30 July 2007

Touch of Xenophobia?


LOOK at what we just got in the mail:

It essentially discusses the deportation of foreigners who commit felonies in Switzerland. Which is all well and good. As long as the criminal process is fair and unbiased. Although I have heard many arguments against that actually being the case.

But let's just consider the flyer at hand, shall we?

Look at the color of the sheep that is being kicked out of the country.

What exactly do you think this flyer is saying?



26 July 2007

New Book Reader's Meme

1. Open the book you are currently reading to page 133.

2. Read the fourth line on the page.

3. Put the book back where it had been resting.

4. Tell no one what you just did.

5. Think of five friends to tag with this meme.

6. Do not actually tag them. They are busy and have lives.

7. Go about your life as if nothing has happened.

8. Carry the secret of this meme to your grave.

From Walt Crawford

Thanks to Mary Kay for passing it on!

24 July 2007

Where's the Real German Food?

I have discovered that I do not like German food.

Not one bit.

And that includes the food served not only in Germany, but also in Austria, Switzerland and every German restaurant anywhere in the world I have ever visited.

Nope. I just plain do not like it.

This actually came as a huge surprise to me. Prior to moving to Switzerland, I thought I loved German food.

See, my mother is Austrian-American. Growing up we had Germanic food all the time. I love my mother's pork roast, potato dumplings, spätzle, bratwurst and just about anything else associated with Germanic culinary arts.

We would occasionally go to German restaurants in the United States, but I never liked them. I just figured it wasn't "authentic" German food.

A few years ago I made my first trip to Munich. I didn't like the food in any of the restaurants we visited. But I just figured they were tourist traps and not very good.

We now live in Switzerland. I have eaten at countless restaurants in Switzerland, Germany and Austria that all serve Germanic food.

Guess what? I didn't like any of them.

So I started to analyze it. What exactly do I not like about German food?

It's the excess fat and grease. After a typical German meal, I feel sick and have a terrible stomach ache. Even if I have eaten very little of the meal.

And then something occurred to me. In the United States we always bought the leanest cuts of meat. Even our hamburger contained only 3% fat, something which is easily found at any grocery store in the United States.

I have found it impossible to find meat that lean at the grocery stores in Switzerland. The closest I can find is the Weight Watchers brand of hamburger, which contains only about 10% fat. When buying beef, chicken or pork, I am constantly having to trim the excess fat off before cooking.

I also looked at German cookbooks. Not only do they call for use of fatty meat, but extra fat is added. And the fabulous potato dumplings? My mother makes them using only mashed potatoes and flour. That's it. But in the three German cookbooks I checked, lard was added to the recipe.

Lard? People still cook with LARD???

I had a revelation.

See, my mother also does not like fatty, greasy food.

Hmm. Do you think perhaps she was cooking traditional German food in a non-traditional way? Is it possible she was altering the recipes to include less fat? Do you think, just maybe, that I was trained to like German food cooked in a slightly healthier way?

I must call my mother and ask!

Note: I still like the desserts. Especially in Austria. Because you cannot add too much sugar to a dessert, now can you?

And yes, my mother has a sweet tooth that she passed on to all of her children.

21 July 2007

Zürich at Night

Some experimental night shots with the new camera...

It doesn't do low-light/night photography as well as my Nikon D70s, but the Sony DSC-T20 CyberShot is a great option for a smaller, compact digital camera when you just want to take a few quick shots. (The Nikon is much larger and heavier. And when doing the more serious photography I need to carry the tripod as well.)

At Last

It is currently 62 degrees fahrenheit (17 celsius). It is supposed to rain most of the day and have a high of 70 fahrenheit (21 celsius). The 10-day forecast shows continued cooler weather.

Ah, I can breathe again.

Thank God.

19 July 2007

Playing Pretend?

The German language is sometimes quite strange.

Today in my German lesson I learned what the various pieces of clothing are called.

For instance, the word for "suit," meaning matching slacks and jacket, is der Anzug.

But then I discovered that der Anzug is used only when talking about suits for men.

Suits for women are called das Kostüm.

My tutor didn't understand why I found calling what women wear to work a "costume" a little insulting.

He Really Cannot Stop Himself

Last night while sitting on the couch working on a Major Project, I realized I hadn't seen GLH in a while.

Me: Hey, GLH, what are you doing?

GLH: Why do you ask?

Me: 'Cause I just want to know.

GLH appears in the doorway. He is wearing one of those smiles. You know the one. The one that says, "I'm totally innocent. There's nothing to see here."

GLH: I guess you saw me walk by to get my wallet.

As a matter of fact, I hadn't.

Me: Why would you need your wallet?

GLH: Well, I know you said no more gadgets, but this one doesn't really count. It's not a new gadget. Just an addition to an existing gadget.

Me: What did you do?

GLH: I was almost out of disc space on my computer. I had to buy more!

Can you believe him?

What amazed me is that he was trying to hide it!

17 July 2007

Come Back to Me!

Zürich has become Hell on Earth.

Yesterday it topped out at 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). It was so humid that the 1-liter reservoir on the dehumidifier filled up three times. And the sun was relentless. If only a cloud would block it. Even for a little while.

Last night it never truly cooled off.

So here I sit in the apartment, with the air conditioner running. Although a portable window unit can only do so much about heat at this level.

If I leave the house today, it will only be to take a drive in the car, which has a fantastic air conditioner. In minutes the car's interior is nice and cold. (Shh! Don't tell the Environmental Police, but I expect this afternoon I will take a long, random, meandering drive just to cool off.)

I miss the weather from last week. The wonderfully cold, rainy, overcast weather. It was almost like Fall.

Ah Fall, my favorite season. You are such a relief once dreaded summer is finally over...

I heard it is supposed to turn cold and rainy again.

Please God, make it so.

15 July 2007

Here There Be Dragons

A few weeks ago I happened across an interesting article.

John Howe, the famous Tolkien illustrator and one of the art directors on Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy, was mounting a special exhibit of artwork inspired by Tolkien's epic work in the small village of St. Ursanne. (For more information on John Howe, the movies and the exhibit itself, please click on the imbedded links above.)

I showed the article to GLH and we immediately decided we must go. It seemed too special to miss. Last Sunday was the day we made the journey into this small village in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. And, as it turned out, into the fantasized past.

Unbeknownst to us, we happened to select the weekend of the annual Medieval Fest in St. Ursanne.

Trust me when I say that it was much better than a standard Renaissance Festival!

In addition to the wonderful works artfully inserted amongst the historic structures...

Were craftspeople and artisans, exhibiting the traditional methods of their art. And dressed in costumes to boot...

I couldn't figure out why children stood in line to be locked in the stocks and spanked with a wooden paddle while onlookers laughed and their parents documented the event with their cameras...

Although we greatly enjoyed the festival, we did find the number of people created barriers to the views of the art. Therefore, if we have time we may return to this jewel of a village nestled in a valley in the Jura Mountain range. I would encourage others to make the trek as well.

But hurry, the exhibit runs through September 2nd and then the magical creatures will be gone.

One note: although you can take public transportation to St. Ursanne, depending upon where you are starting it may require a few transfers and relying upon a rural bus route with a limited schedule. If you do not have a car, I recommend renting one for the journey. Or acting real friendly towards someone who already owns one!

10 July 2007

Somewhere over the Rainbow...

Don't worry. I'm still out here.

I had a very business weekend and am now in the midst of a very busy week. I've got a few blog entries to do, but no time to do them!

In the meantime, here is a quick snapshot of an amazing rainbow that I took while we had dinner last night...

Hey, anybody know why Blogger isn't letting me insert a title?

One of these days I will give up on Blogger and move to another blogging site...

06 July 2007

Who Moved My Cheese?

The Migros (grocery store) in our village is going through major renovations.

They first built a new part of the store. Then they moved everything into this new part, which is approximately 1/4 the size of the old store, and now they are renovating the old part.

When it is done I am certain it will be big and beautiful, yada yada yada.

But until then it will be hell.

The selection is down to the bare minimum, the aisle space is minuscule and nobody (including staff) knows where anything is yet.

Those of you who know me, know that I hate grocery shopping. Before I got married I would shop at 11:00 at night just to avoid having to deal with too many people. Because too many people made me have to stay in the grocery store longer. (God, I miss 24-hour grocery stores!) I survived on cereal, yogurt, peanut butter and hard-boiled eggs because it diminished the amount of time I spent in the grocery store. And the amount of time I had to spend cooking.

And I shopped at a store that never moved things around. This was very important, because I hate it when grocery stores get moved around and I cannot whip through them and get out as quickly as I can.

For now I've moved most of my shopping to the Coop (other major grocery store chain) to avoid the chaos as much as possible.

But there are a few things we can only get from the Migros as the Coop doesn't carry them. Namely, lactose-free milk (with only 1.7% fat, the lowest fat content available), USDA beef ('cause Swiss beef sucks) and cheddar cheese ('cause I don't like the stinky, strong tasting cheese so common in Europe).

On my first couple of trips to the Migros I was still able to find the milk and the beef, but I couldn't locate the cheese. I really, really missed the cheese. Yes, I could find the cheese elsewhere. But who really wants to carry cheese all the way back from Zürich on a train or bus after the convenience of having it only a ten-minute walk away?

However, I am happy to report that today the shelves were slightly more plentiful and my beloved cheddar cheese has returned.

Thank God.

Now I just have to dread November, when the renovations will be completed and everything will be moved again.


04 July 2007

Nostalgia of Food

Ponder well this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table. Charles Pierre Monselet (1825-1888)

Food has the ability to invoke memories and strong emotions. And one emotion it invokes is homesickness. Any expat can tell you that. Indeed, when you ask an expat what they miss most, the food from their home country is usually listed prominently.

I remember when I lived in Ireland as a student in the early 1990's that midway through the year I got an insatiable craving for Kentucky Fried Chicken. What made this so odd is that in the United States I rarely ate the stuff. It's really not very good. And yet I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Within a week of returning to the United States I was at the local KFC. I took a couple of bites and couldn't figure out why I had craved it so much. I have not eaten it since then.

Although GLH and I love living in Zürich, lately I have been struggling with some homesickness. It isn't always present, but when it is I feel somewhat paralyzed by it. So I force myself to do something and work through it.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the weekly farmer's market at the Haubtbahnhof. As I passed one of the stalls, I happened to catch something out of the corner of my eye. Not believing what I was seeing, I stopped for a closer look.

There, nestled amongst the very European baked goodies, was a small and unassuming square of chocolate. And it wasn't labelled braunli or brauner or something equally Germanic. No indeed, it had a small sign that stated in clearly American spelling that it was a brownie.

Immediately I started to salivate.

Which is strange, because in the United States I could go for months without wanting a brownie. And I have made brownies myself on perhaps 2 or 3 occasions in my entire life. And yet, just looking at it sitting there created a wave of homesickness so powerful I nearly began to cry.

But I hesitated. Anyone who has ever tried Mexican food in Europe knows that just because it looks like the real thing doesn't mean that it will come anywhere close when tasted. Usually it is a huge disappointment.

But I decided to risk it. I stepped up to the counter, handed over CHF 2,20 for a rather small square and took a bite.

It was not a disappointment!

While perhaps not the best brownie I have ever had (for that you really need the boxed mix from Duncan Hines), it was indeed an authentic brownie.

I quickly whipped out my camera and took a picture...

And then I devoured it.

Ahh. Such chocolately goodness.

02 July 2007


On Sunday we caught the train for Winterthur and the Albanifest, a carnival happening in their Altstadt (Old City).

The carnival offered rides galore...

Most of which I would never personally ride!

But I did enjoy watching all the people. Especially the faces that said "What in tarnation are they doing up there?" Or whatever the Schweizer Deutsch equivalent is.

And, of course, there was artery-clogging food galore.

Although after watching these pigs on a spit...

I almost became a vegetarian!

But they did have some healthy choices.

Got milk?

And many booths offered fresh fruit. Although I am not certain how healthy it is after you dip it in chocolate, sprinkle nuts and add whipped cream.

After walking around for a couple of hours, it was time to sit in the shade at one of the many beer/wine gardens.

Ya know, the local red wine wasn't bad after the 2nd or 3rd glass.

And it was fun to watch this Swiss-Style Oompah Band. Especially as they were so obviously having fun themselves!

01 July 2007

Boys and Their Toys

As we were running to catch our train this morning, GLH insisted that I stop to take two photos of this super-special Porsche parked on a street in our village.

He required a photo of the front:

And a photo of the back:

What is with men and cars?
Fortunately we managed to board the train approximately 20 seconds before it departed.