January 26, 2010

Shoveling needs to come BEFORE showering

A first today: when I was done shoveling snow off of the driveway and the part of the road that they don't plow, the driveway needed shoveling again already. When I had done a second round, the driveway got a third perfunctory clean-up, then it looked okay. Unfortunately, I was all showered and dressed for the day before I started all this...and then needed to start all over again with that. New clothes. Shoveling is so exothermic!

This morning Emily said that her favorite thing about living in Switzerland is all the snow we get! Our lawn has been covered with snow since January 2nd, uninterrupted. That's 24 days straight so far. Today's snowfall bodes well for this weekend's ski possibilities - except that Jason will probably have play practice for the high school musical on Saturday, 10-2. That pretty much kills any trips to the mountains during ski lift hours.

Off to a meeting with the high school's university counselor, then lunch with a friend, then prayer for my daughter's school with other moms, then pick up Emily, then pick up Jason, take Emily to drama, pick her up, make dinner...the rest of the day is quite full!

January 26, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 07, 2008

First Two Quiet Days; Bring- und Holtag

With Jason now taking the train and bus to school (we worked gradually into this, first driving all the way, then taking the bus partway), I have a lot more time in my day (and use far less gas/petrol), not to mention more sanity (with less traffic and strapped-in time). Jason is doing great with the new method of transport. I really appreciate his positive attitude and independence. After I drop him off at the train station (12 minutes from our house), he has a 14-minute train ride, then an 8-minute bus ride (or so).

With my new-found extra time, and finally two days without scheduled engagements, I was able at last to properly finish some long-delayed moving-in tasks. I organized the books in our library so we ca find what we are looking for now, and sorted through a big box of stuff Emily had cleared out of her room upon unpacking here in CH.

Just in time, too, as Saturday our town hosted a "Bring- und Holtag" - a swap event. Bring your junk to give away (only stuff that is in good condition) and take other people's great free stuff (aka their junk). We brought some clothes, shoes, toys, and books, and brought home 3 VHS tapes (Apollo 13, Sense and Sensibility, and Sneakers - all in English, no less!). My bag was definitely lighter and emptier on the walk home, a real bonus. Hey, and the video tapes even work. I popped them in just to check, but plan to watch them later.

September 7, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 31, 2008

One of the Differences Between Migros and Coop

Migros and Coop (pronounced CO-op)are the two main grocery store chains in Switzerland. They are the very same two chains that we shopped at when I was growing up in Geneva, and now I shop at them in Zurich.

Here is a difference that I don't think existed back then...to do with the loyalty cards (which is a newer phenomenon). Of course every time you check out at the store, they ask if you have a loyalty card. At Coop, they say, "Superkarte?" (where the S sounds like a Z). At Migros they ask, "Karte Cumulus?"

Until yesterday, I had just been replying with, "Nein" (no). But then at the Coop I came up with the much more brilliant and descriptive, "Noch nicht...Ich warte" (not yet...I'm waiting for it). To get the card at the Coop, one must get a form at the Kiosk (customer service desk), fill it out and mail it in, and wait about a month. Then presumably one receives the card and can start using it. And no, they don't credit your receipts for any shopping before you receive the card. In the meantime, in exchange for your shopping, they give you miles of little stickers with a shower graphic on them, pretending that you will get airline miles and bathtime gifts with these stickers, if you take the time to stick each one individually onto a little piece of provided paper in rows of five, and bring them in later. However, once you have done this, they inform you that actually if you've stuck 120 stickers on with the help of your kids, and just want to trade them in for the miles, you have to pay 139 Francs to get the 4000 miles. I had understood about the bath products costing money (you have the honor of paying them 20, 25, 50, or 60 Francs if for some reason you want towels and bathrobes and such with a company logo on them), but I had thought the miles were actually free. Nothing is free. I took those shower stickers back so fast...and felt like it was all a royal waste of time and the stickers are worthless. If anyone wants them they can have them.

By contrast, at Migros, you go to the customer service desk, they immediately hand you a plastic card with a bar code on it, they credit you already your purchases from that day, and ask you to fill in the form later and send it in, but in the meantime you can use your new card right away. Instead of deceptive and labor-intensive shower stickers, they give you Migros coins, which you can distribute amongst your kids, who put them into a machine much like a gumball machine, except it emits big marbles! They roll down around the spiral and pop out, and if you're lucky, they give you a cloth bag at the check-out to keep the marbles in! Now there's something free and fun.

Guess which store's loyalty program I am more impressed with? However, I have yet to see what the Migros or Coop card actually does for you, if anything other than that the cashier will no longer scare you with the question of whether you have one every time.

July 31, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 01, 2008

Home to Reality: Painters' Dust and Broken Dryer

We had a fantastically relaxing last 24 hours in Greece.

I highly recommend the Athens Airport Sofitel - I could do another post on its incredible shower/bath set-up (it's like another room to itself), its room-darkening wooden inside shutter that slides across the wall into place for sound sleep, its location 30 seconds' walk from check-in, and its fabulously attentive and perceptive service at the French restaurant on the 9th floor with a view of the glowing control tower...

Our trip home yesterday was smooth as we prayed - with Swiss chocolate offered in a basket on each Swiss International flight to and from Zürich - and we're safely home.

...Home to fine white dust on every horizontal surface on the ground floor in our house. Why does this happen when a house is painted? Is there dust in paint? Or maybe they did some scraping or sanding before painting.
...Home to the fresh paint smell which our landlords decided to offer us. I'm glad it's only the downstairs this time.
...Home to innumerable loads of laundry.
...Home to a dryer which only lasted four loads before refusing to move any more.

But also:

...Home to some lovely English sunshine (and rain).
...Home to my own pillows and mattress.
...Home to more vacation! The kids don't have school again until next Monday. Delightful!

Thank you, God and David, for this unspeakably lovely holiday in Greece, and David for faithfully going back to work again today when we're still at home...and God for always being on the job, day and night, 365 days a year. Or 366 this year!

* * *
New cool word for the day, that my son just taught me:
VAMBRACE: a piece of armor for the forearm (from the French avant-bras, literally before-arm). He just made some out of cardboard, with a dagger that hides inside. Cool!

April 1, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 29, 2006

The Rise of Toyota

This morning I had to take our "Ixion Blue" Toyota Corolla Verso (the color is always the most important thing about a car, right?) in for a recall repair. Something about the On/Off switch for the passenger airbag. I was perfectly happy to sit in the waiting area for an hour and a half while they carried out the free repairs (plenty to do, you know, like compose blog posts, for a random example, or write email to send later, or read my Bible).

But I was especially happy when:

1. They were actually done in exactly one hour and one half, as advertised.

2. They said Toyota wanted to wash and vacuum my car before giving it back (was that okay? Yes!).

3. They informed me they had also put £10 of fuel in the car on Toyota's behalf to recompense me for coming out.

4. They handed me a box of chocolates, compliments of Toyota (I kid you not, 38 gourmet chocolates wrapped with a copper ribbon & gauzy bow, the kind of box with two layers and an explanatory note telling you what's inside each item to avoid nasty surprises of alcohol, coffee or goopy fruit).

Wow! I sure went on my way with a smile. I already liked Toyota very much, but today it rises even farther in my esteem.

Now, what to sample first? I think I'll leave the ones with champagne, brandy, capuccino, and crème de cacao liqueur for my husband. Maybe I'll go for the Golden Roasted Hazelnut and Almond Praline dusted with Icing Sugar...or the Caramelized Mousse with Crisp Honeycomb Pieces over a Layer of Truffle...

November 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 23, 2006

Thankful

To preface this story, you need to know that
1) We are Americans and we live in England at the moment.
2) I am not known for my eagerness to plan and cook dinner.

This morning before we left the house to take David to the train and the kids to school, I cheerfully and with a smile said to my husband, "For dinner tonight, how about chicken korma, rice, salad, and blackcurrant jello for dessert?" I thought I was doing well to have thought of something to eat that I could envisage being responsible for conjuring up.

He looked at me quizzically for a few moments. I couldn't figure out why he wasn't excited about my delicious menu proposal. He should have been happy there was meat in the main course (it's important to him but I could take it or leave it and don't like handling raw meat) and the dessert had no chocolate on the ingredient list (I am a cocoa maniac and he isn't).

He finally jokingly replied, "Sure, sounds like a great Thanksgiving dinner."

Oops. It's Thanksgiving?

It's not a holiday here in the UK, understandably. It's a normal school and work day. That means David won't get home until maybe 7:30pm, and an hour later the kids have to be in bed with their teeth brushed and pyjamas on, with backpacks prepared for the next school day tomorrow. Not much time for a feast.

How about rescheduling for Saturday when the guy who actually enjoys gourmet cooking is home for a few hours before showtime?

I did make pumpkin pie last week, and mashed potatoes and mashed sweet potatoes with our dinner on Tuesday night. Last night David and I were out late at a show in London with work colleagues, so we're also a little short on sleep.

But even if we don't have a traditional holiday meal, we can still give thanks to God for other things, right? In that sense it will still be a Thanksgiving Day.

Thank you, God, for:

our health
our family unity
our marriage
our kids who try hard
our home
our school
our car
heat & electricity & indoor plumbing
food (of any kind)
clothes
a sunny day today (for the moment)
my computer, washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, garbage disposal and automated garage doors
Your unfailing love
second chances that keep renewing themselves

November 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 17, 2006

Boxes Down

I removed the last two boxes from our upstairs this evening (the kids' playroom - it's the first time we've had such a blessed room, tiny as it is). What an accomplishment.

Downstairs I believe we still have two boxes in the office, two in the family room, and two or three in the garage that need attention. But at least they're all on one level!

Yesterday I took the kids clothes shopping for back-to-school needs, and the Lord answered our prayers for favor...we all hate shopping. So I washed all those new clothes today, and realized that the international laundry symbols are still a mystery to me, in my fourth country of residence (I know I've blogged about this before). I had to look them up again to make sure whether the various symbols meant dryer, iron, dry clean, etc. Lucky for me, all the items we bought were machine wash and dry, easy care stuff. Phew - I didn't even think about it, I was so happy the kids liked the stuff and it fit comfortably.

33 of my posts in the past 2.5 years (plus this one) mention laundry! Such is my happy and fortunate homemaking life, with three beloved people's clothes to keep clean as well as my own, and the time and health and means to do it in safety.

August 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2006

Domestic Responsibilities

That's what they call the profession of a homemaker these days in England.

I have just a few of those. Having gotten the bulk of the cleaning out of the way on Monday with the help of the kids (to whom I gave a detailed list of tasks each, including vacuuming, dusting/sweeping, emptying trash cans, stripping beds, changing towels, and carrying laundry to the laundry room), yesterday morning I did some baking for the first time in this new home.

PinkcakeFirst I made lemon squares for the boys (who aren't so fond of chocolate), then a chocolate cake for the girls - covered in pink frosting, no less. Emily helped me with both desserts. She picked the icing color and decorations, of course.

Then I went from pink icing to pink thread, and mended an unravelling section of Emily's favorite skirt. "I didn't know you could sew," she gasped. I mostly can't, but this I managed.

Then in the afternoon, we made our first trip to IKEA - and maybe our last here; it's an hour away towards heavy-traffic London on complicated roads, and the restaurant was very icky dirty, with moldy cheese and wet floors and dry potatoes at prime dinner time. The visit was successful, though, as we returned with four heavy cardboard packages that we now have to assemble, one cobalt blue toilet brush in holder, some felt pads and a British power strip (we now have power strips for U.S., French, and British plugs - it's such a mishmash of international appliances and converters at our house).

P.S. In France, a homemaker is called a "femme au foyer" (a wife/woman in the home).

August 2, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 01, 2006

Emily the Laundry Girl

Laundrygirl

April 1, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 31, 2006

Knowing Whom to Call

When you move to a new town, it takes a while to build a list of reliable service people. Nine months later, I now have the phone numbers of a great local plumber and door/lock guy. They both live and work right here in our village. It's fun to be able to use very local services. I feel like I am supporting the community, plus the small businessmen are personable and available in short order.

This handy knowledge comes from the door handle problem earlier this month, and then a water heater problem this week. There's nothing like having only cold water in which to wash one's pots and pans for making one appreciate the way things normally are.

God really turned our unexpected and unwelcome problems into blessings, as He is so proficient at doing. The door handle broke; we got a better one that no longer makes me graze my knuckles and doesn't confound every newcomer. The water heater went on the blink; not only did we get that fixed within a few hours, but our leaky kitchen sink faucet was replaced by one with a good aerator and a sprayer hose attachment, like we had in California (we were never going to get around to this repair without some more serious reason to make the call). Add to that the renewed love for hot water while doing the washing up, and it was a fabulous thing all around.

Before I made the call to the plumber, I made a call to God, asking Him to help me choose the right plumber from the phone book (in this case, it was the one who had the wonderful new faucet in stock and delivered and installed it about ten minutes after I asked for it). Thanks, Father, that you're never out of your office and You always pick up.

March 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack