International Children’s Day

As I was walking home from the bus stop (trying to get some shopping in before the weather turns foul), I practically collided with a group of children and their teacher. The kids were probably 10 or 11. One of the girls smiled brightly at me and said something in German I didn’t understand. I used some of the few phrases I knew apologizing for my poor knowledge of German, and asked if they knew English. The teacher lit up, and called the name of a blonde boy with long wild curly hair. He shyly said “a little bit,” but then hid behind another classmate.

The teacher explained that today is International Children’s Day, and the kids had made stars – each with a different “right” that children are entitled to, such as healthcare, clean water, etc. She said they wanted to give me one of their stars, which reads “Das recht auf Bildung” or the right to education.

It’s sad that while she was explaining this, I was mentally going through my pockets to see what change I had in case they were asking for a donation of some sort. Such is my Americanized mind…

After handing me the star, the group moved on. There were no expectations – they just wanted to pass the word. I’d never heard of the significance of the day myself, so I looked it up. It is a day generally celebrated on November 20th that encourages communication between children worldwide, but more importantly to promote awareness of child welfare causes around the world. It is also a day to celebrate childhood. Continue reading

Convenience Food?

In my former life, I worked for a personal chef company, and still chat with their chefs somewhat regularly. A topic came up about convenience food, and what foods they occasionally “cheat” with.

Here in Switzerland, there aren’t all that many pre-packaged convenient foods (at least not the incredible variety that you can find back in the states). Even when we were in Texas, I didn’t cook with very many packaged foods – too much processing, salt, and chemicals. I prefer to cook from scratch. I am used to not using convenience foods, so the lack of them in the grocery stores doesn’t bother me at all.

The one thing that I do cheat on here in Switzerland is buying pre-packaged bags of Rösti. They sell all kinds here – cheese, ham, bacon. And the packages don’t have to be refrigerated, so it takes up less space in our micro-tiny fridge. Plus, I don’t have a box grater to shred all those potatoes. All you have to do is cut open the bag, dump it in a hot pan, and cook it!

Here’s how you’re supposed to make Rösti, but I think a lot of locals probably use the bags as well.

Coming Home…

We are coming back to our home state for Thanksgiving. We’ll only be here for a week, unfortunately. We’d love to see as many of our friends as possible. Since our travelogue is public, I won’t post the details here. Please send me a note via email if you want to join us for Lunch in Dallas on November 29th, or for Dinner in Houston on December 1st. Thanks!

Veteran’s Day

The English-language channels that we receive all come from the UK. So even CNN has a British flourish. For over a month now, newscasters and talk show hosts have been wearing red poppies. I only today found out why.

For today, Remembrance Day, the news was covering a ceremony (I didn’t catch where) that showed three of the four remaining British veterans from WWI being honored. A gentleman (again, I didn’t catch whom) said the following poem and there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd (nor here at home):

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

My grandpa is a veteran, and my thoughts are with him today as with many of our friends who have served.

Halloween Review

Halloween isn’t really celebrated in Switzerland, unfortunately. We carved our pumpkin, roasted the seeds and ate our own candy. Yeah, I got candy instead of the plentiful chocolate! I actually had to go to a special candy shop to find things like caramels and gummy pears, etc. You usually don’t find much candy at the grocery stores – tons of excellent chocolate instead. While I cooked, we watched my all-time favorite movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Eddie ate some pureed pumpkin while we had Bacon Mushroom Swiss Meatloaf and potatoes and green beans. Oh, and we even had some pumpkin wine that we’d bought from a local farm. After we put the baby to bed, we watched Sleepy Hollow and ate the pumpkin seeds.

More pictures here.

Holiday cooking

For all of my life, I’ve spent the holidays at my parents’ house, or in the past few years, my husband’s family’s house. I’ve occasionally contributed a dish, but usually all the cooking is left to someone else. This year we’re going back to Texas for Thanksgiving, but this Christmas is the first big holiday where I’ll be cooking! I’m excited and a bit nervous. It will be me, my husband, the baby (who is mostly eating what we eat, only pureed and with no salt and sugar), my brother, and his wife. Aside from my husband’s request that we have a ham, I’m not quite sure what to cook yet. I don’t even know what will be available at the grocery stores here in Switzerland in two months. While I have been able to find various ingredients that I’m used to cooking with here and there, there are some things that just don’t exist over here (such as vanilla extract).

Another challenge is our kitchen. It is very small, and I am limited in utensils and pots and pans. I get very creative with our tiny fridge and freezer. Oh, and there is only one tiny oven. Cooking a big spread is going to take a lot of juggling. I wonder if my husband can borrow a grill from a coworker and we could maybe use that to cook one or two dishes…

So, other than the ham (and that will be interesting, as I’ll need to figure out how to make my own honey-ham), I’m not quite sure what our menu will be yet. Probably rosemary garlic mashed potatoes, and some cold appetizers. I’ve got lots of ideas, though!

Annoyed

So, we live in an apartment building, basically. It is probably about 30 years old or so. The walls are solid concrete, so we never hear the neighbors next to us, and the ones above us. There is one exception – the neighbors below us. It is a famly of four with one child probably about six or seven, and a younger one, maybe four. They don’t have carpet. Why? Because their children stomp up and down their apartment and the sound echoes straight up to us. The children slam the doors within the apartment. We’ve also been privvy to their very loud family arguements. The topper? They always slam their front door when they come or go. NO ONE else in our building slams their door shut, including us.

I understand that kids will be kids, and that it isn’t always easy to keep them quiet, especially as the days get colder, and they are more likely to be inside. But the door slamming needs to stop. Problem is, I’m pretty sure they are Turkish, not German. Even more confusing is that the husband seems to know a few words of English. I’m working on getting a note composed in German to put on their door, though, in hopes that it will help.

What’s odd about this situation is that it usually doesn’t happen in Switzerland. Like I said before, all of our other neighbors are completely silent. Sundays are particularly quiet, and noise complaints can be made to the police if you are caught mowing your lawn or doing home repairs. And in general, the Swiss seem to be rule-followers. Maybe it is because this family isn’t Swiss (as we suspect), or because they think that since they are the bottom-most apartment that they can make all the noise they want.

I just hope we’re able to resolve it soon, and peacefully. I’m not a very confrontational person, especially since being in a foriegn country.