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March 22, 2009

Ski Day at Flims / Laax, Switzerland

SwissHighwayMtn1 Yesterday we took our 3rd family ski day trip of 2009.

In January we had gone to Engelberg, in February to Klosters, and this time we drove up a different valley, through Chur (the capital of Graubunden), 1.5 hours to Flims. I had remembered my parents taking a fun business trip there back when I was growing up, but I don't think I'd ever been myself. We see signs to Chur right here in Zürich, because that's a city the highway leads to from here, but I'd never seen the town itself.

You can see the rest of my Flims ski photos here.

It was super bright - so much so that my iPhone's built-in camera couldn't handle it and took photos that looked like nighttime, black and white, instead of bright blue and white.

It was super cold and windy at the top, 2810 metres, but just fine lower down.

The snow at the bottom was very crusty and icy in the morning, and like granulated sugar mixed with butter in the afternoon. Slushy. But the snow higher up was just lovely, so we stayed up there the whole time, until we had to ski back to the car.

DJETopOfFlims We are so very grateful and appreciative of the stage our kids have gotten to, at ages 14 and 11 - they carry all their own gear and don't complain, and ski fast enough to make staying together as a group a real pleasure. They enjoy skiing and it's a great family activity in the winter here. Yay for God who made the mountains and the snow and brought us here to live.

March 22, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 21, 2009

Grandma Hudgin's Chocolate Cake Origins

Ever since I can remember, my mother always baked me a special, moist, rich, whole wheat, delicious chocolate cake for my birthday. She made it in different shapes, like a seashell, a cat, a rainbow, a flower garden, or one time she even laid fresh lilac blossoms on top - apparently they are edible, but we didn't eat them.

Now it's a favorite recipe in my own household - see some we've baked: a teal cake, a pink rectangular cake, a pink round cake, and a chocolate-peanut butter icing covered cake. I usually make it for my daughter Emily's birthday, and at other times in the year, too, whenever we want a really easy, quick, yummy chocolate cake.

Recently, an email conversation between my close friend from childhood and Emily inspired me to track down the origins of this now-traditional cake, known to me as Grandma Hudgins Chocolate Cake.

So I asked my mother, and she told me she got it from my older brother's former guitar teacher, and that she herself had no idea who Grandma Hudgins was.

Then I asked my former youth group leader from when I was in high school if he had known this lady, and he pointed me to a website with the guitar teacher's email address, and I wrote her email. She wrote me back the same day!

And that's how I found out that it's actually Grandma Hudgin without an S, and so there should be an apostrophe in the recipe title. And she actually knows the person from the recipe title! Wow. I wasn't actually expecting to get to the bottom of the mystery so easily! The internet is such a wonderful research tool! And keeping up long-term relationships is too!

So now my children can say that our family chocolate cake is from their mother's elder brother's former guitar teacher's elder sister's best friend from high school's grandmother. Simple.

March 21, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 20, 2009

The Mom Song Redone with a Real Opera Singer Type Lady

This Sunday is Mothering Sunday in the United Kingdom. For the last two years I enjoyed it being a couple of months distant from my birthday (usually it's within a couple of days), while we were living there. But Switzerland celebrates it on the same day as the USA, so I'll be waiting until then...in the meantime...Happy Mothering Sunday to all the UK ladies...one of them sent me this:

Does this woman not need to breathe? Wow, they really redid the Mom song (to the William Tell Overture tune) with a real opera singer! Impressive. I can't decide if I like this version or the original better. Fun anyway. I felt out of breath by the end, even though I was only listening.

I remember the lady who wrote this song (Anita Renfroe) saying if she'd known it would be so popular, she'd have sung it better in the first place...

March 20, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 16, 2009

Swiss Cat with Snowdrops

Oh, the sunshine today! I'm going to have to go look for my sunglasses...not entirely sure where they are, after this northern European winter by a lake that attracts fog...the contrast is marvellous. Perhaps a teaser of what heaven will be like after the fog of this earth.
CubLooksSnowdrops CubScratchesSnowdrops CubStretchesSnowdrops

March 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cub and a Lone Yellow Crocus

Okay, there were a few other nice things in the yard this morning, too. I was accomplanied on my garden tour by two cats (we call them Tiger and Cub - a mother and daughter). I'm still so thankful that Cub is back after her surgery, and that her absence is now explained after those long weeks of wistful mystery. She is the softest, friendliest cat. I had given her up for lost, quoting Job - The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord...and then he gave her back to us again. Wow. Kind of like in Job, except the same cat, not another one... even better.

These two photos are both Cub.

And I dedicate this bold, yellow crocus to my mother, whose favorite color is yellow.
CubFace YellowCrocus CubWholeBody

March 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Spring Garden Crocuses, Snowdrops, and Something Else

I looked it up, and according to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, one can either call them crocuses or croci and still be correct. Good to know.

Here's what my garden tour yielded this morning, other than one last tiny patch of snow, which will surely disappear in today's brilliant sunshine:

PurpleCroci SnowdropsUpClose UnknownFlowerWhitePink
Purple crocuses I know, and white snowdrops I know, but can anyone identify for me the other white flower with the lovely pink rash? I'd love to know whom I am hosting. Kudos to the Fantastic, Masterful, Generous Designer for thinking up these lovely spring heralds (and thanks to our landlady, who planted them and left them for us).

March 16, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 15, 2009

Pirates of the Caribbean: Nth Time

For her birthday, Emily wanted to see Pirates of the Caribbean (the first one) again.

If you haven't seen it yet, and you plan to, DON'T READ THIS POST - it's FULL OF SPOILERS. Potential Viewers, ye be warned.





As with the last time I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I decided to use the occasion to capture some favorite lines, scenes, and other notes.

Three Scenes I'd just as Soon Skip:
1. The pirates attacking Port Royal - too wantonly, happily, graphically brutal
2. Carousing in Tortuga - ugh!
3. Skeleton crew extendedly in the moonlight - yuck.

Four Island Visits, some of which can be confusing (and three ships to get there)
1. Port Royal (base island)
2. Tortuga (finding a crew for Jack's commandeered ship, the Interceptor)
3. Isla de Muerta, 1st time - with the Black Pearl carrying Elizabeth, and the Interceptor carrying Jack & Will
4. Isla de Muerta, 2nd time - with the Black Pearl carrying Will & Jack, and the Dauntless carrying Elizabeth & Commodore Norrington

Five Great Things About Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl:
1. The MUSIC! I love it, even after all these times.
2. Jack Sparrow's facial and vocal expressions.
3. The dialogue in general - such clever screen-writers. Very entertaining, witty, funny.
4. Will's puppy-like (and then determined and honorable) love towards Elizabeth.
5. Elizabeth's hairstyle in the near-final scene, after the attempted hanging - it's a beautiful sweeping up-do, with curly tendrils and the ocean in the background as she stands by her man. :-)

Five Favorite Scenes:

1. Jack arrives into Port Royal on sinking ship (uniquely funny situation, and introduction to the wonderful music!)

2. Elizabeth feels hot and bothered in the tight dress, while Jack tries to steal the ship, while Norrington becomes Commodore in ceremony...(cool tying together of three simultaneous themes).

3. Will & Jack's sword-fight in the smithy (lines, action, and the music again)

4. View up from underwater, and fish and teal-colored water at the desert island

5. Attempted hanging of Jack ("egregious" crimes read out while Jack laughs to himself at the memory, e.g depravity, degradation, impersonation of a cleric of the Church of England...then Will's forward flip off the gallows, then Jack falling backwards off the cliff, like Elizabeth before, only more on purpose, but still prematurely, in the middle of a sentence. However, now that I think about it, Jack is the personification of unrepentance and self-centeredness, but at the same time so funny and endearing in a way; hmmm, making evil seem good? Same issue with having pirates be the good guys, or likewise in The Italian Job, there are "good" thieves and "bad" thieves - but is there such a thing? We're all deserving of hanging, but Jesus took the curse for us and redeemed us, so if we repent and take our sin and our Maker seriously, we can change the direction of our lives and live for Him instead of ourselves...with His real security, peace and joy - but we can't if we pretend we haven't sinned or it wasn't bad to do so)

18 Favorite Lines:

Governor Swann: Does a father need an occasion to dote upon his daughter?

Elizabeth: It's difficult to say... (when asked how the dress-donning is going - too tight)

Will: At least once more, Miss Swann... as always.

Dock Official: Welcome to Port Royal, Mr. Smith! (to Jack Sparrow, after bribe)

Jack Sparrow: It's such a pretty boat.... ship.

Elizabeth: I can't breathe.        Norrington: Yes, I'm a bit nervous myself. (before she falls off cliff)

Jack: Will you be saving her, then?

Jack to Will: Have I threatened you before?

Will to Jack: You threatened Miss Swann!      Jack: Only a little.

Jack to Will: Move away.        Will: No!          Jack: Please move?

Jack: How's that? The key's run off. (with the dog)

Will: I'd die for her.     Jack: Oh, good.

Jack: That's not much incentive to fight fair, then, is it?

Jack: I know it's difficult for you - but stay here and try not to do anything stupid.

Jack: Inescapably clear.

Barbossa: It's not possible!       Jack: Not probable.

Jack: You can always trust me to be dishonest.

Jack: Or you could surrender...


Two Quiz Questions for those familiar with the movie:

1. How many of the all-important gold coins were there in total?

2. From which ancient civilization did they come?

Anyone?

March 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

My Thursday morning commute

What I saw on my drive to my ladies' Bible group on Thursday:

- Sheep on the left

- Horses and cows on the right

- The snow-capped Rigi mountain over Lake Zug (the one Mark Twain hiked to see an alpine sunrise) to the left and Mount Pilatus to the right

- moss on the roof of a shed just after crossing over a stream

- 3 tanks going around a roundabout, with camouflaged soldiers manning the turrets

- a place that thinks it is large enough to have a village name (Schonau), whilst being composed entirely of one small farm, one house, one bus stop, and one shooting range.

Lovely and entertaining drive.

March 15, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 14, 2009

Mark Twain on Hiking Mount Rigi to See a Sunrise

The Rigi is a mountain above Lake Zug, that we see when we drive from Kanton Zurich towards Zug to get to our church meeting place, or to Jason's school, or to visit friends in Zug. It's still covered in snow at this time of year.

Here are a couple of funny excerpts from Mark Twain's account of climbing the Rigi, from A Tramp Abroad, Chapter XXVIII. You might be inspired to read the whole chapter - it's fun.

...we got a boy whom we met to carry our alpenstocks and satchels and overcoats and things for us; that left us free for business. I suppose we must have stopped oftener to stretch out on the grass in the shade and take a bit of a smoke than this boy was used to, for presently he asked if it
had been our idea to hire him by the job, or by the year? We told him he could move along if he was in a hurry. He said he wasn't in such a very particular hurry, but he wanted to get to the top while he was young. We told him to clear out, then, and leave the things at the uppermost hotel and say we should be along presently. He said he would secure us a hotel if he could, but if they
were all full he would ask them to build another one and hurry up and get the paint and plaster dry against we arrived.

[...]

The jodeling (pronounced yOdling--emphasis on the O) continued, and was very pleasant and inspiriting to hear. Now the jodeler appeared--a shepherd boy of sixteen-- and in our gladness and gratitude we gave him a franc to jodel some more. So he jodeled and we listened. We moved on, presently, and he generously jodeled us out of sight. After about fifteen minutes we came across
another shepherd boy who was jodeling, and gave him half a franc to keep it up. He also jodeled us out of sight. After that, we found a jodeler every ten minutes; we gave the first one eight cents, the second one six cents, the third one four, the fourth one a penny, contributed nothing to Nos. 5, 6, and 7, and during the remainder of the day hired the rest of the jodelers, at a franc apiece, not to jodel any more. There is somewhat too much of the jodeling in the Alps.

[...]

It was unspeakably comfortable to stretch our weary limbs between the cool, damp sheets. And how we did sleep!--for there is no opiate like Alpine pedestrianism.

[...]

We climbed and climbed; and we kept on climbing; we reached about forty summits, but there was always another one just ahead.

[...]

As soon as we had got far enough from the railway to render the finding it again an impossibility,
the fog shut down on us once more.

We were in a bleak, unsheltered place, now, and had to trudge right along, in order to keep warm, though we rather expected to go over a precipice, sooner or later. About nine o'clock we made an important discovery-- that we were not in any path.


March 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Emily's 11 and Cub's Back

We now have a 14-year-old and an 11-year-old.

Emily enjoyed a pottery painting birthday party today with a dozen girls from school, church, and community drama class. It's fun to see how gregarious she is. The girls painted little pieces of pottery: a teddy bear, a toucan, an owl, a cat, a turtle, a lion, a duck, a butterfly, dogs, and masks. They seemed to enjoy it.

God's kind gift to Emily for her birthday was sending back our friendly neighbourhood cat whom we had not seen for a few weeks. I was really concerned about our little "Cub" - she had been visiting every day and letting us pet her, with full purring appreciation, and then she suddenly disappeared and we had no idea what had happened. Then yesterday we caught sight of her again, in the street, so we finally knew she was okay and still living in the area. Then today she actually showed up at our house again, and we got to pet her - and figure out what had happened - she apparently had surgery and was recovering from it, as we could discern from her shaven belly and purple stitches! I think she probably got fixed so she can't have kittens. We were careful to avoid her abdomen while caressing her today. I was so happy she's back and okay. I had felt like we might never see her again. What a relief and blessing to touch her extremely soft fur again, and see her sweet face.

It's March 14th and we still have a little snow in the back yard, which is rapidly melting in the 13 degree C (55F) pre-spring warmth. There are a few mounds left where Emily and her sleepover friend had built forts from which to assail each other with snowballs.

Jason's having a weekend full of play rehearsals. It's only about two weeks until MacBeth opens at his high school, and so the drama teacher is having the full ensemble practicing all day Saturday AND Sunday... that's a new one on me. They were let out earlier than advertised today, however, so that's nice. Jason is playing a minor part, Lennox, so he brings plenty to occupy himself during the rest of the 5 acts when he's not needed. It's just as well, since he's been busy working on his 10th Grade "Personal Project" in which he is writing a computer program in Python - a Battleship game. It's coming along nicely. I beat the computer today for the first time. I keep asking if he can make the colors adjustable, with a little color palette for me to pick what color I want the background to be, but he thinks I'm the only person in the world who would have any interest in that, so it's not high on his list. I suppose water should be blue, after all.

March 14, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack