31 December 2006
Since then, we have not had good luck with rental cars.
We ordered a minivan for our stay in Cleveland so it would be easier transporting 5 adults and possibly more about the Cleveland area. When we arrived late on December 22, Avis had run out of minivans and we were left with a Chevy Suburban. My apartment in New York City was smaller than this vehicle. Plus I was embarrassed to ride in it. It just screamed "I don't care about the environment!" Not a message that we wish to project. But it was late and we were tired.
The next day in the light of the morning sun we noticed it was actually quite dirty on the inside and had a very large grease stain on one of the seats. Once we discovered Hertz had minivans available, we swapped for what we reserved in the first place.
When we got back to Kansas City on December 28 the Subaru Outback we were assigned was dirty. When we started to drive away, we noticed there was a loud grinding sound every time we stepped on the brake. We took it back and received a Ford Equinox instead. It was filthy and smelled bad. Once again we complained. Another Outback was just being turned in. Although it was dirty, it seemed in good shape and we accepted it. Apparently they didn't want to send a newer car in good condition on a one way trip to another location in Minneapolis.
We spent all day Friday toting things to storage or to Goodwill or to the hotel where we stayed. Friday evening the "Check Engine" light came on and the "Cruise Control" light began to flash.
We literally spent several hours trying to contact Hertz to have this taken care of. Thankfully we weren't stuck by the side of the road because calling the Roadside Assistance number did nothing!
Finally this morning we were able to exchange the Outback for a nearly new Toyota RAV4, the size being necessary for all the things we had to take to Minnesota. In fact, it is so nice that GLH is now trying to convince me that it would be a very practical car for Switzerland.
Thus far it is running well, doesn't smell bad, has no flashing indicator lights and no suspicious stains. Keep your fingers crossed that nothing develops before we turn it in at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport on Wednesday!
Posted from Mom and Dad's house in Minnesota...
29 December 2006
Book Geek that I am, all I wanted for Christmas was a Sony E-Reader. And GLH, sweetie that he is, got it for me.
This way I can download books from a selection of thousands to a portable reader. It can hold up to 50-80 titles at a time (depending upon length and graphics.) I've been playing with it and it is fabulous. Cannot wait to get our computers set up again so I can start downloading titles!
22 December 2006
The last week has passed in a rush. Every day has been filled to the brim with last dinners with friends and appointments and hurried telephone calls and always the organizing and purging and packing.
Our lives have been so busy that I have only just realized that we will be leaving our first home together. And that realization is keeping me awake.
I've known that it would happen. But it wasn't until I walked through our nearly empty house that it struck me that tonight would be our last night in our home. And it is likely to be a while before our new apartment in a new city and a new country feels like "home."
Because it is not just the leaving that is keeping me awake, but the arriving as well. Combined with the sadness is a roller coaster of emotion including excitement, anticipation, anxiety and a whirling array of "To Do" Lists.
Hold onto your hats, Girls and Boys, it's bound to be a wild ride...
20 December 2006
18 December 2006
17 December 2006
Our house was featured in the Realty section of the newspaper. This will bring exposure to the house and hopefully bring someone who will buy it.
There was a misprint in the newspaper. We found out at 5:30 this evening that our house will be having an open house. Tomorrow!!!
We are in the midst of sorting through all of our worldly possessions to decide what goes to Switzerland, what goes to storage and what goes to charity. It is an ugly, messy process.
We will be up most of the night pulling our house into order.
If we don't end up with a reasonable offer as a result, I think I will probably cry...
16 December 2006
Good-bye, Acura. You were a good car and we will miss you. I am certain that the people at the dealership will find you a nice, new family with whom you can share your road trips.
We are holding on to the Subaru Outback for a few more days and then selling it to my former boss, T. We still have boxes to haul out to our storage unit and the Subaru is definitely more practical for that!
Then on Friday, the Outback will also be gone and we will be without a car until we get around to buying one in Switzerland. Although with the public transport in Zurich, there is no rush.
15 December 2006
Normally I wouldn't open such e-mails as they are usually spam, but this time I did. And generally I delete such e-mails immediately because it is usually a scam. But this time I read through it and it actually looked legitimate. So I called Shutterfly directly to verify its authenticity.
Turns out that when I ordered our Christmas cards this year (featuring photos I had taken during the year), I was automatically entered into the sweepstakes. And I actually won!
GLH is trying to say that "we won."
However, as I was the one who took the photos, designed the card, ordered the cards, addressed all the cards, included our change of address information, affixed the return labels and stamps and so on, I am claiming the prize as my own.
I won! I won! I won!!!
But I might allow him to use the camera occasionally if he asks really nicely.
This morning I saw something new. A television commercial that asks "Where Would Jesus Shop"?
Apparently Jesus would not shop at Wal-Mart. At least, not according to the commercial paid for by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
Regardless of which side you stand on the Wal-Mart is Good or Evil Line, ya gotta admit that this is a bizarre marketing pitch...
On Monday afternoon GLH and I went to the Post Office to overnight express our passports, visa pre-approval documents and a prepaid overnight express envelope (to return it all) to the Swiss Consulate in Chicago. We were assured it would arrive on Tuesday by 10 am.
We went online Tuesday evening to make certain it arrived. Not yet.
Again, no arrival on Wednesday.
Today (Thursday) I called the USPS National Customer Service Line and asked where the package might be. They really weren't quite sure. But they would certainly look for it. And, of course, we would receive a refund for the postage.
I am not one to use obscenities, but a string of choice ones immediately left my mouth...
GLH and I then sprang into action. GLH googled what we needed to do to replace our passports as soon as possible. I called the local post office and spoke with a stellar postal employee who was much more helpful and understanding of the enormity of the situation. There was much racing about the house looking for documents and an emergency call to my mother looking for my birth certificate.
Thirty minutes later my parents were poised to drive an hour to the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minnesota (my birth place) to get a replacement birth certificate and GLH was on the telephone with Visa Express.
We received a telephone call from the wonderful employee at the local post office saying they had spoken with someone at the post office in Chicago. Apparently a large batch of express mail had been overlooked amidst all the Christmas packages and someone had been sent to deliver them immediately. They weren't certain , but it's possible our package was in that batch.
Another hour of nail-biting and we received a second telephone call from the kind gentleman at the local post office. Yes indeed, our package had been located and delivered. He was very, very sorry and we would be reimbursed for the cost of the express mail.
We are just thankful that the package was found and delivered. 'Cause I am pretty darn sure the post office would not have reimbursed us for the several hundred dollars it would have cost to replace our passports in a few days and then pay a service to take them by hand to the Swiss Consulate, wait for the visa to be completed and then deliver them back to us. Which is what we were looking at given the short time frame left before the move.
Keep your fingers crossed that we get the package with our finalized visas and passports back. It will be coming back through the United States Postal Service. And it will be competing with Christmas packages for attention.
Meanwhile, we still haven't received a follow-up telephone call from the not-so-helpful national customer service office...
13 December 2006
So, I am hoping that someone out there in Blogger Land might know something.
GLH and I are seeking information on the foreign adoption process in Switzerland. From the research I have done, it appears to be somewhere between immensely difficult and completely impossible for an American couple to adopt while living in Switzerland. (The Swiss Bureaucracy favors Swiss couples first and European couples second. All other couples are a very distant third.)
If anyone knows an American couple living in Switzerland who were successful in a foreign adoption we would very much like to hear from them. Or if you know of a reputable Swiss lawyer who specializes in adoption, that would also be helpful. We can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you in advance for any help you can offer...
12 December 2006
Regardless, I told him that from now on when flying for business, he could fly first class. But there are some conditions:
1. When flying from the US to Europe, we need to schedule a long enough layover on the US side for me to get a meal before we board the flight. That way I can take a sleeping pill as soon as I am on the plane and wake up refreshed when we get to Europe the next morning. (Waiting for the meal on the flight doesn't allow time to sleep off the effects of the pill.)
2. If we can easily upgrade my seat, I fly with him in first class.
When I told him the news, he tried not to act gleeful. I asked him if to a certain extent he had put on an act to convince me how horrible it was for him in coach.
"I refuse to answer as it may incriminate me..."
Earlier this evening GLH and I drove through the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Standing on a street corner was a familiar sight -- a panhandler holding a sign with her sob story and asking for money.
Only this time, the panhandler held the sign backwards. Instead of displaying her sob story, what you saw was the empty carton of Busch Beer. There's never been more truth in advertising. Any donation would likely have procured exactly that!
GLH and I were laughing so hard we almost caused an accident.
11 December 2006
While in Zurich we were very busy preparing the apartment for our move on January 4th. But I did have time on Thursday afternoon for a quick visit to the Zurich Christmas Market with L, whose husband works with my husband. The big Christmas Market is inside the Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station), which isn't perhaps quite as romantic as it could be. But it does makes sense given how much rain Zurich tends to receive.
For me the highlight of the market was the enormous Swarovski Tree...
Although I was slightly disappointed at how difficult it was to locate Christmas ornaments among the booths selling things you could purchase at any time throughout the year. You really had to hunt for them. However, I did find some beautiful and unique ones.
Last week we finished the major furniture shopping expedition. There are still a few things we'll need to get. But the bulk of the furniture is in place and ready to go.
Most of the furniture came from either Interio (the Swiss version of Pottery Barn) or Ikea. And usually it came in a cardboard box and needed to be put together. GLH and I are completely exhausted. And GLH is certain he has "Screwdriver Elbow." Very similar to "Tennis Elbow," it is caused by the repetitive motion of screwing in many, many, many little screws. Of course, it wasn't until three days into the construction project that we found out that a drill is relatively inexpensive. The final pieces we put together, went together much faster.
By far the hardest piece to do was the Wardrobe. And we got two of them. One for the entryway for coats and the other for the guest room. There were 32 separate and distinct steps involved in putting together each one. We have decided when guests come to visit that not only will they be required to put all of their clothing into the wardrobe, but they must also sit and admire it for at least 10 minutes. Blood was shed in the construction of it.
02 December 2006
Since the house is still on the market, I wanted to give it a quick clean and vacuum in case they show it while we are gone. I set the alarm clock early enough to accomplish all that needs to be done.
In the middle of doing the living room, the vacuum starts to smoke and a terrible smell quickly fills the entire house. I immediately turn it off. And find underneath a smoke stain on the pale beige carpet. (Thank God, there isn't an actual burn mark or scorched carpet. That would have required replacing the carpet.)
Why does the vacuum cleaner have to die mere weeks before we leave the country?
Why do we need to suddenly discover we are out of carpet cleaner?
Why does all of this have to happen on the morning before we go to the airport.
We'll be back on December 10th.
01 December 2006
We're staying at the apartment and do not yet have internet access. Therefore, there will likely be no postings during the week.
We'll catch everyone up on the happenings when we return!
Riding around the city, listening to Christmas music, we saw many beautiful, tasteful displays...
And some not as tasteful, but exuberant displays...
30 November 2006
How cool is that?
There are several companies to choose from. But we went with Skype because it seems to work well with both PC and Macs.
Check Skype out. Download the software and you too can make international PC to PC calls for free! You can also upgrade for an assigned telephone number for 30 Euros per year. And there are many add ons for those who are gadgety-inclined.
Could have used this when I was a student living in Ireland back in 1990. Standing in the drizzling rain waiting for my turn to use the payphone on the corner was no fun. And my parents would have been relieved not to pay the weekly international collect call charges...
29 November 2006
Yesterday it was 72 F (22.2 C) and we were roaming about in short-sleeved t-shirts.
Today it is 33 F (0.5 C) and there is a steady downpour of ice.
Please note the accumulation of ice on the walkway and mulch after only half an hour of sleet.
Ah well, at least it should all melt by the time we fly to Zurich on Saturday morning...
28 November 2006
But once I learned to read, I immediately became a voracious reader. And I rarely chew on books any more.
Books have always been a mainstay in my life. From childhood on, they have been my preferred gift for any gift-giving occasion. (Although most have learned to give me a gift card because I likely have already read whatever book they purchase.) And I spend more money on books than any other "luxury item." For me, they are not a luxury. They are a necessity.
I read a lot. No really. You have no idea. Most people think "a lot" is 5 or more books a month. Try 20-30 books a month. When I am in a real reading mode, I could go as high as 40-50 books a month. When I was a member of the national Best Books for Young Adults Committee, I read over 500 hundred books during the year.
And I read everything. Fiction, nonfiction, academic, a multitude of genres, magazines and so on. I read for all age groups from children through adults. And, in times of desperation, the back of a cereal box. But only when I don't have anything else.
My point is that I really, really, really love to read.
Therefore, you may see that perhaps moving to a country that doesn't speak English and therefore will have a limited supply of English-language books may pose a slight problem.
I am researching my various options which range from Swiss libraries to Orell Fuesli English Bookstore on Bahnhofstrasse to UK Amazon to the new Sony E-Reader where you download books to a small computer about the size of a paperback.
But given my voracious reading habits, I will likely need to supplement the combination of options listed above.
How about this -- Chocolate for Books! Y'all send me a box of books and I will send you a box of premium Swiss Chocolate.
Of course, I would need to send you a list of preferred titles...
27 November 2006
Austin is merely a 20-minute drive from my hometown of Owatonna. On Friday afternoon, my brother and his daughter joined GLH and me for a trip to the SPAM Museum. This was our first trip, but my brother had been there before and enjoyed it enough for a second trip.
Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, a trip to the SPAM Museum is fun for the whole family! Those of you who know me, know that I never miss an opportunity to experience the roadside kitsch offered so abundantly on the highways and byways of United States! (Largest ball of twine, anyone?)
And my niece greatly enjoyed the interactive Hands-On SPAM game, which timed you while you canned the SPAM, cooked it and slapped a label on it. My brother's fastest time was 18 seconds. I clocked in 21 seconds. My niece, only 2 1/2, had a fastest time of 58 seconds with several rounds of practice and some help. Not too shabby!
Top Five Facts about SPAM (provided by Hormel Corporation Public Relations):
1. More than 122 million cans of SPAM are sold world-wide each year.
2. If all the cans of SPAM ever sold were put end to end, it would circle the Earth at least 10 times.
3. Hawaiians are the largest consumers of SPAM with an average annual consumption of 5.5 cans per capita. (Now that's a lot of SPAM!) It is even included as part of a Traditional Thanksgiving meal in many Hawaiian homes.
4. SPAM reached its height of popularity during World War II, when fresh meat became scarce and it supplemented the diet of millions of Americans.
5. Nikita Khrushchev once said that SPAM helped the Russian Army survive during World War II. "Without SPAM, we wouldn't have been able to feed our Army."
On the way back to my parents' house, we stopped by the side of Interstate 90 to capture this amazing sunset. Yes, it is both dangerous and illegal to stop by the side of the interstate for non-emergency purposes, but I think you will agree that the sunset was more than worth it!
26 November 2006
|What American accent do you have? |
Your Result: Philadelphia
Your accent is as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak! If you're not from Philadelphia, then you're from someplace near there like south Jersey, Baltimore, or Wilmington. if you've ever journeyed to some far off place where people don't know that Philly has an accent, someone may have thought you talked a little weird even though they didn't have a clue what accent it was they heard.
|The Inland North|
|What American accent do you have?|
Take More Quizzes
Of course, it could have something to do with having hearing damage as a preschooler. After the surgery to repair my hearing, I needed speech therapy for several years. As a result I have a wonky accent. Indeed, I've had people ask what my native language is because I don't sound like most other English speakers.
Post a comment about which accent you have (Americans and others!)
24 November 2006
Other plans for the weekend include hanging out at my parents' house, meeting a friend for lunch and going to the SPAM Museum. (I will be sure to post photos of THAT trip!)
And, if GLH can talk me into it, there may even be a trip to the Mall of America. But that just seems so exhausting during the First Official Weekend of the Christmas Season. Finding a parking spot alone is a nightmare. Unless we get there by 7 am, we'd likely end up in one of the parking lots so far away they run free buses to the Mall's entrance.
We'll keep ya posted!
22 November 2006
Before my fellow feminists shake their heads, let me explain that it is by my choice. I actually rather like doing laundry. There is something very satisfying about starting with an enormous pile of work and then steadily reducing it until everything is clean and fresh. Many tasks in this world do not have that same feeling of completeness and accomplishment. There is no ambiguity about whether you have finished or not. The evidence is right there in the empty laundry baskets. I know it's weird. But I prefer to focus on enjoying the small, simple things.
And besides, if I left the laundry up to GLH my clothing would be destroyed after only a couple of washes. I've tried to explain the process of sorting and the importance of selecting the correct cycle and temperature, but he just doesn't care enough about it to learn it.
So the laundry is my responsibility.
We have only once fought over laundry. It was the last time we were in Zurich. On the Saturday before we left, we made a final run to the apartment with some kitchen items we had purchased as well as our extra suitcases full of clothes we wouldn't need before January and had brought to leave.
As we were unpacking them, I discovered that GLH had included all of our dirty laundry from the trip. "No point in taking it back with us," he cheerfully says.
This was a problem for two reasons:
1. I do not have as many clothes as GLH. I prefer to be a minimalist and include in my closet only those items that are actively used. Once it is outdated or worn, I either give it to charity or throw it away. And I only have a normal 2 week supply of underwear. Unlike GLH who seems to be preparing for a war that destroys all clothing stores.
2. I do not want to show up exhausted and jet-lagged in my new home only to be faced with a week's worth of laundry that must be done.
Unfortunately I lost this battle. And the day after we returned from Zurich I was at the store, grumbling while I purchased new underwear, socks and a few shirts.
I really hate shopping.
The only bright spot is that I happened across a beautiful wool coat in the perfect color of blue for only $35. It was the last one on the clearance rack at Macy's and it fit me perfectly.
So I guess it was worth it, but I am still grumbling...
20 November 2006
We also call it a Marriage Salvation because without a navigation system, our marriage might not survive driving in Europe. (We learned that the hard way when we rented a car without navigation and then drove to Germany. I won't go into the ugly details, but it's really best that we have one.)
I've been playing with it and am very happy with our selection. With a new navigation system its always best to use it in areas you know. That way you learn how to use it before it becomes necessary. Nothing's worse than fumbling with a navigation system while driving on unknown roads.
The Garmin was also good, but we liked that the TomTom has a hard drive that connects directly to our computer to download additional software. Plus, it came preloaded with the maps for the US, Canada and Europe. Perfecto!
By the way, if you are also considering this purchase, we HATED the Magellan. We've used it a few times when we rented Hertz cars. They call it the "Never Lost System." I've dubbed it the "Never Found." Magellan's maps are confusing, the directions are unclear and the GPS system frequently loses your exact position, which makes it very difficult to navigate.
19 November 2006
Through the Westin Resort, we arranged for an island tour in a safari bus with Richie Penn, a long-time St. John's resident originally from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Mr. Penn is an Island Entrepreneur who owns the largest of the island's taxi service, a rental car company, a trucking company and several villas available for rental. He was also a great source for island history. Not to mention island gossip. (He immediately knew Kenny and Renee's marriage would never last just by looking at the "too skinny girl sitting on the bench.")
I know. People say this about many places all around the world. But I speak as someone who has traveled extensively. I have never seen this level of insanity anywhere else I have ever been.
Example #1: The posted speed limit on the highway is a maximum of 65 mph with a minimum of 55 mph. Cars go anywhere from 20 mph to 90 mph with much swerving to avoid one another.
Example #2: Although there are very nicely painted lanes, they are for decoration only. There is no indication whatsoever that drivers actually care about the lanes and will drive anywhere on (or off) the road they please.
Example #3: I was stopped at a red stoplight. There were many cars crossing the road in front of me. And I had people behind me beeping their horns because I wasn't going. Red Light and Cars, People! I think I'll wait for my turn!!!
After driving about the island, I developed a theory as to the driving. I believe it is a result of two factors.
1st Factor: It is an extremely Catholic island. This has caused the people to believe that everything is in God's hands. Therefore, no precautions are necessary. If it is your time to die, God will take you. There is no consideration given for those around who may be inadvertently "taken" at the same time.
2nd Factor: It is inadequate to say that Puerto Ricans are an expressive people who talk with their hands. It goes far beyond that. Indeed, I saw many people talking with their entire bodies. Perhaps they talk while they are driving and this explains the erratic path they are taking?
Whatever the reason, it makes for very tense, white-knuckled driving. GLH and I took turns driving because it was exhausting. At one stage while I was driving, GLH tried to have a conversation. I said, "Please do not talk to me. I need to focus on the crazy people in the other cars."
There was one shining moment during our drive. A particularly aggressive and insane driver was swerving in and out of traffic, cutting other people off, tailgating and the works. He nearly ran us off the road. Ten minutes later, we saw him pulled over to the side of the road with a police officer writing him a ticket. Sometimes there is justice.
18 November 2006
And palm trees galore...
We are adjusting back to real life and spent the day running errands.
Because we were in Zurich, then back here in Kansas City and then Puerto Rico & US Virgin Islands, our bodies are very confused and haven't a clue what time it is. As a result, we were extremely hungry in the middle of the afternoon, but had not yet done the grocery shopping.
There are limited places to have an early dinner at 4:30 pm. So we ended up at Bob Evans, a chain of diners with basic "All American" food. We've never eaten that early before and could not believe how busy the restaurant was. We were surrounded by other diners, all of them a minimum of 30 years older than us. Including a tour bus full of seniors enjoying the Early Bird Specials.
Hopefully we will be back on a regular schedule soon.
17 November 2006
I could rant about the ineptitude of Delta Airlines, but I am too tired. And I cannot see well because I accidentally packed my glasses in the checked luggage and my contacts are scratchy after too many hours of usage. (Yes, I know. Exceptionally stupid move. I may never see my glasses again.)
I will be writing a strongly worded letter to someone!
Fortunately the vacation was fabulous up until we went to the airport! I'll post pictures soon!
08 November 2006
I cannot believe it has already been a year. But with all that has happened in the last year, it is also hard to believe it has only been a year!
A year ago we were packing for a wedding cruise. Thirteen of our family and friends joined us for a week-long cruise through the Eastern Caribbean. Two additional friends joined us for the wedding ceremony on St. Thomas Island. It was a perfect wedding day with beautiful vistas, an island breeze and the most important ingredient -- our family and friends beside us.
GLH and I are leaving in the wee hours of the morning tomorrow for an anniversary trip to the Caribbean. We will spend a few days in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A beautiful island with amazing history, we knew last year that we wanted to spend more than a day exploring this gem. On Monday (Nov 13) we fly to St. Thomas. We were so busy getting married there that we saw nothing of the island! We will stay at a resort on St. John's, a 30-minute ferry from St. Thomas.
On this trip we will do the historical sites for me and the snorkeling for GLH. The romantic dinners and walks on the beach are for both! After all, marriage is all about compromise.
We will return Nov 16 with stories and photos.