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Friday, May 27, 2016

7 steps on how to quit bad habits

Hello, my name is Tamara, and I'm a caffeine addict!

The other day I came across Kathy's blog. She was writing about her caffeine addiction, and I feel it's time for me to talk about my own here.

I grew up drinking mainly water, tea or syrup at home. On the rare occasion we would eat out, my brother and I were allowed to share a soda. We also didn't get a lot of screen time, so I guess it's only natural that when I moved out, I enjoyed my freedom to have dinner in front of the TV and to drink as many Diet Coke cans or bottles as I pleased.

By all means, I'm not blaming my parents. I was grown-up and I knew that it wasn't good for me, but I just did what was written on it: ENJOY Coca-Cola! I enjoyed it at lunchtime, I enjoyed it at the office, I'm not exactly sure when I started to enjoy it first thing in the morning, but I did. "Other people have coffee, I have a Coke, big deal!"



Occasionally I would read an article about aspartame and health concerns linked to it. "Gee, at least I don't turn my environment into passive smokers, I choose to drink it, and nobody has any disadvantages if I do. On the contrary. A lot of people have jobs, thanks to me! Also, if it is THAT dangerous, why has it been allowed on the market in the first place?"

As I climbed the corporate ladder, and my days became longer and more stressful, I guess I started to really depend on my intake. I specifically remember one afternoon, it must have been late 2002. I was working for Mövenpick Ice Cream that was about to be integrated into the Nestlé group, and my role was crucial. I had to either transfer to undesirable locations within the Nestlé group or fire 90% of the staff, and I was determined to walk out of there in the end (yes, I had to fire myself, too!) with everybody being employed somewhere.

Anyway, on this specific early afternoon, I had run out of Diet Coke. 

I always kept a six pack in the office fridge, and I don't know how, but I must have taken out the last one and forgotten to use my lunch hour to get some. Maybe I didn't have a lunch hour, that may very well have been the case.

I knew this was gonna be a very tough afternoon for me if I didn't get my fix. My head was already pounding, and I was feeling queasy. What would be more inappropriate: sneaking out and get some myself or ask my assistant to go and buy it for me?

This was the first (and only) time that I really felt like an addict. 

Would I send an employee to provide me with drugs???

Absolutely not. This was on me, and I had to own up.

I got into my car and drove to the village market, and I remember telling myself "as soon as this merger is over, I'll have to cut back. This ain't fun anymore."

You know what happened, right? My next job was with Starbucks. Cutting back on caffeine? Hahahahaha!


I hadn't been a coffee drinker before I joined. I didn't like that brown bitter tasting swill that so far coffee had been to me,  and I was praying that in my first interview they weren't gonna ask about my favorite beverage. It was TAZO  bottled brambleberry at the time!

Anyway, you know the story. I was sent to Seattle for my immersion, I went through dozens of coffee tastings, I was expected to introduce the Coffee Master program back in my home market, and from now on I was enjoying coffee AND Coke Zero during my long hours, days and years!




When I was pregnant with Colin I drastically cut back to one espresso / one bottle of Coke Zero per day, sometimes even only one of the two. It was hard, especially during summer, but it was the responsible thing to do. 

Run down as I was after my employment with a start-up like market and giving birth I didn't produce enough milk for the little guy, so I quit struggling using lotions, drinking herbal teas, massaging, pumping and whatnot and fed formula to my baby and caffeine to my sleep deprived self. 

Here I went again!

As my little one was growing up, he learned that mornings were better after not only he, but mommy, too, have had their bottle! When he was old enough to open the fridge door, he would sometimes bring me a Coke Zero to my bed. What kind of a role model was I, anyway?

There has been my trouble sleeping way beyond Colin's nightly feedings, so I knew i had to start thinking about quitting.

I knew I had to quit because gradually reducing the quantity didn't work for me.

Looking back I didn't even know what made me do it on that particular day. I guess I had been waiting for the perfect day to start, and I realized I would be waiting for ever. Anyway, it was a hot summer weekend, and I felt I was gonna prove myself and the world that I could do it, one day at a time!

I didn't tell anyone - I guess I didn't want to be held accountable if I failed. I would tell them once it was over. I had no idea how I would know that it was over! Would I ever go about my day without (thinking about) wanting a Coke?

I was feeling so crappy that weekend, especially on Sunday. We weren't doing anything, so I was basically hanging out in my PJs, taking a sick day. I was feeling sick, sluggish and shaky, and I had some bad ass headaches.

I made myself some ginger lemon beverage and tried to tell myself it was much better for me. 



I tried not to think about it too much and instead to do things that would help me to stay on track, like removing Coke bottles from the fridge, stocking it with fruit juice and sparkling water instead.
Even though the bubbles make me bloated, at least I wanted the sparkling sensation!

So I made it through the weekend, the first week, the second week, still I didn't tell anyone, and it was actually amazing that nobody even noticed.

I was clean for six weeks when I celebrated with a bottle of Coke Zero.

Ever since, I occasionally have one or two per week, that's it. I can't really say that I feel so much better health-wise, but I'm certainly proud to have shaken one bad habit!

Summarizing these are my learnings that helped me do it, and if I can do it - you can do it!

#1: Don't wait for the perfect day
#2: Just do it! Start today!
#3: Actually if today is an important day, and you need to be at your best - start tomorrow!
#4: 
Keep busy
#5: Remove the forbitten fruit
#6: Take one day at a time
#7: Celebrate small progress!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Delicious Apple Cake made with Applesauce

The other day, when the weather was rainy and cold, a fellow blogger shared a yummy recipe for apple compote which reminded me that I wanted to make one of my favorite cakes that includes applesauce as a main ingredient.

This is what you'll need as far as ingredients go:




How to make applesauce:

Peel, core and chop 4-5 apples, add 3/4 cups of water and cook for about 20 minutes in a sauce pan, then mash with a fork if you like some texture, or use a blender.

Or

If you have an oven steamer just put your apple chunks in a sieve and in an oven safe container and steam for about 20 minutes. The liquid that accumulates in that container is home made apple juice, how cool is that?


Butter your springform pan or use baking spray

Preheat your oven to 180°C / 350°F


  • Cream butter and sugar together, add salt, then one egg at a time
  • Add lemon zest, applesauce and ground hazelnut, mix until combined
  • Add flour and baking powder
  • Pour into springform pan, distribute evenly, using a spatula
  • Arrange apple slices, sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mix



Bake for 45-50 minutes


Take out, let cool on wire rack


Enjoy!




Here you can find Betty Bossi's original recipe in German, she makes it with pears.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Travel A-Z

My A-Z friend Mandy posted this travel questionnaire, so I thought I'd comment on those as well. Here goes:


A: Age you went on your first international trip?
When you live in Switzerland you're very likely to cross the border to Germany, Austria, Italy or France at a young age. My first airplane trip was to Israel when I was 12.

B: Best Beer you’ve had and where
I don’t like beer. I still had some when my Dad took me to Munich Oktoberfest when I was 14. It tasted yucky, but I felt so grown-up!

C: favorite Cuisine
American, Italian, Mexican, Asian, especially Thai and Japanese (sushi)



D: Destination - favorite, least favorite and why?
This is hard. I have so many favorites, among them are the entire Southwest of the U.S, Canada, South Africa and Australia.




Least favorite: NYC because we’ve experienced crappy weather and poor service.


E: Event you've experienced that made you say "wow".
Sitting at the Golden Gate Bridge vista point at Gonzelman Rd for the very first time. 

I remember feeling so very privileged to be there! It had been raining all day and night before, and by the time we made it there, the sun was out, the sky was blue, it was overwhelmingly beautiful!


F: Favorite mode of transportation?
Depends on the location. Usually car, but the SF cable car ain’t bad either!



G: Greatest feeling while traveling?
Exploring exciting (new) places, soaking up the scenery, the diversity of pretty much everything, tasting great food and – let’s be honest – being off work and everyday duties!


H: (Second) Home.
San Diego, no question about that!



I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where?
From an accommodation agent at Sydney airport. We were on our honeymoon in Australia, and we were used to just arrive somewhere and find a hotel without any trouble. Not this time, though. McDonald’s international leadership conference was being held in Sydney all through the week, and within a 25 miles’ radius, every hotel room, motel, B&B, you name it – was fully booked!
Internet wasn’t big yet back then. The lady made about a million calls, and she managed to find a place for us for two nights. It was slightly over our price range, but hey, we were on our honeymoon.



J: Journey that took the longest?
Flying back from Sydney, Australia to Zurich, Switzerland, it was about 22 hours plus stopover in Singapore.

K: Keepsake from your travels?
I’m not a magnet or shot glass hoarder, but I usually buy something to wear. I have a Chicago sweater (it got chilly at Navy Pier!), a San Francisco sweater (it got chilly at Pier 39, too!),…


L: Let-down experience, where and why?
I may be biased by my friend who originally posted this questionnaire, but apart from our NYC stay, I would have to say “Eiffel Tower”: a long wait for an expensive elevator ride, actually two rides if you want to go all the way up, But hey, if you're in Paris you probably don't want to miss it.


M: Moment where you fell in love with traveling?
Probably when I came to California for the first time (1997)


N: Nicest view, where?

Golden Gate Bridge

O: (What are you) obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?
Anything and everything!!! It’s my way of soaking up the experience! In particular palm trees, beaches, architecture, random stuff, food, opposites (like a modern and an old building)



P: Passport stamps- how many and where?
Countless!

  • About two dozen of the USA and Canada
  • Two of South Africa and Israel
  • One of Costa Rica, Curaçao and Australia

Q: Quirkiest Attraction 
Not sure if I’d call anything I’ve encountered “quirky”, but Hundertwasser House in Vienna is certainly special! Also: Las Vegas - magical, but unreal!



R: Really Frightening: where’s one place you’ve visited where you felt unsafe or uneasy?
As a Holiday Inn person I already felt slightly uneasy when my husband (then fiancé) suggested a compromise, and I had to stay in a Motel 6. It was somewhere in Arizona. A drunken guy banged on our next door neighbor’s door, swearing and threatening her. We called reception, and they had him removed, but all through the night I kind of expected him to came back and cause more trouble.

S: Splurge-something you have no problem spending money on while traveling?
Anything! Vacation is not a time to hold back! I guess my thing is comfort. I want a nice accommodation, yummy food and a functioning car.


T: Touristy thing you've done?
Hop on / hop off bus, cable car rides, visiting the typical sights, think Statue of Liberty, Buckingham fountain, Monument Valley…









U: Unforgettable travel memory?
Kruger National Park in South Africa, seeing those animals is truly magical!




V: Visas-how many and for where?
As a Swiss person you’re allowed to travel to most places without visa. I remember having needed one for Budapest, Hungary, though, back then. We went there as our farewell trip from college.

W: Wine - best while travelling?
I only seem to travel to places with great wines, California, South Africa, Australia!




X: eXcellent view and from where?
More views, huh! Good thing there are so many locations with a great view!
Cape Town Waterfront with Table Mountain
Niagra Falls







Y: Yachting?
Haven’t had the opportunity yet. Would certainly not decline if offered!

Z: Time-Zones visited?
There is a pin at every time zone I’ve been to:







Father's Day Craft

Just like Mother's Day it seems that in different countries, the Dads' holiday is being observed on different dates as well. 


I can't believe this was 4 years ago already!

Expats living in Switzerland like it - that way they get to celebrate twice! 
  • Switzerland: June 5 - although somebody just told me in the Italian part of Switzerland it was on March 19!!
  • USA, Canada, Mexico, UK, France: June 19
  • Australia: Sept 3rd
I'm surprised that Father's Day is not popular in Switzerland at all. It would be such a great opportunity for sports equipment or home improvement stores and beer brands!

Then again I feel that we live in party pooper country, so I'm not surprised!

Be it as it may, it's only fair to carve out that special day to thank our Dads and husbands for being the great people that they are, providing for the family without whining (much) about it, leaving work early to show up for parent teacher meetings, playing soccer and teaching the youngster silly stuff, some useful stuff, too.

Coming up with a gift that a kid that doesn't like to make crafts, and that Dad will like, is no easy task. A couple of years ago I felt I really hit the jackpot with this ice hockey pen holder, so I thought I'd share it here:





All you need is an empty can, I think ours was from crushed tomatoes, white felt large enough to cover the can plus some extra, glue, scissors, blue and red markers for the lines (I used Sharpie) and some stickers, then get to work!





It works for other sports, too: football, soccer, tennis,... I got inspired by All Kids Network's post:






Monday, May 16, 2016

Country Seasons - the Swiss Canadian Store

I mentioned the Canadian Store before in my own little Bethlehem post. It has become a nice tradition to go there almost as an event when we "need" extra delicious salmon. Like for Christmas. Or Mother's Day.

This Ascension weekend, Eric, Colin's best friend went to a camping trip with his outdoorsy youth group, so we invited his younger brother and his Mom along.


It was a top down kind of day!


What can you do / buy at Country Seasons?

My personal favorites are the cute little houses:



I met this cute little shopper. Oh, wait, that's my son!


This is what we purchased this time: 


They carry lots of  Canadian beer and wine, all things maple and salmon, BBQ accessories and spices, Tim Horton's ground coffee and hot chocolate mix, and also American products that are hard to find like corn syrup and jell-o which we use to make LEGO gummy treats!




Next to the actual store they have a travel agency and a room you can rent for a party. I took the picture when I was there in December - obviously ;-)



From time to time there are wine or salmon tastings. Sign up for the newsletter, and they'll let you know.

Who's they? The people who run this business, Silvia and Max Wohlwend, are a Swiss couple who lived in Canada for a few years. 


They also sell framed memes like 

"I would tell you to go to hell - but I work there, and I don't wanna see you every day!"

Or this one. My life's motto:


Was it worth the 40+ minutes' drive to Merenschwand, ey?



If you plan on going there, be sure to check their opening hours.

They have a Facebook page as well, I'm sure they appreciate followers!