30 November 2007


We're off on our Christmas Market Extravaganza!

And we are betting that Deutsche Bahn will not go on strike before Tuesday, when we will leave Germany for Austria and therefore no longer have to worry about it.

Our goals:
Wish us luck!

I had originally intended to also purchase a German Christmas Pickle. However, research has shown that this may not be German after all. Now I am curious as to whether any of the booths will be selling an "Authentic German Christmas Pickle," likely to the American tourists!

28 November 2007

UPDATE: Automatic Cat Feeder

As I posted last week, we got an automatic cat feeder that will feed the cats three times per day. Our primary intent was to find a reliable way to feed them when we are traveling. However, we had decided to try it out and perhaps use it all the time.

Experiment Results: Somewhat of a failure

Here is the issue...

Max is a Picky Eater. I know, it amazes us as well. After all, this is the cat who has been taken to the vet on three occasions in order to remove a non-food item that became logged in him. And that doesn't include the number of times we have waited for him to purge the item through the front or back end.

But when it comes to his food, he is actually very picky.

See, the food must be "fresh." His definition of fresh is "has not been in the bowl for more than 5 minutes." And if we put the food back into the container and then re-serve it, he had better not see us do it.

Max is not adjusting to the concept of the automatic feeder. Unless the food is served by a human hand, generally after hours of begging even though there is still food in the dish and we are nowhere near feeding time, it is not "good food" and therefore should not be eaten.

Sure, he'll eat it if the only other option is to starve to death. However, when we are home and he has hope of hand-served food, he only eats enough to sustain life and no more.

Tilly, on the other hand, has adjusted quite well to the automatic feeder. Under normal feeding circumstances, she stands back and lets Max have first go. Then she swopes in and finishes off the rest.

Which under normal circumstances works just fine because Max will eat his meal in a couple of enormous bites and it is usually close to half of the food.

But when Max is just eating enough to sustain life while hoping for some hand-served fresh food, it leaves a fair amount for Tilly to finish off. And I am sorry to report that Tilly has always had a bit of a weight issue.

However, yesterday it became apparent that the Automatic Feeder Experiment needs to end for two reasons:

1. Max has become so frustrated by the lack of hand-served, fresh food that he is cranky. Which means he will suddenly attack us. Given the lack of claws, he doesn't do any damage. But it is rather startling behavior.

2. In the last week Tilly's stomach has become so engorged with the extra food that she waddles and looks as if she is ready to give birth to 12 or more kittens any minute. (Max, on the other hand, has lost enough weight that his hip bones are started to stick out a bit.)

So, the verdict is that we will still use the automatic feeder when we are traveling.

However, when we are home we will resume the normal three times per day hand-served "fresh food."

The only other alternative may be to take them both to a cat psychologist. Max for his anti-social behavior and Tilly for her overeating.

But that seems excessive.

27 November 2007

Learning a New Culture

This past week I have left the house only once. Most of the time I have been on the couch. The fever is finally gone as are the body aches and the other unpleasant, unmentionable symptom, but the exhaustion remains.

So, what have I been doing? Mostly watching television with the occasional bouts of laundry or half-hearted attempts at cleaning. (Note to Mom and Dad: The apartment will meet minimum cleanliness standards when you arrive on Thursday, but it will not exceed those standards.) I also brought the laptop into the living room for occasional internet browsing. That's about all I have had the energy to do.

Since we have Sky Satellite, most of the television viewing has been from the UK. (I know, I should be watching German television in order to improve my language skills. But German television is just so awful that I truly cannot deal with it for any space of time. No wonder the Germans are so outdoorsy!)

So the culture I have been learning about is the UK. And this is a sampling of what I have learned from the television programming...

1. The Brits seem to be as obsessed with food as the Americans, especially junk food. At least that is the impression you would get from watching British commercials. Which might help to explain the rising obesity rates in that country.

2. Apparently the British Royalty seem to believe that the American Revolution was just a tragic misunderstanding. If only King George III had been able to make a royal tour of the colonies, the colonists would have seen that he was a regular guy who just had their best interests at heart. Or at least that is what Prince Charles said in the documentary How Mad Was King George? Wonder what he says about the other colonies who broke away and declared independence?

3. It is alright to sue someone after an accident as long as it does some good for everyone. There is a series of commercials for accidental liability lawyers that always end with a line that indicates this. For instance, a woman sues her employer because she tripped on packing material? The commercial ends with the line: "And the packing material? Well that's sorted now." Or a man sues after an accident because his view was blocked by a large group of students at a bus stop. The final line is: "And they've resited the bus stop."

4. Based upon the fact that I have greatly enjoyed several Marion Chesney novels, I decided to watch an episode of Hamish Macbeth, a tv series about a Scottish police officer based upon her books. Must admit I didn't learn a thing about Scottish culture. Primarily because I couldn't understand the bulk of the dialogue. And I am pretty certain they were speaking English.

26 November 2007

Train Trips?

It has just been announced that GDL (German train union) did not accept the proposed contract. However, they are going back into formal negotiations and stated there would be no strikes before Monday, 3 December.

On Saturday morning we leave for our Christmas Market Extravaganza. We travel first to Munich, then Nuremberg and finally Salzburg. We return to Zürich on Thursday.

So, do we risk that there will be no strikes before we leave Germany for Austria? Or do we drive?

Thoughts and comments? Especially from those of you who deal with Deutsche Bahn on a daily basis?

24 November 2007

Gadget Boy Strikes Again

Who knew that flying could be so dangerous?

But when GLH is bored on a transatlantic flight, you know that he is likely to pick up that Onboard Catalog. Of course, he found many gadgets that he is certain we absolutely need.

Which is why it shouldn't have surprised me when a box showed up containing...

...an automatic pet feeder which can be programmed to feed animals a set amount three times per day.

As well as this...

...bug vacuum so that he no longer has to come running when I yell "Come quick, there's a bug!"

How did we survive so long without these necessary devices?

23 November 2007

Etiquette Lesson

Hey you! And you know who you are.

The next time you are riding the Tube out to Heathrow Airport while you are sick, would you please keep your distance from others.

And for the love of God, do not sneeze all over people!

Thanks to you I am now entering the third day of feeling like crap with a high fever, terrible headache, body pain from head to toe and an upset stomach.

Thanks a lot.


22 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here is a Turkey Drawing Lesson for you:

We had thought we would do a small Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us. But I have the flu, so I think I will spend most of the day lying on the couch and watching bad day time television instead of cooking.

21 November 2007

Deutsche Bahn Strike?

We have tickets for a train journey into Germany in about a week's time. We will need to decide soon if we should get a refund on the tickets and just drive.

Could some of the Germany-based bloggers please report on what is happening up there?

Thank you!

20 November 2007

London Weekend

Because we have been to London before we decided to have a relaxing weekend. There was none of the pressure of must see "this, this and that." We've seen the Must-See's already.

We started Saturday morning with an aimless meander. From our hotel in Knightsbridge we walked towards the city center, stopping to window shop on the way. We ended up at Trafalgar Square and decided to go to the National Gallery. After our cultural excursion we were hungry, so we headed to Chinatown for some dim sum.

Our stomachs full of Chinese Dumpling Goodness, we had another meandering walk back towards the hotel and a couple of hours spent relaxing, napping (GLH) and reading (GL) followed by High Tea.

Then it was time to get ready for dinner and a West End show.

Spamalot was great fun. But I won't say more because "what happens in Camelot, stays in Camelot." Although if you do decide to go, try to get seat D1 in the stalls. You'll find out why in the second act!

After the musical ended we attempted to catch the underground back to Knightsbridge. However, the station at Leichester Square was absolute chaos. The tickets machines were not working. The ticket booths were unstaffed. And even if you had tickets, most of the turnstiles were also nonoperational. There were a few hundred tourists and Londoners screaming at a handful of transportation employees who were doing nothing to resolve the situation except yell back.

Quick Note: London could take a lesson from Zürich, or pretty much any other major city, on how to run mass public transit. I've noticed this on past trips as well. Their transit system has constant problems. You got to wonder what will happen during the London Olympics! I shudder to think about it.

After trying to figure out what to do, we gave up and had to push and shove our way out of the crowded station. We decided to just take a cab. However, as all of the theatres were just letting out there was not an available cab to be had. So we started walking towards the hotel. I quickly regretted wearing high heels. (Jeans and comfortable shoes would have been fine at Spamalot, but not for dinner. Sigh.)

Eventually we found another underground station much further down the line that actually seemed to be working and caught a train the rest of the way. But, of course, not before I developed enormous blisters that made walking excruciating.

The next morning we slept in. Which for me means 8:30 am. Eventually I got hungry and forced GLH to get up so we could eat and then go do something.

After breakfast we went to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Neither of us had ever been there before, but we both loved it. It's enormous, so we only saw a part of the collection. However, we will definitely be back. My favorite item was the enormous Chihuly chandelier in the entry. Absolutely gorgeous!

Since we were in the neighborhood, we did a walk-through of Harrods. Quite probably the most over-rated store in the history of the world. By now it was lunch time so we ate at one of the counters in the Food Hall. As we ate we chatted about the current exchange rate (72 USD/80 CHF for a small vegetable lasagna and a small prosciutto pizza accompanied by tap water.) And that was our cheapest meal of the weekend. Suddenly the prices in Zürich don't seem so outrageous after all!

All in all it was a mostly relaxing weekend, minus our transportation woes on Saturday evening. And I have to say, it is nice to hear English being spoken. Being surrounded by a foreign language can be exhausting.

16 November 2007

If You Like to Ski...

...you might want to book your flight now.

It has been reported that this is the snowiest start to a Swiss winter in 55 years.

The ski resort owners are estatic and hope to recoup their losses from last year, one of the warmest winters on record.

Those of us who like winter are saying "hoorah!"

We have all season tires, but I wonder if we should invest in snow tires.

15 November 2007

First Snow!

Yeah! It's SNOWING!!!
Yesterday we could see snow up on the hill, but it was just rain where we are. But this morning we woke up to this:
I am especially happy for two reasons.
1. Allergy season is done. And this year it was a doosy.
2. I finally get to wear my new winter coat!
Woo hoo!

14 November 2007

Alles Gute zum Hochzeitstag!

Yesterday was our 2nd anniversary. So we got all gussied up and went to dinner at Chez Fritz.

Dinner was fabulous. GLH was able to have a steak, which he loved, and they made a special vegetarian meal for me, as the vegetarian menu options are limited. But I loved the pumpkin ravioli!

A few years ago we decided to stop exchanging gifts and travel somewhere instead. So this weekend we are headed to London.

However, that doesn't mean we cannot still exchange cards, now does it? Yes, GLH, I am talking to YOU!

Would someone please remind GLH of this when it gets closer to Valentine's Day (14 February), my birthday (3 May) and, of course, next year's anniversary?

I could do it myself, but it kind of ruins it when I have to remind him. Again...

11 November 2007

Great Expectations

Earlier today we had a short planning session regarding the Christmas tree. It's still several weeks away, but it's never too early to start planning...

GLH: I was thinking we could put the Christmas tree over by the window there.

GL: That's exactly what I was thinking. Perfect place!

GLH: Of course, we'll have to move the dining room table over for it.

GL: There's plenty of room for a tree without moving the furniture.

GLH: Oh no, we'll probably need to move the table about 3-4 feet to make room.

GL: 3-4 feet? How large of a tree do you think we are going to get?

GLH: Well, we've got 9 foot ceilings, so we could probably fit one that is at least 7-8 feet tall. Why? What were you thinking?

GL: 5-6 feet tall.

GLH: Yeah. That won't work.

10 November 2007


Come close, children, and listen to our story...

Many, many years ago villagers across Switzerland would go to church in the evening. During the winter, the evening comes quite early. And before the days of street lamps and flashlights, this would make churchgoing a tad treacherous. Especially when one lives on the side of a mountain, as many people tend to do in Switzerland.

So the inventive women in the Swiss villages looked about and their eyes happened upon the large pile of recently harvested turnips. And they began to think, "What if we could carve out those turnips and make lanterns? Then we wouldn't be at risk of falling off the side of the mountain every time we need to go to church."

And so it was and so it happened.

And that is why, lo these many years later, most of the various villages in the area have Räbenleichtliumzug (Literal Translation: Turnip Lantern Parades). Even though there are plenty of street lamps. Because now it is a Tradition.

And so it is that all of the schoolchildren in the village, along with their parents, will gather in the few days before the parade to carve their turnpis into glowing magical lanterns.

The largest Räbenleichtliumzug in Switzerland, and reportedly all of Europe, is in the nearby town of Richterswil.

Although I won't be showing you pictures from there because, well, it's really windy and there is freezing cold rain out there tonight. Brr!

So instead I will show you photos from the event last night in our small village, when the weather was more hospitable. And the Glühwein (mulled wine) wasn't bad either!

Really Smart

I'm a really smart writer. Some might even say "Genius." See...

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But this is also a compliment to all of you, my Readers, who are able to comprehend my Genius Level Writing!

08 November 2007

Man Cold

Thanks to Ms. Mac for posting!

06 November 2007


Recently I read an interesting article about Facebook. So I decided, what the heck, I'll give it a whirl.

Yesterday I spent some time signing up for a new account. And I've got to say, it appears to be an even bigger way to waste a whole lot of time than even MySpace.

I only continue to belong to MySpace because I have a couple of longtime, real-life friends who insist upon using it. I expect Facebook will eventually go the same direction for me. Both of them seem to be an extremely cluttered place where people end up with rather unattractive and disjointed profile pages.

I am definitely a Blogger. I like that you can make it look prettier and that it is much more linear and organized.

What do others think of these networking sites?

05 November 2007


GLH has found a new way to waste time...

Hopefully our various family members do not decide to disown us over it!

Max the Troublemaker

We generally keep the door to our bathroom closed because Max has a very bad habit of jumping behind the washer and dryer and then getting stuck.

However, this morning GLH forgot to close the door.

And a few hours later I walked into the bathroom and found this:

Max decided that the perfect place for him to take a nap was in the basket where we keep the spare rolls of toilet paper.
Tilly was acting all innocent. But given that her MO is to rip paper and there was ripped toilet paper all over the floor, I suspect Max had some help...

02 November 2007

Productive Trip

GLH and I spent the last 9 days State-side.

GLH headed for Kansas City and business meetings. I headed for Minnesota.

I managed to see all of my immediate family including all in-laws and nieces. No small feat given the size of my family! Three sisters, one brother, three in-laws and three nieces. And I even had time left over to see two friends from high school.

And, of course, there was shopping. I have now lost a bit more than 40 pounds since moving to Switzerland and I am undergrowing all of my clothing. I consistently have "nothing to wear."

Unfortunately purchasing clothing in Europe is not easy for me. At 5'11" (180 centimeters) I am even considered tall by American standards. And to date I have not yet found a good tall clothing shop here. Clothing here is expensive enough as is, getting tailor-made items seems excessive.

Minnesota is a great place for me to shop because not only is it one of the few places in the world where I am not taller than every other women in sight (so the stores stock taller clothing accordingly), but they do not charge sales tax on clothes.

And shop I did. Including purchasing this fabulous, new winter coat...

Hadn't actually planned on a new coat, but I saw it and feel in love. And I am now close enough to my weight goal that it should work for many years to come. I am wishing for winter weather so I can wear it!

As I was leaving the Minnespolis airport I snapped a picture of Minnesota's latest tourist attraction.

Since it is a men's restroom I could only get a picture of it from the outside.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is THAT restroom. You know the one. It has been featured in multiple news articles over the last few months...

01 November 2007

Hello Again

We just got back this morning from a trip to the United States.

GLH is at work.

I am fighting to stay awake by unpacking and doing laundry. I am also trying to work up the energy to go to the grocery store. Somehow it seems so far away and such a lot of effort.

Hmm. I wonder if we can just have cereal for dinner...