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November 26, 2008

Gorgeous Snowscapes in Verbier

Visit my picasaweb page to see snowy mountain views in Verbier from this past weekend:

Skiing & Snowshoeing in Verbier

Also here's a news article on the early snowfall and how it affects ski resorts in Switzerland. They even mention Verbier specifically.

November 26, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 24, 2008

Where to start? (Verbier)

I could tell you about the exhilarating all-terrain buggy ride through the snowstorm up the mountain in the dark pulling luggage behind on a trailer to get to the remote chalet where we stayed this weekend as the guests of kind new friends.

Or about the muscle-toning snowshoeing (that is a hard word to type as I think about how to spell it) through the snowfall for an hour to a non-smoking restaurant in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, with a party of nine, including 5 kids, and the 30 minutes back (more downhill on the way back, thankfully!).

Or I could describe the unfolding of the opening weekend of the ski season in  Verbier, with the slopes closed on Saturday due to high winds and snowstorm, then closed Sunday morning due to a broken-down lift, then open Sunday afternoon with gorgeous sunshine and great visibility and lovely soft snow (three lifts running), but closed again Monday all day (today) due to (get this) "heavy snow." Actually, the exact words on the website are "Ski resort all day closed. Important Snowfalls." Boy were we glad we got our three fantastic hours of skiing in Sunday afternoon! We couldn't even believe our luck that there was enough snow to ski in November! I'm not sure I've ever skiied in November before in my whole life!

Or perhaps you'd be interested in the real snowmobile ride down the mountain, again in the dark and heavy snowfall, with our luggage and skis, at 8pm last night (the only time the snowmobile was available), and our subsequent digging out of our car, and drive home for 5 1/4 hours through practically continuous snowstorm and snowy highways, often only at half-speed. In normal conditions, the drive would be 3.5 hours. We didn't get home last night until 1:45am. This morning, that is. My husband is, as usual, the great hero of the family, at the wheel the whole time, awake and alert while the kids slept in the back and I did my best to stay awake with him...only jerked back awake about 5 times after my (hopefully) short cat naps. Good thing I wasn't driving, and he knows it.

The kids went to school this morning, bleary-eyed and only one of them slightly late. David went off to work, the poor soul. I need to get all the suitcases emptied, the laundry going, the shopping done, etc. But had to tell some of our story.

It was a great weekend full of adventure and fun and novel experiences. Thank you so much to our wonderful friends and their generosity in sharing their weekend away with us. The beauty of the snowy mountains and that blue, blue sky between blizzards was most conducive to worship of the Creator, who Himself is so generous. 

Now I'm watching the rain fall on the snow in the back yard, and must do all the chores...

Photos of the trip soon.

November 24, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 20, 2008

18 Kisses

Last night David and I went out to our K-group (Koinonia Group = small group / cell group / house group / home group), and I got 18 kisses (not from David). This is something to get used to in Europe (and probably many other non-U.S. locations), the greeting and farewell with a certain number of kisses on the cheek.

This Time article from 2004 details the specifics, e.g. two kisses in Spain, Austria, and Sweden, vs. three in Egypt, Russia, Switzerland and the Netherlands, and one, two, three, or four in various parts of France (see the cool kissing map for France color-coded by the appropriate number).

Worldhum.com gives this explanation about how it's not really kissing: "In general, gently touching your cheek to your recipient’s while pursing your lips and making a kissing sound does the trick. There’s no rule as to which cheek should get the initial kiss, but people often start the kissing to the right."

They also mention that in France "Among the 20- and 30-something generation it’s pretty much expected to kiss hello, even when meeting friends of friends for the first time."

So anyway, upon arrival, I got three kisses each from three men, and upon departure, another three kisses each from two men and a woman (it just depends who's around at the moment everyone's doing the greetings). I think this is the most I have gotten at one time, so I noticed it.

My favorite person to kiss is David. And my lips actually touch his skin :-)

Non-sequitor: came across this pretty and interesting map of what people call soft drinks in the U.S., by county. Having mostly lived in New England and California, you can see what I call it (but I don't usually drink any).

Had a nice visit with a friend this morning at my house by the fire with coffee / hot chocolate, getting to know each other a bit better. And now to finish the laundry and pack for our trip this weekend to Verbier!

November 20, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 13, 2008

Kitty at the Window and Man with a Newspaper

My office is in the basement, but it features a window and a door opening on a rock garden with ferns. This week while I was working at my desk, a little kitty appeared at the window, obviously yearning for a good caress. Since my husband and daughter are both allergic to cats, but I love them, I opened the window just a crack and reached my hand out to give the kitty a good petting. Oh the purring that erupted! Oh the bliss! Oh the rubbing against my hand, turning around and around for more! The cat was a younger one, and very clean, with soft, pretty fur. She wanted to jump inside to the warmth, but I kept the opening covered with my body and eventually said goodbye, shutting the window. She looked plaintively at me, but I stood my ground, went to wash my hands thoroughly, and smiled. And took photos.CatatWindow1CatAtWindow2
The other morning when I took Emily to wait for her school bus, we got there with a few minutes to spare, and stood under a big umbrella together. After a few moments, a man appeared down the street a ways, on the other side. Emily said, "Look, Mom, he's going to turn around and wave with his newspaper." The man walked a few steps down the sidewalk, paused, turned around, and waved up at the building he had left, with his newspaper in his hand. Later, he did it again, farther down the road. Then he opened his umbrella and continued on his way. Apparently Emily observes this guy quite often! It was a funny incident, reminding us both of the Truman Show, when Truman predicts the appearance of the lady on the red bike and then the man with flowers, or whatever it was. Also of the glitch in the Matrix, where the cat walks by twice.

People can be predictable in real life, too!

November 13, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2008

Because I Love You

For some reason, this morning I was assailed by lack of motivation, and vague feelings of overwhelm and lack of general hope and direction. I asked God for help (this part is no different than normal).

I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and clearing out the fridge, and I started to think about what I would say if one of my children expressed similar feelings - lack of hope, wondering why they should carry on. This is sure to be coming up at some point in their teenage years, as the hormones and emotions flare and swirl.

I knew immediately what my response would be: Carry on and stick it out because I love you (accompanied by a strong, tight, comforting hug that won't let go). These simple words are so profound in how they embody hope, a reason to live, a sense of worth and wantedness. Value in the estimation of the speaker.

Right after that, I saw the parallel for myself - no matter how I feel at the moment, I can ride it through because God loves me with a neverending Father's love. He holds me tight and tells me to carry on because He loves me. Even if I can't see straight right now, He sees everything clearly and can hold my hope for me until I come out the other end. I am worth something to Him. When I don't know what to do, do the next thing, and wait for clarity to return, calling out to Him.

Lest you worry, everything's "fine" and much more than fine - I am blessed beyond imagining. I do need to get myself more organized and master my To Do List (i.e. make one and tame all those things on bits of paper and at the edges of my mind waiting to be conquered), and continually hand over all my worries to the One who cares and has all the power. Sorry if I'm being all dramatic about "nothing."

Even when all is well, weird emotions can come and go. I'm guessing people mostly just keep quiet about them.

But my Rock doesn't change.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 61:2

November 10, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Ice Skating in Thalwil

EIceSkatingSix minutes from our house is an outdoor ice skating rink, on the crest of the hill between Thalwil (town on Lake Zurich where Jason catches the train to school) and our village of Langnau.

Yesterday the rink offered free skate rental and access to the rink for over four hours in the afternoon, as a celebration of the opening of the season. Emily and I ventured out and had a ball for an hour together sliding around and finding our skating feet again. The moon shone above us as the darkness of evening descended. The boys weren't excited by the icy idea, and when we got back, we found they'd been out for a walk in the twilight together instead. To each his own.

The entire musical hour at the rink featured exclusively Phil Collins hits from the '80s. Good for practicing our ice dancing while reminiscing.

When we all got home, we dipped fresh crusty whole grain bread, carrots, cherry tomatoes, apple slices, and crisp, sweet, green grapes into cheese fondue that David made (he's now an expert), with caesar salad on the side.

A nice ending to a relaxing weekend.

November 10, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2008

Online Translation of Amazon.de Email to Me

Since we've been living here in German-speaking Switzerland, I've taken to ordering books via Amazon.de (the German counterpart of Amazon.com). It's always intrigiung trying to make sure what their emails to me are saying. Here's an example of some excerpts from a recent email, translated from German to "English" via an online translator. I have to admit that I took out all the bits that actually made sense...cheeky of me, I know:

Good day,

We are still trying, leave the following articles you on 04 October 2008... have ordered..., to perform:

  John Flanagan (Author) "Ranger's Apprentice: The Sorcerer Of The North (Ranger's Apprentice) " http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/0399250328

Is your interest in this article? We are attempting, yet the item for you to relate... If you wait too long, you can order anytime reverse course, as long as they are not located in the shipping process.

...If your order is further article, we will, as also the "My Account" that you send.

... It is therefore not possible that you already before this e-mail a Versandbestaetigung received. In this case, Your item already on its way to you and this message about the delays meaningless.

If your order contains more articles are the stocks to Article automatically. Gladly we can also stock items have already been losschicken now...

The product is delayed Its immediately, as soon as they arrived for us is. You will then receive an e-mail with all information on the shipment of us.

Should also have questions, please contact our customer service gladly available.

I do understand what they are saying - it's helpful that all the emails are the exact German replica of the anglo ones I am already familiar with. But I am amused by the translations.

November 4, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 01, 2008

Fourth Day with Snow; Pumpkins; Fireplace

Even though the snow has been melting for 2 days, there is still some left. It has melted off parts of the roof, and the garden path, but most of the lawn is still covered in white. I am impressed with the long-lasting nature of this unseasonable snowfall.

Yesterday morning, I went for a very foggy, snowy walk with my friend T and her dog. She lives up on a big hill overlooking Zug, where it is colder (in this case 33°F, 1°C) and snowier due to the elevation. We were decked out in hats, mittens, neckwarmer, waterproof jackets, snow boots...The whole village and surrounding area were enveloped in a cloud. Driving up there, cars would suddenly appear out of the pea soup nearby - slightly unnerving. At least they were on their side of the road. When we were walking through a field (I'm sure there was a field under all the snow), we got to a place where there was a signpost pointing three directions - and that was the only thing we could see in any direction, other than fog and snow. Quite an amazing feeling of lostness and hiddenness - I could see how people could wander off and die in a white-out. But I wasn't worried - we weren't far from her house and we had done this walk before, and had a dutiful dog with us. Still, it was exciting and something I don't remember experiencing quite like that before.

Then last night Hallowe'en caught me by surprise. I did not expect any trick-or-treaters here in a country where it's not generally a widely celebrated occasion. I wasn't even home when the first batch arrived - I guess the word got out about these Americans and people assumed we celebrate the holiday (which we only sort of do). I hadn't bought any candy to dish out. I was out late shopping for Operation Christmas Child, actually, with Emily, something fun to do after her orthodontist appointment (both kids' schools are sponsoring a shoebox drive for OCC, which is wonderful). Poor David and Jason were left to scrounge around the kitchen for something suitable to hand out to the eager group of girls. They found some candy corn and chocolates. Not wrapped in individual portions...but it was the best we could do at the time.

Later, after I got home around 7:15pm, another group of girls came by - and Jason gamely opened the door and let them at the candy again. That was it for the night's visitors.

JasonEmilyCarvePumpkins JasonsPumpkinSword We had our fun for the evening by carving pumpkins. David wasn't feeling well so he went to bed, and the kids and I had a pumpkin each. I am thrilled that both our children are now old enough to do all their carving themselves. I only cut the top out for them, and helped finish up some of the scraping out of the inside when they felt they couldn't get any more out. They planned their designs, drew them on, and cut them out. We were all pleased with our creations and made a memory together. It took a long time and was hard work, with a bunch of clean-up, but very satisfying. Jason made the cool sword (and entered it in an online carving competition via photo). Emily's is the heart-cheeked one, and mine is the cross. I went for something very simple, since I was also doing a lot of cleaning up and dishes and roasting the pumpkin seeds at the same time.
EmilyKatherinePumpkinCarving JasonSwordPumpkinCarving

We've also been enjoying our fireplace in our new home. In France three years ago, we had a fireplace but it didn't draw very well, and besides, the Mediterranean weather didn't lend itself to many fire occasions. Then in England we didn't have a fireplace, for two years. So now that we are in a cooler climate and have a great fireplace that sends all the smoke right up the chimney instead of out into the living room, it's blissful. Great for roasting marshmallows and chestnuts. More memories.

November 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack