg and take the car. Finally home, I punched the address into the navigation system and was on my way. Once to Zug, I decided to park in the Metalli and then walk in hopes of finding this place. Sadly, I had some trouble finding it even though I was in the vicinity. When I finally did discover it, I was a half hour late, they had already ordered food, and were sharing a bottle of wine.

I am definitely the novice of the group because I have never been in a book club before even though I am an avid reader. All four of the women have children in the middle school. I met Sue through Nick's work and she invited me. It was so refreshing to be with other like minded people and I enjoyed learning about their expat experiences. The women in our small group come from Minnesota, England, and California. Another has been an expat in both London and now Switzerland. Although we each come from diverse backgrounds, we share one common experience and that is living life with kids abroad. It was refreshing listening to them share their own stories and even received some tips on where to shop and go for date nights so Nick and I will not be stranded in Zurich without a plan again.

On my walk home, it was great to breathe in the air, window shop, and once again reflect on how lucky I am to be in this country.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Our First Annual Halloween Party

Our first annual Halloween Party was last night and started around 7:00 pm. As the children slowly trickled in, each child received their very own custom made trick or treat bag in either orange and red and mingled with the other kids and grown ups until all sixty people had arrived.

Once everyone arrived, we had the kids line up for some old fashioned trick or treating in the hall. It was great to see their smiling faces as they would politely say "Trick or Treat." We then started the games such as bobbing for apples and pumpkin bowling. In the bobbing for apples bucket I strategically placed frozen surgical gloves in the water to create the effect. The kids had a great time trying to bite into an apple and were amazed how difficult it truly was. With that said, some kids actually did do it.

As for pumpkin bowling, we lined up 9 Heidi white milk jugs and had the kids try to hit as many down as they could with pumpkins. This was one of the most popular games and some kids even managed to get a strike, including Coretta.

The next game was the Mummy race. In this game, each team has to come up with their own strategy to completely cover their other team member in toilet paper from head to toe without any gaps in between. It definitely sounds easier than it is. This game was one of the favorites by the adults. It was interesting to see how each team tried to problem solve. Some started with the toilet paper at the feet, some started in the middle, and some started at the top. The final winner was Jill and Cindy. Afterwards the kids had a blast playing in the toilet paper and throwing it at one another.

Throughout the night there were several different types of appetizers, drinks, wine, beer, and even hotdogs for guests to munch on. Our friend Jim fired up the grill and made 100 hotdogs for all of our ghoulish guests. The hotdogs were especially good. Thanks Jim!

We then gave away tombstone trophies to the cutest costume, scariest costume, tackiest costume, and most original. Geno actually won the cutest costume in the kids category!

Overall I think it was a night to remember and all of us expats had a chance to bond and socialize on Halloween, one of America's favorite Holidays. Thanks to all of the people who brought food and drinks to make this event so spooktacular!! We'll see you all again next year!

Here is a movie I created: Halloween 2008
Here's a slideshow with many of the costumes from the party!