Thursday, May 30, 2013

Walking to Zurich

Monday was the first sunny day we've had here in a long, long time (although I may have missed one while in the US), and I decided to take advantage of it by exploring a trail I'd seen leading off from our regional train stop. I ended up walking all the way into the city, which took only 30 minutes, even including my many stops and wanderings. I was impressed at the Swiss way of setting up their paths - they have no problems running them under huge highways or over creeks (bridges optional). I was also amazed at the number of people - all ages - who were out with various accessories - their dogs, kids, bikes, or walking sticks. I wondered if they were all unemployed, too, but I didn't ask.

I was sorry that I only had my cell phone with me, so the pictures are rather poor. I stuck near the river for the most part, and here's some of what I saw:

"What is where?" I only walked a part of this, but I was interested to see that there are several different areas contained along the river. Places for picnics, playing sports, dogs, bikes, and also places where each of those are restricted.

I'd never seen a sign like this before. I was amused.

I took a picture of this bright orange sign because I thought maybe it was warning about attack deer (to me, the animal in the picture looks like it could be poised for aggression). In fact, it was a sign simply warning people that deer are present in the woods, and to please watch your dog. 

Stepping stones across a small creek. Notice the massive freeway in the background. What a novel idea, to make the green space around highways functional in other ways.
Sheep! Many (but not all) were wearing bells, and they were surprisingly loud - you could hear them several hundred meters away. From the noise, I expected them to be in a full blown stampede, but they were just moseying along, chewing their grass. Strange note - despite much peering, I couldn't find a fence on the other side of them. For the life of me, it looked like someone had dumped them on a hill behind some abandoned building.

Dark picture of a black sheep.

Lamb following its mother (I assume that's who it was).
Thanks for posing, brown sheep.
Poor digital zoom on my phone, but I stopped for a while to watch a pair of ducks and their two tiny ducklings. The ducklings trying to cross the rather swollen river was most entertaining.
Also, the orange sign about the deer wasn't just for show. Last week, in the midst of fairly steady rain, I noticed this on the hill in our backyard:

Deer are a common sight in West Virginia where I grew up, and I used to mock the tourists who would pull off to the side of the road to take pictures of the herds. However, this was my first European sighting, and  I was surprised to see one in such a suburban setting. It had a decent set of antlers on it and didn't seem bothered at all by the large apartment buildings less than 20 meters away. I still haven't managed to get any pictures of the hawk in the next field, but I have heard it cry a couple more times, so it must live in a nearby tree.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Crocheting it up

I took a bit of a break from crocheting in April, largely due to my attempt at Camp Nanowrimo and the whole moving thing. But I packed my hook and yarn for the long plane ride and, after I'd finished my book, there wasn't much else to do in the remaining six hours (other than sleep, you say? Yes, if you are one of those lucky people who can sleep in a near-upright position. And if you are, then I am officially jealous. And if I ever ride on a plane with you, don't sit near me because I will regularly poke you awake in order to share my misery. B will attest to this).

So I dove back into my afghan during the trip, and I'm so glad I got back to it. Whenever I step away from crochet for more than a week, I always forget how relaxing it is. I also realized while I was in the US that I didn't have nearly enough gray or mixed color yarn to finish. Luckily, the yarn was from Michael's, so I was able to pick up another skein of gray in North Carolina (the lot wasn't the same, but luckily the color was still indistinguishable).

And then last weekend, I finally finished it - including weaving in the ends (the part I dislike). I used this free pattern - if anyone out there wants to learn how to crochet, this is an excellent beginning project. I found it fairly monotonous by the end, but the feeling of actually finishing a project kept me going. I added a small single crochet border of the mixed color (I didn't have enough yarn for a double, which I would've preferred).

Speaking of finishing craft projects, - I already mentioned this, but I'm going to show the picture again because it took a while and I'm super proud of it - in NC I also managed to finish a long-neglected embroidery project for a friend. Since I have significant numbers of half-finished cross-stitch projects languishing in a drawer, I was disproportionately happy to have one finished (including even the backstitching!).

Parts of it are slightly crooked and I can see many slight/more obvious problems, but I actually completed something, yay!

So, of course, I've already started a new project. A friend from graduate school is having a baby, and she requested a color scheme in lavender. I spent some time finding appropriate yarn (I had no pastels in my stash), but actually more time looking for a pattern I liked. And one that would allow me to use different colors, a choice that I am regretting a wee bit now, as it does significantly slow the rate of progress. And leaves many, many ends that will need to be woven in at the end. But overall, I am enjoying the pattern and I think the final product will be lovely.

Unfortunately I am not doing well at capturing the detail of the stitching, but you get the idea of the color scheme. All the yarns are from Coop City or Manor.
The pattern itself I found, via Pinterest, on a Norwegian blog. Luckily, the blogger included an English version of the instructions at the bottom of the post, because it turns out that Google translate cannot handle crochet instructions. One sentence, according to the English instructions, was meant to be "chain does not count as first double crochet" - Google translated this sentence from Norwegian as "Air masks do not count as a spell." So Google is still fallible, in case anyone had other ideas.

Stitching is still unclear - oh well. Basically it's a modified shell stitch, in case anyone was wondering.
I started the blanket on Sunday at the Zurich Stitch n' Bitch meetup. Some words about this group - it's wonderful (ok, just one word). I am so, so glad that B encouraged me to go when I stumbled across it online a couple months ago. The women are super friendly and welcoming - and all of them speak English (although some not natively). II've only been twice, but I've met fellow Americans, Canadians, a "Kiwi" (New Zealander), Brits, and a fair number of Swiss/native German-speakers as well. They meet almost every Sunday morning at the Starbucks at Bellevue and there is currently a movement in the group to schedule a weekday evening meetup as well. People bring in crochet, knitting, embroidery, any sort of stitched craft - and if you don't know how, just show up with some needles/hooks and yarn, and someone can get you started. It's one of the first places I've been to here in Zurich that feels like a community (and one that I want to be a part of).

I hope that everyone in the US had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, and that everyone in Switzerland enjoyed the 2 days of sunshine on Monday and Tuesday - because it looks like that was our quota for the week. If anybody isn't familiar with Ray Bradbury's short story All Summer in a Day, it may help for some perspective (and for a slightly less depressing version, try the film adaptation).

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mini cactus garden (Pinterest-inspired)

So just before we left for the US, I took it upon myself to try my first Pinterest-inspired home decor. Other than crochet designs - do afghans count as home decor?

I started with a picture from this blog:

Sooo cute. Also, her photography is wonderful. Way better than mine.
It's so pretty! Cute! Small! Multi-colored (This is key - my existence has been devoted to finding ways to add color to the white-monochrome that is our apartment)! When B and I went to Ikea several weeks ago, I purchased a 3-set of small cacti and figured I'd try it out for myself. Unfortunately, after several visits to area garden stores, I wasn't able to find any significant variety in cactus colors, nor could I find any adorable shallow planters that I thought would be suitable.

Not to be discouraged, I dropped by Manor. And forgot how expensive stuff is. But I managed to find this glass bowl for only 15 CHF (yes, that's cheap - although since that time I have discovered the Swiss equivalent of Goodwill and realized my mistake - future upcycled-craft-type items will be from here):

I spent much too long in the Manor craft section poring over their paints and trying to decipher which ones were appropriate for wood/glass/ceramic/metal/fabric/large hadron nuclear collidors. I finally cracked their German-only code and decided on a shiny, teal color (hopefully that will complement my now-finished lap afghan that will be artfully draped over our as-yet-non-existent couch - see, it's all part of a plan).

I wrapped up my purchase with a set of paintbrushes (I'm really, really not a painter, but every crafter needs paintbrushes, right?) and headed home to try it out. Of course I forgot to get pictures of the process as always, but it was incredibly easy and fast, even for nonpainter me. I painted the inside of the bowl, since I wanted to keep some of the glass-y shine, and although the paint didn't work the way I thought it would, I ended up liking the wavey/streaky result:

I may not have cracked the German craft code as well as I thought - but regardless, it turned out fun!

I let the bowl dry overnight and planted in it the next day.

I bought a small pot of succulents at Coop bau+hobby and scattered them around the three ikea cacti. I was very, very glad I had previously purchased garden gloves - arranging cacti is quite the prickly business. I used a bit of my left-over potting soil in the bottom, and then used some sand (also from bau+hobby) to sprinkle on the top, to give it a bit more cactus-like feel.

Pleasantly surprised that yay, it's cute, and I made it! Now I'm going to go start on those photography lectures my parents bought me for Christmas...
As a first home decor project, it was very encouraging. Quick, easy, no disasters other than a few pricked fingers. I'm a bit concerned that the succulents may not be on the same watering-schedule as the cacti, but it's been almost a month now and they seem to be holding up.

Now we just need a coffee table to put it on.

PS - Does anyone else get addicted to the "Next blog" button at the top of blogs hosted by Google? I definitely do - I like to retroactively guess how Google thinks blogs are related. I follow several craft blogs and like to click around on those, but somehow I inevitably end up at some Mormon family's website, where there are many babies and everybody looks happy and healthy (and white). I had no idea Mormons (or other religious groups) were such prolific bloggers. I tried the "next blog" with my own site this morning and within three clicks ended up in a series of real estate/mortgage blogs - a wee depressing. I need to stop talking about apartments, apparently?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hedgehog visit

So, if you're like me, you probably never actually gave much thought to where hedgehogs come from (no, not from their mother - I mean where they are native to), although you may have acknowledged that they are adorable and briefly pondered getting one as a pet (was that just me?). It turns out, they are native to Switzerland! And probably many other surrounding countries, but that is irrelevant to this story. And yes, this is how I tell stories orally, and it takes me a long time to get to the point then, too.

Anyway - so I had never given it a thought until we were in the US driving on rural North Carolina roads, and my friend from Boston noted the number of roadkill present - mainly squirrels, groundhogs, and the like, although we did see an intact dead deer, which is unpleasant even for WV-raised me - and this led to a discussion of commonly-sighted animals. My friend is originally from Arizona, so in my mind she deals with armadillos and roadrunners (no?). B noted that he was used to seeing hedgehogs, and we had the following exchange:

Me: Why would you see hedgehogs?

B: ...Um, because they're in Switzerland.

Me: Why are they in Switzerland?

B: <weird look, probably pondering his PhD-wife and her stunning ignorance> ...Because they are. They're native there.


B: Yes - you've seen one.

Me: No I haven't! I would remember that!

B: Yes, you have - remember when we were walking along with my family, to the restaurant after we moved?

Me: You mean when it was cold and your brother and I ran ahead to be warm and you guys took forever?

B: Oh, yeah, right. Well, we were looking at a hedgehog.


B: Um, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. They're not uncommon. What were you going to do, go back out in the cold rain?


...I'm rather excitable.

Anyway, so last night I was lying around on our floor blanket that acts as a sofa  productively unpacking our suitcases when B, who was sitting at our kitchen table told me to come over quickly. He is the exact antonym of excitable, but his voice was raised and he sounded urgent (also not an adjective that one associates with him), so I came over right away. I thought maybe he'd caught two people messing around in the bushes.

Not two people messing around in the bushes. WAY COOLER than that.
 But there, on our patio, was a HEDGEHOG!! It was much larger than the pet ones I'd seen in the US. It was standing right next to our door and waddling about in an adorable way. I freaked out and starting turning off lights and rolling down storm blinds so that I could try to get a picture. It moved off from the door some but hunkered down against the wall and stayed put. All my picture efforts through the glass door were pretty horrible failures, so I risked running off to get my decent camera (as opposed to my cell phone). It was still there when I returned, so I managed to open the door and get a couple shots of it (I was hesitant to open the door or use the flash - are hedgehogs aggressive? I know that their spines don't latch on like porcupine's, but I still didn't want him/her charging me. B assured me it wouldn't.)

Another shot. Yes, it looks the exact same, but it's not.
I grabbed a few shots and posted a bad cell phone shot to fb, and it was gone by the time I wanted to take more. Sadness. Still, I was thrilled that it had come by to visit! Then I started to be concerned that maybe they eat basil and I would have to somehow find some anti-hedgehog plant spray (my mother's gardening experience in WV was one continuous fight against roaming deer and rabbits). However, I was happy to see that according to Wikipedia, they are actually well-liked by gardeners because they eat insects, slugs, and such (and they are super freaking adorable). So yay! I hope I didn't scare it too much with my flashing camera and that it will come back to visit many times.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Home and back again

I'm actually not sure what "home" I am referring to in this title - either Zurich or the US would be appropriate, I suppose, and honestly, I'm not sure I feel 100% home in either place at this moment. But let's not get deep. B and I just returned from a wonderful 12 day visit to the US that included seeing many of his family and mine. We spent 3 days over Mother's day weekend in near Fort Lauderdale, FL visiting with B's aunts, grandmother, and multitude of cousins. It wasn't as hot as I feared, although it was humid (ick). Regardless of the weather, we had a great time. I'd only met his family at our wedding previously, but they were all welcoming and much fun.

Dania Beach in FL. Gorgeous. I missed getting any pictures of the enormous shark yard-long tarpon that was near shore when we first got there (I had wikipedia tarpon - some random man on the beach claimed that's what it was, so I actually have no idea. But isn't a shark a better story? You could see the dorsal fin above the water, that's how it goes in the movies!)
We spent a week in near Chapel Hill, NC, visiting with my sisters, parents, and friends, including one who flew down from Boston to hang out - and I'm proud to report that I finished her supposed-to-be bridal shower gift and finally handed it over (as perspective, she celebrated her 1 year anniversary last October, so...yeah). We also managed to fit in an evening in with one of B's aunts from the other side of his family, who lives in Charlotte and was generous enough to drive 2.5 hours each way just to have dinner with us. Much chatting, hanging out, game-playing (of the card/board variety) general merriment, and puzzle-solving was done - both of the crossword and jigsaw type.

Embroidered apron gift, ~1.5 years late, but finally completed! Thanks for being patient, J :)

One of the three 1000 piece puzzles that B, myself, my mother, and friend completed over the course of a week. Totally not addicting.
I was eager to get back to Zurich to my garden and see how it survived my 12 day absence, since I hadn't actually finished setting it up before I left (I actually had 3 separate dreams about this in the US - my brain just searches for things to stress about, apparently. My favorite was a dream that involved B's grandmother requesting that I describe the garden to her in Spanish; not only did I not know the plants' names, but also each time I reached for one, I realized it was dead or moldy).

The garden answer is mixed. I couldn't believe how some of the 'inherited' plants exploded in a good way (the now-confirmed-as-peonies-due-to-the-inevitable-ant-presence bush is about 3 times as tall and full as it was before we left, to the detriment of some other plants I put in), as did a few of my potted ones, but my cilantro is yellowing and going to seed, while someone seems to have snuck over and chewed up, then bleached, my basil plants.

Out-of-control cilantro on the left, basil in the center/foreground. Seriously, what happened?

Success stories! From left: sweet pepper plant, tomato plant, pea seedlings (yes, I will need to thin that - I had no idea it would be so spectacularly successful).

Peony bush - it predates my efforts with the garden - although note the weeded ground surrounding it. In the foreground, if you look carefully, you can see a small brown twig on the left that is supposed to be my blackberry plant and a rather sad looking iris plant to the right. 
Anyway - I have much to blog about, including many pictures from my US trip, my exploding yarn stash (I have issues controlling myself, especially when STUFF IS SO CHEAP IN THE US - and yarn makes an awesome lightweight packing material), my lack of hitting my Camp Nanowrimo goal last month (boo), my part-time job that thinks 3 assignments a week actually means 3 in one day (ahh!), and how today is the first day of the rest of my life (no schedule, no job, no German class), it's almost 4 pm, and I've done one thing on my list so far - this blog post counts as the second. Carpe-ing the diem is definitely something I am working on.

PS - did I miss the Swiss spring/summer while we were gone? The predicted low for Friday and Saturday is 1 degree Celsius.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Liebster Award

So my wonderful friend Melissa over at Researching San Diego has nominated me for a Liebster award. She and I first met at my recruitment weekend for graduate school, and we immediately clicked and have kept in touch despite an almost-constant ocean between us (she spent 4 years in Paris and moved back to the States a mere 3 months before I made my way to Zurich). She's a wonderful, warm-hearted soul and her blog definitely reflects that - it tends to be positive and much less snarky than my own writing. 

I'd never heard of the Liebster award, so I poked about online and it seems to be of uncertain origin, but it is intended for blogs that have fewer than 300 followers (I officially have 1) as a way of bringing attention to other small blogs. I thought it apropos, since "liebster" is actually a German word meaning "dearest." The earliest mention I found online is at this German blog - although the limit there is fewer than 3000 followers (!). It's not so much of an award as a way of getting to know other bloggers and also telling them about yourself.

Share 11 things about yourself:

1. From the age of 6 until 2 days ago, I never had or paid for cable television. From 6 through the end of college, I didn't even have the "free" channels; my parents turned off our television on purpose (although we had an extensive collection of videos for Friday family movie night and when we were sick or doing mundane things like snapping beans), and my roommate in college never had a television. In Boston, I lived by myself and couldn't bring myself to pay so much money to watch television, although I did watch ABC, CBS, etc (and I later paid for Netflix and Hulu Plus to stream through my Xbox). If B and I ever have kids, I'd follow my parents' example.

2. I drink almost nothing but water and the occasional tea, orange juice when I am sick, or milk with cookies. I've probably been doing this for almost 8 years. I will occasionally have a ginger ale or root beer on a special occasion or as an indulgence. I don't miss other drinks, although here in Zurich you pay just as much for water as anything else, so it's no longer done out of cheapness. When I read health articles or suggestions, almost always one of the first suggestions is to cut down/out on sugary beverages, and I get unreasonably grumpy because I have totally already done that. 

3. I inherited both poor sinuses and strange eyesight from my mother. When I was younger, I had one eye that was far-sighted and one that was near-sighted. My mother recognized the squinting and headaches and took me to an eye doctor when I was 8 or so - her near/far-sightedness wasn't noticed she went for her driver's test at 16. Over the years, both eyes have continuously gotten more nearsighted, so I no longer make eye doctors re-check their diagnoses. My favorite part was for a few years in college, where I had only one contact because my far-sighted eye had reached 20/20.

4. I have a tattoo on my lower back (as in a "tramp stamp" - I enjoy the irony of this). I got it for my 25th birthday and have never regretted it, but I have also never seriously considered getting another one.

5. I have two sisters, both older. My mother also has two sisters (and one brother), as did my grandmother. Out of my sisters, I am the shortest, have the darkest hair, the only one with grey/bluish eyes (my sisters have more green/hazel), and the only one that can't roll my tongue.

6. I was probably 12 or 13 before I realized that the small coffee-colored mark on the inside of my right wrist was actually a birthmark. Until that time, I used to tell people that I didn't have one.

7. I am convinced that every person has at least one "fact" we believe that is actually incorrect. Most likely something from our childhood that we were told by our parents or siblings, accepted it without question, and have never had it challenged as an adult (examples: I had a friend - a biologist - who absolutely "knew" that humans lost 90% of their body heat through their head. When I inquired why, she said it was because her mother said it all the time - right before her mother told her to wear a hat. My dad used to say that most vitamins in an orange were actually contained in the pith - the white part - and later admitted he had no idea, it was just something his mother used to say to get him to eat the entire thing).

8. I love board games! I make my friends play them when I have birthday parties, and my family always plays several when we get together for Christmas or other gatherings. My favorite is Trivial Pursuit. I don't understand why most people aren't as enthusiastic about them as I am. 

9. Usually, I have no regional American accent, but I lapse into a West Virginian one when I am very tired or angry. Or when I visit any part of the Appalachians. 

10. I regret not keeping in touch better with many, many people from college - my classmates are truly amazing women. I am glad that I have Facebook so that I can still see all the wonderful paths their lives have taken. This month will be our 10-year reunion (I'm missing it), and I will definitely prioritize making our 15-year one.

Mount Holyoke College
11. I find it ironic that, starting in middle school through beyond college, I spent years studying French and trying to become functional in it, even living in France for 8 months between a job and entering graduate school. However, I ended up marrying a Spanish-speaking man and living in a German-speaking city. There's probably a moral in there somewhere, but I don't know what it is.

Answers to the 11 questions I was given:

1. What is your go-to, most comforting meal? Definitely my mother's recipe for hamburger stroganoff. It is a family favorite and I'm still convinced that she hasn't fully revealed how she does it, since my attempts to recreate it are always just slightly off. 
2. Top 5 destinations you hope to travel to some day? I would never turn down a trip any where, any time. In no particular order, here are some destinations that have been on my mind recently: Cinque Terre in Italy, Angkor Wat, Japan, New Zealand, and Machu Picchu. (Are you reading this, B?) 
3. Top 5 places you have already visited? I feel like I haven't actually gone that many places, which is depressing (and needs to change now that I am in the middle of Europe!). Again, in no particular order: Paris, St. Malo (a small walled French town in Bretagne), Quebec, Costa Rica, and White Pine, Tennessee. The last one may not seem exotic - and it certainly won't make any travel guides. But growing up, my family would make the drive to White Pine at least twice a year to stay at my grandparents' house. We usually stayed for at least a week, and it was always a huge gathering of family - cousins, aunts, uncles, random peoples. Typically we went down in July for a large family clan reunion ("Meet your sixth cousin twice removed!") and Thanksgiving, a more "intimate" gathering of around 15-20 people. The house was always bustling, and my cousins and I always made it our goal to avoid the adult relatives as much as humanly possible by hiding in the basement. Now that my grandparents are gone, I don't have much reason to return to that area of the US, although I would like to show it to B at some point.
4. What song takes you back to your senior year in high school like it was yesterday? I'm afraid I don't have many strong memories associated with my senior year of high school - I was very, very eager to leave West Virginia behind. I did enjoy Baz Luhrmann's Class of '99: Wear Sunscreen, since I was in the high school graduation class of '99 (and my high school had 99 graduates, actually). However, during the summers between high school, I worked at a Girl Scout camp near Knoxville, Tennessee, and I have many memories of driving around in a camp van with other counselors singing "Bitch" by Meredith Brooks at the top of our lungs.
5. What was your first car? Technically I have had only one car with its license in my name, but the first car that I was "in charge of" was an '89 white Subaru that an older sister and I shared (we went to college within 15 minutes of each other). The car was inherited from my aunt, and my sister named her "Sweetie" because we had to encourage her to go places - particularly up hills. She couldn't go above 72 mph without significant shaking.
6. Coffee or tea? Definitely tea. Usually herbal. I don't drink caffeine in any form very often, and the only way I will drink coffee is if it has been seriously sugared and milked up beyond recognition.
7. What is your favorite thing to cook? Can I only choose one? Generally, I would say cookies. I love to bake lots of things, but cookies are usually quick and not very labor intensive (vs., say, cupcakes, which are also delicious but a bit messier). And so tasty.
8. Favorite thing about blogging? I enjoy telling stories and entertaining. I also love my family and friends. This blog is like writing dozens of emails at a time to let everybody back home know what I'm up to and how I'm feeling. I am really, really horrible at keeping in touch with people, so I love that I've finally found a way to do it, although I'm afraid it is a bit impersonal. (A close second: I find that this blog has worked well as a personal motivator, either to try things that otherwise I would be nervous about, or just as a reminder to get up and out of the house.)
9. Three pieces of advice you would give younger you? 1) Getting a PhD is a worthy goal, but it should be considered a means to an end - reflect on what you want your end to be. 2) Your parents always told you that you'd eventually find like-minded people and be happy - and they were totally right. Also, being an adult doesn't automatically mean that you are as wise as your parents - there are stupid adults out there. 3)  Take more chances. Try not to be so afraid - it's a lifelong struggle, but start now.
10. What would be your perfect date? I think this answer would probably change hourly, depending on my mood. But right now, I would say a tasty meal that I don't have to make or clean up, then fancy clothes and going out - probably to the ballet - then off to a restaurant for dessert (somehow involving chocolate and berries, please), then coming home, switching to some yoga pants, and spend a couple hours curled up on the couch playing Xbox games with B (cooperative ones, not ones where he beats my ass).
11. Could you recommend 2 books that moved you (any genre)? I have many books that I adore or would recommend. But (to me) books that moved me suggest books that had an impact, changed my outlook, ones that stayed with me after I put it down. I would say Little Bee, by Chris Cleave. Along the same lines (in terms of a book that has its moments of triumph but not necessarily a "happy ending") would be Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. On the other end of the spectrum would be The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander. It's non-fiction and really very funny - one could compare it to Bill Bryson. It moved me because I read it at a time I was feeling very disenchanted with my life, and it reminded me of the garden my family had growing up. It inspired me to start my balcony garden in Boston last year, and that in turn caused me to start baking/cooking more, and then I picked up crocheting again....basically, I blame that book for the spiral that turned me into a wannabe '50s housewife. And so far it's a lot of fun :)
Nominate other bloggers:

1. No Goat's Going to Lick That Off

2. Dubious Hausfrau

3. Gegenwart Bewältigung

(Lesson: I need to interact with more bloggers)

11 questions for others to answer:

1. What is your dream home and where would it be?

2. Favorite thing about blogging?

3. What are your top three most-visited websites?

4. Name a book you would recommend.

5. Favorite vacation you've taken?

6. Any plans for the summer?

7. What's the best way to spent a Sunday?

8. What gives you a sense of accomplishment?

9. Favorite Olympic sport to watch?

10. What is your go-to meal to make (either for yourself or company)?

11. What's your favorite season?

Thanks again to Melissa for the nomination, and thanks for anyone who made it through this entire post!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Settling in

So I am totally enraptured with our new apartment. Which feels great - I was a wee concerned that I would like it only in comparison to B's studio, and I'd start bugging B to move in another year or two (which is totally normal in Boston - many people I knew there, myself included, often moved every few years, but here, it's definitely not done. People find a place and hunker down).

But instead, I find that each time I tackle something, it becomes more awesome. I am currently baking cookies, my first attempt at baking here, and it's wonderful. The oven preheats normally, the estimated cooking times in recipes are accurate, and even though the kitchen is small, it's set up smartly and it's very easy to make things without lots of running around.

Today is a holiday (Labor Day), so B is home and we did a fair amount of sorting this morning and putting what we can away. The spare room is currently our holding space, so there are still a good dozen boxes and bags in there, but I felt ready enough that I just brought up 2 suitcases from downstairs to open and explore (I unzipped the first one and decided to bake the cookies instead, so maybe I wasn't totally ready).

Yesterday B took off work (his company grants a day off for moving locally, which sounds like a very reasonable policy) and we headed to Ikea. While I like to think that I am an adult and past buying furniture at Ikea, it turns out I'm totally not. There are a few pieces I am holding out for in terms of quality (mainly a couch and a decent mattress), but we ended up with quite a long list of items that we'll order for home delivery. However, we won't receive them until we come back from US in mid/late May, so there's only a limited amount of unpacking we can currently do.

For some problems, it's been one step forward and one step back. We picked up our new TV yesterday, which B was keen on setting up - but since we don't have a TV stand, it's currently just sitting on the living room floor. We bought some curtains at Ikea yesterday, so that we could keep our blinds up. Unfortunately, all curtains here turn out to be three meters long (!), so they dragged a bit. We tied them up so they don't cover the floor, but the knot of course defeats the purpose of having them prevent people from seeing inside. I am trying to convince B that this is a sign that I need a sewing machine.

I spent a couple hours outside planting some seeds and plantlings today, as well as pulling some weeds from the flower beds (I HOPE they were weeds - I tried to only pull out stuff I was confident about or that appeared dead).

In the containers: strawberry plants and a pepper plant. In the beds behind, a rose bush, more strawberry plants, and many plants of uncertain assignment.
 It was perfect weather to be outside, and apparently some neighbors felt the same way. There is a German-speaking family on one side of us with a young son and daughter (I'm horrible at guessing children's ages, but I would say the son was 5 and the girl maybe 2.5?). The entire family was sitting on their patio, and the boy had a play bow and an arrow that he was shooting around. We exchanged friendly hellos, but nothing more - I am still a bit unsure what the protocol is in apartments here, but I've heard that Swiss neighbors are usually not terribly welcoming at first (fine by me - otherwise I'd would've had to give my standard "Sorry, I speak only a little German" and pulled B out of the apartment to make conversation).

In the containers: tomato plant, raspberry plants, and 2 trays of expired seed packets (we'll see if any of them sprout). Behind - another rosebush, forsythia, and more unknown plants. This summer's garden will certainly be surprising, if nothing else.
At some point, apparently the little boy's arrow went missing, as both parents spent a bit of time wandering around on the hill looking for it. Later, B came out to join me on the patio, and the little boy gave us several curious looks as he re-emerged and continued the hunt. At one point while directly in front of us, he called back to his mother on their patio (I understood nothing but "Mama.....").

B turned to me and said, "He said that he thinks the strange lady next door stole his arrow."

To be fair, I wouldn't judge the boy if he thought this figure was in the business of stealing arrows. (Also, note the size of the plant I am holding in my hand. I really hope it was, in fact, a weed)
Of course, it turns out that the little boy actually said nothing of the sort. B is wonderful at straight-faced bold lies (at our wedding, he almost convinced my cousin that he used to play golf professionally), and usually I can call him. However, this time I bought it hook, line, and sinker. Point to B.

As punishment for him, I'm eating all the cookies. And they are go-ood.