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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Recycling Paradise

In my #100HAPPYDAYS post I was talking about the next challenge I am eyeing with: 

De-cluttering 365 Items in 365 Days 

Now I can't clean up every day. Well, I can, and I do. I have to, but that's just to maintain  the status quo. Our house is in need of more radical treatment!

This Sunday we did about a month's worth, probably more! 

The rule is that the items have to leave the house, so we set aside bags with baby toys to take to C's daycare and a bag with gifts I don't appreciate to re-gift, and come Monday we packed up our car with throw away items, and to the newly opened recycling paradise we went!

One of my problems with clutter is that I don't know how to get rid of it when it doesn't fit in a trash bag. Yes, around here we can't just stuff it into a huge garbage container.

We fill 30 liter (7 gallons) bags and leave them on the sidewalk once a week. Each bag requires a CHF 3 sticker. CHF 3 = USD 3.32
Go figure.  

A paradise it was, indeed! Only 3km (2 miles) away, too!

Mon - Sat from 9 - 12 and 1 - 6pm, not too bad! 

Our basement was full of waste paper, cardboard, plastic / glass bottles and tin cans. 

What we usually would do:

Bundle up, leave on sidewalk 4 times a year

Using the tin can press, squash and insert

Toss in one glass jar after the other,
making sure to know your colors: white, green, brown
Those containers are located in the village center.

Plastic bottles go here (supermarkets)
Individually pressed, one after the other
Not anymore!

Just dump your un-bundled paper!!!

Dump hundreds of plastic bottles at once!
There's also a counter for special / bulky items. You have to pay for those. I don't know how much it is - the things I put on the conveyer belt didn't trigger the weight minimum, so the lady wished me a nice day, and I was free to go!

Well, not without checking out the kids' area! Early practice makes the master, right?

With an empty trunk (well, almost empty, we wanna keep our hockey stick! The new season is just around the corner, they've already prepped the blue lines at our stadium!) and in high spirits we went home! 

Are you an avocado head?

Every psychology / leadership book will tell you how motivation works. Forget about salary increases or company cars! Give people appreciation and recognition, and they'll do anything!

Today's post is to prove that I work exactly like this. Now as a part-time employee of course I wouldn't mind a pay raise, but frankly I don't deserve it. I am on FB, and I google recipes during working time. Not acceptable? Taking advantage of working for the husband? Maybe. 

Ever since my peach cake has been featured in the current edition of Southern Special I'm totally motivated to do more food posts! Although I still think it's a pain to wash my hands and photograph every step, I do like the results!

Plus I bought this bag of "Kati Kati" a special coffee bean blend from Kenya and Ethiopia, that I wanted to taste - and I needed a food pairing to go with! 

So, in addition to lemonies lemon brownies I made Avocado Muffins today! 
I used the Betty Bossi recipe and converted the ingredients for you. Don't ask me how to measure 0.85 cups of milk, though! Wait, I know! Buy yourself a metric measuring cup!!

This is what you'll need:

150g white sugar (0.75 cups)
0.25 tsp salt
1 egg
200 ml milk (0.85 cups)
150g almonds, ground (1.5 cups)
150g all purpose flour (1.2 cups)
2 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
1 avocado
2 tbsp lemon juice

This is what you'll do:

  • Line a 12 muffin tray
  • Preheat oven at 180°C (350°F)
  • In a bowl mix together the sugar, salt, egg and milk.
  • In another bowl mix together the dry ingredients: almonds, flour, baking powder and baking soda
  • In a shallow dish mesh the avocado with a fork and sprinkle it with the lemon juice, so it won't turn brown.

  • Now mix everything well together and fill in muffin tray.

  • Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, depending on your oven. Check with a toothpick. 

  • Remove from the oven and the tray and let cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!

Holy Guacamole, this is goooood!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - 10 things I hate about summer vacation

Stickymom sent her kids back to school yesterday. Yes, winter holidays are over in South Africa. So we decided to come up with this:

The top ten things you hate most about school vacation

I'll admit, my first thought was to say "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday …"

But then I realized I would still have to find five more!! Also I don't hate every day of the week just because the little guy is in my face all the time. No - I still get to go to work three days, hahaha!


I don't hate school vacation.

Maybe I'm too new to it? After the first realization that I won't have any me-time for a couple of weeks, I'm pretty excited about the opportunity to reconnect with Colin and to do stuff together. So much that on our first day off we held a workshop to list "things to do" for our summer bucket list. 

He took care of the beverage service,
and he did a great job!

Back to the topic at hand. There are a few minor things that are a bit annoying:

  1. I can't kiss Colin goodbye and send him off to school on Monday mornings only to linger in my jammies and waste some time online before tackling those nasty chores.
  2. I have to share my iPad!
  3. All of our neighbors and friends with kids are away - so I have to be the goalie, the defense wall and the forward!
  4. Sunblock. There are no such things as ultra sheer, dry-touch, sweat-proof, oil-free, long-lasting, damage-reversing, budget-friendly sunblock lotions, gels or sprays. There just aren't.
  5. Mosquitos - I hate the sound they make! I hate that when I finally decide to turn on the lights - the mosquito is gone! Well, not gone, of course. Sitting somewhere, laughing at me, patiently waiting for me to turn the lights back off and try to fall asleep. Because that's when buzzing starts again.
    Last summer I read about smells that mosquitos hate. I kid you not! I spiked some lemon halfs with cloves, burnt sage leaves and put them, along with some leaves of a tomato plant on my nightstand. The mosquito left me with a couple of itching bites and a note "next time bring basil".
    And they don't just attack me. They're after Colin as well. Look at the poor guy's eyelid!
  6. A staycation in Switzerland is almost as expensive as going away. That's what you get for playing bucket list!
  7. Other families out and about. The kind that leave their kids run wild and spoil them rotten until they finally stop whining. Rides, ice cream, toys with no end. They're making it hard for me to set and observe limits. And it's not that C isn't well taken care of!! 
  8. Vacation opening hours. It's not that our opening hours are anything spectacular during "regular time", but don't count on every so called service to be available during a summer vacation day. Post office hours below.
  9. Speaking of available. Please, please don't let Colin catch chicken pox or have yet another tooth knocked out. Because if that happened, of course our pediatrician and / or dentist would be where? At the beach? In the mountains? I don't know - but I can tell you where they will not be: at their office. 
  10. No rest for the weary housewife. Cooking, cleaning, laundering, repeat.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Use your words - Have Faith in Humanity

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once, and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: 

conversation ~ pretty ~ informed ~ news ~ aggravation ~ mirror

They were submitted by Baking In A Tornado  - thank you, Karen!

In December 1938, Nicky Winton, a British guy in his late 20s, was about to leave for a skiing vacation in Switzerland, when his friend Martin Blake called. During that conversation it turned out that Martin was volunteering at a Jewish refugee camp in Czechoslovakia. Conditions were not pretty. It was cold, they were scared, and they didn't have enough food. Nicholas felt compelled to do something. He especially wanted to help getting the kids out of the country. 

He was informed that kids from Czechoslovakia were not covered by the Kindertransport organization, so he set up his own rescue mission - operating from his hotel room.

Hundreds of desperate families soon heard about the news and lined up. Winton signed the kids up and worked on meeting the requirements of the British government, so they would admit those kids:
  • A GBP 50 guaranty to pay for the child's care, education and eventually their return trip. Considering inflation this is about the equivalent of USD 4,000 today
  • Find foster families willing to temporarily take in a child or two - nobody wanted to believe that this situation would turn into aggravation and become long-term, if not indefinite
  • Arrange for paperwork and transportation. Nicholas admitted that forgery was a factor when it came to the kid's documents. In an interview the journalist implied that Nicky had managed to do what he did through a little deception, a little smoke and mirrors..?!" - "Yes, to a certain extent" he smirked.

Back to England, Winton had to do his day job as a stock broker, but he mobilized his mother and a couple of friends to continue his work, and at night he was wrestling with bureaucracy. He managed to get out 669 kids before borders were closed when WW II began on Sept 1st, 1939.

Almost 50 years later his wife found the scrapbook in which he had kept records, letters and the list of the kids he rescued. She contacted the media, and his story went viral. They found many of the people who got out of Czechoslovakia thanks to Nicky Winton:

Hanna Slome talking about coming to England as a 14 yo

Dave Lux, another child survivor

If you have some time, watch those videos. Goosebumps guaranteed. Tears most probably, too. 

Now, even though I came across this story by accident, I do have a personal connection to the Holocaust topic. 
Grandma and me, earlier this year
My grandma's family got out of Germany early enough, and granddad even escaped twice. I am sure there are many people who helped them in one way or another, but I have no chance of finding out who they were and if they are still alive.

So today 105 year old Nicky Winton is my poster boy for all those courageous, altruistic and simply great people out there! Thank you for not looking the other way, for taking charge and for being compassionate!

“If something is not impossible, 
then there must be a way of doing it”
Sir Nicholas George Winton

Please go check out what words the other bloggers got and what they did with them:

Baking In A Tornado 

Spatulas on Parade 
Stacy Sews and Schools
Sparkly Poetic Weirdo 
Confessions of a part time working mom 
Dates 2 Diapers 2
The Bergham Chronicles
The Sadder but Wiser Girl
The Momisodes
Someone else's Genius   
Follow me home
Crumpets and bollocks


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Peach Cake - now ain't that peachy?

The other day I purchased peaches. Why is this even worth mentioning? In our busy days we don't take the time to sit down and eat "high maintenance" fruit. 

Wash & eat is what you can expect. Apples, strawberries, cherries, you get the picture. But I do like peaches. So I made resolutions to eat them before they decay. Don't ask how many times I had to throw out not-so-fresh-anymore produce.

After consulting what felt like a gazillion recipes - peach cobbler, peach pie, peach cheesecake, you name it - I felt bold enough to make my own peach cake! It's basically my simple, go-to apple cake recipe, just, duh, peaches instead of apples!


0.75  cup butter (170g)
1       cup white sugar (200g)
3       eggs
1       lemon, zest & juice
1       pinch of ground vanilla
0.5   cup milk (118ml)
1.6   cup all purpose flour (210g)
2      tsp baking powder (10g)
0.25 tsp salt (2g)

4      fresh peaches, pitted, skinned and diced

0.25 cup packed brown sugar (55g)
0.5   tsp ground cinnamon (1g)
0.25 tsp vanilla sugar (0.5g)
1       tiny pinch of ground cloves (optional)


  • Grease or line your baking pan. The one I used is 7 x 8 inches, so if yours is much larger, you may end up arranging only one layer of batter and peaches
  • Grate and squeeze the lemon
  • Prepare the peaches. I know they are messy and almost fall apart. It's worth the pain, though!
  • Pre-heat your oven at 355°F (180°C)
  • In a bowl, cream the butter with the sugar and vanilla, beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add lemon zest, juice and milk
  • Beat the sifted flour, the baking powder and the salt into the creamed mixture.
  • Spread one half of the batter into the pan, put one half of the peach pieces in, then carefully pour the second half of the batter in, put the remaining peaches on top. 
  • Sprinkle generously with the sugar/cinnamon mixture
  • Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let cool, carefully take out of the pan, cut and enjoy!

I found this vanilla grinder. It works just like a pepper mill.

Place the peaches

First layer - now go again!
This post has been chosen to feature Southern Special, edition 15, over at Spatula's on parade. What an honor! I felt so flattered I posted another recipe: Avocado Muffins.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Shoot-out of the other kind

Before I even start, let me mention that the only weapon at our house is a cardboard sword, and that I am all about making love not war.

Except one day in 730. 

Every two years, the youth festival in Lenzburg, the town I attended high school at, celebrates an old traditional maneuver. And tradition is justification for everything, I guess.

Shot by my mom who spares no effort and climbs on hills
carrying her entire photo equipment
The way I understand it, it all goes back over 250 years ago, when male students were being trained for life, starting at an early age of ten. They were called cadets, got a uniform, engaged in team sports and played march music. 

Rumor has it that one day in 1852, they were simulating a combat and were "assaulted" by a bunch of silly grown-ups. Surprised, the kids accepted the challenge, fought back - and prevailed.

Since then, every other year, this scenario is being re-enacted, much to the liking of conservative citizens. I have to admit, I like the colorful event, too, even though I am not sure what message we send to our kids.

This is the official video of the 2012 maneuver.

As for 2014, meet the line-up: (note the imbalance in numbers!)
  • Student cadets = about 260 high school girls and boys - ha, yes, in the year 2000 it was decided that the youth festival maneuver should in fact be open to both sexes. In 2000!!! Meaning of course that back then, my girlfriends and I were on flower collecting duty while the guys played with their rifles. Participation is voluntary, but frankly, I think they look at you funny if you're not game. Back in the 1980s they made you pick up waste paper while your friends trained for combat.
  • Irregular voluntary corps, "Freischaren" = over 600 grown-up members of local associations like sports clubs, authorities and the likes, dressed up as Bedouins, sailors, pirates, etc. Participation is a huge honor, and you'll have to get on a loooong waiting list and basically wait for someone to retire until you get a spot.  
The regular youth festival preparations take all week. Bows are being erected and decorated with wreaths made of fir branches, fountains will be transformed into seas of flowers, and clothes and costumes, weapons and ammunition are being layed out.

Three nights in a row there is an open air disco for the high school kids. Fun times! Lip synching contests on stage, (I did Alison Moyet one time), lip locking sessions by the big trees away from the stage (I did what was his name..? Hahaha, kidding). 

Frankly, by the time the actual festival used to go down on Friday, I used to be dead tired because every morning wreath making and flower collecting duty started at 7am!

This year, I give you the youth festival seen through they eyes of what I am today: part-time working mom, stuffing her purse with rain gear and umbrellas.

Being true to my label I worked in the morning. One of my first actions at the office was to consult the weather forecast (heavy rain, thunderstorms) and the announcement on the city's website ("we have decided: it's going to be nice.") Conflicting info.

Texting back and forth with Doris, the bottom line was "we took the afternoon off - we are so going!!"

In the morning there is a parade to and from church.

This year I didn't watch (remember: work), but Colin did with his daycare buddies:

Flashback to my four years of high school:

Very rare occasion of spotting me wearing a dress! Tradition requested it.

Three monkeys and a boy waiting for the bus
After waiting for the bus, boarding it with the little boys acting like bosses, looking for the best spot to watch the parade and more waiting for the parade to begin, we could finally hear the drummers, and then the cadets, followed by the town band marched in:

The Freischaren are not only about fighting, they also need food. These days their chefs make kebabs and share it with the audience, much to our boys' liking!

Once the parade passed through the old town, they assumed their assigned positions like on a nearby hill or in the forest. 

We, the audience, got to wait again. Inspecting the dark clouds, and having our picture taken by the boys. I also took two of the young men to buy some bottled iced tea. They held it in a way they must have observed somewhere (I didn't ask!) and proclaimed "hey, look how huge my INSERT REALLY RUDE WORD is!" WTF?

Then they march onto the battlefield.

The Native Americans:

The Scots:

The cadets and cavaliers:

And many others. 

Then they basically fought, banged away, shot, fired, and then some more. Of course they were not using real ammunition, but it sure felt like it. The dark clouds must have been pretty intimidated by the noise and went someplace else to cry! 

The cadets managed to ignite the cardboard castle, but the Freischaren wouldn't surrender just yet. 

More shooting and canon fire, it was awfully loud. Good thing that this year they distributed foam ear plugs. 

Load, aim, fire, repeat. 

Until, finally, the General handed the cadet captain his saber and the treasure box filled with gold and jewelry as a sign of their capitulation. 

The cadets cheered. The Freischaren took it easy - after all they were used to it.

Then everybody went home. 

Well, not home-home. To the bathroom (long lines!), to the beverage booth (long lines!), to the cotton candy stand, to the dance floor where  they say it is bon ton for the warriors to rub off that make-up on the dressed up ladies' clothes. And if you're a mom to 4 - 6 year old boys, you are sure to end up by the bumper cars:

My highlight was to meet two of my high school girlfriends. Sandra, on the left, lives in Malaga, Spain (1,250 miles away), I last saw her when she was here for  the 2012 youth festival. Michèle, on the right, lives in Baden, Switzerland (11.5 miles away) - her, I haven't seen since 2009...

Doris and I took the boys to an old town café and texted our husbands to join us for dinner. 

We made it home and out of the shower by 10pm - shortly after this the fireworks began. I watched them out of the bathroom window. Pictures were taken by my elementary school mate Monika, thank you for allowing me to use them here!

This was it for the Lenzburg youth festival 2014. I think if I lived abroad this would be one of the things I would miss or visit home for.

The super moon wasn't part of the official festivities, 
but it sure looked awesome!