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Friday, September 30, 2016

My Town - again

When I saw this month's theme I had to laugh. Less than 24 hours prior to learning that I was gonna write about my town, I already posted the Top Ten Things about my town!

What to do?

I mean it's hard to compete with castles and pretty vineyards I've already presented! 

I'm going for the quirky little things that are totally worth mentioning. 

Like the 44 veggie plant boxes that were distributed all over the old town this summer. The initiative was called "Chruut und Rüebli uf de Gass" (Swiss German) which literally means green leaves and carrots on the road, but what it stood for was to bring country life to the city. Probably also to demonstrate to the kids that produce actually wasn't "made" at the supermarket.

In May, citizens were invited to help assemble the wooden boxes, fill them with potting compost and plant some potatoes, tomatoes, green beans or carrots. Each pot had a sponsor who was responsible for watering and weeding it. Mid-September there was "Thanksgiving": people were gathering to harvest and cook their veggies. I hear it was a nice get-together.



As I mentioned in my other hometown post, we are lucky to call a nice old castle, positioned on a hill, our own. What I didn't say was that there are remains of ancient town walls with loopholes in the old town, and when they wanted to build new apartment houses, a smart architect came up with this idea. I like how they were able to combine the old with the new!



How do you feel about giant spiders? (Some say those are actually supposed to be ants. Same thing...) Not a fan myself, however when I discovered those guys I had to get out of the car and take a closer look. Somebody must have made them out of recyclables. Upon asking around it turned out they were part of an exhibition called "neighbourhood art" in one specific street. 

It is creepy driving past them, though! I'm not sure if they are still gonna be around by the end of October, but if they are, I think I might slap some glow-in-the-dark adhesive film on them!


In my other hometown post (I know I keep mentioning it. Head over there already and read it, so we can all move on!) I was referring to the little store that sells produce grown by inmates, and I thought I should go back and take an actual picture of the correctional facility. It's not that easy because it is surrounded by a tall wall equipped with barbwire. So when you stand directly in front of it you can't see anything  

This is the best I could do, and I think it actually looks pretty.

My Dad grew up not far from there until he was 4 years old. I remember asking him if he wasn't afraid some bad guy might escape. 


For a couple of years there has been this bi-annually used bicycle market. A few weeks prior to the actual event they display some "dressed up" bikes all over town to announce the market. One year my Mom, Colin and I tried to find them all. We managed to spot 8 out of 10. This year I scored the missing 2!



Concluding this post I am going to show you something old. Even older than our castle. It used to be a Roman amphitheater. They discovered it when they wanted to build a freeway access road. It's pretty neat, extremely well preserved, too!


I went there with my Mom who is the actual photographer in the family. It was a nice walk through wet grass, something I don't do every day.



I hope you are having as much fun with this post as I am! Please check out the other posts here! 

See you next month!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Top Ten Thursday - Make my Day!

Welcome to Top Ten Thursday!




Today we're talking about Top Ten Things that made my Day!

1. Children's birthdays are a big thing. Not only is there a kids' birthday party, but you're taking cake to daycare and cake to school,... So that's how I've been keeping busy. We've had a jell-o fail. Our supermarket doesn't carry the usual gelatine powder anymore, so I purchased some vegan gelatine, and the gummy candy turned out... not so nice. Still yummy, but it couldn't keep its shape. We were really thrilled when we tried yet another gelatine product that worked much better!




2. I still needed that one picture for my monthly photo blog challenge (it'll post September 30), and I asked my Mom, who is the real photographer in our family, to join me. So the two of us went on a mini-hike through the wet grass, and it was really nice.



3. My blogger friend Liz over at an American in Basel posted on FB, hoping to find a movie date.



I actually did it! I drove 50 minutes to her place, 

3.a Look at the gorgeous sky I witnessed on my journey!




We took the tram into the city, we were among a dozen people in the cinema (it was a premiere! I had urged her to buy tickets in advance!), we endured previews and commercials until, finally at 8.50pm the movie began. We had a few laughs, but in general I found the film producers didn't do a very good job. Most scenes didn't come across very plausible. 
I was back home just before midnight. On a school night. Bad Mom ;-)
The fact that I did something crazy and spontaneous was all worth it, though. 


4. On the phone with one of my favorite customers. He goes:
"TGIF, it's payday, and just imagine it'd be your last day at work before going on vacation!!!" 
Me, smiling "you know this actually applies to me!"
"No kidding, really? You're going away? Are you taking the husband with you?"
"Yeah, I kinda have to..."
"In that case it's not a real vacation!"
Hahahaha!


5. Friday night at the office, everybody, including hubby who went out to a customer's Oktoberfest party, had left. I was finishing up, just waiting for Colin to arrive, when D called. They were on their way home from swim class and were wondering about our dinner plans. That's how we ended up at Burger King. The boys had a blast in the play area, and the moms some uninterrupted us-time.




6. In Switzerland the ice hockey season is already in full swing, and my team has been doing really well!



7. During summer break I had urged Colin to part with at least half of the stuff that he never played with anymore. He did a great job. We donated some, dumped some and saved some for our bi-annual village yard sale. There is one for clothes for everybody and one for toys - strictly for kids.
The oversupply of toys was overwhelming! He wasn't able to sell much, partly due to his asking price, but mostly because the other kids didn't sell much either, so nobody had any money to spend.

I had some LEGO gummy candy left from the birthday cake above, and I told him to give them away for his customers. It didn't take long and the kids were attracted by them. They didn't buy his books or DVDs but they actually paid for his candy!!!




8. Finding him reading in random locations and positions always makes me smile!




9. Last dinner before take-off: venison. And it was a blue sky kind of day!




10. As i'm writing this, I have written and scheduled every post that is due during our vacation. Phew! i don't know how much screen time I'm gonna have, so apologies if I don't get to your post till later!


Now we want to hear about your highlights! What have you been you up to?

Would you like to join us for next week's Top Ten Challenge? The theme is gonna be "top ten things to take care of before leaving on vacation",  and it posts  October 6.

Please sign up here or send me a message!

The prompt for October 13 is going to be  "top ten movie locations", think Empire State Building or Union Lake in Seattle, you may also come up with places that should be used in a movie! Sing up here!


But wait! Don't leave just yet - visit my fellow Top Ten Bloggers and see what they came up with! The linky-tool is up, please use it to link up your post!



Thursday, September 22, 2016

Top Ten Thursday - Talents

Welcome to Top Ten Thursday!




Today we're talking about the Top 10 things we are good at!

I was thinking that we tend to be super critical toward ourselves. We should be more organised, work harder, eat less sugar, always say and do the right thing, bla bla bla - let's not forget that there are many things that we're good at (without even making a great effort) and doing brilliantly!

What are those for me?

1. Writing
You knew this was going to be on the list, right?

Ever since we were supposed to write essays at school, I liked to craft stories, true or fictional ones. 

I'm also pretty good at summarizing what has been discussed at meetings which often makes me the designated minute taker. 

In Switzerland companies are obliged to include written reference letters in an employee's leaving package. This document is supposed to be both truthful and favorable. Now writing one for somebody who did a great job is easy. How about the person you fired because they were lazy, rude and unreliable,..? That's when line managers were really glad to have me as their HR person...
Sadly I am also their go-to person for condolence cards.

The other day I came across a former classmate of my post-graduate studies.
"Remember how we switched oral exam dates?" she laughingly said.
Ohmigod, yes!!!

When we were advised of our big day (which we knew was going to fall within a two weeks' period) I couldn't believe my eyes. It was the one day I could not not be at the office. We were going to have wage negotiations with the unions. The one day the entire company was relying on their HR leader.

M (my friend) on the other hand couldn't believe her day was at the very beginning of that 14 days' frame; she needed more time to prepare. She made calls and handed in a written request so we could switch dates.

"They said no!" she cried on the phone. "I'm so screwed!" I asked her to send me her request as well as the rejection letter. When I saw what (and how) she had written, I was like no wonder it was denied. I made an appeal which got approved. Up to this date this fact gives me the confidence to ask for an exception.


2. Listening / Getting people
I generally like people. (As long as they don't piss me off, haha.) I am interested in what drives them. I want to hear their stories. And boy, do they tell me things way beyond the need to know basis. And I'm talking about job interviews here. People I possibly meet once in my / their lives will tell me everything.

3. Keeping my cool / Knowing what to do in tough situations
In my over 20 years of working in Human Resources (more than in my private live, fortunately) I have been involved in exceptionally emotional situations like the wife of one of our key managers committing suicide - leaving him a single Dad to two little girls and us short an important business driver from one day to the next, or one of our sales rep's having a panick attack right there in the meeting room. Back then I thought he was having a nervous breakdown. 
Anyway, I remember having risen above myself or something. If prompted I would have thought I'd freeze, or at the very least get super nervous. Even though I was probably on auto-pilot I felt calm and crystal clear, and I did what had to be done.

4. Languages
Of course as a European I had the advantage of growing up in the middle of it all. French was compulsory for every high school student, back then English was voluntary (it's not anymore these days, kids start in 3rd grade already which I think is great) but almost everyone took it anyway, and you got to choose to learn Italian and Spanish which I did all through college as well. I can order pizza really well, hahaha! 




5. Planning
I tend to think of everything important, and I know how / where to get it and whose help to ask for. However I don't like to plan all that much. I don't know why. It's great to be prepared, right? Anyway, I think I'm better at

5a. Improvising
It's when I really thrive. I can usually whip up something acceptable with the resources available in very little time, be it a meal or a blog post ;-)

6. Teaching
I think I manage to get into people's brains and find out what way works for them to learn stuff. Some will prefer to just read, others need to shadow you or do it themselves. 

We kept having issued with Store Managers who thought when one of their partners (employees) were sick, they could just call another store and ask for somebody to fill in, no harm done. The thing is, in Switzerland you have to pay a sh**load amount of sick days, meaning the store with the sick partner actually got charged for two salaries that day. 

Our Finance department kept sending them charts and spreadsheets to show them how their costs were affected. One day I teamed up with a Finance guy, and we created a board game with Playmobil characters, Monopoly money, Las Vegas style dice and all. In other words we did some playful visualising. I think it was one of my most favourite days. Seeing those managers playing the game and actually really understanding how those transactions worked (they had to pay the other store upfront, in cash - ouch!) was so rewarding.



7. Rubik's Cube
When I was in fifth grade I was bored. Somehow I got my hands on a copy of the instructions on "how to solve the Rubik's Cube", and I learned them by heart. Underneath the school desk ;-) 
I can still do it. My hubby's relatives whom we visit every Christmas always ask me to "redo" their cube that got messed up. If for nothing else, this is what they will remember me for.




OK, this is where I got stuck. I mean, I can drive a car pretty decently, I haven't had any bad accidents, and sometimes I even manage to parallel park, but I don't feel this is worth going on the list. 




Colin was looking over my shoulder. "Watcha doing, Mommy?"
I told him. "Anything I should add?" I asked. This is what he said, and I'll take it:

8. Finding stuff
What he meant is finding stuff you can't just simply google / order. Like toys. Or sports jerseys. After this summer's soccer WC he became a fan of Gareth Bale, and he wanted a Wales national team's jersey for his birthday. I canvassed the sports article retailers, and they would all laugh at me. "Bale? Kids' size? In Switzerland? Good luck, lady!"
Good thing the world doesn't end in Switzerland. Thank you, British guy on eBay!




Also, the good old "Mom, where is my INSERT RANDOM ITEM?" works at this house.

I have been doing pretty well at tracking down long lost people, even in times before the internet. School reunion? I have organised a handful.

Oh, or how about a medical dictionary? When my brother emigrated to Israel, he needed a document stating in English that he was in perfect health even though he's had a tumor removed from his spine. Now of course our regular doc issued this certificate in German, but you know how that sounds at the end of the day: mostly Latin!

It was a time before internet, so I called a state hospital, told them about our situation and asked if there was such a thing as a dictionary with all the medical lingo. Of course there was, and I was welcome to come to the library and use it. 

Great! When I arrived at the reception the nurse was looking at me funny. 

"You're not who I was expecting" she said. 
Sorry about that, I can't make myself taller, skinnier, prettier,...?
"No, it's not that. When you said your name was Stutz (my maiden name back then) I assumed you were Dr. Stutz, you know, who is working here? The medical library is for personnel only!"
Bugger. 
She could be convinced to turn a blind eye to the rules though and handed me the giant book.




9. Cooking / Baking
Considering I used to live off canned sweet corn and frozen pizza, I'm doing OK. I like to experiment and try and make new things. Not everything will be a winner, so I'll always come back to my tested and proved dishes. Lasagna, enchiladas, risotto.

10. Being a Mom
I love that he said that! I wonder what makes a good mom in the eyes of an eight year old. Upon being prompted, he went:

  • She is always nice and looks after me and my friends
  • She only yells when I really mess up
  • She buys yummy treats for me
  • She allows for lengthy iPad time 

Now we want to hear about your talents! What are you great at?
Would you like to join us for next week's Top Ten Challenge? The theme is gonna be "top ten cool things I saw, heard and / or  experienced this week that made my day" and it posts September 29.

Please sign up here or send me a message!

The prompt for October 6 is going to be  "top ten things to take care of before leaving on vacation",  (Sign up here



But wait! Don't leave just yet - visit my fellow Top Ten Bloggers and see what they came up with! The linky-tool is up, please use it to link up your post!


Sunday, September 18, 2016

8 reasons to be proud of my 8 year old

I can't quite wrap my little head around it. My boy turned eight years old yesterday. EIGHT!

Usually I've been doing lists of ten. Today let's do eight. Because.

Eight reasons to be proud of my eight year old:

Smart
He's really intelligent, I'm not bragging. When he was four he read his own birthday cards and started to do math. And he didn't stop at 1 + 1 = 2. All of a sudden he just knew that 7 + 7 was the same as 6 + 8, hey and 3 + 3 + 4 + 4, and, and,...

Of course school has been easy for him so far. 

He's also able to focus no matter the environment, so when we're on the go he'll do his homework at SBUX.





Imaginative

He can probably see all those pictures in his mind when he plays. The most amazing thing he built back when he was watching Lightning McQueen every day was this race car track.



Homework is a bit of a killjoy when one wants to build landmarks out of LEGO pieces!



Caring
Now kids usually care about their own needs, and that's OK. I love those little gestures that show me he cares about others, too. For his 7th birthday I brought cake to his school and stuck around to take home the empty boxes. 

He first shared a piece with every classmate and the teachers. Of course I brought too much, and he took the boxes down to the school yard where he handed out cake to other friends.

There were also "strangers" who were surrounding the scene like hyenas. Free food!



He said. "Now hold on a minute. My Mom baked this and she hasn't even had some herself! Here, Mommy, for you!" Major aaaaaawwwww moment!


I also think that he is in touch with his emotions. He is pretty balanced. Once he gets mad, it usually doesn't take long and he's back to his cheerful self. I hope he'll be able to keep that quality.

The other day when he had to hand me back the iPad he said "when you have a minute check out what I built for you in Minecraft." Of course I am not familiar navigating this world or underworld or whatever it is called, and I asked him to show it to me:


An illuminated heart on an island! Wait, there is more! An inscription!


Independent
When he started Kindergarten I saw myself walking him for a while, just like any other Mom. If not not to make sure that he looked both ways before crossing the street, then that he didn't take his sweet time and that he brought everything home. On Thursday of the first week he informed me that he didn't need me to take him anymore. He'd be fine. 

But, but, wait! I haven't nearly taken enough pictures! So I was given Friday:



Ever since, the guy is going places alone or with his friends. Of course he is late sometimes, and of course I can't count the snack boxes, hats, gloves or even shoes that went missing. I figure he'll still be like that when he is forty.

Not only does he go to school, daycare, his friends' and my office, I can also send him on grocery runs to our local store just 0.3 miles away. 

I just thought the other day that him being THAT BIG has its advantages. He picks his food and balances his tray on his own when we eat at a self service restaurant.  Win! 
Right?

Perceptive
Even as a baby he seemed to sense what was going on around him. On my third day or so after giving birth I was hit by a surge of post-partum hormones and I was crying for no reason. Colin was looking at me with his beautiful blue eyes as if he was saying "come on, Mom, I'm here, it can't be that bad, now, can it?"

Fast forward seven years and eleven months, I was on the phone, using my "I'm not gonna yell, but I'm really annoyed" voice and he kept running by, trying to find out who I was talking to and what they did to upset me. He tried to shoo him away. 

An hour or so later he approached me and asked "did I unintentionally harass you when you were on the phone?" 



Silly

It's fun to be up and about with him. There's always this little thing he'll do that makes me smile.


Sometimes I ask him to bring me a bottle of water from the fridge. 
He can do better than that!


Determined
Ice hockey has been his passion since he was about two years old. The team booklets of the hockey teams have been among his favourite books, that's actually how he taught himself to read. He recognised the players and that's how he knew how to spell their names. 
Of course he wanted to become a hockey player himself. All beginnings are hard...


...but Romano Lemm, one of his idols, told him it takes practice. And look at him now!



Diplomatic / justice loving
You may say he doesn't like to take sides. When prompted which one he likes better (pasta sauce, piece of clothing,...) he'll probably say "they're both great."
He'll however look out for those who might get the short end of the stick. "But that's not fair" he'll say.


I'm in no rush to find out what profession he'll choose that reflects those awesome traits, but I'm sure whatever he'll do, he'll be excellent at it. Also there will always be tasks he won't master - but he'll have friends or coworkers around who will do them for him....

PS: In case I forgot...


Colin's Minecraft Birthday Party


We've been fortunate to have a gorgeous September. Looking at the weather forecast for Colin's Birthday Party, things did not look very promising. The day before it had been pouring. I was praying for at least one hour with no precipitation because the thought of two handful of excited pre-teenagers in our house...

Birthday Boy enjoying his giant LEGO set first thing in the morning
Lunch! (Anything to pass the time until his friends arrived!)
I was very thrilled to see this bit of blue sky as we set out for our treasure hunt.


The guys were looking at the instructions for one second and sprinted off...


Where did that bit of blue sky go..?


Look what the treasure was!!! T-Shirts for everyone!


Miniature volcano eruption


We made it home with just a tiny bit of drizzle. 
Everybody was hungry. Time for some grass block cake!




Did I mention C wanted a Minecraft themed party?




They were too busy being two handful of excited pre-teenagers, so we didn't get to actually play with everything I had prepared for. Well, the stuff isn't going anywhere, and I don't expect Colin to lose interest in Minecraft anytime soon.


Last highlight before they were picked up or went home independently. I'm still trying to wrap my head around about how quickly they're growing up right under my nose...


Whoa!


Everybody seemed happy!


Speaking of... my happy hour had arrived, too!