Thursday, 30 December 2010

We Went Sledding

In Grindelwald.

On Boxing Day.

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Ais was excited about it.

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I was stoked for the scenery.
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This is the bus that took us up, run after run.

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This is my favourite picture I took from the bus window.
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A sweet ride.
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The race track.

I learned that I had the need.

The need for speed.

I was surprised about this.

Usually I'm a huge chicken.
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My partners in speed.

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First down the track.

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Which means more time for pictures.

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It's possible I spent more time taking pictures than sledding.

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But it was all so scenic....I just couldn't stop.

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So Ais stopped with me for awhile.

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Things got a wee bit icy at the end of the day, and sleds took off without their sledders.

It's entirely possible we're doing it all over again this weekend.

Entirely possible.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Let's Talk Turkey

Well, to be accurate I guess the title should say 'Let's Talk Chicken' because though I did have the option of buying a tiny little turkey for over CHF 50.00 for Christmas supper, we had roast chicken instead and it was tasty.

We stuck quite closely with our Christmas traditions and we had fun. Christmas Eve was kicked off with the realization that my sisters weren't getting a Christmas miracle and their luggage wasn't going to arrive (still hasn't) so we had to rush into Bern so they could buy some nice duds that they could wear to the evening children's choir performance at the M√ľnster.

We all got fancied up, and I do think we polish up like diamonds.

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I don't have any pictures of the choir performance, but it was nice. All the lights in the church were turned off--it was so dark--and a few spotlights were turned on so the mood was set. The kids sang songs we didn't understand, there was a Christmas story we also didn't understand but which Dan translated for us later that night, and then at the end of the performance every one in the church had a candle that was lit, and we all sang a carol as we exited the church. It was really cool.

Walking out into the cold night, our breath frosted the air and we walked back to the bus under the light of hundreds of Bern's Christmas twinkle lights that were strung overhead. The soft light cast golden shadows over old stone buildings, and we tucked our jackets under our chins to keep dry against the falling snowing. I'm sorry to paint such an angelic picture for you, but it was what it was: magic.

After we got home we quickly got changed into our pajamas and the night festivities kicked off as we began making all the appetizers for our Christmas Eve feast. We had two flavours of chicken wings, hot spinach and artichoke dip, bacon wrapped lychees marinated in soy sauce, salami crisps with sour cream and basil, and curried meatballs with an ultra exquisite dipping saucing: Heinz ketchup. It took awhile to prepare all the food, and we finally ate around 9:00 pm, but oh it was worth it.

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We forgot to get a picture of all the appy's *before* we ate them.
So here's a picture of our gingersnaps, that we spiced up this year with candy.
(Don't you love the traditional Christmas shrimp?)
Plus the appy fall out.

After eating, we didn't play our traditional Christmas Eve charades but instead played a Swiss board game that translates to: Hey Man, Don't Freak Out (or something like that) and in true Canadian fashion, we managed to turn it into a drinking game.

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Here I am, putting on Cosmo's elf hat right before I had to get up and do a little jig.
Don't you wish you were there?

Here is a small selection of my favourite quotes that resulted from all this debauchery:

Anne Hathaway doesn't look like a girl worth fighting for.

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Who's responsible for making the Pope's hat and robes?

I don't know, probably a virgin.

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While remembering the choir performance, and recalling the low mournful sound the children made that was supposed to imitate a lonely desert wind but actually sounded like a wild afternoon in the jungle:

Well, here come the Christmas apes.

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People are dicks, WELCOME TO EARTH.

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While watching 'The Holiday':

Hey guys, don't you totally just want to jump Jack Black's bones!

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I'm one of those assholes that thinks farting noises are funny.

Who knows if you will also find these quotes chuckle worthy, but I assure you at one point I had to spit my drink back into my glass because I was laughing so hard I couldn't swallow and I risked spewing coke and vodka all over the game board.
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Some Christmas light, and look who begrudgingly allowed me to briefly dress her like an elf.

We rolled into bed really late on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day we didn't get up until 11:00.

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We slept almost as soundly as Cosmo.

When we were all awake we had a long leisurely breakfast of mimosas, grapefruit, smoked salmon and cream cheese, zupf, and poached eggs. 'Twas delicious. We spent the rest of the day watching Christmas movies and musicals (I've never seen Singing in the Rain before, talk about missing out!) and of course opening our presents. I got Ais a really cool cheese grater (hey, cheese graters can be cool) and we discovered that on the packaging it said 'grater-rape' so we spent a lot of the afternoon pondering what that was supposed to mean.

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Oh you crazy translators.

We phoned our grandparents and Skyped with Mom and Dad and we watched them open their presents, and I learned that all my Christmas cards and presents that I mailed out at the beginning of December have not reached their recipients. Do I blame this on the European weather 'issues' or do I blame this on Canada Post? Please advise.

We ate our Christmas dinner and then watched Love Actually. All and all, it was a really great and leisurely two days where all we did was eat, laugh, drink, eat, watch movies, laugh, drink, eat, watch movies. So on Boxing Day we decided to mix things up a bit and we headed into the mountains for a day of sledding. Details to follow on that, but one quote I will leave you with is that after Aislinn's sled made it to the bottom of the hill without her, her only explanation was:

I was grater-raped by the Christmas ape!

Maybe you had to be there....

Friday, 24 December 2010

Froehliche Weihnachten

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'God bless us, every one.'

Cosmo wants to wish you all a very merry Christmas, and he hopes the big guy in red spoils you wonderful people rotten. But just in case you find yourself on the wrong side of the naughty or nice list, Cosmo will be sure to put a good word in for you.

Poppy also wanted to wish you a merry Christmas, but she was feeling a bit overwhelmed by her elf duties so she has hidden under the darkest corner of the bed and will probably remain there until Christmas morning when her special Christmas tuna fish breakfast is served.

Juiiiccceeee.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Dis and Dat

So since my last post I'd like to report that we have conquered Switzerland as was the original plan, but the reality is that we haven't. At this point in my sisters' Great Swiss Adventure, we were to have gone sledding down an 8km sledding track, we were to have gone as far into the mountains as our boot clad feet would carry us, and we were to have eaten Mom's homemade The Best In The World Nanaimo Bars until we felt absolutely sick and green around the gills.

Unfortunately we have been unable to do any of the above because my sisters' luggage has still not made it to Zurich Airport which means their winter gear is not here, and necessary not-to-be-found-in-Switzerland baking ingredients to make fabled Nanaimo Bars are not here. This also of course means my sisters do not have any of their clothes or toiletries; therefore, Frankfurt Airport we're hoping that this year Santa delivers a big ol' lump of coal into your stocking as well as a manual for learning how to deal with winter weather.

Tip One: In December IT SNOWS and also IT CAN BE COLD because IT'S F*CKING WINTER.

Now I've been paying attention to this weather pressure system that's creeping its way across Europe, and with the exception of that ice storm a few weeks ago I see nothing unusual that we don't get in Canada every year. This same weather might delay our flights, but certainly doesn't cause wide scale flight cancellations and mass chaos for weeks. Yes some might argue this type of weather is unusual for these parts of Europe but I would say to them: I don't care. We're still in the Northern Hemisphere and snow happens so if you are assaulting people's pocketbooks so they can fly at Christmas you better be GD prepared to FLY THEM AT CHRISTMAS--suitcases and all.

Phew.

That was very cathartic.

Of course we understand how lucky it is that they didn't have to transfer at Heathrow, and that they actually did make one of only five of the scheduled thirty six flights that flew into Zurich from Frankfurt from Friday to Tuesday, but come on people: no one will begrudge them of their irritation that they have to hand wash their delicates at night and have had to shell out money to buy a few practical clothing items when everyone knows that on holiday you want to buy the least practical options available.

But despite the fact the mountains remain off limits at the moment, we have been having long leisurely days wherein the urban landscape is our playground. I have gotten my Christmas shopping almost finished and I have shown my sisters the splendour of Bern and the Munster, and yesterday we ventured to Montreaux to check out their famous Christmas market that winds around Lake Geneva.

Now the Christmas market phenomenon is widely reported on all Swiss expat blogs, so there's nothing new or original I have to offer but for those of you not in the know, the markets are collections of little artisan stands where people are selling their homemade, eye-catching, sometimes unusual wares. I haven't gotten a lot of pictures of these Christmas markets because to be honest they are crowded and I am usually too busy eating something delicious to wrangle with my camera.

(Psst...here's the truth: I have only been going to these markets to eat.)

But the few pictures I did take of yesterday's excursion, well here they are for your viewing pleasure.

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The ferris wheel was really fun, the food was great, but the company was even better.

Now we're off to watch The Notebook, make gingersnaps, and hope for a Christmas miracle that their suitcases make it here before Friday.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

We're Going to Enjoy the Sh*t out of this Christmas

My sisters and I walked through the door of my apartment last night just after midnight.

That would be exactly eleven hours later than anticipated.

Yesterday morning I woke up quite jolly, pulled up the shutters, and then...oh hey, remember that winter wonderland I was pining for?

Got it, in full force.

In a panic I booted up the computer and tracked their flight, and could see they were still arriving in Frankfurt on time, but their connecting flight to Zurich was cancelled and I had zero way to get ahold of them because they didn't bring their cellphones with them.

I pulled up every single conceivable Lufthansa and Star Alliance flight out of Frankfurt that they could transfer to, looked at the train schedules from Frankfurt to Zurich, and then made my way up to Zurich airport to wait for them to get in touch with me, and to watch the arrivals coming in from Frankfurt.

It was a really long day, I was surrounded by anxious people waiting for lost loved ones, and angry people waiting for lost loved ones. I even got to talking with one lady who'd been waiting two days for her niece who was from Canada, but arriving after a visit to Copenhagen; we had a nice long chat and she gave me her brother's business card so the next time I'm in Montreal I can get some really great cheese.

(When my brother first moved to Montreal, nobody wanted his cheese because people only wanted to eat that Cheese Wheez you have. I dipped my head in modest acknowledgment of our fake-food substitutes, but couldn't be that sorry because obviously she'd never tasted how delicious a tunnel of orange Cheez Whiz on a crunchy green stick of celery can be.)

I did experience anxiety when every single flight I thought they could transfer to either (a) was cancelled or (b) landed without them on the plane, but Meg finally was able to call me and gave me the details of the flight she and Ais were booked on.

That plane was delayed, and delayed, and delayed, and delayed, and I was starting to worry we were going to miss the last train to Bern, but as it was the plane finally landed so that we could take the last train to Bern and catch the last bus home.

But my long day in the airport has got nothing on Meg and Ais' day, where amongst other travelling nightmares (and there were a lot) they had to evacuate an area of the Frankfurt airport due to suspicions over an abandoned bag. They had been waiting in a four hour long line to get themselves booked onto another plane, when a lady left her bag in the line-up to mark her place while she went to the bathroom. When security demanded to know who's bag was lying on the ground, and no one claimed it, the whole line-up was evacuated down to some tunnel in the basement of the airport. Ais said that the people who'd been evacuated from the line-up just became little emotional torches, and were exploding in anger: especially the people who had been at the front of this four hour long line. As it was, this abandoned bag episode ironically worked in Meg and Ais' favour, because when they were given the okay to go back to the ticket counter, Meghan ran and shoved and got down right ruthless, and she was first in line: she got them on the last plane that would fly into Zurich that day.

As they walked through arrivals and we finally got to hug and exclaim: What the fuck! and Holy Shit! and I Can't Believe It! it was unanimously decided that we are going to rock the shit out this Christmas. We will have ourselves a 'merry little Christmas', we will bring 'joy to the world', we probably won't have a 'silent night', and this 'yueltide will be gay' because my sisters 'made it home for Christmas'.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Sibling Love

My sisters are coming to spend Christmas and New Years with us, and they arrive...TOMORROW.

I have a very close family, and if you can believe this I have never in all of my twenty-nine years not spent Christmas with Mom, Dad, Meg, and Ais. It is going to be a little weird not being able to spend Christmas with Mom and Dad, but I am so thankful that my two very best BFF's in the whole world will be here. And in anticipation of their arrival, I thought I would share a little story from our childhoods that will make you truly appreciate all the dynamics of a sibling relationship.

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I started babysitting when I was in grade seven. I used to babysit one family every day after school, and then on week nights and on weekends I was often babysitting. During the summer I had two steady gigs that kept me busy forty hours a week, and then yes--I continued to babysit in the evenings and on weekends. I had a little day planner that I kept track of all my jobs in, and it got to the point where people would have to call me a few weeks in advance if they wanted to secure my services. That's when I knew I had all the power, so I started getting choosy about who I would sit for and I upped my rates.

I cornered the market on babysitting in my subdivision and the reason was because I was a totally kick-ass babysitter. If I'd been a kid, I would have wanted me to babysit me: I knew loads of fun games, I stretched the bed time rules, and I didn't care if they ate the junk food out of the cupboard (within reason). If they had homework to do I made sure they did it, fighting wasn't allowed, but beyond that my motto was 'I'm not the parent'.  Sure some of the parents minded when they walked in the front door and heard the scampering of little feet off to bed, but honestly 98% of them didn't because when they came home at the end of the night, their kids were (a) still alive; and (b) happy. They had fun!

As a result of all the hours I logged, I became by default the richest kid my sisters knew. In fact, my sisters could regularly be found on their haunches digging through the trash can in my bedroom because I used to throw away any change below a quarter. Gah! Can you believe it?! Now if I find a dime in my jacket I'm all, 'Huzzah! This is going in the change jar.'

Now, you might think my cavalier attitude towards small change meant I didn't understand the value of a dollar, except you'd be (partially) mistaken. I was quite aware of how much it cost me to save up for those CK shirts, and Archie comics, and VHS movies, and CDs, so I became a bit of a shrewed business...ah...kid. Or, as some might have actually wanted to label me: an employer of sweat shop labour.

My two sisters who were ten and seven respectively, had a Money Club. Otherwise known as a How Do We Get Enough Money So We Can Go To Frank's On Friday Night To Get Chips And Candy Club. Every week my sisters would meet in their room and do a detailed accounting of the money in the Money Club jar, then they would tally how much they were short for chips and candy and start to get desperate. This is when I, like a shark that smells blood, would zero in on my prey.

Being the older sibling, I was the first to learn how to hone in on my sisters' weaknesses and then exploit those weaknesses to my benefit. And when they were ten and seven, their all consuming concern was 'How Do We Get Candy?'

Now while I was a very diligent and responsible kid, I really sucked at keeping my room clean. In fact, to be accurate I absolutely loathed keeping my room orderly. HATED IT. I can remember one time when I was about eight, my mom told me that I had to make my bed before I was allowed to go outside and play. I proceeded to spend the rest of my Saturday lying in a crumpled ball on my bedroom floor sobbing over the injustice of having to make my bed before I could go play. Mom won the battle, but I fought the good fight on behalf of kids everywhere until I realized I was ending up the looser because it was getting to be afternoon and I only had so much time left to play before supper.

Keeping my room clean was definitely a childhood challenge, but that all changed the day I learned I had disposable (literally) income and that I could pay other people to clean my room for me. So as my two dear little towheaded siblings sat on the floor of Meg's bedroom and agonized that the Money Club was short a dollar to get their Friday night chips and candy, I stepped in wearing my 'big sister superhero' cape and told my sweet trusting sisters:

'Hey! I know where you can get a dollar!'

Well, those are the most powerful words in any kid's world. My sisters stared up at me like I was Moses carrying the Ten Commandments; like I had just turned water into cola; like I had my very own cotton candy machine. Quite simply: I. Was. Amazing. 

'Where?! Where?! We've already gone through all of Mom and Dad's pockets. How do we get a dollar?"

'If you guys clean my room...I will pay you a dollar.'

Cha-Ching!

My sisters flew up like bottle rockets: Meg ran to get the vacuum, Ais went to get the dusting materials, and I went to the living room to lounge on the couch and read Archie comics as they solved that dull housekeeping task for me.

About an hour later, Meg breathlessly came to find me and told me that they'd finished cleaning my room. Slowly and deliberately I laid aside my Archie comic, I got to my feet and I proceeded to the bedroom to examine their cleaning job. Well my goodness. They didn't just clean my room, they Mr. Cleaned my room. It was absolutely spotless. I couldn't recall it ever having been so clean; there were no wrappers lying around, all my clothes were in the hamper or folded and put away, the carpet didn't have sawdust debris from my hamster all over the place, and my bed was perfectly made.

I walked around and tried to contain my surprise at just how above and beyond they went, while Meg and Ais stood in the doorway beaming like little cherubs. After my inspection, I reached into my pocket and bestowed upon them one round loonie.

Just one loonie.

One lonely dollar between two people for over an hours worth of labour.

Not a penny more.

(Heh, I'd never approved their overtime.)

Ais wrapped her fist around that golden disc--that key to Friday night feasting--and with genuine cries of 'Thank-you Caitie! Thank-you!' they ran off laughing with glee to get their bikes so that we could all bike down to Frank's Corner Store, get our treats, and then go home and watch TGIF.

You may all think that I felt remorse for having taken fiscal advantage of them, but you'd be wrong. My room had never been cleaner! For a solid three months they cleaned my room every week for a dollar, until they started to realize I was a slob and then they demanded more money to clean up my messes.

Little angels. They were learning the ways of the world.

So that's when I paid them each one dollar to continue their supreme cleans of my room, and that's when they felt like the richest kids in all the land: one dollar each and the small change out of my trash can! That guaranteed they'd never go another Friday without getting their sugar hit.

What more could a kid ask for?

Not much, actually. Not much.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

I'm Feeling Quite Grinchy

As of last night, all of the (shoddy) lights on our Christmas tree officially burned out and today I had to replace them.

You wouldn't expect so from a new tree, but there was bloody (green) carnage after the lights were dropped and replaced, and if you heard a yell that sounded like:

*&%$YOUCO-OPBASTARDSWHATSORTOFSHITTYEXCUSEFORATREEISTHIS??%$*#

Well, that was me. Sorry for being so loud. So instead let me channel my rage into a Christmas carol, because it tis the season to be jolly, even if you do want to throw eggs at the guy who sold you the tree.

An Ode

Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree!
You're really starting to make me angry.
Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree!
Thy needles are all dropping.

Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree!
Much pleasure thou isn't bringing me.
Usually the Christmas tree, brings me a lot of glee.
But Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree!
I really want to throttle thee.

Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree!
Thy candles will not shine bright
Otherwise we will be visited by a fire sprite.
Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree!
Your ornaments all hang quite limply.

Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree!
You really must know that you have caused me woe,
And after Christmas day I will throw you into the snow.
Oh Christmas tree! Oh Christmas tree!
Stop leaving so much debris.

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Bloody (green) carnage.