Sunday, 27 February 2011

Quality Over Quantity

Yesterday morning Dan and I decided to hold our Saturday morning coffee date at Starbucks, instead of one of the little cafes we always frequent.

I told Dan to get me a small latte and a muffin, and I went to hold us a table. When he brought our mugs over, I saw that he'd accidentally gotten me a medium latte but didn't say anything about it. As our morning proceeded, we picked at our greasy blueberry muffins, sipped our sweet beverages, and chatted the hour away.

By the end of the hour I still hadn't finished my coffee, so I did that little 'I've eaten too much but should finish it' sigh, and swallowed the sugary dredges. "Sweets, if we come back to Starbucks again I don't think I can handle a medium coffee. I think I can only stomach a small now."

"Uh, that was a small. I have the medium."

And sure enough, I put my baby mug next to his Papa Bear mug and my eyes bugged out of my head. "Oh my god, that was huge small! That was so much coffee. And look at yours!"

Peering into Dan's mug, he still had over half his coffee left, which he mournfully gazed at as well. "I know, I can't finish this. It's enormous. I can't believe I used to drink these, or the larges, all the time."

"And you know, the blueberry muffins were gross. They were super oily and had no flavour."

"I was thinking the same thing, but didn't want to complain. I also found the coffee way too sweet, it was too weak, and generally not very good."

Then we stared at each other in disbelief for a moment before exclaiming, WHAT'S HAPPENING TO US?

The answer?


Switzerland is happening to us.

When we go to our usual cafes and order a coffee, we receive a strong brew that only comes in one size, which by North American standards is "teeny-weeny." Yet after months of drinking that little cup of flavourful coffee and having a homebaked treat on the side, we have unknowingly been turned off of our favourite North American indulgence:

Mediocre excess.

"Oh my goodness Dan. Can you imagine what's going to happen when you have a Tim Horton's Double-Double again? What are you going to think?"

And Internet, just so you know, an extra-largeTim Horton's Double-Double was Dan's baby blanket. That cuppa-java was his absolute favourite indulgence, and if he had one of those steaming brews in the cup holder and a long car trip on the horizon, he was the most content human on the planet.

"Oh god," he groaned in absolute disappointment, "don't even say it. I already know I'm going to hate it. It's going to taste watery and disgusting. That makes me so sad."

We solemnly contemplated that our fellow Canadians were going to think we're arrogant douches because we might end up snubbing the almighty Starbucks or Tim Horton's based on the most cringe-worthy reason of all: 'flavour'. They were going to start looking at us sideways and referring to us as those unorthodox pricks down the road who think they're better than every one else because they don't like the holy grail of Canadian coffee: a Timmy's Double-Double.

It was a quiet moment we shared, and then I said, "Great the next thing you know we'll start to think that every one in suburban North America drives outrageously sized vehicles for their super dangerous and all-terrain trips of navigating paved roads to go to and from the mall. Haha.....ah, crap."

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Because Life Should Be Sweet

In the same way that serious music fans need you to know that they were fans of Justin Bieber before he sold out, got a bowl cut, and became JUSTIN BIEBER, I need you to know that I was a die hard Lululemon convert before it was LULULEMON.

I don't know why people need to do this; profess that they were 'in the know' well before you were. That they were so in The Know they wrote The Handbook of Know, they cross referenced their Know, and now you are just a pitiful lemming that thinks you Know, but don't know. In fact, you will never know because the person who is in The Know can't be associated with the object of their Know anymore because too many people think they know, so they leave and take all their Know with them, giving you a scathing and pretentious backwards glance for clearly being such a lesser person to not have Known sooner than the radio told you to. 

You know?

Okay well I'm sorta-kinda-maybe-you-don't-have-to-squint-that-hard-to-see-it like that about Lululemon. That Canadian yoga apparel company who's humble beginnings all started out in a little store in Vancouver's Kitsilano beach, and is now a booming global company.

Whenever someone professes their love for Lululemon, I give a casual yet slightly exasperated agreeable eye roll because, duh I totally know and knew way before you and anyone else who lived outside the greater Vancouver area or didn't travel there for shopping sprees.

It's a character flaw I'm not proud of.

Then said person asks me 'don't I just love how my Groove Pants make getting into the lotus position so easy?' or 'don't I just love how my Still Pants make me feel so much more grounded and open to receiving my sun salutation?' and these questions are really irritating and embarrassing because then I have to admit none of my yoga clothes have ever touched a yoga mat.

I wear them to eat popcorn.

But that still doesn't stop me from spending copious hours on the Lululemon website, browsing which jackets will look best on me as I eat ice cream, or which fancy shorts I could buy in order to wear them down to the mailbox, or what about some tank tops that show off my ripped biceps...ah, never mind. Clicking away from the tank top page.

So I was on the website on Monday when their blog-author-person-whoever posted a recipe with the suggestion that it could serve as an alternative to birthday cake. I read that line and was all, "Whatever, birthday cake is delicious and should never be substituted." But I did appreciate the recipe because it's for a sweet treat that I haven't had in years.

So I made it.
Hello pav-love-a.
(aka pavlova)
Come hither.
Have you met Mr. Fork?

And the best part about this pav-love-a is that because we're grown-ups and we can make smart grown-up decisions, WE'RE EATING IT FOR DINNER TONIGHT.

You read that correctly, Internet. This isn't dessert. It's dinner. I've already bastardized Lululemon enough, why not also twist their recipe's purpose?

(That gasp you just heard was my health conscious Mother who can't believe this is my dinner.)

(Also, this picture doesn't do justice to the copious amount of vanilla bean flecked whipped cream I've loaded on.)

(Sorry Mom, but I ain't sorry!)

Dan came home from work and I excitedly told him that this pav-love-a was going to be our dinner. He inspected all the fruity-whipped-cream-meringuey goodness and asked me if there was hopefully, per chance, any meat baked into as well.


Now I'm going to put on my yoga pants, get my Groove on, be Still, and enjoy some pavlova...FOR DINNER.

Life is sweet.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Things I Currently Don't Understand

1. Shape-up Sketchers, and people who wear them with tapered jeans.

2. Why all teenage boys suddenly appear to look like little gangsta Christiano Ronaldos. Giant diamond studs in ears; hair that is part mullet, part mohawk, all gel; eyebrows that are tweezed and/or waxed; designer clothing that screams "I'm a skeezy little punk who can't spell or do basic addition" aka Ed Hardy attire.

3. Why I started thinking, " these days" as I observed said skeezy little punks.

4. How one can literally pull handfuls of hair from perma-shedding little Poppy, and it doesn't make a dent in her coat. Seriously. Rogaine needs to study her genetic code, and then put it in a shampoo because that girl can loose hair and grow hair like any bald man's dream.

6. Why I bother to eat any flavour of joghurt other than chocolate.

7. The German language.

8. Why I've only been sledding once this winter.

9. How Cosmo remained locked in my coat closet for over four hours, and I didn't notice. The absolute still and calm of the apartment should have been my first clue that something was wrong.

10. Why Cosmo still madly dashes to push around your legs and scramble into the said coat closet, even after his (non) traumatic experience of having been accidentally locked in.

11. Why light denim is making a comeback.

12. Why I bought into the trend by purchasing a light denim jean jacket (that I love!). Oh fashion. I can be such a follower if the price is right, and my shirt doesn't look like it's been tattooed with a sparkling tiger that has a rose growing out of its mouth (I'm looking at you skeezy teenage boys and your Ed Hardy fetish).

13. Where I can get some movie theatre popcorn without having to go to the movies.

14. Why I don't have a hot tub on my deck.

15. Why I can't cry on demand. That would be a really useful skill to have, don't you think?

But...but...honey...I'm so homesick....I...really...sniff...sniff...think...sob...this...dress would help...hic...because it reminds me of my sisters...WAIL.

I'm going to work on that.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A Social Network

I have been finding Switzerland a tad difficult to socially navigate.

And please, under no circumstances are you to read the above line and assume that I'm showing up on people's doorsteps with an apple pie and an eager 'let's be friends' smile, only to have the door slammed in my face.

Not at all. 

What I mean is that I can't even get an invitation to show up on people's doorstep with my apple pie, let alone get them to show up on my doorstep. This is not a statement that is meant to imply that the Swiss are unfriendly, uncivil, or unwelcoming. Not at all. In fact, I don't actually find Swiss people to be--as a general rule--any of the above, despite what other expats may believe. Encountering a rude person in Switzerland is no more rare or common than encountering one in Canada. There are assholes all over the world; why should Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Japan, exempt from having some of these jerky citizens? So with that little explanation out of the way, please understand that I haven't been finding Switzerland hard to socially navigate because of its people, more because of its social formalities.

I don't mean call Switzerland 'quaint'...but it sort of is. Even at the most basic level--language--there are rules for how you speak to people based on your relationship to them: if they are an elder, or someone you don't know, you speak to them in a formal manner as a sign of respect. Of course in English you can choose to use this same rule when speaking to an elder or a stranger, but truthfully (in Canada anyhow) these formalities, signs of respect, are not that common as increasingly we have become a more casual society. And as Switzerland is decidedly not a casual society, I've been having a hard time with that. 

There appears to be some unwritten code for the appropriate time frame in which you invite someone over for supper, or to meet for dinner, and I have not discovered this magic window. Three days notice is never enough time, one week also not enough notice, two weeks is iffy, and asking three or four weeks in advance usually results in 'too' much notice being given and they don't know what else will be going on so they can't commit.

I was seriously starting to develop a complex.

Do I smell?

Are we boring?

Is it because we have cats?


Then I wondered, am I supposed to be sending out a formal invitation in the mail? Because guess what Internet, people in Switzerland still send invitations in the mail for events other than weddings. As I said, I am coming from an informal society and I am not used to getting invitations in the mail. Especially an invitation received in January for a birthday party happening in August, where an RSVP is required four months prior to the party date. Asking someone four weeks in advance to come 'round for supper is excessive, but delivering a birthday party invitation eight months in advance isn't?

I don't get it.

I suggested to Dan that we should join a doubles tennis league or co-ed soccer club just for fun since I don't know how to play either, and then I could meet some people, but my Swiss informed me that to actually join one of these leagues and not play competitively would be seen as an insult. Great.

So after seven months of participating in a social dance where I wasn't learning the steps, and just seemed to be crushing people's toes, I decided it was time to sign up for German lessons.

Oh I know, I know, I should have you all believe that I had a pure and pining need to learn this guttural language just for the honest sake of communication. Right. The real reason I joined is because I wanted to make some friends that I could call on the fly and meet-up for coffee in one hour, instead of one week.

And guess what?


This has been the most social week I've had since moving to Switzerland!

First of all, I met up with Melissa who isn't in my German class, but actually lives in Zurich. We met through the Internet. We're going to be a 21st Century friendship. Melissa's from Chicago, and we had some coffees, good eats, and...and...and...WE SPOKE ENGLISH AND LAUGHED A LOT.



Major success!

I plan on harassing Melissa in Zurich in the near future when I go up there to pick up Dan's brother and his fiancee from the airport.

(Side note: though I for some reason never did blog about this, I met M'dame Jo for a casual lunch this summer, and she's also a doll.)

So anyhow, riding high on the realization I may have finally cracked my shell of shyness, I had the girls from my German class round for drinks and appies on Friday night. It was so great! Especially since (by Swiss standards) I gave the most minimal notice and they accepted!


I learned that I don't smell.

I'm not boring.

And that it's no problem that I have cats, since all the girls wanted their pictures taken with adorable Poppy and high strung Cosmo (though his efforts to bat our cupcakes off the coffee table and eat them weren't appreciated).

And also, we might do it again this Friday.

Or not.

We're going to wing it.

We won't send out an invitation in the mail.

We won't block out a time in our weekly calendars.

We'll just see how we're all feeling on Friday.

And that feels great.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

What Do You Mean We're Not Observant?


That was a grumpy and irritated huff.

Remember the bare light bulb hanging above our dining room table?

Remember me?
I'm the bare little light bulb. still looks like that.


It is really difficult to explain why we haven't bought a light fixture yet. Or's not difficult to explain. In fact, how about I give a rousing cheer as to why the bulb hangs bare.

Give me an L; give me an A; give me a Z; give me a Y! What does that spell?


And we procrastinate.

Oh, that's the same thing.

So today Dan explicitly took the afternoon off work so that we could run around Bern and beyond, be free from weekend crowds, and get some things we needed (I'm not packing it all, yo). And on our list was the long awaited light fixture. Because you just can't beat Ikea's prices, we chose to go there to buy our little bare bulb a pretty chrome dress, or black dress, or maybe a sparkly chandelier dress, or maybe a paper dress? We hadn't decided yet.

So after we got appropriately sidetracked in Ikea and filled our cart with items we hadn't intended to purchase, we finally hit the lighting department. There was a lot of humming and hawing over the fixture we would get because after letting the bulb hang bare for over nine months (shame) we had to bring it home something pretty to apologize. Not just any shade would do.

In the end we chose a lovely black fixture from the Ikea Spring 2011 collection. You'll just never regret a black light shade you know, it goes with everything. Every home should have one. We thought we'd done a very fine job picking out the shade, and we were confident our bare bulb would be happy with our choice. However, upon getting it home we *then* remembered that our light bulb is not centered over our table. So buying a lamp that hangs over a chair and not the center of the table doesn't work.


You'd think that after staring at that disgraceful bare bulb for nine months, it would be seared into our brains that it's off center in the room.



This irritates me. Now, if any one has an old couch, a pile of raggy old goodwill clothes, or a senile great-aunt they're trying to get rid of, just drop them off at our place.

We probably won't notice.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Shot Through The Heart


Can we all agree that Hallmark wants us to believe that Valentine's Day is a big deal?

It's not as big a deal around Bern (possibly because German is hardly the language of love. Ich liebe dich! Ah, geshundheit?), but there are a few signs here and there reminding shoppers that today is Valentine's Day.

I always associate Valentine's Day with that squirmy and uncomfortable feeling my seventeen year old self felt when I was sitting in biology class and hoping to God that the 'Cupid' who was delivering secret admirer carnations wouldn't give one to me. Incidentally, he didn't. Which then led to further squirmy and uncomfortable feelings because WHAT ABOUT ME CUPID? HUH? WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME? WHERE'S MY CARNATION?

Well Internet, I just wanted to make sure that in case some pimply teenage toga-wearing Cupid didn't show up in your biology class today, you wouldn't be without a carnation. In other words, don't wait for someone else to do it for you, go get yourself the flowers and chocolate (and if you wait until tomorrow they'll be half price--SCORE!)
Happy Valentine's Day, lovelies. 

Sunday, 13 February 2011

And Then We Walked Here...

...because we'd never been there before.







What I appreciate the most about living where we do is the easy access to hundreds of walking trails. You can choose to walk for sixty minutes to six hours.

No direction is off limits.

Only you cap your own distance.

Dan and I are starting to keep a log of all the walks we're doing this winter, and then all the hikes we'll do this summer.

We want to remember the directions we chose.

The distance we've travelled.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


On Saturday Dan and I laced up our walking shoes and hit the great outdoors to soak up some Vitamin D and work up an appetite so we'd have reason to justify all that freshly baked bread we would cram into our maws when we finished our stroll.

In hindsight, I look back on that day and smile fondly on Saturday Morning Caitie, because she was a girl who had no idea that there was a mystery waiting for her on the walking trail. A mystery that would result in her taking so many pictures in an effort to figure it out, her walking companion would stalk up to her thirty minutes later and threaten to take her camera away if she didn't get the lead out.

Apparently said walking companion lost interest in said mystery just a few seconds after glancing it. Which I guess means said walking companion didn't exactly find it mysterious.


So we were walking by the river when Dan absently said, "Hey, look at that," as he pointed at a rock face that had an old iron gate welded into the stone. "That's pretty cool," he shrugged before bypassing the sight completely and continuing up the trail.

I was not so impassive about the strange sight.


Yes, I really did speak in caps-lock. Sometimes I get really excited about stuff, what can I say.

I bet it is a tomb!
People left out prayer candles!

So Dan wandered back and stood in front of the iron gate for a minute and conceded it was a bit of a mystery. The gate was locked, and looks like it hasn't been used in years.

This is some seriously negligent housekeeping.

Very un-Swiss.

Of course I shook and rattled and tried to open the gate that is welded shut and doesn't look like it's been opened since Joan Rivers was a baby. And when that (obviously) didn't work, I stuck my hand through the creepy gap at the top of the door.

I don't know why I did that....
But hey, I still have all my fingers. 

As Dan walked away from the gate I shouted back to him, "What do you think it is? A tomb? Do you think there are centuries old dead bodies back there? Is that the reason for the candles? Modern Goths are paying their respects? Or maybe an eccentric old loner lived out here until he was a 103? Or maybe this cave is from, like, cavemen times!"

"Yeah, I doubt it," Dan replied as he meandered away.

"You doubt what?!"

"Pretty much all of it..."


So we have some English broadcasting channels now (don't even get me started, I know it's bad for learning German, blah, blah, blah) and I'm obsessed with this one archaeological show where a dude travels around the world and looks at new discoveries of ancient times.

Obviously this cave isn't a new discovery if it's right on a walking trail and people are burning Migros prayer candles at its entrances, but that doesn't mean this cave can't be old! So I decided to employ a few tricks I've learned from the show, and that is to look at the scene as it might have looked, way back when.

I imagine this it what the area looked like oh, a hundred years ago before the world was in colour.
And these aren't just stones, I bet they were steps.

And these are the remnants of carefully laid stones, that formed a floor.

I poked around some more and found what I think is a really old fountain, but I didn't take pictures of that. And since Dan had long since left the vicinity, I had to resort to my pathetic German skills to ask a couple of Swiss folks if they knew what this cave was.

And guess what?


The teenage girl told me that she has tried Googling this a lot, but she can't find anything specific to the history of the cave.

The mystery continues...

The rock this cave is built into is called "Heiti Bueffel" and I'm just going to boldly declare that 'Bueffel' means buffalo. I haven't checked in to that, but I like to live dangerously, and it sounds similar to buffalo so I'm going with that. (Who even knows what Heiti means?) Is this an old buffalo cave? Did buffalo roam in Switzerland? Did they hide out in caves? Did they practice iron work and fashion a gate? Were buffalo the original stone masons and they chiseled stone steps? Is there buffalo cults in Switzerland and members lay candles at entrances to buffalo caves? Why is this rock (possibly, maybe) named after buffalo?

I certainly haven't seen any buffalo roaming about, but I have a theory about why the rock buffalo may have left.

They totally got chased off by the rock bears.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Odds and Ends

1. Dan and I went on two gorgeous walks this weekend, and I took a jillion pictures each day.

2. I am avoiding going through those jillion pictures.

3. A guy in my class has adopted me as his sister. Specifically he always says: "Caitlyn, my sister. My sister."

4. I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother. Now I know it's sort of irritating. Especially if said adopted-brother is always leaning over your work, tapping your page, and teasing you that everything you're doing is wrong and that you 'need to listen to your brother'.

5. I don't know if I was mentally prepared for a brother.

6. Caitlyn? Caitie? Cait? WHO AM I?

7. The correct answer is 'e': all of the above.

8. Our neighbour is coming over for coffee and cake tonight because I need to practice speaking German with a person whom I won't end up telling to 'sod off' when I get frustrated. I'm really only looking forward to the cake.

9. Today I wore a tank-top and sat on my balcony, getting blasted by sunny sunshine. What up February, want to be BFFs?

10 My cats are photogenic.



11. I'm thinking of cutting my hair to this length:

Image via Google images

12. Should I do it?

Friday, 4 February 2011


When we were in Adelboden last August, one night Dan and I were curled up in front of the television when English broadcasting interrupted my usual: "blahblahblahIdon'tknowwhatthey'resayingblahblahbl--WAIT! I JUST UNDERSTOOD THAT! I CAN UNDERSTAND GERMAN!"

Oh, wait.

But it was British broadcasting none the less, and I refused to let Dan change the channel. As a result, we watched (oh, it was thrilling!) a bunch of stuffy old linguists sitting around a table, complaining about the wretched deterioration of the English language, and how their ears bleed every time they turn on the television or talk to their grandchildren.

Believe me, no one was more surprised than me when I heard this. Grandchildren? You mean women actually procreated with these crusty old buggers, once upon a time?

Anyhow, they were all very formal, they were obviously well-spoken, and they were very angry with how people cannot tell when it is appropriate to use 'who' or 'whom'. Well old boys, I hate to do this to you but I'm about to make your eyes bleed too, if you read the following words:

Can you guys, like, believe how awesome nature is? Doesn't it sorta blow your mind, if you really stop to think about it? Like, whoa.... Or am I supposed to say 'Like, whom...?'

Grammar stutters aside, I am really earnest in the fact that sometimes when I stop and *really* ponder something ordinary, my brain totally explodes in admiration and awe for the natural world. Okay, so I know you're all wondering what I crumbled into my Cheerios this morning, and the answer is 'nothing!' I am naturally just this spaced out.

It's a gift.

And the latest natural wonder I have been pondering are the Catkins on the Goat Willow just by our house.

The Goat Willow Catkins?

Oh sorry, let me introduce you properly. Internet, have you met Mr. Willow, first name Goat? These are his Catkins.






Aren't they a precious family?

When I was in elementary school, my friends and I used to cut bouquets of pussy willows for our teachers, and I always used to rip a few silky buds off the branches and keep them in my pocket to rub between my fingers until they disintegrated into wispy nothingness.

I was going for a walk the other day when I spied this willow that was just full of fuzzy little catkins, and seeing them made me feel horribly nostalgic. I reached across the fence to feel their familiar softness, and I wanted to cut a bouquet of them and bring them home as the tree didn't look like it belonged to someone, even if it was behind a fence.

But then I considered that since I'm in Switzerland, some botanical police force (otherwise known as an elderly citizen who has no problem speaking their mind) would jump out of nowhere and give me a verbal bitch slapping. Then I would have to confound that person and be all, "Who me? Whom you? Who dat? Whom what?' as I ran away from the situation, likely never to be allowed near the vicinity of the tree again.

So I took pictures instead.

The End.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

In Which We Will Not Agree to Disagree

Caitie:  What is even the point of David Hasselhoff? Why do people over here still care about some bloated disaster who wears leather trench coats on television?

Dan:  He was awesome once.

C:  Why? Because of Knight Rider?

D:  Well, that's only one reason but Knight Rider does kick ass. The car rocks.

C:  The show's slogan is completely unbelievable. "A lone crusader in a dangerous world..." is totally inaccurate because there's another--better--crusader in the world, and that crusader is the Littlest Hobo.

D:   Who the hell...

D:   ...WTF....

D:   ...the 'Littlest Hobo'?

C:   For your information, the Littlest Hobo is only the most loyal and super friend a person could ever want. He's a German Shepard that roamed from town to town, helping people who were in danger or in need.

D: .   ....

C:    I'm serious. You were too busy being Swiss in Switzerland so you can't appreciate what quality television that show was, and what a timely friend that little Hobo was to so many people.

D:   As if a dog is superior to a TALKING PONTIAC TRANS AM that has super hot Bonnie as its mechanic.

C:    As if a cold hunk of metal is superior TO A HEROIC CANINE. That stupid car would never enter a burning building and pull someone to safety; it would explode.

D:    First of all, Kitt would never have allowed Michael to go into the burning building in the first place. And second of all, Kitt could absolutely enter a burning building because he's built from fire-resistance materials.

C:    Well he couldn't go upstairs and help people to safety! He'd just be uselessly rolling around downstairs where there's no one to be saved. The Littlest Hobo can run upstairs and pull people to safety.

D:    Well is the Littlest Hobo bullet-proof? Is he going to shelter you if you get caught in a shoot-out? I don't think so.

C:    Well he's been shot at, and people always miss him, so he's basically the Harry Potter canine equivalent of a deflecting charm. You totally want him by your side. And if you've had a hard day, the Littlest Hobo comes to your side and rests his head on your lap and let's you hug him. Obviously superior.

D:    Nobody in Knight Rider requires gentle rocking and comforting after a hard day. They need speed, gas, and a car that does surveillance.

C:    Well the Littlest Hobo could bite you in the crotch!

D:    Well Kitt could mow you down!

C:    ....

D:    ....

C:    The dog is better.

D:    Is not.


Internet, as you can tell we have seriously important arguments in our household, and we need this one resolved. Who would you rather have on your side? Some car named Kitt that talks down to you as if you're simple minded, or a heroic German Shepard who's only mission in life is to be your devoted friend?

Clearly I think the choice is obvious.