Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Winter Grillin'

Winter grillin', had me a blast,

Winter grillin', got full too fast.

I met a pork chop, delicious as could be,

I met some roast beef, was practically free.

Tell you more, tell you more?

Like how the event was afire.

Tell you more, tell you more?

Like how too much food will make you perspire.

***

Please sing the above to the tune of "Summer Lovin'"

Thanks.

***

So anyhow, Dan and I attended a little winter grill event that happened in the heart of Bern on Saturday and it basically rocked our...stomachs. In a good way.

In a yummy way.

In a WE'RE CARNIVORES, GIVE US MEAT sort of way.

Basically the event was Bern showing off how awesome and tasty its local meats are, showing different ways of preparing said delicacies, and a good chance for people to eat for cra-cra-cheap. Dan and I each chose to have an assorted meat plate which came with slices of roast beef, two different sausages, a boneless pork chop, some chicken, and a potato covered in a delicious sauce.

Now let's just pause a second and talk about that potato, because believe me when I say the sauce they spooned over it just rocked my world. It was essentially an Italian take on a barbecue sauce: it had a tomato base, a mixture of herbs and spices that definitely included oregano and garlic, with a vinegar twang coursing through the whole thing. It did not have a smoky taste, and was delicious all the same.

Now the price for all of this?  8 CHF a plate, boys and girls! What did I tell you?

That's cra-cra-cheap!

Here's some photos.

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A couple of shots of the venue area.
As you can see it was a dreary day.

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They had real pine trees and hay bales set up here and there, with tents and chalets where you could sit to eat your food and get out of the January drizzle.

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Also helping to beat the January drizzle were these wood fire-burner-things.
(Side note: Anyone else beside me used to keep your television tuned to the fireplace channel at Christmas, just to watch the orange flames dance and listen to the pop and crackle of a real fire? Remember how, from time-to-time, an arm would enter the shot to stir the fire? Yeah, the picture on the left reminds me of that.)

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There were also free apples all over the place.
Yummy!

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All the kiddlywinks were given a free sausage, and they could go over to the campfire to grill it up.
I wanted to do it, too.

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Here's my kiddlywink, sitting down to enjoy our food, and then warming his hands over the fire.

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This guy was demonstrating some different grills people can have in their yards, while also grilling up a lot of sausages to keep up with demand.

I knew this grilling event was going to be awesome the minute I stepped off the bus and the air smelled like camping, and it was really cool. I loved how this was all set up in the heart of Bern, open fires to keep warm by, hot wine and beer to sip with your food, and most of all, some really good food.

And it really did remind me a lot like camping. I mean, I can't even remember the last time I camped where the rain didn't feel like it was driving at you from a January cold-front. I felt, for an hour, just like I was at campsite. And when we left, we smelled like wood smoke.

God I love that smell!

And what did we get up to for the rest of the weekend? Oh you know, just enjoyed my regular Sunday afternoon three hour nap. Gah! Internet, I think I need a weekend intervention.

I mean seriously, my weekend can be summed up in two words: I ate and I slept. I knew my weekend hibernation was getting bad, but I didn't realize how bad until I phoned my parents on Sunday and my mom was all:

"Oh Cait, I can't really talk. We were at a party last night and I've got a hangover this morning."

Yeah, that's right. My parents had a crazier Saturday night than I did! So that can only mean one thing: operation bust out of my weekend den starts....eventually.

(What? You have no idea how cozy my feather duvet is. It's SO cozy!)

Friday, 27 January 2012

Timelines: On Phone Calls at 4 a.m. and Swimming

This is in continuation of my last timelines post.

***

I had never considered how supportive the people in my life were until we started this move. I quickly learned who I wanted to cut ropes from, and those who would always be my anchors.

***

Dan had been gone two weeks before people started asking me if he had a job yet.

"Not yet," I'd reply, "and it's only been [two][three][four] weeks. He'll find something."

And depending on who I talked to, their answers varied:

"Of course he'll find something!"

"Well...you never know. This economy is terrible."

"Why's it taking so long?"

"He's absolutely going to get a job!"

"Is he handing out enough resumes?"

***

We Skyped every single day and he told me his leads and I told him my worries. Fingertips to screens, we relied on each other.

***

I came home from work, tired. I'd worked a lot later than usual to have a file ready for the next morning, I hadn't eaten properly all day, the fridge was empty, my apartment was a total disaster, and it was lonely. I dropped everything and hit play on the answering machine.

"Caitie, we were talking and why isn't Dan getting a job at a grocery store? Has been going every day to the work centres? He should have something by now. It's been too long. And what about you? You should be training so you can teach English when you get there. Call us back."

I slid down the wall, put my head on my knees and wept out of discouragement and exhaustion.

It had only been five weeks and I was ashamed for being that weak.

***

No matter how many times I tried to tell them that wasn't our goal, that we had saved enough money for Dan to live for five months and find the job he wanted, they didn't listen.

We had to do things a different way.

A better way.

In anger I constantly wondered why are people...such people? Of all the things I cherish the most in a friendship, in family bonds, in community togetherness it is open-mindedness. I don't care if you think the sky is purple and I think it's blue. Or if I think the grass is pink and you say it's green. We don't have to stand on the same side of the line, and it would be scary if we all did. But from your side of the line, have some respect for mine and I will do you the courtesy of the same.

Of course ask me questions, as I will ask you, but how about we open our ears to the answers at the same time?


***

Our first Christmas as a married couple, and we exchanged gifts over Skype.

Every day I feel grateful for technology.

***

I was sound asleep when the phone started to ring. Through blurry eyes the green digital numbers of my alarm clock glowed 4 a.m. I fumbled for the phone, hopeful.

"Sweets?"

"It's me. I got it! They offered it to me! Contract's coming in the mail for me to look at! I have the other interview tomorrow, and I'm getting another offer there!"

I fell straight back on my pillow and started shrieking in happiness.

January 25th.

Two job offers in his desired field.

He left Canada on November 10th.

***

The other place offered him the job, and then offered some more. Of course I'm going to brag about that. My husband is amazing, smart, and capable. They wanted him, but we decided the first offer was the better fit for our goals.

We had choices and felt vindicated and it felt good. Hell yeah it did.

***

We hung up laughing as he said he was going to browse apartment ads.

I lay in bed for two more hours with a grin plastered to my face, the cats purring beside me, before I called my parents to tell them.

My family and close friends were overjoyed and it was one of my happiest days.

***

Of course, not everyone I told celebrated with me; I finally realized that in navigating your own happiness you are constantly steering your ship around icebergs of naysayers and doubters and if your arms get tired for even a moment, if you loose your grip on the wheel, it will spin and spin and spin until you've brushed against that icy berg and down you go.

Into salty waters.

So I had to learn how to swim, and I'm still learning. What shores I swim towards and what I leave behind. When your happiness is the key to their unhappiness, when your success is their failing, swim.

They are not anchors but rather dead weight and you'll never get anywhere if they don't want you to move.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Slow News...Month

Dan and I realized that this month we seem to be in official hibernation mode. It's the only explanation for how housebound we are allowing ourselves to be on weekends, and how many excursions we have cancelled.

Example:

Things We Were Going To Do, But Then Opted Against In Favour Of Staying Home To Drink Hot Chocolate.

  1. Go to Adelboden and watch the ski racing.
  2. Go to the Basel zoo.
  3. Go sledding.
  4. Go skiing/winter trail hiking.
It seems terrible when it's listed. All these memories we could be making, and instead we're going to the movies, hiding in corners of coffee shops, ordering in pizza, and taking indulgent Sunday afternoon naps where we're all piled on the bed (cats included, obviously) recharging our batteries for the week ahead.

When I choose to stay home, I feel guilty. There's this voice in my head telling me that I'm Europe, in Switzerland, and that I should be making the most of every free minute; that we have to stand to attention to every general idea that pops into our minds. We have to be on the go, go, go, go, constantly exploring, as otherwise we aren't making the most of this adventure.

But then you look out your window and it's January. A month that seems to be universally quiet no matter which part of the world you reside in. The wind whistles and even though it's not MINUS 57 (like in one unfortunate BC town, as noted by sister in the comments of the last post), it still doesn't seem like I'm supposed to be venturing too far.  It feels natural that the rhythm of my weekends are supposed to be quiet and slow right now, which makes the self-induced guilt for staying close to home (instead of criss-crossing the country) that much worse.

Any other expats feel this way?

Anyone else just feel plain guilty for allowing yourself an entirely lazy month of weekends?

That we Must. Be. Doing. SOMETHING.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Jack Frost Nipping At Your Nose

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Just a little more evidence that even though the sun is shining and the grass is green, it is still cold outside and does feel winter...ish.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Pot O' Gold

So surely I wasn't the only kid who once tried to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? I was so psyched about my quest that I drew a map and everything: it showed a very simplistic rendering of my house, the pasture in front of our house, and the rainbow that seemed to dip low and end in said pasture.

The only problem is I don't think the map was to scale because I never found that pot of gold and I was incensed that when I reached the back of our pasture, the rainbow DIDN'T END THERE.

It still kept going.

But now it seemed to head back towards the scuzzy lake that I knew was at some distance behind our house. I walked for awhile (so probably five minutes) up a road that led to some neighbours who lived behind us, but then I grew bored of my quest because I was lazy and tired of walking so far. Plus my handy treasure map really only detailed the pasture. I had nothing else to go on! So I turned around and probably went home and picked some tiny raspberries with my sister Meg, which raspberries we then squashed onto the lobes of our ears to look like earrings, when really we just looked like a wild animal had been gnawing on our ears.

Ah, those were the days.

Well the reason I mention that failed quest is because yesterday Dan and I went on a walk that reminded me of those fruitless treasure hunting days.  We decided we were going to walk to a satellite radio tower that we can see from our balcony; it seemed like a good destination because it doesn't look that far away and at my core I am still a lazy little five year old who gets bored easily if the scenery sucks.

The only problem is...IT WAS SO FAR AWAY.

Like gasp, shock, horror, and temper tantrum but it took forever to make it there.

Everything started out pleasantly enough as we tripped through the woods and I marvelled at the solar streamers wrapping through the trees.

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But then--you'll never believe this fellow Switzerland peeps!--we found ourselves WITHOUT TRAIL MARKERS. We were scrambling up slippery slopes of leaves, following old roads that seemed to go nowhere, and never were there wanderweg signs guiding us.

I felt without purpose.

It was madness!

And I was getting tired because of course, the whole expedition was going up hill.

Dan was keeping a brisk excited pace in front of me, giddy that we had seen no people (well of course, they were all on the marked trails like good little Swiss people), and I was trailing behind wondering if I just stopped, dropped, and rolled would I make it back to the apartment?

Dan: "Ah what a great day! Come on! Let's go! Life is amazing! Hooray!"

Caitie: "Grumblegrumble...pant...grumblegrumble"

Dan: "Everything's marvelous!"

Caitie: "Grumblegrumble...complain...grumblegrumble."

Dan:  "What are you thinking about?!"

Caitie: "Death."

Dan: "You're crazy. Let's go! Up and up, we'll make it! Imagine the views from the top!"

Caitie: "How about you keep walking and I'll wait here. Yell at me when you've made it and I'll judge by how far away you sound if it's worth it for me to keep going."

Then Dan grabbed a stick and started shepherding me along like I was a reluctant bovine or sheep! Which, honestly, at that point I really was.

Caitie: "This is pointless. We should just turn around."

Dan (wielding his Shepard stick): Tap Tap Tap "Come on, that's it, steady on, you can do it, keep going."

It was really funny, which made me very confused because I was trying to be in a bad mood and instead I was laughing hysterically.

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My fearless leader gets us onto a marked trail.

We did eventually make it to this radio tower, but it was kind of like reaching the end of the rainbow, because even though we got to the tower there wasn't a viewing platform. No pot o' gold. You couldn't see the Alps through the trees. But Dan was so excited to have made it to the tower he raced up the last incline to touch the frosty steel.

I refrained from exerting such unnecessary energy.

Dan: "Are you going to come up! Come on, you're so close."

Caitie (inventing desperate excuse to avoid another steep hill): "No, I'm just taking some interesting pictures! Good for you though, sweets!"

Dan: "What are you taking a picture of?"

Caitie: "Oh, just something awesome!"

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(Frosty leaves. As you will observe, I was taking pictures of frosty leaves.)

My spirits considerably picked up as we started our long descent down so I decided to let out a little yodel-a-he-who.

Really loudly.

Who would hear it? We hadn't seen a soul all day.

Yeah, there were people around the bend of the road who heard me and gave us a very amused greeting.

"Oh my god, those people heard you!" Dan whispered in utter mortification.

"Yeah, I know!" I laughed joyfully grabbing his herding stick. "Now we're totally even! What a great day!"

Friday, 13 January 2012

I Am...

Feeling zip, zilch, nadda, inspiration for writing on the blog. We've been out and about, but it seems too hard to have to record it all down again. I really want to though, because occasionally when we can't remember what we've been up to we like to browse the archives and go 'Remember When!...", as otherwise we have appalling memories.

I suppose the literal January fog that is rolling past my window seems to have settled into my brain. It probably also doesn't help that I was a total glutton over the week of Christmas and New Years, and now my pants are mega-uncomfortable.

I hate getting dressed in the morning.

But I will not buy new pants.

I will not buy new pants.

Say it with me now: I WILL NOT BUY NEW PANTS.

(Today...)

So to try and erase all the merry that I made over the holidays I eat a grapefruit for breakfast every morning, or a cold smoothie. Those are not the most satisfying ways to start the day when it's a damp chill outside. Then for lunch I also eat a cold salad (though it's delicious) consisting of assorted salad leaves, cottage cheese, a grated carrot, sliced cucumber, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds, a few dashes of sushi vinegar, and pepper.

Really, it is quite delicious and you should try it sometime.

But maybe don't eat it every day for two weeks.

Random observation alert (that might be inaccurate): Does Switzerland have baby carrots? I don't think they do. At least in my village Migros they don't sell bags of those stunted orange babies. And I never realized what a shitty product they were until I started buying real carrots again.

You know, buying whole, large, carrots.

They have so much flavour.

And they're fully grown.

What the hell is being done to carrots to make them that small and perfectly round on the ends? And flavourless? Do we really have so little time that we can't peel and cut up a proper carrot?

And now to segue into a completely non-related topic:

I was recently sent a personal email that included the following line: "..remember not to take things for granted, and always remember how quickly things can go bad." 

Yeah.

That was a really cheery way to start my morning. So listen up, dark clouds of the world: keep your melodramatic outlook on life to yourself. You seriously can rain on other people's parades.

Well, that's the fascinating peek into my brain today.

Happy weekend, and to erase the blackness of the previous dire warning, I will leave you with this funny, favourite motto:  "Don't take life too seriously. You'll never get out alive."

(Or was that still too macabre?)

Juuuiiiccceee.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

I'd Like To Look Like A Cheeto, Please

Did everyone read Naomi Wolf's feminist manifesto The Beauty Myth in their women's studies class in university? About how beauty is a patriarchal, unattainable, construct used to keep women psychologically suppressed as we struggle to conform to standards of beauty--whatever it means that day, week, year--thus diverting our attentions and keeping us from conquering these modern times when we have more freedoms and open doors than any other generation before us.

(*Warning, that was a major simplification. Details sort of escape a person when it's been SEVEN years since they were in university. Sob.*)

Then did you flip to the back cover of the book, see Ms. Wolf's stunning author photograph that was obviously styled for beauty, and wonder: "???"

Well, what I'm wondering is if beauty is a suppressive moving target, when did we move into the territory where Cheeto orange skin, paint bristle eye lashes, and bike tire lips were the desirable thing? Over the Christmas break, I watched a couple of reality television Christmas specials on my U.K. broadcasting channels, and I was horrified by how the women looked. Seriously, their fake tans look like they reached into a bag of Cheetos and rubbed those trans-fatty neon-orange tubes all over themselves; then, when they were Cheetoed up, they went into their dad's garage and found a paint brush he'd use to paint the side of the house with, sawed off the bristles, and glued them to their eyes. Then they took a bike pump and used it to inflate their lips before scalping Barbie and sticking her plastic hair onto their head.

I'm so confused why this Cheeto-orange-scalped-Barbie-Michelin-tire-lips-paintbrush-eyelashes-look, is so widespread? And in case you think it's only on television, I have seen multiple girls in real life who look like this! When we were in London last May, and I was fighting the crowds to get a glimpse of what a TopShop looked like, I realized that an alarming number of girls around me were ORANGE and seemed to have difficulty blinking since they had about seven pairs of false eyelashes glued to their poor eyelids.

In fact, I don't even understand how these girls could walk down the street without getting attacked by a ravenous dog or a hungry hobo who wanted to lick the essence of Cheeto off their face. I'm also wondering how long it's going to take before we start to see girls walking around with such heavy eyelashes that they have to violently flip their head backwards just so their eyelids will retract and they can see in front of them? You know, sort of like your childhood doll My Blinking Baby. Remember how hard you used to have to shake blinking baby just to get her eyelids to stay open?

Listen, I realize the topic of fashion and beauty trends can be a real can-of-worms depending on which side of the line you stand on. But remember when I bought a lipstick that made me look like a cadaver? Basically, I admit that I'm not immune to wanting to add an extra flourish to my features (though it might be nice if I knew what I was doing), and humans have been exaggerating their features since 10,000 BC when the Egyptians (women and men, alike) were lining their eyes and eyebrows with kohl, rouging their lips and cheeks, perfuming their skin, and dying their nails and hair with henna (holla, Grade 12 Lost Civilizations coming at you!). Basically, the human race has always been vain and show-offy.

What I'm confused about is when we decided that Cheeto orange skin and lips that are so big it looks like a nest of grubs is going to explode from them, started to become a new beauty ideal? 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Soup's On!

Remember when you were a kid and you got that AWESOME toy you'd wanted for Christmas? And then every day, from December 25th to March 3rd, you played with that toy, talked about that toy, slept with that toy, and cried when you weren't allowed to carry that toy with you into the restaurant because you were a menace and your parents didn't want you chatting up the waitress about the cool features of your toy? Cool features like how you could press a button and it made a noise?

Basically, you were the only one who had a candy cane care in the world about that toy?

Well, this has sort of happened to me. Again. At the tender age of 30. You see, for Christmas Dan bought me four gorgeous soup bowls that I had been drooling over. Dishware? I can hear you exclaim. What is so great about that? Well, I really can't explain it but I have a dream that one day I will have a huge display cabinet filled with dishware for all occasions.

I know, it's totally twisted and without substantive purpose. I used to think I'd have to defend this wish, but then I realized that if someone out there doesn't have a frilly, beautiful, nonsensical dream, there's no use even trying because they probably lack the imagination to see it.

What I see though is one day in our cozy house (that sits on a lake and has a huge stone fire place) there is a cabinet that holds summer garden party stemware, tasteful Christmas china, rustic serving bowls for fall suppers, and beautiful cutlery for every day use and not just special occasions.

I know, it's weird but it's a dream and dreams don't always make sense.

(Like the one I had the other night about John Wayne. So random, but I guess I have been watching a lot of Westerns lately.)

Well this past December 25th I became four soup bowls closer to the dream! But I have gone a bit crazy over these gifts and have been making soup like it's going out of style, just so I can use the bowls. And this week, well...we ate soup three nights in a row.

JUST SO I COULD USE THE BOWLS.

Last night Dan told me that if I wanted to serve chicken and mashed potatoes in the bowls, he'd be fine with that as long as we don't eat soup for another few weeks. I don't know, I seriously might have to do that because I love these!

Here's glance at the soup we ate just this week. Be prepared to be SO INTERESTED.

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So first disclaimer is that my kitchen has no natural light so you're just going to have to deal with ISO 1600 photos taken at 7 p.m. on dark January evenings.

Aren't the bowls gorgeous! I just love them so much. They're very deep so really one bowl is a very healthy and hearty serving, and the little stubby lion head handles are just sweet.

This was a chicken tortilla soup that was delicious, spicey, limey, quick, and light. And the tortilla chips crushed in before serving were really good once they got all soggy. And you can use plain Greek yogurt in lieu of sour cream. I think it's better tasting and has a nicer texture than sour cream and trust, I used to be a sour cream junkie.

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This was a butternut squash and sage soup, and I made Parmesan bread crumbs to go with. I also fried a couple of sage leaves for each bowl and added some crispy prosciutto for garnish. This was the heartiest soup we ate this week, and it was also the fastest to make. Especially since Migros sells pre-cooked, cubed, packages of butternut squash. Takes no time and we were eating within a half hour!

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And the pièce de résistance of our soup feast was French onion, which is of course the soup that these bowls are really designed for. It was really rich though, so even one full-sized bowl was a bit much but we managed.

So now I have to know, what are your favourite soups? Please let me know so that when my agreed upon two week cease-soup is over, I can whip up some more delights as an excuse to use my NEW. AWESOME. INCREDIBLE. SOUP. BOWLS.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Snow Leopard

Oh my goodness! I'm five days into the New Year and I haven't done a cat post! You must be terribly anxious, so I am here to rescue you. Stop biting your nails, stop with all emotional eating, and you don't need to join that cult that's located in the Utah desert where all those bombs were tested.

I'm here to save you.

A CAT POST.

***

Once upon a time, in the year 2011, at the beginning of December, a beautiful snowfall wrapped Bern in its downy arms and made everything look soft and beautiful. In Bern there lived two little cats named Cosmo and Poppy, and these little kitties had the most kick-ass life any feline has ever known because they had two servants who tended to their every need. At first these servants thought they were in charge of Cosmo and Poppy, but when the servants found themselves one midnight hour balancing precariously on the edges of their respective sides of their bed while Cosmo and Poppy were stretched down the middle taking up 80% of the space, the servants realized they were in fact not in control.

And never had been.

And so it was that early December of 2011, when the snow began to fall, the cats demanded to be allowed outside to explore this feather whiteness. The female servant happily obliged their piercing mews and let them outside on the balcony so she could take a few photos of her geraniums, which were now surely going to die (she'd secretly been hoping they'd stay alive until spring because she hates gardening and didn't want to deal with replacing them).

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Once on the balcony, Poppy decided the snow was a disagreeable coldness on her royal paws and with a whir in her throat she ran back inside, all the way down the hallway, and back onto her servant's bed where she was content to lie on a pillow and look at this view outside the window.

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Cosmo was not this easy to please, and after a few desperate mews and a thwarted suicide attempt to jump off the deck, his servant put his collar on him and took him downstairs to the winter wonderland.

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He was really not sure what to make of being paw-deep in this white stuff, and didn't seem to enjoy it that much. So his servant had a moment of rebellion, picked up her charge, and then placed him in the middle of a child's snow fort before she ran back to building's entrance to watch his reaction.

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He was not pleased.

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And ran as quickly as his clumsy legs could carry him, back to the snow-bare entrance of the apartment building. Then his servant forgot about him for awhile because she was busy taking winter pictures.

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It annoyed Sir Cosmo that he was being ignored, and so he let out a little screechy howl to let it be known that he was ready to go inside now.

His servant kept ignoring him in favour of winter pictures.

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That was a mistake, she unfortunately learned. You see, while Cosmo was not at all interested in the snow he was alertly intrigued by something else.

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Namely the dead grass that was hiding under the snow.

So he ate it.

A lot of it.

And then he puked it all up, plus breakfast, right in front of the doors to the apartment complex.

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"Hey, hey, hey, that'll teach her to ignore me!"

And then the servant was faced with the uncomfortable task of disposing of cat puke. So as Cosmo stood heaving up his second pile of grassy vomit complete with hairball, she kicked the first pile into the snow. Then the second. Then as she lugged an irritated Cosmo inside (who now didn't want in, he wanted to keep eating dead grass) she hoped the snow would stay around so that the grassy puke would be hidden until spring.

But it rained.

So then the snow was all the gone, but now the two grotesque piles of sodden hairball puke were visible. It proved to be unbearable to look at, so the building maintenance guy cleaned up the lawn.

And they lived happily ever after (or until DNA analysis matches the puke to Cosmo and we get a letter about it).


- The End -

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Happy New Year! (The Too Much Information Edition)

Too much information, or TMI, is when a person you don't know very well (if at all) reveals details about their life that you consider to be too intimate for a first-time meeting. So really, classifying an encounter as a TMI episode falls squarely on you, the listener. 

Perhaps this casual acquaintance has revealed that they can hardly wait until baggy overalls or asymmetrical long-sleeved mesh shirts make a comeback: Ahh! TMI! You may think. This person has horrible fashion taste and shouldn't let other people know about it!

Or maybe you're scoping out the blogosphere and are frightened by the sheer volume of parents who dedicate multiple posts to their children's bowel movements (or lack thereof): Ahh! TMI! You may think. This person clearly has no concept that Google is all mighty and powerful and their kid's bowel movements are forever and always recorded on the Internet for future playground bullies to use as ammo against their kid: "Hey I heard you were a constipated baby! GROSS."

And if anybody out there thinks that children would never tease a classmate about such ridiculous things, obviously you were homeschooled and were never forced to be on the receiving end of the pack-mentality of a bunch of playground kids who verbally shoved you around one random Wednesday because the class bully started it, and they don't want her teasing them. Or maybe you were the bully, and as such can never imagine your child being teased because you weren't.

In any case, parents, for the love of future therapy, no one cares if your child craps or not. But your child sure as hell will in twenty years when they realize you've embarrassed the beejeezus out of them.

TMI for a few extra followers?

Weak.

My personal threshold for TMI is when a person I don't know at all decides to share all the failings of their ill-requited love affair. Which, oh wait, Dan and I had the uncomfortable pleasure of being in such a TMI experience a mere twenty minutes into the New Year.

A few minutes before midnight, Dan and I went over to our neighbour's place to ring in the New Year with a glass of champagne with her and a few of her friends. We were standing around, our host tipsly filling our glasses, and making polite conversation with one lady who filled us in on a five month trip she took around the United States, twenty years ago.

After we'd toasted midnight our neighbour served dessert, a few people resumed a Monopoly game they'd been playing, and Dan and I sat on the couch with the intent to basically--TMI--eat and run. As we were eating, the United States traveller came and sat beside us, and I noticed she was stirring her coffee with an air of heavy melancholy. And when she looked up at me, her eyes were glassy with tears and I worried that perhaps telling us about her great American adventure had left her feeling despondent.

No, no.

It was worse than that.

"I have been hit by Cupid," she sighed, as a tear slipped down her cheek.

So Dan and I looked at each other and smiled because doesn't getting hit by Cupid mean you're in love? Which is good? We kept our smiles plastered on while she continued.

"Yes, hit by Cupid. My neighbour, it's such a deep love. But his wife..."

(We still continued smiling.)

"...she found out about us. Crying, so much crying."

(We were still smiling, trying to process what she was telling us.)

"I don't know why she cared. There was much affairs in that marriage. Much."

(We immediately ceased smiling and sat dumbfounded, realizing this woman was telling us about an affair she's having with a married man, while her eleven year old son played Monopoly an arm's length away.)

"I didn't cheat. I'm no cheater. I'm single. But he comes over in the afternoons, when she's not there. We're in love. We go to the travel advisor to plan an Alaska holiday, and today," she sighed, "he tells me...what is it...cold feet. He must stay with his wife. Tonight he lets me go. So I lie here," she said pointing to the couch, "Or go back there," she said, motioning to the bedroom, "and cry while these peoples have a good time."

At this point I squirmed awkwardly because this was clearly a TMI situation and there's no GD way I wanted to spend my first minutes of the New Year listening to a stranger cry about her break-up. And yes, I realize that makes me seem heartless. So I collected up our dessert plates, put them in the kitchen, and thanked our neighbour for inviting us over but told her we had to go so I could phone my family and wish them a Happy New Year. Meanwhile, Dan was still sitting on the couch (with the conversation now in Swiss German) nodding sympathetically as the woman repeatedly told him that she is not done with this love affair. She will not give up on her neighbour, she doesn't care what he or his wife thinks, because it's not over.

"I know it's not over!" she exclaimed. "I don't feel it here," she pointed to her head, "I feel it here!" as she pushed her hand into her stomach. "Ours is true love, and I feel it here!"

"Um, well," Dan paused, "it's good you can trust your gut instinct. Like how you knew about that hurricane that was going to hit Hawaii." This was in reference to her telling us she wouldn't book her holiday to Hawaii when her ex-husband wanted her to because she felt something was wrong. "Just keep believing in that," Dan generously offered as he stood up.

"Yes," she agreed. "It's not over."

But for us, it was. We shot out of there like a cork from a champagne bottle. There was something so uncomfortable about that conversation I just had to get away from it. And it's not the revelation she was having an affair with a married man, as I'm not that naive. I think it was the sheer fact that a sober Swiss woman (who's name neither of us remember) poured this story on to us, perfect strangers, when it's an unwritten rule in this country that you don't even make light conversation with your seatmate on the bus.

It was so weird.

Like everything I'd learned in 2011 about Swiss formalities and structure was being made topsy-turvy in the fresh minutes of 2012. Is this what you have in store for me, 2012? Disproving every rule I thought I had mastered about living here? And 2012, please don't be offended (afterall, I don't know what life lessons you want me to learn this year) but I'd rather read some parent's inappropriate recapping of their constipated three year old, or fight for our right to wear neon green fuzzy Kangol hats, than have a stranger cry on my shoulder about a soured affair with a married man.

Sound good to you?

(But 2012, if you want to deliver a few nut shots to that prick who led this woman on--who's not blameless, I realize--then dumped her on New Years Eve, that'd be fine.)