Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bee's Birth Story

Four weeks ago today, thing got more interesting. (Caution: Post contains bodily stuff.)

On Monday night, the eighth of November, as we were getting ready for bed, I was hit by a wave of emotion. Something told me that this was the last night I was going to be feeling little squirmy moves in my belly because the baby, who was due the day before, would be born the next day. I told Mr K, but he wasn't completely convinced as I had no symptoms of labor of any kind. We went to bed and had a pleasant and uneventful night of uninterrupted sleep.

I woke up around 9 in the morning the following day, a Tuesday. I let Mr K sleep in a little bit while I started my day. As I was walking into the kitchen to fix a cup of tea, I felt a small woosh. I stopped but didn't feel anything else, so I continued with the tea-making and then ran a bath. After another small woosh, I let Mr K know he might want to wake up and slowly start getting himself and his camera bag ready to go. I soaked for about 30 minutes as he got ready. Around 10:30 I did the thing I had been dreading the most: I called the hospital midwife and did my best, in French, to explain what was going on and get some guidance. She told me to grab my bag and head in for a “control.” At least, I thought she said to grab my bag, but I was so nervous, I wasn't completely sure, so I called a friend and had her call the hospital to make sure I understood everything. She was unable to get through on her first try, so we sat around the house and waited a few long minutes while she tried again. Soon enough, she called us back to say we had understood everything, so we grabbed our bags, I said goodbye to the kitties, and we headed out. I dropped off pre-written notes for our favorite neighbors to let them know we were hospital-bound.

On our way the the station, we realized it may be a while before our next meals, so we headed down to the grocery store to grab a couple sandwiches and cold drinks. We got to the bus stop and saw we had a few minutes before our bus arrived, so we popped into the station for a quick final pictures as a twosome in one of the photo booths. We caught our bus and I was still contraction-free, so the ride was uneventful. We arrived at the hospital around 11:30 and headed up to the third floor, where we checked in for our control. After just a short wait, we were shown back to an exam room staffed by a midwife (the same one who had taken my phone call) and a midwife-in-training. I laid on the table as they put the monitor for contractions and for the baby's heartbeat on my belly and we laid and watched the needles wiggle for the next 20 minutes – baby doing fine, zero contractions. The midwife sent Mr K down to get a card from admissions for me and for the baby and while he was gone, the midwife-in-training got to practice her needle work by getting my IV all set up and ready to go, should they need it later. I spent the next 36+ hours with that needle and the little gauze bracelet holding it in place. Once that was done, they got me back on my feet to head to my room, where lunch would be waiting for me.

I reached my room and settled in to eat. Lunch was a couple slices of roast beef in a brown gravy, a baked, stuffed tomato, some soup and some noodles – not bad at all for hospital food! I ate almost all of it, after offering to share with Mr K, who wasn't feeling much like eating. After I ate, the midwife suggested we go for a walk to pass the time and see if my contractions would start.

We headed up to the roof of the hospital around two in the afternoon. It was pretty cool outside at this point, but the fresh air felt good. The view was impressive – Fribourg in every direction. We could see Mr K's work building and our apartment building. We walked a few laps and I began to get some twinges in my back but nothing in my abdomen. Mr K thought they were contractions and suggested I start timing them, but I didn't think they were. We walked a bit more until I felt like I needed a break and then we headed back to my room so I could lay down for a few minutes before we tried walking some more. The back pain got worse and worse and I soon found myself climbing out of bed and leaning over when the pain came, with my legs and back straight and my chest and face pressed into the bed. I still didn't think the pain was contractions, though. Mr K finally called the midwife when I refused to and they brought the belly monitors back in to watch for another 20 minutes. The midwife checked me and I was about 4 cm dilated – it was around four in the afternoon at this point. The monitor showed a strong baby heartbeat still – as well as fairly strong contractions coming about 3 minutes apart. By this point I was soaked in sweat and a little bit shaky – I'm not sure why I still thought the pains weren't contractions... The midwife showed up and asked if I was okay to walk to the birthing room and I said I was, but about three steps later, as I was leaning against the wall, immobilized with pain, I realized walking wasn't an option and gratefully accepted the wheelchair she offered. The wheelchair ride itself is a complete blank in my memory.

When I opened my eyes, we had arrived at the birthing room (the one I had liked when I first saw it during our prenatal course) and the midwife was running a hot bath for me. All modesty gone, I stripped naked in the middle of the room and made a beeline for the bath. The midwife had added several oils to the water and it smelled amazing. Mr K handed me my apple juice, which I sipped as I soaked in the water. The contractions got worse and I spent nearly all my time with my eyes squeezed shut. The midwife showed Mr K how to grab my belly during the contractions and wiggle it gently from side to side – this really helped with the pain. I soaked in the tub for around an hour as we waited for the anesthetist to show up for my epidural. The midwife said there was an emergency somewhere but that he would arrive as soon as he could. After one particularly bad contraction, the midwife looked at me and asked if I had felt like I needed to push for that one – I did. She waited for the next break between contractions and had me get out of the tub. As I stood next to the tub, she got a bathrobe half on me before another one hit followed, immediately, by two more with almost no break between them. I clung to a rope hanging from the ceiling, trying to remember to breath as the midwife and Mr K dried me off. My memory blanked out again but the next thing I knew, I was laying in the bed, wondering how the pain could get worse. The midwife checked me again and found that, in less than 2 hours, I had gone from 4 cm to 9 cm and she got a little nervous. Typically, I think, that takes closer to five or more hours : this is why my pain was so bad.

About half an hour or so after I got out of the bath, the anesthetist arrived. It was such a relief to see him. He suggested Mr K go for a walk and have a smoke or something and come back in a few minutes as he got everything set up for my epidural. I rolled onto my side and got hit by another three really harsh and close together contractions. We waited for a break in the contractions, but none came, so the anesthetists quickly got the epidural in (around 6:15 pm) as I held as still as possible. He assured me I would feel better in a few minutes.

Around 7:30 I was feeling much better – the contractions still hurt, but not nearly as badly. The midwife came in to see if I was ready to push. I gave it a good try, but wasn't quite ready, so she told us they would be having their shift change soon and to just relax and breath for a bit before we would try again. At 8:30, the new doctor and new midwife showed up and we got ready to go again. The midwife instructed me wait for the next contraction to start and then to take a deep breath for a count of three, and then to hold my breath while pushing “like you need to use the bathroom.” I only had to wait about thirty seconds before the pain came again and I did what she said. About two seconds into my pushing, the midwife began chanting “Again again again,” so I exhaled quickly and inhaled again and got confused when she looked disappointed. After repeating this another couple times I realized she meant “keep pushing” when she said “again” so the next time I kept it up and she got even more excited. After a couple pushes, I was having a hard time telling if I was making any progress. The midwife asked if I would like to feel the baby's head and helped me to reach down to where just the top of it was visible. The minute I felt the baby's soft skin and wet hair, I completely lost it and burst into sobs. This was the moment that I finally finally finally realized we were about to have a baby – the whole pregnancy had felt unreal and it never completely hit me. My hysterical sobbing got Mr K going, so we both cried together for a minute. The midwife (who was maybe 5'3 and 120 pounds) told me to put my foot on her hip and to push as hard as I could for the next contraction. Though I was concerned I would knock her down, I listened and when the next contraction came, I dug in my toes and pushed as hard as I could. I felt a rush (but no pain) and the next thing I heard was the midwife saying “Take your baby take your baby” as the warm, wet, pink baby was placed on my belly, cord still attached. Hot towels appeared and the midwife began rubbing the baby down as she (though we didn't know yet whether she was a she or not) lay on my chest. “Breathe, baby, breathe.” she said as she dried the baby off. A split second later, a little cry came out of the baby and got louder. I finally asked if it was a girl or boy and we checked – girl! Bee arrived with a ton of bright blonde hair and lovely pink skin. She weighed 3570g (7lbs 14 oz) and 50.5cm (about 20 inches) long.

A bottle of bubbly water, some dinner, and a few stitches later, we were back in our room, blissful and ready to sleep. Happy four weeks, Baby Bee!

Monday, September 20, 2010


New Years Eve 2006
I made Texas Caviar because you insisted it wasn't possible to have a New Years without black eyed peas - for good luck. It was just a small party - I think there might have been six people. Hardly a party at all, but it felt special. I can't remember what else we ate, which is unusual for me. We all tried to go see Asharah dance. All of us squished into Chris's car, but when we arrived at the restaurant, it was packed and none of us had enough cash to get in. It was maybe 20 minutes until midnight. You and Chris decided you needed cigars or cloves or something festive to celebrate with. We went to the 7-11 and at this point, our memories diverge : I remember you getting cigarettes and smoking out the front door, but Chris remembers 7-11 being closed. Either way, we were all laughing at how high school it was to be driving around frantically trying to find cigarettes in the middle of the night.

We all went back to Chris's little house in Sterling. He and I didn't have cable, so we couldn't even watch a countdown. Chris wrote a shell script to make the computer that we had hooked up to the tv countdown for us, so we all stood around the white screen and watched the tiny numbers change until midnight. Then we played DDR for a few hours.

None of this was anything special, and yet it's one of those evenings that we refer back to fondly and frequently.

November 21 2009
This was the last time I saw you in person. Chris and I were back for a visit and got a small group together to go out to dinner. I was so excited you were able to join us. We went to Texas de Brazil in Fairfax. For some reason, I only took one picture that night. I'm kicking myself for not taking more pictures, not having more conversations, and not keeping in touch as well as I could have.

Thank you for looking out for me at work, for humoring me when I drug you away from your desk and made you eat in the cafeteria, for being my only reason to smile on some of the darker days in the office. I feel so fortunate we got to be friends and so, so sorry I didn't get to see you more often. I have so many more scattered memories, but I can't pull my head together so well right now.

I miss you.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Car, boat, car, pool

Home again, home again!

Saturday evening we arrived back in Switzerland from our holiday in Corsica and, though I was happy to come back to cool temperatures, I kind of miss the swimming pool!

The trip to Corsica was an adventure in itself - all 30+ hours of it! At midnight, we drug our luggage downstairs and tossed it in the already-packed trunk of our friends' car. We had quite a group for this trip - three husbands, three wives (two of us are six months pregnant), and two kids under two years old. As you might guess, that combination for a nine day vacation adds up to quite a bit of luggage. The four of us headed out to meet the rest of the gang outside of town and then our drive began. Fun fact - you can get gasoline here at all hours despite the fact the gas stations are unattended - you just pay by card. (Can you tell I haven't driven in a while?) We had a drive of about six hours to Savona, Italy where we would then load the cars and ourselves onto a large ferry boat. I had hoped to sleep in the car, but unfortunately the curvy mountain roads conspired against me and I was unable to sleep for most of the trip. Little did I know, this was only the beginning! (Spoiler: Wikipedia describes Corsica as "the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean.")

After the first couple hours of driving, we ended up on a more major road and I felt well enough to get a little bit of sleep. We arrived at the ferry right on time and took our place to wait for our boat. We sat outside, surrounded by tourists and cars, and watched the sun come up over the water. Soon, the ferry arrived and we hopped back in the car for the surprisingly orderly putting-of-the-cars-on-the-boat. Once parked, we climbed a couple staircases to get to the floor where two of our friends had been kind enough to reserve a comfy little cabin. We all had a little picnic and then took turns napping in the four bunk beds in the cabin. The six hours of the boat ride passed surprisingly quickly and I was feeling much better by the time we arrived in Corsica.

From where we left the ferry in Bastia to our hotel in Corte (I think), we had another couple hours to drive. I have never in my life seen roads like this - you know those luxury car commercials were you see cars smoothly tearing along deserted curvy mountain roads? Yeah, it was like that, except with lots of other cars (many in various states of destruction and disrepair, no doubt because of the roads) and about three times the curves. Oh, and fewer guard rails - as in none. Just steep hills, sharp turns, and sheep everywhere you looked. Now, I've never really had problems with car sickness much in the past and, even more surprising, I have had no nausea at all with the pregnancy, but this drive found me making up for lost sick-time and in a big way. I have never, ever felt so sick in a car in my life. We took our time on the drive, but nothing really made much of a difference. Eventually we arrived at our hotel, a mere 18 hours after leaving our apartment. Mr K and I both immediately collapsed in bed to rest for a bit and try to get our bellies in order.

After about an hour of rest, we got most of the gang together to grab some dinner at a nearby restaurant. By this point my tummy was calmed and starving - it had been a LONG time since our ten AM picnic on the boat. The weather was gorgeous - warm and breezy. At the restaurant, we took a table on the terrace, overlooking a wooded area complete with melodically babbling brook. Dinner was excellent - I had a pork filet in a rich herb and wine sauce with veggies and crisp bread. Mr K started with a green salad that I, of course, helped with and then had a grilled kebab of two different fresh-caught fish with saffron rice. At the beginning of the meal, we ordered the apple tart recommended by our waitress, who informed us it took around an hour to prepare. The tart turned out to be about the size of a dinner plate and we were very happy to have decided to share it. It was amazing - one of the best desserts I have ever had. With happy tummies, we returned to the hotel and were asleep by ten.

The next morning we woke up and grabbed breakfast from the hotel's buffet - a carb celebration of the sort you only find here. Tens of different breads and cakes and tarts, butter, cheese, yogurt. I still miss the typical American breakfast of ham and bacon and eggs and what-not, but this was still good. I worried that we would not be stopping for lunch (I was right) and so I ate way more than I normally would have and soon we were back in the cars, heading to Ajaccio, where our rental house was located.

Once more, we managed to get sick within about fifteen minutes of entering the car. At one point on the drive, we pulled over to the side of the road so one of the other couples with us could feed their kids and give them a chance to stretch their legs. I spread my large wrap out on the ground and Mr K and I laid in the shade and got our breath back. Soon, we were all back in the car with just another hour or so to go.

After a quick trip down the most terrifying paved hill I have ever seen in my life (you know how it looks when you crest a hill on a roller coaster, right before you drop, and you can see straight ahead but there's nothing there? This hill was like that) we arrived at the house and everyone instantly felt better. The owner met us at the gate and walked us in and we found surprise number one - glorious, glorious air-conditioning. We walked out the back door and saw the gardens and pool and everyone started oohing and aahing. This is the first time I have ever seen a rental house that was actually prettier than the pictures posted online - it was just perfect. The owner pointed to the field next door and introduced us to the neighbors, a sleepy group of sheep snoring in the grass. Surprise number two was the three-day-old lamb who poked his headed out from behind his mother to stare at us - too much cuteness!

Back in the house, we figured out who got which room and unloaded the cars. The two drivers then piled back in to go off in search of groceries while the rest of us pulled on our swimming suits and hit the pool as quickly as possible - and this was where Mr K and I spent most of the rest of the week.

And this is where I'll leave this post. In the next couple days, I'll post a bit more about what we saw, what we did, what we ate (of course) and how we got home. First, though, I need to get Mr K to put a couple pictures up. See you soon!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The new project

Apologies for my three month absence - and after I was doing so well with my two-posts-a-month goal, too. Ah well.

The good news is I haven't been completely lazy and negligent this whole time - though it would certainly have looked that way had you wandered into our place anytime in the past few months and found me and two cats draped across the couch or curled up in bed. We've been working on a new project and I have to admit, it just plain wore me out.

Now, though, I've gotten my energy back so I'm going to take advantage and start catching up on the piles of unfinished everything sitting around.

So, yes, to put it out there - baby. First week of November!

We're not sure on boy or girl as the little thing is exceedingly uncooperative every time we get an ultrasound.

We've found a great doctor here which has made the whole thing more enjoyable. Yesterday he was trying to determine the baby's boy-girlness yet again, and once more getting no cooperation. After about 15 minutes of checking and measuring various things he said he needed to wait for the baby to change position, and while we waited he was going to check on another patient. Turning to Mr K and holding out the wand, he said, "Here - you ultrasound for a little while." And with that, we got to spend the next 15-20 minutes just looking on our own, which was a ton of fun.

In general, I get the feeling that everything is more relaxed and sane here. I've never been pregnant in the US, of course, so I can only go on the stories I hear from other people and things I read, but I've been very happy with the level of care we've received combined with the down-to-earth nature of the advice I get. "Eat healthy, stay active."

And with that, I'm off to grab a snack and go for a little walk.

Friday, March 26, 2010

"But don't you get bored?"

One of my internet-buddies, Terry Border (wire-manipulator-extraordinaire), published an interesting discussion on his blog about a phrase he finds to be particularly annoying : "They must have too much time on their hands." You see this line pretty regularly in response to interesting pieces of art, video, and music people post on-line. I hadn't really noticed before he pointed it out, but he's right - it's everywhere. I don't think it's usually meant as an insult, but it does have some pretty sad implications. Terry challenged those of the "too much time" declarations to try using some of their own passive-entertainment time (be it watching tv or surfing online) to create a little content of their own instead of dismissing the work of others.

In response to Terry's post, I wanted to write a little bit about a phrasal-pet-peeve of my own - one that I think comes from a similar mindset: "But don't you get bored?" During the past nearly-three years that I've been a stay-at-home-me, I've heard this line at least once a month, if not more. Each time another friend or acquaintance finds out I don't have a job, this is the response I get. "Aren't you bored?" "Don't you get bored with nothing to do all day?" "You must be so bored - have you had any luck looking for a job?" Each time I hear one of these variations, as well-meaning as I think they are intended to be, it surprises me all over again - the implication being that if you're not working, there isn't much of anything else to do. When did this happen?

I've found the past two years to be much more fulfilling than any in my working life. I now have the time and, even more importantly, the energy to explore things that interest me and to develop my hobbies. I have time to keep up with the chores and errands so C doesn't have to. I have time to focus on our meals. We both have more time for relaxing, we are under much less stress than we were before and we're the healthiest we've been in years. I don't understand how that can be seen as boring.

Despite the recent renewal of interest in craft and cooking and all those other grandmotherly skills our generation shunned just a few years ago, it still seems like most people have few or no hobbies that they pursue on a regular basis. I'm at a difficult point in this post now, where I don't want to come across as smug, but someone's going to think I am anyway, so here we go: more people need to turn off their tvs and step away from their computers for just a few hours a week and spend some time for their brains and bodies. (I'm sorry!) Once you get used to entertaining yourself, I think you come to find it a much more enjoyable way to spend some time. I'm not saying to never watch tv, to never use your computer (pretty sure a certain someone would consider kicking me to the curb for that kind of remark) but I do think it's far too easy to get in the habit of plopping down in front of one (or both) at the end of a long day or in a spare moment and lose yourself. A little tv is fine, a little computer time is good, a few video games are great, too. Sometimes, though, it's nice to do something else.

Confession time: before we moved here, C and I had quite the World of Warcraft habit going. We told ourselves that it was okay because we played together, so it was bonding time. We played with our friends, so it was social time. More than anything though, it's escape and it shouldn't have become nearly as much a part of our lives as it did. If I had spent half the time I spent playing that game practicing my banjo, I would be able to play that thing by now. If I spent half that time writing, I would have a passel of stories in my hands. If we spent a quarter of it exercising, we wouldn't recognize ourselves. It went from an occasional diversion to our only diversion... and ultimately, for us the only answer was to quit entirely - it isn't one of those games we could play casually.

So now, in the wake of my gaming addiction, in the aftermath of employment, what do I do when I'm feeling bored? Here's a small section from my 'always something to do' list:

Food stuff:
  • Cook something to freeze
  • Look for new recipes
  • Read about new ingredients
  • Send a favorite recipe to family and friends
Creative stuff:
  • Draw a picture
  • Sew something
  • Knit something
  • Crochet something
  • Take apart something you made but never used - arrange materials for reuse
  • Write a story or a joke or a list - anything
Social stuff:
  • Write an email (a long one - not just a couple lines)
  • Write a letter
  • Write a postcard
  • Ask random questions: learn new things about a friend or family member
  • Browse online and start bookmarking gifts for future birthdays and holidays
  • Play with your pet or pets
Healthy stuff:
  • Go for a walk
  • Stretch
  • Do a fitness dvd
  • Eat a piece of fruit
  • Go for another walk
Indulgent stuff:
  • Take a long bath
  • Take a nap
  • Sit in the sun and relax
Random stuff:
  • Learn a new skill or relearn an old one(think girl scout/boy scout stuff you know you forgot - knot tying, cloud identification, first aid etc)
Stuff you'll be glad you did once it's done:
  • Deep clean one small thing
  • Quick clean everything (I'm a big fan of putting a cd on and spending one song per room seeing how much I can get done)
  • Go through a cabinet or closet and find things to give or throw away
Sorry to have gotten so long-winded on this... turns out I had more to say than I thought! Anyway, I'm done now but would love to know what you think about it - and if you have any suggestions for the "always stuff to do" list, I would love to see them in the comments. I'm going for a walk.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's oh so quiet - again

My parents are now safely back in Pennsylvania and I have to admit our apartment is way too quiet. Taco and Waffle keep looking for their grandma to play with the laser pointer with them and I keep looking for the bags of pastries dad would bring home from his morning walks - we were spoiled!

We started off their two week visit with a sunny trip to Mt Moléson for some sledding. Before sledding, we took the cable car all the way to the top to enjoy a breathtaking view. The weather was perfect and clear - mountains in every direction. We grabbed a couple drinks and enjoyed the sunshine while watching the skiers and snowshoers. As we headed back down to start sledding, I must admit I had my concerns. When my first hill of the day proved to be more ice than snow, I didn't get any less concerned. After a couple more hills, though, everybody got the hang of it and we all survived despite a couple tumbles, a lot of snow in the face, a lost-then-found glove for C and the incident where I ran over somebody's hand (ouch!).

After a full day of sledding, everyone was starving so we met up with Dani and Steph and headed to Café du Midi for some fondue. We opted for the full three course meal - a plate of local cured meats with bread and butter (Dad proclaimed this greens-less dish 'The best salad ever') followed by fondue with bread and potatoes and ending with meringues and double cream.

We all spent the next day chewing ibuprofen and comparing bruises. On Tuesday, we went to the University to meet up with Dani for lunch and get a tour of his department. Dad was impressed with the University's lecture rooms and took several pictures. We went to the Villars café afterward and enjoyed some nice chocolate and coffees - the dark chocolate with a saffron center was my favorite by far.

On Wednesday, mom and dad and I headed to Zurich for a walking tour in the morning followed by lunch followed by meetings with a colleague for dad and lots of shopping for mom and I. We spent an hour in a huge toy store,where we bought nothing, and followed it up with another hour in an English-language bookstore, where we bought several things. We returned to the station to have some drinks and wait for dad to finish up after which we all headed to dinner.

We had another day of relaxing on Thursday - Chinese carryout and LOST on dvd.

On Friday, mom and dad went to Gruyères to see the cheese museum and walk around the town and castle. Friday night, our friends Oli and Célia brought their two kids and joined us for dinner - chicken tortilla soup, which seemed to be a hit as I had only the smallest dish of soup left over!

On Saturday, mom and dad left early to spend a weekend on the Glacier Express, sipping wine and looking at many many miles of Swiss countryside. They spent a total of ten hours on trains on Friday, but mom said it was the prettiest scenery she's ever seen in her life and now we look forward to taking a ride on it one day. Mom and dad spent an extra day exploring and came back on Monday. We all had raclette for dinner and passed out from cheese-overconsumption.

On Tuesday, Oli took dad to see the fire station here in Fribourg - he came back with a ton of pictures and cool publications.

On Wednesday, mom and dad headed to Thun for more castles and exploration. Thun is one of my favorite places to visit here and I was glad they had a chance to go see it and good weather to enjoy the views. Wednesday night, Joël took dad shooting while mom and C and I stayed home and relaxed.

Thursday night everybody but C, who wasn't feeling well, went to Steph's parents for a delicious Vietnamese dinner - no forks allowed! We gorged ourselves on grilled duck, mushroom omelet, soup, shrimp and a plum dessert. We had a great time, eating and laughing and talking until late and despite the required use of chopsticks, we all left with pleasantly full bellies.

On Friday, we did last minute laundry, shopping and packing. Mom and dad had never had donër kebab so we grabbed some for lunch - it was a hit. Once all the cleaning and packing was done, we stayed up late finishing the last season of LOST and early the next morning, mom and dad were on their way to Munich.

Whew - too much fun for one post!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Resolutions month one - checking in

The problem with February is all our excitement is coming at the end of the month, which is why I've been neglecting the blogging. My parents are here for a visit now and we're having all kinds of adventures, however I'm going to save those stories for another post and spend this one checking in on how I'm doing on the resolution front.

One goal was to read at least one new book per month - that one's been no problem. I read The Year of the Flood in January as my brand new book. I enjoyed it but not nearly as much as Oryx and Crake, its companion book. I thought The Year of the Flood started off much slower and, though I know the sing-songy poem-hymns are supposed to be pretty integral to the story, I found them distracting. Once the new characters in the story introduced began to intermingle with the more familiar characters from Oryx and Crake, I thought the book picked up and got more interesting. Of the two, I think Oryx and Crake is the more re-readable.

In addition to my new book, I also reread Lord of the Flies and Brave New World as I haven't looked at either book in easily sixteen years and was interested to see how well, for me, they've stood up. I remembered large sections of both but was surprised to realize I had completely forgotten both endings - I remembered a ton of detail and names but somehow my brain lost the ends. For February, I've started reading Jim Crace's The Pesthouse but am really finding the writing style to be an obstacle to getting into the story itself. I keep picking up old favorites from my shelf rather than The Pesthouse - I have to really make myself keep going with it.

Enough about books. I still haven't roasted a chicken.

As for my making something weekly, I've done tolerably well. I sent off a little watercolor painting for some friends to hang in their nursery for their soon-to-arrive bebe and I knitted hats for both my parents. I've done some sketching for a project I'm doing with a friend. I have done absolutely no writing at all. I have been practicing my banjo, though. CLAW ham-mer CLAW ham-mer CLAW ham-mer.

Haven't attempted a dessert but that may change soon since my mom brought me a big new cookbook that's really got my brain going, my hands itching, and my tummy growling.

I haven't yet tried to break the walking record but I've been at the gym a ton in preparation... okay, maybe not a ton, but three times a week easily.

As the the three new countries? Knocking two of those out in March - we're heading to Munich in a couple weeks and then I'm off to Milan for an overnight while I happily help Miz Asharah lug her dance-goodies to a workshop.

This one time, I totally spoke some French. Fer real.

And have I learned any German yet? As Mr K would say, in his best "Old Swiss Guy" impression...


What about you? How are your resolutions holding up?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010


This past weekend we took advantage of both an Easyjet sale and my in-laws' hospitality and hopped a plane to (less-than) sunny Brussels for some frites, waffles, touristing, beer and family togetherness.

We arrived a couple hours later than we had planned thanks to flight delays but all of our travel-stress vanished as we were greeted with a Southwestern-inspired meatloaf and cheesy-chili-rice - mmmm!

The next day we all slept in a bit late. Once everyone was awake and dressed and fed, we ran some errands and did some shopping. We ended up at a huge culinary store that sold pretty much every food-related item available in the history of all things nom-worthy. Behind the butcher counter, a hoof beckoned from the Spanish ham it was still attached to. The muddled scents of the cheese counter almost knocked me blissfully out. Rumor has it the chocolate aisle glows with an inner light and someone mentioned hearing harps while passing through... but I couldn't make it past the cheese and chips and crackers. Among other things, I found red onion chutney kettle chips that were luscious as well as bacon-cream-stuffed crackers that we actually forgot to eat!!!

On Saturday we awoke in a more timely manner as we had "things to do" and "places to see." We figured out the bus and the subway and headed to the downtown area. We checked out the Grand Place before heading to the Musical Instrument Museum, which was really well done. Upon arrival, you're given a pair of headphones. As you walk from exhibit to exhibit, the headphones play bits of music related to the display you're looking at. In an effort to stall on our return to the cold just a bit longer, we had lunch at the museum's restaurant, where Mr K learned that "filet americain" is Belgian-French for "steak tartare" which is Switzerland-French for "MEGA raw cow - moo moo." Mega-tasty raw cow, that is...

After lunch, the parents headed back home to care for the doggies while Mr K and I went off in search of a brewery my touristy book mentioned was worth touring. We only had a vague idea of where to find it, so we did some wandering through some of the more colorful parts of the city before finding it. The first thing that hit me was the smell - like plants and rain and peppery mold, but in a pleasant, nose-tingling way. The tour was self-guided and finished with a taste of two of their beers. I'm not a beer drinker, so Mr K won out on this one as I took a sip of my two beers, made the requisite "yucko" face and passed them to him. We got a tee shirt and a pack of beer to take back and share with the parents and made our way home for dinner - mmmmm veggie soup!

On Sunday, we headed back out in search of the Comic Strip Museum. It was fascinating to see so many original pages by so many different artists - the shrunk-down printed page does not even begin to do justice to the colors and lines and details in these originals. Comics (generally of the non-super-hero variety) seem to be much more popular here. The book shop in our mall has a whole hallway of the large-sized hardback format that is the most popular here. Sadly, they are expensive - usually 15-20 dollars/francs per book - a far cry from the 2.50-4$ soft copies in the US. Despite the price, I'm tempted to pick up a few for the French practice. After the museum, we met a friend who showed off the Mannekin Pis before taking us to a pub, where Mr K tried a variety of beers while I sipped a couple of the fruitier variety. I was interested to find that each beer comes in its very own distinct glass, no two beers alike. Our favorite was the Kwak glass. After a couple hours of sipping and catching up, we went for a short, waffle-punctuated walk before heading home for some hot chili and a rousing loss-er-game of Trivial Pursuit, Ancient Edition. I forgot how much fun that game is, even when you have no idea what the answers are!

The next day we headed back to Switzerland, stopping first at possibly the greatest art supply store I have ever seen in my life. We left with only four new pens, thanks to our already-stuffed backpacks. (Oh yeah - I forgot to mention we took only backpacks this trip - I felt so Euro-backpackerly!) At the airport we took advantage of Switzerland's not being part of the EU to hit duty-free for some chocolates. Back home, we cuddled the cats and collapsed to dream of frites.

And waffles.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Swiss Cookbook "Vegetable Soup"

One of the treats Christmas brought me this year was the fabulous Betty Bossi Swiss Cookbook - in English, even! Betty Bossi, it was explained to me, is sort of like the Swiss equivalent of Betty Crocker - think home-cooked meals that are hard to mess up. The recipes in the book are divided by region and ranked by flags - three flags is what your Swiss grandma might make while one flag is a more modern take on traditional ingredients. Two flags is somewhere between those two. The first thing I did was flip to our region, where this vegetable soup recipe, a three flag, immediately caught me eye. As far as I can tell, this is basically Soupe de Chalet, which we absolutely love. Pasta, cheese, cream, spinach - what's not to love?

Vegetable Soup
Prep time - 40 minutes or so

1 TBSP butter
1 leek, white and light green thinly sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 kohlrabi, diced (I substituted a waxy potato, diced small)
1 carrot, diced
2 cups vegetable stock
2 ounces dried macaroni (about a quarter cup, uncooked) [I used whole wheat - it was tasty]
2 tablespoons milk
1 can of white beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup cream
3 1/2 ounces of baby spinach
2 ounces grated Gruyere (It's all about the cheese, so definitely spring for the Gruyere... though, honestly, cheddar would probably be nice, too - just not American Swiss cheese)

Melt butter. Cook leek and onion over medium-low until softened. Add kohlrabi (or potato) and carrots. Add stock and turn up heat. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about ten minutes. Add pasta and milk and bring back to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for another ten minutes. Uncover and add beans, cream, spinach, cheese and warm through over low heat.

Season with pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

PS I changed the measurements to a more US-friendly version... if you want the original grams and mls, let me know!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Resolutions are so boring...

... nonetheless, all two people who read this blog are about to be subjected to mine. Honestly, I've never been much for resolutionifying and this is probably the first time I've taken the trouble to write any down in years. The main reason I'm writing them here is to remind myself - feel free to send reminders of your own if (when) you catch me slacking off.

I want to read a new book every month - fiction or non-fiction, but I'm not talking grocery-store-best-sellers. I'll try to remember to tell you what I've picked and, afterwards, if it's any good.

I am going to roast a chicken - it's silly that I've never tried, but it's true! Feel free to send any tips and recipes if you have them.

I'm going to find something to blog about at least twice a month. I'll try to make it interesting.

I'm going to create something every week - be it a doodle, painting, crafted project or piece of writing. When my whatever doesn't turn out perfectly, I'm not going to worry about it.

I am going to hunt down and perfect "my" from-scratch go-to dessert. Then I'm going to make it all the time. Again, suggestions welcome.

I'm going to break my long-walk record of 12 miles in one go... 18 would be nice.

I'm going to visit three countries I haven't been to yet. (Already have two planned, so maybe this one is too easy?)


I'm going to try to learn a little German while I'm at it because I should. Genau.

I'm sure I'll think of some more - and you?


I'm going to make a skirt - and actually wear it.