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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Zurich Quiz, Part 1

Colin has been begging for a day in the city, especially for a box of yummy "Luxemburgerli". 



If you're a regular you know that we made our own macaroons  and were not entirely thrilled about how they turned out. 

These past few weeks it has been broiling around here, and with temps between 85 - 105°F nobody felt like walking around in city streets.

So today, after a much appreciated a drop in temps, the sun came out again, but it was  expected to stay moderate. I prepared some sort of a scavenger hunt, and we were off!


What a beautiful day!


One question was "what can you do at Urania?"


Answer: 

Dine at the roof-top bar, and more importantly, do some star gazing at the observatory!


Next question: which pizzas got their names from U.S. cities (at Sam's Pizza Land)?


Hmmm, let's see. Is Atlanta or Georgia the city???


Can you believe this little boy has actually been to most of those cities?


Next stop: Zurich main train station.


Assignments: 
  1. Find destinations outside of Switzerland
  2. In how many languages does the newsstand offer magazines and newspapers?


  • Germany: Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, Stuttgart, Dortmund, Köln, Bonn, Nürnberg, Kiel
  • Czech Republic: Prag
  • Austria: Feldkirch, Innsbruck Graz, Salzburg, Vienna
  • Hungary: Budapest
  • Croatia: Zagreb
  • Italy: Domodossola, Milano
  • France: Mulhouse, Dijon, Paris
  • Netherlands: Amsterdam



The press diversity was equally impressive: 

German, Dutch, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Arabic, Serbian, Croatian, Russian,… 

The newsstand lady explained that they also print out Japanese papers upon request!



Now let's be honest, the cultural and transportation questions were interesting. 

However the real excitement happened with the treats assignments… ;-)

Name the "Macaroon of the month" (Pinapple)


How many Starbucks stores do you know? 


and in the train station underground store I met Nicole, the manager whom I hired years ago in a different city!

What beverages do they offer for people who don't drink coffee? 

(Frappuccino, tea, hot chocolate, bottled water, smoothie, fruit juice)



Which tram do you take if you want to go to the zoo?

He knew that one without looking:


At Zurich Bahnhofstrasse (equivalent to Champs-Elysées or Fifth Avenue) what watch brands can you purchase?


Never mind, I got distracted...


There are still a couple of questions left. We will pick them up next week.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Our foolproof little French Macaroons project


Elementary students like their "Hey" and "Junior" magazines. 



They contain short articles about nature and sports, jokes and - who knew - recipes. 

The other day C asked "Mom, can we make Macaroons? I have this recipe, and it says it's really simple!" 



Hahahahaha! Simple!!!! Right!

"Look, one of the ingredients is ground almonds which I don't have. Sorry. We can watch some videos if you like, though! Everybody's making them, Chef John, Laura in the Kitchen,   Dishin' with Di, Byron Talbott, you name it! They all do it a bit differently, but they all mention how hard it is to get it right!"

"But it looks so easy!"

When we arrived with Beth, he asked "what does foolproof mean?" I explained it. He goes "Aha. So if we follow the 6 steps, we can't fail? Let's do it!! Please? At least try?"

It's summer break, we are at home, all of his friends are away, so who am I to spoil the fun?

Grocery shopping we went!



Less than two minutes into our project I was swearing for the first time. The ground almonds were not nearly ground enough for our purpose! I dug out my little coffee grinder and tossed them in there.


Now the sifting was still a royal PIA! C wanted to quit another two minutes into our macaroon making. I reminded him that it was his wish to make those - not mine! It includes everything I hate: sifting, folding in egg whites, piping, making butter cream, ...


So we were sifting for a loooong time.

Left: out of the bag, right: re-ground and sifted. 
Adding the sifted powdered sugar.


Watching the machine beating the egg whites, adding regular sugar. 

Now this was the only easy part!


Soft peaks!


Almost forgot the food coloring!


Folding in the dry ingredients...


Pouring it into a ziplog bag


Did I mention I hate piping?


Tapping the trays on the counter. Letting them sit there for half an hour. In the oven they go! 

I know the lady said bake one sheet after the other. My oven can handle two trays!


Not looking half bad!?

Letting cool, and on to the filling!






The verdict?
  1. If you like them chewy, they're for you!
  2. It was not worth the hard work and messy kitchen.
  3. We can't wait to get to a Sprüngli soon!



Sunday, July 19, 2015

Embrace Diversity

As a Facebook Junkie I am part of a couple of forums, about cooking, pretty purses, and parenting. One is a Mommy group for English speaking women, and I am one of the few Swiss girls in there, just like I was in our local Monday morning playgroup for English speaking parents:




So the other day a lady was asking questions about racism. I flinched because I felt affected.

"I am Swiss, therefore I hate foreigners".


This is what it feels like to live in my own country if you look at the popularity that the "SVP" the right wing party enjoys. They launch initiatives to limit immigration, cut social benefits for pretend-invalids, and especially for lazy "Ausländer" as they call non-Swiss people. Even funds for learning our language - and therefore integrating better - are being cut.




Before I get to the lady's questions, let me say that even within the tiny country that Switzerland is, there is a lot of rivalry between regions and cantons: German speaking vs French speaking, Basel vs Zurich, etc. The canton I live in (Aargau) is particularly made fun of. They say we are bad drivers, and we wear white socks.

Allright. Here goes:

When was your first encounter with racism? What happened?
I grew up in Switzerland in the 1970s and 80s. The percentage of foreigners was 14% (today it's 24%) 

In our village almost everybody was Swiss. I remember 3-4 of my classmates were Italians. I liked them, but others thought they were stupid, or smelly or other things. 

Their (Grand-)Dads helped building our streets and tunnels. 

The law back then only let them stay and work in our country for 9 months and used to send them back to their own country for 3 months every year.  Their status was called "Saisonnier". 
This law alone was discriminating. You let cheap workers do the hard work when you need them, and send them away in winter when there is no construction going on, so they don't charge your unemployment benefits budget. 

One of my classmate's parents decided to move back to Italy when he was 15. In one of his letters he told me "you know when I lived in Switzerland where I was born and raised, I was the Italian who didn't entirely belong there. Now that I am in Italy, which is supposed to be my home country, they tell me I am the Swiss guy. I don't have friends I know since Kindergarten, and again, I don't belong here."


Were your parents/grandparents racist?
My grandparents were Jewish and grew up in Germany, Russia and Austria. They were racism / anti-semitism victims who escaped from the Nazis. They were living as immigrants in what would later become Israel, along with other fugitives from many different countries. They were too busy surviving to worry about the nationalities of their neighbors.


Did your parents have The Talk with you?
My mother (who was born in Israel) made it clear to me that the world is a small place, and everybody is a foreigner pretty much everywhere, and it's best to respect each other.
She also talked to us what it was like for her to come to this country as an elementary student and not speaking the language, and how she appreciated the kids embracing her.





Did you have The Talk with your children?
From a very early age on Colin has been very interested in other countries. Their flags, national anthems, capitals, sights, foods. 








So he basically taught himself that diversity enriches one's life. 

In a way he follows this approach:



Also he's growing up in a much more diverse environment these days than I did. Especially at the airport daycare.





Also at the English speaking playgroup I mentioned earlier.


In Kindergarten and school.



Did you suffer from racism in the work environment?
I proudly worked for Starbucks for five years. One of our most important values, along with treating each other with respect and dignity is "embrace diversity"



Sadly at some point I worked for  a managing director who demoted a gay manager for BS reasons and kept making belittling comments about non-Swiss employees.


Did you/could you complain about it?
I talked to him directly many times, and later told a higher-up about it. 


Are people where you live racist?
I don't perceive people in my quaint village as actively racist, but also not as overly welcoming. They keep to themselves.
There are lots of clichés about specific groups of foreigners. I won't repeat them here.


Are people more openly racist now than in the past?
I feel it comes and goes, depending on our economical situation. In good times people are quiet. As unemployment rises and jobs get tough to find, I feel foreigners are being blamed to take "our" jobs. Which in a way may be true because the ones who come to live here don't have the sense of entitlement in terms of salary. On the other hand for the jobs we desperately need to fill, there aren't even enough qualified Swiss people, for example medical professions from specialist doctors to nurses and orderlies. 

Around here it is not appreciated when foreigners don't make an effort to integrate, not learning the language and standing out negatively. It can be details like ex-Jugoslaws wearing sweatpants, it can be aggressive behavior in public or driving their car like madmen. 
I also feel it is being frowned at "openly practicing their religion", specifically Muslim ladies wearing headscarves or burkas. 

I had a Turkish classmate who was not allowed to come to the pool with us. I felt sorry for her. She attended school here and tried to be "one of the girls", but every so often her older brother and / or her father interfered.

How many close non-Swiss friends do you have?
Very few in my local, daily life. Lots of online ones though. To be honest I don't even have many close Swiss friends in my daily life. Here some of my "I don't see them often enough international friends":