Author Archive for Michelle Willis

Lacking or Slacking?

We need to apologise for our lack of blogging. We haven’t been slack, it is that we have had no computer cos it died on us a few weeks ago. We have a lot of things to blog about so will have to catch you all up on that soon. Today is a big day… Toby, Noah and I are heading back to New Zealand. Our year here is up already, far to fast. Daniel is staying a bit longer to finish up with the apartment and work. But we promise lots more blogging adventures with us, whether from NZ or Switzerland!

Basler Fasnacht

I have been excited about checking out Fasnacht for months now. So inspite of still being a wee bit sick, I took the boys on the train into Basel for the Basler Fasnacht Wednesday parade. We missed out on the local Aarau Fasnacht. If we had all been well, we would have loved to go to the opening 4am parade on Monday in Basel too.

Fasnacht is a pre-lenten festival held in parts of southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  I can`t figure out much more than that about the history of it. I have to say that Fasnacht is one of the strangest carnivals ever. Does anyone actually know where it came from and why people wear crazy and quite frankly, scary costumes?! All the websites I check out don’t seem to really know. They do say you have to be a Basler to understand the humour of it.  And their dialect too.  I guess I didn`t really understand.  Like, what was with the Santa Clause look-a-like riding a giraffe with a bunch of aviator head, tropical musicians?

And why do they throw fruit? An elderly man standing next to me wasn’t so lucky, I guess his reflexes weren’t so quick and got and orange thrown at his nose. There were oranges and bananas being thrown in every direction. Along with garlic and leeks?! I know, random! Of course, HUGE amounts of confetti everywhere.

Noah wasn`t too excited about all the noise and fuss.  Well, he fell asleep, so I guess that kind of gave an impression of boredom even though there were always about 5 different bands and flute groups playing around him. The noise was defeaning!  Have to give the musicians credit for being able to wear the heavy costumes, maneuver around town and play instruments (trying concentrating on the song you are playing while 3 other groups are playing something else right next to you!)

It was one of the weirdest events I have even attended, but I am still very impressed. It was pretty cool to be part of this festival, even if  just for an afternoon, and even though I didn`t get it. The costumes were incredible and must have taken lots of work and imagination. And the music was cool. Loved all the piccolo playing gnomes and colourful drummers. I love that people get into character and have no shame in wearing any costume and acting the part. Lots of the crowd were dressed up too, even wee one year olds.   Would love to the see the New Zealand crowd actually get dressed up for real. I have been to heaps of ‘costume parties’ where no one has bothered to get dressed up. SAD! Us New Zealanders have a lot to learn when it comes to tradition, costumes and throwing party parades!

Green Eggs & Ham

Since we are managing to stay sick (running into week three now!), reading stories to the kids has been quite popular. The most favourite book at the moment is Dr Seuss `Green Eggs & Ham`. I saw that Google paid tribute to Dr Seuss yesterday with this cool Dr Seuss logo:

dr-seuss

A bit of interesting trivia – Did you know Green Eggs & Ham was written using only 50 words? Here is what Wikipedia says:

Green Eggs and Ham is one of Seuss’s “Beginner Books”, written in a very simple vocabulary for beginning readers. The vocabulary of the text consists of just fifty different words, of which 49 are monosyllabic (the one exception being “anywhere”)…

Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’s publisher, wagered $50 that Seuss could not write a book using only fifty different words. The bet came after Seuss completed The Cat in the Hat, which used 225 words. - Wikipedia Article.

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!

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.