Monthly Archive for February, 2009

Swiss trains – so mobile!

I have wondered many times whether the Swiss are technologically challenged, considering the amount of paperwork and phone calls and letters and trips to government agencies I have had to do (nothing seems to be done online… or by email).  But the Swiss Railway definitely do not have any technology shortcomings.   I love what SBB are doing…  Now you can buy a ticket for the train using your mobile phone!   And when the train conductor comes around to check your ticket, you show them the code given to you on your mobile phone and the conductor has a bar code scanner / reader to check it.  How cool!  How easy.

I am not looking forward to going back to Auckland trains where they run half an hour late, break down, catch fire, the conductor never has change for a $20 and no machines to buy tickets in advance.  Ah well.

A very snowy drive

After checking the weather forecast on Saturday night, we decided to hire a mobility car and go for a drive on Sunday.  The weather forecast somehow forgot to mention that there would be truckloads of snow all day!  But we had fun anyway, just drove pretty slowly.  We decided to head to the Drei-Seen-Land (Fribourg region).   There were lots of things to do and see – the Gruyere Castle and Cheese region, lots of beautiful lakes, the Papillion.  The kids were keen to check out some butterflys and sloths (I know, weird combination!) so we went to the Papiliorama in Kerzers, also checked out the Murten See and went home via the Emmentaler Cheese Factory.  It is freaky how you drive 50 minutes south and suddenly everyone speaks French!

Was so good to get out of the house after a week of being home sick.  Man, I forget how dumb it is to be sick.  I take good health for granted.  Lets hope this week we are on the up…

It’s been a while…

Hmmm,  we haven’t blogged for a while!  Not because we haven’t wanted too, but because we have been very sick over the past week.  We were meant to go away on a road trip for a few days for Daniel’s birthday but had to cancel / postpone  :(

Will post soon.  I promise!

Top 10 Cars: Aston Martin DB4GTZ

I’ve added a write-up for the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato to my Top 10 Cars list.

Trying Taxes

Ah the Swiss and their love for paper documents and form filling…

Last week, I received the annual tax form, I mean BOOK!  It is pages and pages of forms to fill out.  I had a headache earlier on in 2008 just filling out one page for provisional tax (which, by the way, I had to fill out again after we moved to Aarau – why they couldn’t just transfer our tax details from one town to another puzzles me!).  Along with this booklet of forms comes an ‘easy tax’ CD – which is a wee bit helpful but really just adds so much more information than I can handle and all in proper high freakin’ formal German.

Anyway, I have spent the last 4 hours doing lots of searching in the German / English Dictionary and think I am on my way to having it all sorted! I have definitely increased my knowledge of the German language with wonderful words like:

Wertschriftenverzeichnis, Liegenschaftsverzeichnis, Steuererklärungsformular, Erwerbsausfallentschadigungen, Steuerveranlagungsverfahren, Vermögensbestandteile, Gehaltsnebenleistungen, Quellensteuerverfahren, Kontokorrentabrechnungen, selbstsständiger Nebenerwerbstätigkeit, Ergänzungsleistungen

Gotta love the Germans and their compound words!

Anyway, came across this article today from 2006… So it seems that some Swiss are looking for a way to reduce the stress and paperwork involved in tax forms.  And the saving on administration costs would come as a tax benefit to citizens!  How cool!  I wonder if it ever came into action – doesn’t seem that way in Aargau!

Ok, really tired and have a sore head and eyes so am off to bed now.

The Swiss are eating even more chocolate!

Before we arrived in Switzerland we read the statistics for chocolate consumption and found that the Swiss topped the world with and average of 12 kilos per person per year!  Well, the latest surveys say that the consumption has increased to 12.4 kilos.  According to this article, in this time of economic crisis, the Swiss aren’t cutting down on chocolate!  Well, it is supposed to be a stress relief, right?!

I really don’t know where the Swiss put the all the chocolate they eat.  They all seem so slim and I am always that only one in the chocolate eisle at the supermarket filling up my trolley.  Actually, when I speak to the Swiss they can’t imagine that they eat over 12 kilos a year.  Where does it go?  Someone must be eating it?

Perhaps the Swiss chocolate companies just make up these figures to make you feel like you have to keep up with the rest of the Swiss.  You know, peer pressure! Haha!

Sport Ferien

The Swiss schools have two weeks ‘Sport Ferien’ in February where most kids seem to go skiing or do something sporty in the mountains with their families.  Pretty cool huh?! Since we have done our skiing /snow / sporty thing in the mountains already, we had two weeks hanging close to home with no Spielgruppe or Muki Treff or much else on.  It has been pretty fun but I am glad everything is back to ‘normal’ this week.

Here are a few photos of what the boys and I have been up to.  Including a lot of train riding, sliding down slides, a trip to Zurich zoo, a trip to children’s playland called ‘Trampolino‘ (thanks for the tip, Cornelia!).  You wouldn’t believe that there were probably a hundred or more kids there by the photos, it was CRAZY fun.  We also made homemade pizza – Italian styles with the thin base and, man, it was the best pizza ever! At the zoo we saw a brand new baby hippo and a rhinosaur (Toby was sure it was a rhinosaur and not a rhinoceros!).  Toby was really keen to meet a chameleon and we found one at the rainforest enclosure at the zoo.  We didn’t manage a photo though, cos my camera fogged up in the damp air.  The rainforest reminded me much of what the Neuseeland summer is like – sticky and humid!  And with all the beautiful fern trees and palms – I felt right at home!

Glühwein

I made some of this delicious drink myself.  Hey and it wasn’t even that hard!  I wonder if the alcohol boils out while cooking it?  It might be good to know in case I have to drive somewhere after drinking a few cups full.  Oh, wait – we don’t have a car!  Sweet, i might have some more!  Oh, and you can add a bit of port (100mls or so) makes it even nicer…

Glühwein – Hot Mulled Wine

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle of dry red wine (750 ml)
  • one lemon
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • some cardamom (or ginger)

Directions
Heat the red wine in a pot (don’t boil). Cut the lemon into slices and add to the wine. Then add the cinnamon, cloves, sugar and a little cardamom (to taste). Heat everything for about 5 minutes – do not boil – and let stand for about an hour. Before serving, reheat and strain. Serve in prewarmed glasses or mugs.  Enjoy.

Slumdog Millionaire

I have just finished watching this movie – Slumdog Millionaire by director Danny Boyle (who also brought us Trainspotting, The Beach A Life Less Ordinary, 28 Days Later…), .  It is incredible.  I have watched my share of movies and I have to say, this is amongst one of the best I have seen.  It is set in India – a place close to my heart.  Although the movie is mostly entertaining, it does touch on some deeper issues and it doesn’t approach them gently or subtly.  These are issues that I have seen in action in India – where the guardians of children cut limbs off their kids so that they will get more money begging.   Seen the beauty of the Taj Mahal and the ugly slums & deep poverty right outside the gate.  It is a strangely beautiful country with beautiful people.  I must go there again!

Here are a couple of comments from critics:

A blast of raw, colourful energy elevates this gritty tale into one of the most enjoyable films of the year. And the fact that it also highlights some striking cultural issues makes it one of the most important as well.  (Rich Cline)

At times, it feels somewhat schematic and overloaded. But the spirit of the thing — both the narrative and the filmmaking — is undeniable. (Shawn Levy)

Visually dazzling and emotionally resonant, Slumdog Millionaire is a film that’s both entertaining and powerful. (Rotten tomatoes)

Go watch it if you can and want.  I mean, you don’t have to!  Just if you want and have the time!

Lindt Hot Chocolate

Ok, have you seen how all the chocolate brands seem to have a ‘chilli’ chocolate one in there somewhere?  I have tried the Frey Dark Chocolate & Chilli and wasn’t too excited about it, in spite of my love of spicy foods.

Daniel saw Lindt advertising their latest addition to their chocolate range – Grenadine & Chilli – and mentioned he reckoned it sounded nice.  The other day, when I was in Coop, I bought it for him (CHF $3.75).   When he opened it up the other night, I hadn’t intended to try some but he convinced me.  And man, am I glad.  It is so so good.  This baby has fruity liquid grenadine on chocolate mousse and somewhere in there is a bit of chilliness.  And of course dark chocolate with 70% cocoa.  I am a HUGE dark chocolate fan.

The chilli is just enough to tickle your tongue but not too much to make your eyes water.  And it isn’t too sweet so easy to eat the entire block (yip, thats what we did and now I need to go and update our chocolate index).

They have some other interesting flavours in this HOT range including Mango & Cayenne which is next on our list to try.  On the Lindt Germany website there are some weird flavours I haven’t seen here – Maracuja & Jalapeno, Papaya & Chilli.  Also Blueberry & Lavender, Lime & Green Pepper.

I used to swear by Frey chocolate (Migro brand) perhaps because my Dad always ate their stuff, cos he used to work for them (as taste tester / quality control!) and so I felt loyal somehow.  But after trying all the different Swiss brands I am thinking Lindt is definitely one of the best.