Friday, January 15, 2010

Grocery Shopping in the winter

On a very cold Monday morning, I started to realize that when we first arrived in Zurich, I wrote a few posts about what our ex-pat life was like, then transitioned into the trips we were taking.  While the trips are still fun, our daily life is still proving to challenge me during most outings.  And when I've been able to talk to friends back home, the question is generally, 'So what is your life like?'  Our life, like any other stay-at-home mom of a toddler, is very busy. Here's a run down of our morning trip to the grocery store with no car, and it's 17 degrees outside with possibility of snow:

I opted to take the stroller to the store today, and told Ella she could ride in the cart when we got to the store. The drama thus unfolds as we're trying to get out the door.
Major tantrum before putting on a hat, gloves, coat, jacket, etc. She wants to to do it all herself (as any two year old would) Great, we probably won't leave for another two hours. (with that said, she's usually great about putting on all her winter gear, so I take the tantrums in stride)
I'm able to convince her that she can help me put on all our layers if we can get the stroller to the top of the stairs first. Tantrum while putting on gloves, have to go back to our house to 'cool down'
5 min later - we make it to the stroller and out the door.

Brr, it's freaking cold

Ella takes her gloves off

While heading down the hill, on the sidewalk, we encounter a typical swiss parking job. Here, people park on the sidewalks. I'm learning that parking spots are really useless. If you want to park close to your street, why not just pull up on the sidewalk and park there. Today, a rental van was parked in front of us, and the guys using the van were on the sidewalk with all the car doors open, just dawdling through their task. They glance over, see that I have a kid in a stroller and am waiting patiently to pass through their obstruction, and then they go back to work. Leaving me to go into the street full of traffic to get around the van. I immediately recognized that I'm way too polite, and I should have taken the Swiss mentality to walk right up to them, nearly run into them and demand they move out of my way.

Next time.

We make it to the store, park the stroller, get Ella ready to get in the cart, take off her layers. Shoot, I only have two fifty cent rappen, no 1 franc pieces to pay for my cart. (yes, take note you have to put a coin in the cart in order to use it. It's returned to you when you return the cart.) Go through the line, ask a grumpy cashier to help me make change, get a cart.

Park Ella near the produce, I get produce, she thinks the baked good near her belong in our cart. Thanks E.

Today, we make it through the store without getting hit or run over by a local driving through the store with their shopping bag on wheels. I call that a successful trip. We also got through the line without old ladies cutting in front of us. Again, another success for us. Maybe I am getting more pushy after all.

Ok, now for the packing of our groceries. All the heavy stuff into the backpack. Light stuff into the bottom of the stroller.
Get Ella back in her winter gear. No tantrum this time - yes, another point for me!
Ella's in the stroller, backpack on, up the hill.
(Side note: Ella weighs more than 30 pounds, plus the weight of the stroller, and extra groceries in the bottom. Backpack weighs at least 35 pounds. Yes, today I think I'm tough for getting all of this back up the hill)

Hooray, we're at the top. Now I politely wait for my turn to cross the street (as to not offend any more Swiss because they ALWAYS wait for their walk signal to cross. No jaywalking here.) I get everything up the driveway, down the ramp, up two stairs into our apt. Now, in the entryway, Ella comes out, takes off all winter gear, goes down the stairs to our house. I, while wearing the backpack, pick up the stroller, and muscle everything down to our apt. Whew. Groceries are done.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

running hellos in the snow

Before we moved to Zurich, John and I were regular gym members, and enjoyed the security of being able to exercise despite the what the weather had in store for us on any given day. While we were planning our move here, we checked out gym prices and decided it was way too expensive, and our money was better spent elsewhere. Next step, start running again, walk everywhere (easy with no car!) and figure out how to exercise at home.

Running was going fine until winter started and snow started falling. It's proving to be difficult to run in the snow and below freezing temperatures. We are still running, but it takes 2-3 pairs of pants, 3 shirts, gloves and a head wrap. Some days I think I'm pretty tough, other days, I think I'm extremely foolish and would be much better off staying home drinking hot chocolate.

I wake up early to run, and rarely see other runners out, but I do pass commuters on their way to work.  There is no smiling while passing your neighbor, no friendly hello's, you just pass by others on the sidewalk and pretend they don't exist. I have grown accustom to this pedestrian culture, so naturally I was perplexed yesterday morning on my run when this happened.....

It had snowed the night before, and I beat the plows out the following morning. The sidewalks were a mess - filled with snow, slick, slushy, terrible for running. But I was already out, and I am too stubborn to go back home, so I kept running (foolish, I know, I just can't help myself.) That particular morning, I got 'nods' from all the men I ran past. Kind of a, 'hey, nice work' type of nod. Then, I ran past a gentleman around the age of 70 or 75, and he literally cheered me on! He had a huge smile on his face, shook his fist in the air, and said 'Yeah' and some other encouragement in SwissGerman. I waved, smiled and continued on my merry way. I couldn't resist writing this up, because it isn't very often that I have a positive Swiss encounter on the street.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Casa Ferlin

I love giving gifts. Every year I struggle with my 'allotted' holiday gift giving budget, and what I really want to buy for family and friends. This year was particularly tricky for me because I was trying to send meaningful gifts back home, while avoiding paying for shipping from Switzerland, and sticking to a small holiday budget. I would give myself a C or a C+ for the year. My parents, however, get an A! My mom (who is living in the US) was able to find a fantastic restaurant, close to our house, and arranged (via email) for us to have dinner there! One of our friends graciously volunteered to watch Ella, while we dined (and simultaneously celebrated John's 30th birthday.)

This was officially our 'first date' in Zurich! (I know, we've been here for 4.5 months, and this is our first date - but we've managed to have quite a bit of fun without those little dates) Regardless, we soaked up every minute of time by ourselves, and savored every bite of our dinner.
I know what you're thinking, "That's all great Kim, but did you really need to write a post about you going to dinner with your husband?"
Answer- Nope, I didn't. It was what happened at dinner that has us, and many others here, completely baffled.

We sit down, peruse the wine list, order a couple glasses of wine, and eventually got around to ordering dinner. We were trying to be somewhat conscious of the cost of dinner, and our slowly expanding waist lines, and opted to skip the app's, and the 1st course, and instead just order a main course.

Dinner arrives, it's WONDERFUL. Noodles were homemade, sauce was not too heavy, and side of veggies were so flavorful, I was wishing that was all I was having for dinner.
We take our time eating dinner. John finishes and I have a couple big noodles left on my plate. The waiter comes over with a SECOND full plate of noodles, takes my plate away (which still has some food on it) and replaces it with an exact replica of the first dinner I had just eaten. WHAT? Then he also removes John's empty plate and replaces it with, yep, ANOTHER DINNER. Seriously. What are we missing. We just ate a great meal, and now we have the exact same dinner in front of us again. I was stuffed, so eating another full plate of dinner was not exactly what I had in mind, but pleased and surprised none the less that they were giving us MORE food.
We looked around, and this didn't seem to be happening at any other table, just ours. We also were only charged for one entree per person. The only thing we could conjure up is that we were given two 'half-orders' rather than one 'full order' because we did not order any other courses. So bizarre!

I haven't eaten in many restaurants here, but Casa Ferlin is a great choice if you're looking for a quiet, upscale Italian restaurant. But, go there hungry, because you'll be served a TON of food!
Thanks to Mom and Dad for a wonderful dinner, and giving us a great night out too! We wouldn't have found this place without you!

Casa Ferlin
Stampfenbachstrasse 38
8006 Zürich
044 362 35 09

Monday, January 4, 2010

Beer makes good birthday even better!

Happy Birthday! It's official! My wonderful, handsome husband has entered his 30's!
To celebrate this year we made and wrapped presents, made a berry pie, berry tarts, and had mimosa's and chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast yesterday. Tonight we're even going out on a date for dinner!

On Saturday we went with our friends Sebastian, Ashely and their daughter Geneva to the 'Last Bier Stop before Heaven!' What better way to celebrate John's birthday then drinking beer!!!

When we arrived in Zurich in August, we quickly discovered that there was a small brewery located south of Davos, that looked fantastic. The longer we lived here, the more we discovered that the Swiss beers were less than palatable, and the more hopeful we became that we could find good beer in the mountains. I thought that venturing out to the brewery would be a perfect celebration for John's 30th birthday. We left in the morning, and stopped in Klosters for lunch. Our original plan was to head up the Madrisa Mountain in Klosters, but we were so fogged in, no mountain peaks to be seen, that we opted to stay in town and enjoy the snow from the cozy indoors of the restaurant.

Here's the little tiny break of sun we saw that day


Nestled up close to the brick pizza oven, we enjoyed a quiet lunch before heading to Monstein. Then we met up with our buddies, and stopped at the Rinerhorn for some sledding (which Ella slept through :o) And then finally arrived at the Brewery!







A small, two story building greeted us as we cautiously drove up the mountain roads in search of beer. We were a little bit early, so we peeked in the building, and only saw the brewing tanks, and bottling facilities, no place for tasting! Upstairs? Maybe we should go upstairs? Nope, nothing up there either. Hmmmm..... We peeked next door, nope, no beer there. We looked in the restaurant across the street, nope that wasn't it. As we're starting to feel a little desperate, we see a group of 10 people head in the brewery - Great! we're in business. Wait, now we're in the building and all we see, again, are the brewing tanks. Ok, down the little ramp, around the corner, and yes, we've found a small door heading into the basement- I can hear the beer being poured, we made it! We headed down to the teeny tiny cellar and we were immediately greeted with three big samples of their brew - delicious!




We liked one of the beers so much, we even left with a 2 liter bottle of beer to keep us company in Zurich!

We proceeded to spend the remainder of the evening in the quaint restaurant across the street. It was part of the Monstein hotel, and was still very quiet as the skiers had not come back from their day on the slopes. The best part was the play room that was adjacent to the restaurant. The girls had a BLAST running back and forth, and tearing the play room apart. While the adults sat happily, ate dinner, drank beer and wine and had actual conversation!! Thanks friends for joining us- we had a great day!

Happy Birthday Handsome, I love you! Thanks for making my life so special. You're a wonderful husband and a wonderful father!

The Dad's and their Girls!




Saturday, January 2, 2010

Adventures in Austria

I originally wrote this post to include every single little mishap that we had throughout our Austria Holiday vacation. I opted to save you the pain in reading through all of it, and summarize our trip by telling you that the theme by the end of the vacation was to 'Roll with the Punches.' It was one of those trips-  but with that said, we had a wonderful time spending time together as a family, admiring the scenery, and just taking a small break from daily life chores.  (I did, however, leave in way too many pictures!)
 ********
This year, we (sadly) opted to stay in Europe for Christmas, rather than trying to fight crowds, long and spendy flights, long lines, jet lag and a short stay in the US with a 2 year old, only to turn around and do it all again to get home.

Instead, we chose to find a cozy resort in the Alps to keep us entertained over the holidays. After too many hours searching and planning, we selected the Sport Hotel Beck in Brand, Austria as our Christmas Destination.

It was a very easy, two hour drive south of Zurich. As we drove into Brand ( a teeny little mountain village) we were left wondering where they were keeping the snow. (It felt like that scene in White Christmas when Bing Crosby arrives at the hotel and there's 'No Snow.')




We got checked in and settled in to the hotel, and eagerly awaited the arrival of Santa Claus. The draw of the SportHotel Beck, is that it is a kid-friendly hotel. They have child-care all day, all kinds of activities for kids to do, coloring books, blocks, games, kid place mats, baby monitors, etc. You don't have to worry about your kids being kids, because the focus of the hotel is exactly that- let kids be kids and let the parents enjoy the vacation too. Coming down the stairs from our room into the lodge on Christmas Eve, we were greeted with Champagne, a roaring fire and the anticipation of Santa.



Seeing Santa emerge from his horse-drawn sleigh


 He arrived in a horse drawn carriage, greeting all the excited kids! He gathered families around the Christmas tree, read a story (in German, naturally) and then sang a few traditional Christmas songs (all while the Christmas tree was ablaze with Sparklers!!)

 

 

 As dinner began, he went around and greeted all the kids. As we expected, Ella was thrilled, until he actually came up to us, then she was ready for him to leave, but SO excited that she got to see Santa. She immediately fell in love with the little 'Yellow Horsey' that she got as a gift from Santa, and couldn't part with the horse, ALL WEEKEND!

 

(ok santa, time for you to leave now!)
 

Thrilled with her new horse


 

Dancing with daddy during the live Christmas music during dinner
 

Our little Christmas morning - Nana, these are for you! Take note of Ella's hair bows, she keeps adding new ones, and even has one on each of her elbows!
 


Much to our delight, it was a white Christmas after all. We spent the evening reveling in the snow fall, catching snowflakes with out tongues and making snow angels. Delightful!






This is what the rest of our vacation looked like- beautiful blue skies, mountains in every direction you turned, snow down the valley. Stunning.




On our way to spend the day (or so we thought) sledding.
This may be my favorite picture from the weekend

 

Looking down the hill at John and Ella on the sled
  


So, sledding didn't go exactly as we planned. Ella was up for two runs down the hill (one with mom and one with dad) Then decided that she was 'all done' sledding.  Naturally, as life goes with a toddler, Ella was 'done sledding' until we actually returned the sled - then she cried in the store because she wanted to ride on the yellow sled. Classic.

So, we opted for to go for a gorgeous walk through the town.
   


And Ella opted for a nap.



And that night, John discovered that the hotel had a delicious Hefeweizen on tap, it was a good day for John  :o)
The next day brought a whole new batch of adventures. The hotel had been advertising that you could 'take a walk with their ponies.' Ella was thrilled at the prospect of seeing the horses, so we reserved ourselves a walk with the pony. We envisioned walking up to the stable, meeting our pony, and having one of the folks at the stable walk us around for awhile. 

On our way to the stable - gotta love wearing shades in the snow!



We arrived at the barn, Ella was adorned in a riding hat (they asked us if we brought our own.... haha!)
And GAVE us a pony and said, Enjoy!   WHAT- You're giving us a pony! Aren't you coming with us? Where are we supposed to go? The gal said, "oh, just walk down by the river." Oh, right, of course, down by the river, why didn't we think of that....   And so that's what we did. John 'confidently' took the reins, and led our pony, Blue Eyes, down the path along the river. All we could do was laugh throughout the whole walk, we couldn't believe that we were walking a pony by ourselves - these crazy Austrians!  Ella is still telling us that she got to say, "Whoa Blue Eyes!"



 




On our last day in Brand, I wanted to go up the ski lifts to see the other side of the Alps, despite the fact that we don't ski. John humored me, and we headed up the mountain. (Earlier in the trip we had tried to go hiking on the mountain trails- they were closed, we had tried to go sledding on the top of the mountain- that was closed, we had tried to go snowshoeing- that too, was closed.) So I was left still wanting to go up the mountain to see the sights, and we had nothing to do but sit and enjoy some hot chocolate while we watched the skiers enjoy the ski slopes that were opened.

 

 


I will say, while we had a delightful family vacation and did our very best to make it feel like Christmas, we are very excited for the upcoming Christmas in the US when we can start forming our own family traditions with Ella. Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with your families and are looking forward to a fantastic 2010.